by Rhoda Njanana
As the political crisis continues to mount in South Africa, the role of the international community in averting a descent into violence becomes crucial.

The United Nations Security Council has appointed a special representative former US secretary of state Cyrus Vance, to monitor the situation in South Africa.

“I come at a critical moment in your efforts to achieve the goal you have set yourself – the peaceful transition of your country to a democratic, non-racial and united South Africa,” Vance told reporters on his arrival in South Africa on 21 July.

The UN special representative will be in South Africa for 10 days to monitor the violence that has engulfed the country and to help in breaking the deadlock between the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party (NP).

The United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the European Community are all poised to try and use their influence and presence to avoid what seems to be an almost inevitable — and violent — confrontation between the frustrated black majority and the entrenched white minority over what form democracy will take in South Africa.

Although he still denies that the breakdown in negotiations between the ANC and the white government have created an impasse, President F.W. de Klerk bas reluctantly agreed that some form of international participation is inevitable.

This follows the bloody 17 June massacre of 42 blacks at Boipatong squatter camp, south of Johannesburg and the subsequent withdrawal of the ANC from constitutional talks aimed at building a
new democratic South Africa.

Addressing a special UN Security Council meeting on South Africa on 16 July, in New York, President Nelson Mandela of the ANC said, “The violence, like apartheid, was a direct challenge to the Security Council and its role as a global protector of human rights. Failure to act firmly and decisively could not but undermine its prestige and authority at a time when the Council and the UN as a whole are called upon to play an even more active role in the ordering of world affairs.”

At the OAU summit in Dakar, Senegal, last month President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Chairman of the Frontline States, said, “it is now clear that the De Klerk government is not committed to majority rule.” Mugabe appears to have been right. The South African government has become known for not honouring agreements and for employing “dirty tricks” to maintain the status quo.

It continued to support Mozambican rebels, the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR}, after signing the 1984 Nkomati Accord with the Mozambican government. In Namibia and Zimbabwe, South Africa created destabilisation forces to intimidate, harass and even to kill those fighting for the establishment of majority rule.

Inside South Africa there is clear evidence of a “third force” being used by the South African Police (SAP) and the South African Defence Force (SADF) to perpetrate the violence that has already claimed more than 5,000 innocent lives since 1990. De Klerk blames the ANC’s mass action for the recent violence. However, Sibusiso Nyanda, a trade unionist says, it is not true because the world knows that millions of rands were pumped into the mainly Zulu lnkatha party to create a state of anarchy and to weaken the ANC, Nyanda added.

After the second round of talks in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) reached an impasse in early May, the ANC alliance, which includes the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), announced a four-phase mass action plan code-named “Operation Exit”. It was aimed at encapsulating peoples demands for interim government and an elected constituent assembly. They stressed, however, that the plan was not directly linked to the CODESA deadlock.

The first phase began on 16 June – the day before the Boipatong massacre that killed 42 people – and continued until the end of the month, a deadline set by the ANC for a break in the deadlock at the CODESA constitutional talks and the reaction of the interim government.

The beginning of phase two was 1 July with a mass campaign which is to last throughout the month in protest to the failure to create an interim government. Mass action during July will remain regional but simultaneous national actions – marches and sit-ins will be targeted against specific government institutions.

According to ANC organizer, Ronnie Kasrils, strikes, stay always and civil disobedience will be the focus during phase three of the mass plan which will begin with a general strike on 3 August. This will last for a week. The ANC and Cosatu say the plan will include the occupation of factories by workers and disrupting the operation of key civil services and communications.

The fourth phase dubbed “exit gate” by ANC organizers will begin after the general strike. It is hoped that during this period the government will relinquish power or at least accept demands for a representative constituent assembly and introduce legislation for the establishment of the transitional executive authority to oversee elections.

Kasrils says the ANC is aware of the difficulty in successfully achieving the fourth phase of the mass action. If the government agreed to the creation of an interim government before the end of the year, the general strike will be called off. If not the ANC and its allies will proceed.
0We resorted to mass action not because of CODESA1s deadlock, but because of violence, corruption and other government scandals. The mass action is intended to encourage participation of the masses in developments taking place in the country,” Kasrils said.

Political observers, however, argue that endless action after the national strike \\ill be difficult to sustain in the wake of growing violence. Much, they believe, will depend on the amount of pressure put on de Klerk by the international community during the third phase of the plan.

Contrary to the condemnation of mass action by De Klerk and Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who says it will lead to violence and bloodshed, observers say that since it’s unbanning in 1990, the ANC has managed to organize peaceful protests.

The June mass protests were also peaceful.

To deal with the ANC’s mass protests, the SADF has called on the Citizen and Commando forces to be on stand-by. An SADF spokesman, Colonel John Rolt, said the two groups will support the police in maintaining peace, stability and law and order during the mass actions.

According to reports, there are about 500,000 whites in the reserve lists of the army, air force and navy. “It is crazy to deploy thousands of soldiers against peaceful and defenceless protesters,” commented Rooi Ndlaze, a civic worker in Johannesburg. “De Klerk failed to control 200 of his policemen in Boipatong, what more with 500,000 armed soldiers”, asked Ndlaze.

According to Allister Sparks, a prominent South African journalist who was in Boipatong during the massacre, if de Klerk continues to tum a blind eye to the fact that the police force has lost credibility and are seen not as peace-keepers but as a feared and deadly enemy, the prospect of South Africa becoming another Lebanon or Yugoslavia looms high.

To avoid a catastrophe and a repeat of sanctions against his country, de Klerk announced on the eve of Mandela’s speech to the UN that he will disband the notorious special units – 31st Battalion, 32nd Battalion and Koevoet (Crowbar). He also called for urgent talks about talks with the ANC to get the negotiations back on track. But Mandela and the ANC doubt his commitment to a constitutional settlement.

“We would sit down to no more than haggle about what should constitute the agenda of such talks, rather than the serious business of taking our country to demoaacy. Curbing and eliminating violence. My meeting with him at this stage will serve no good purpose,” he said.

The ANC. churches and political observers alike have accused de Klerk of failing to recognise the gravity of the crisis in South Africa. After the Boipatong massacre, where he and his ministers bad to “run” for their lives. De Klerk told stunned journalists that the angry reaction to his visit was motivated by the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) to embarrass him.

Indeed, his analysis of events in Boipatong, and his flying out of South Africa a day after the massacre to open the South African exhibition at the Seville World Trade Exposition in Spain, indicate that he may not have realised the gravity of the crisis in the country.

As Sparks says, to put the negotiation process back on track, the South African government will have to restore the credibility of the police, change the command structure of the security forces and place them under multi-party control and finally establish an international commission to monitor police action. “Anything less, and the abyss yawns,” he said. (SARDC)