by Rhoda Njanana
The negotiation process in South Africa was dealt a serious blow on 23 June when the African National Congress (ANC) announced its withdrawal from constitutional talks aimed at establishing a new democratic South Africa.

The withdrawal of the ANC from the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was in protest at the cold-blooded slaughter of 39 blacks on June 17, at Boipatong squatter camp, south of Johannesburg.

One way the ANC and its allies hoped to pressure President F.W. de Klerk’s government to drop its demand for veto powers which was delaying progress towards the creation of an interim government was to engage in mass action.

The mass action was scheduled to coincide with the June 16 commemoration of the 1976 Soweto uprisings. This was also a way to appease militant township youth who feel their leaders are not doing enough in dealing with the “enemy”.

Residents of Boipatong allege that about 200 Inkatha men, some wearing black balaclavas masking the fact that they were white, armed with guns, machetes, knives and knobkerries were ferried by police to the squatter camp where they callously murdered 39 unsuspecting occupants – mostly women and children.

Elizabeth Kolatswewu one of the survivors narrated how her sister-in-law Elisa Mbatha was killed. “They stabbed and chopped her neck with her baby still strapped to her back. Her child survived but his arm was hacked.”

According to another resident of the squatter camp whose grandmother was also killed, nearby police station police arrived hours after we called for help. “I told them what was happening and instead they asked about the whereabouts of the ‘comrades’ whom they claim were supposed to be patrolling the township, Charles Neluheni reported.

De Klerk rushed to the scene of the massacre to “convey his sympathies” to the bereaved families and survivors, an action many blacks saw as political cynicism. The Boipatong people were unimpressed by his visit which they considered hypocritical He was chased out by angry residents shouting, “get out you murderer, hypocrite” and rushed to a

On the other hand his frantic officials screamed “we have lost him, we have lost him”, as thousands of angry youths surrounded his car, looking terrified, de Klerk later told journalists during a press briefing that he was considering reimposing the state of emergency.

“What does he hope to achieve with the state of emergency?” Rosaline Boom, a secondary school teacher asked. Indeed, the violence that has claimed thousands of lives ravaged South Africa even during the 1987/89 state of emergency.” What de Klerk needs to do is to clean up his ‘ houses’ – the police and military, she said.

Nelson Mandela, President of the ANC who visited the bereaved families and survivors soon after de Klerk’s near fatal tour, told Boipatong residents that “the negotiation process was completely in tatters.

The gulf between the oppressed and oppressor has now become unbridgeable.” The government and Chief Gatsha Buthelezi’s lnkatha Freedom Party (IFP), have again denied
involvement in the killings, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

The Minister of Law and Order, Hemus Kriel, speaking on the South African Broadcasting Corporation said, “This government does not kill people. I give the assurance that if it is true that the police played a part in the killings, action will be taken.”

A report entitled “Agenda for Peace· prepared by the International Commission of Jurists blamed de Klerk for not punishing the perpetrators of violence within the police and the military. “Between 1990 and 1991 judicial inquiries into military and police “death squads” found ample evidence of murder, poisoning, kidnapping, arson, perjury and destruction of evidence by members of the police and military, and yet to date not a single person has been prosecuted,” the report said.

But despite this evidence the government and the IFP blame the ANCs mass action, strikes and stay always as the source of violence.

However, international and local press and political observers described the June 16 commemoration which marked the beginning of mass protests against de Klerk’s government as “most peaceful.” They commended the ANC for its ability to carry out peaceful mass actions since 1990.

Since Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, about 7, 000 people have been killed in township violence. The ANC, its allies and anti-apartheid activists in South Africa have always maintained that government security forces, police, South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers and the Inkatha movement were responsible for the violence that has engulfed the country.

Their allegations supported by the report also placed much of the blame for violence on Buthelezi and the IFP. “For whatever reason, Buthelezi has not used the influence he undoubtedly has to curb the violence of his supporters,” the report said.

As if to confirm the findings of the report, de Klerk advised Buthelezi during the opening of the KwaZulu parliament on 17 June – – the day of the massacre – – not to lead his people into violence.

Recently, Buthelezi threatened that Zulus may also resort to “mass action” and civil disobedience if the KwaZulu government is excluded from CODESA. This, notwithstanding his public condemnation of the ANC’s ·mass action’ saying it has potential for creating violence.

Relations between the ANC c the government have been under strain since the collapse of Codesa II on constitutional talks in early May. At the time, Mandela said hope should not be lost and all should be done to put negotiations back on track.

However, after the June 17 massacre Mandela said South Africa will never be the same again. De Klerk continues to deny that his government is directly involved in the violence. Mandela charged two years ago that a “Third Force” was developing in South Africa under the control of the South African Police (SAP) and the SADF. He said the force was operating along similar lines as the Mozambican National Resistance (MNR) that has been waging a 12 year war against the Mozambican government.

The coincidences with which events have developed is something to ponder.

De Klerk’s declaration that mass action will lead to bloodshed – no matter how well organised; the exaggerated warning that the ANC comrades would go on a rampage – in spite of the ANCs ability to bold peaceful mass protests in 1990 and 1991; the withdrawal of IFP from the National Peace Accord. and the continued tolerance of lnkatha members carrying “traditional weapons”; government and Buthelezi’s condemnation of mass action as having potential for creating violence and the actual carnage taking place – all these seem more than mere coincidence in view of the consequences.

The realization that as key players in the South African negotiation process, they are inevitably interdependent, has not eluded either the ANC or the National Party (NP).

Political analysts argue that it has always been the intention of the NP to stall the negotiation process or the formation of the interim government to sometime in October.

The government, they further argue, would then put the blame for the delay on mass action and violence. But would the government go to such lengths of massacring so many men, women and children just for the sake of gaining its own ends?

Mandela recently declared “we are no longer dealing with simple human beings, but animals.”

While Codesa working groups continue discussions despite the breakdown of Codesa Il talks, not much of significance has been achieved. But as a reassurance to the international community, government is giving the impression that ground is being covered.

With the next whites only-elections due in two years’ time, economic recession on the increase and
general anarchy, can de Klerk take the chance of stalling?

De Klerk now seems to be cautiously trying to bring the ANC back to the table. He is even accepting, albeit to a limited extent, foreign monitors to investigate the causes of violence.

At their emergency meeting after the Boipatong massacre, the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) demanded that the NP terminate all covert operations including hit-squad activity; disarm, disband and confine to barracks all Special Forces; ensure repression in some “self-governing” homelands is ended; establish an international commission of inquiry into the Boipatong massacre and all acts of violence. It also called for international monitoring of violence, the immediate release of political prisoners and repeal of all repressive legislation.

In the southern African region, to say that the suspension of talks is regrettable, would be an understatement. The region is presently being ravaged by drought which is aggravated by world recession and now, more than ever, needs peaceful co-existence.

Hopes were already high in some circles that the problems of South Africa would be resolved in the near- distant future to allow it to take its rightful position in helping to improve the economic situation of the region.

Hopes have now been dashed and South Africa is continuing to be more of a liability than an asset to the region because of its instability.

The ANC, furious as they are, have appealed to the international community to help set the democracy talks back on track through the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Commonwealth.

The success of negotiations in South Africa lies to a large extent on acceptance by government that the time has come to create the conditions for the election of a majority government. To avert further bloodshed and a possible civil war, such acceptance needs urgency. (SARDC)