WORLD

SIGNALS OF WAR

SOUTH AFRICA BRACES FOR VIOLENCE 45 REFORMS TO END APARTHEID ARE PUT TO A VOTE

RAE CORELLI March 9 1992
WORLD

SIGNALS OF WAR

SOUTH AFRICA BRACES FOR VIOLENCE 45 REFORMS TO END APARTHEID ARE PUT TO A VOTE

RAE CORELLI March 9 1992

SIGNALS OF WAR

WORLD

SOUTH AFRICA BRACES FOR VIOLENCE 45 REFORMS TO END APARTHEID ARE PUT TO A VOTE

Sarah Burgh admits that she is profoundly fearful. She is afraid for herself, for her children and grandchildren, and for the legacy she had always thought would be theirs: a white-dominated South Africa. Living in Stellenbosch, a picturesque university town of oak-lined streets 50 km east of Cape Town, Burgh is among those South African whites who openly worry about President F. W. (Frederik) de Klerk’s two-year-old campaign to give political equality to the country’s 28 million blacks. “I don’t want to be swamped by the blacks,” said the 60-yearold grandmother and manager of a small carpetlaying company. But it is the fear of greater turmoil—even civil war—if the reform process is abandoned that is likely to propel Burgh to support de Klerk in a whites-only referendum on March 17. If de Klerk and his National Party should lose the vote, she warned, “we will have the most terrible war with the blacks, and the world will hate us again.” She added: “My heart wants to vote no but my head says yes, and I know that I will vote yes.”

However reluctantly, a majority of South Africa’s three million white voters are expected to support de Klerk’s bold attempt to defeat the country’s pro-apartheid forces. The president has promised to resign if he loses the referendum to his largely right-wing, proapartheid opponents, who are spearheaded by the Conservative Party and its leader, Andries Treurnicht, 71. But even if de Klerk wins, the road to victory may be bloody: both black and white extremist groups have vowed to use violence to stop the push towards racial reconciliation. That threat has led many observers to predict that the referendum—and its aftermath—could ignite the gravest crisis in South Africa’s already tumultuous history. Nelson Mandela, whose African National Congress (ANC) began negotiating constitutional reform

with de Klerk after the black leader was released from prison two years ago, said in a newspaper interview that if voters repudiated the dismantling of apartheid, “they would have to throw us all in jail.” Said Mandela: “On the outcome may hang the future of us all.”

But the black and white groups that are opposed to any kind of racial power-sharing appear equally implacable. The neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), which supports the Conservatives’ demand for a return to full apartheid and all-white rule, declared that it would attempt to block whites from

voting in the referendum. “We cannot allow them to be led to the slaughter like lambs,” said AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, who has about 5,000 armed men in secret commandolike units that his organization has established. Added Terre’Blanche: “Blacks have declared war on your property rights; we are going to have war.” Meanwhile, the militant and antiwhite Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) claimed that its membership now exceeds that of the rival ANC. PAC’s military wing, the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, pursues policies that include assassinating police officers, 150

of whom, black and white, were killed last year. The history of bloodshed weighs heavily on South Africa’s white minority as it prepares to choose its future path. In Stellenbosch, which was home to some of apartheid’s founding fathers, many of the Dutch-descended Afrikaners remain hesitant to back de Klerk’s reforms. Even though she expects to support the president, Burgh said that she mistrusted the ANC and disliked Mandela. “I don’t like President de Klerk negotiating away my future with him,” she said. “These black people are, with a

few exceptions, very unsophisticated. They have a violent culture, and the fear of being swamped and slaughtered is always in the back of our mind.” Burgh added that many Afrikaners are so scared and confused that they still do not know how they will vote. Said Burgh: “It is a frightening time for us Afrikaners.”

For tens of thousands of white South Africans, that confusion springs from a sense of being betrayed by the National Party, which has held power since the country left the Commonwealth and became a republic in 1961. Leon Lubbe, 21, a third-year business student at the University of Stellenbosch, said that although he accepted the need for blacks and

whites to negotiate a new political arrangement, de Klerk was making too many changes too quickly. “De Klerk seems to be giving everything away to Mandela and his Communist allies,” he said. “It’s very frightening, especially to the older people who were told for decades that Mandela and the Communists were their greatest enemy. We want to take things slower.”

Lubbe’s family, who live in the rich farming region of George in eastern Cape Province, and who were firm National Party supporters for years, now have joined the Conservatives. “We still believe in the same things that we always did,” said Lubbe. “It’s de Klerk and the Nationalists who have changed.” Lubbe said that he will vote against the political reforms even though he, too, expects a violent backlash if de Klerk is defeated in the referendum. “I know there will be a war with the blacks,” he said. “But I also don’t want my future thrown away.”

Many white South Africans, Nationalist and Conservative, may have made up their minds with far less soulsearching. Daniel Muller, owner of the Salzburg Café in Somerset West, a sleepy Afrikaner-dominated town 45 km east of Cape Town, said that many South Africans had come to view de Klerk’s sudden referendum call as a masterly political stroke to weaken his political opponents. “The experts are saying that the Conservatives cannot get more than 45 per cent of the vote,” said Muller. Now, he said, even the Conservatives know that Treurnicht will lose.

That view was widely shared as the referendum campaign began last week. In the wake of an unprecedent| ed alliance between the Afri§ kaans and English-language “ news media in support of de Klerk—as well as the support of church and business organizations—political analysts predicted that he would win between 55 and 60 per cent of the vote. However, several brokers on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange said that international investors and traders were more cautious, preferring to delay major transactions until the last vote is counted and the future becomes clear. That reservation was a reminder to the bitterly divided nation of one circumstance that may haunt its future: the reaction of the losers.

RAE CORELLI

CHRIS ERASMUS