ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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SOUTH AFRICA-After the Referendum

After the Referendum A GREAT deal of euphoria, some of it perhaps misplaced, has been generated by the outcome of the 'whites only' referendum of March 18 in South Africa on whether the process of negotiations should be abandoned or persisted with. While the referendum has strengthened both de Klerk's and the National Party's position, it is still somewhat premature to treat this as being synonymous with the strengthening of any tendency towards reform and the dismantling of apartheid. In the almost two and a half years since de Klerk ousted Botha, apartheid has lost some of its de jure credentials leading to the abandoning of sanctions against the white government and its wholly unwarranted admission into international activities from which it had hitherto been banned. But apartheid continues de facta The principle of one person one vote has yet to be accepted publicly by de Klerk in these two and a half years, which may reasonably be presumed to be sufficient time for the acceptance by the whites of an idea alien to their history Looked at purely from the angle of preserving white power in adverse circumstances de Klerk's strategic foresight cannot be faulted. Having facilitated a base for moderates in the ANC a rift was cultivated in the organisation between the radicals and the moderates to the latter's advantage. The moderates were then lured into a trap of negotiations, at the same time pushing them on the defensive through a series of state-sponsored black on black killings. If the unity of black opposition to apartheid was dismantled by the promise of change, this strategy necessarily involved a transformation of the nature of divisions among the whites. Divisions among the whites were hitherto of a purely internal and subordinate order, subsumed by the unity of minority rule, Enlistment of a segment of the blacks and coloureds in the project of retaining white power presented an alternative conception of form, leading to a struggle between the pragmatists and the hardliners. In the process of walking the tightrope between the demands of the ANC moderates and the prejudices of the hardline whites, de Klerk left himself open to attack by the latter. The referendum, announced after the National Party's loss in a by-election in the Transvaal township of Pochcstroom seemingly weakened de Klerk's position vis-a-vis the conservatives, was an attempt to make the strategic choice of the National Party the choice of the entire white community. In the process by demonstrating his standing in the white community de Klerk has strengthened himself in relation to ANC moderates who might otherwise have been inclined to use his tenuous position in the white constituency to hustle him into accepting their demands. In addition he has forced the ANC, despite its opposition to the referendum, to call on its white members and sympathisers to vote for the National Party.

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