S. African Accords Advance Peace
As UN secures amnesty for exiles, Pretoria and black groups draft antiviolence code
A United Nations-backed amnesty for political exiles and a draft peace accord between the country's three major political parties have advanced the prospect of full political negotiations in South Africa.The draft peace accord, reached in the early hours last Thursday, proposes far-reaching mechanisms to end violence and make the police accountable to the community. The accord was crafted by representatives of the ruling National Party, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Inkatha Freedom Party after 10 weeks of painstaking negotiations behind closed doors. Called the National Peace Initiative, the talks, which have proceeded throughout the public row over Pretoria's secret funding of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, were sponsored by a mediating committee consisting of leading church and business representatives. The committee was established after government-sponsored peace talks in June failed to win the participation of the ANC and other key players. The parties have arrived at a common set of values that could form the basis for an all-party conference to discuss the form of an transitional government later this year. The accord could also be the framework for a national peace summit to be held in Johannesburg on September 14. The historic agreement on the return of an estimated 40,000 political exiles was reached Friday in Geneva between representatives of the Pretoria government and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). The UN accord, which removes a major obstacle to negotiations, will establish the first UN presence in South Africa - something Pretoria has strongly resisted - and will release millions of dollars pledged by foreign governments on the condition that Pretoria cede control of the repatriation to the UNHCR. The UN agreement will guarantee complete freedom of movement for returnees and give UNHCR officers free access to them inside the country. The United States has pledged $4 million toward the estimated $40 million it will cost to repatriate the exiles. While the UN estimates that there are 40,000 exiles, diplomatic and political estimates range between 12,000 and 25,000. Some 2,000 exiles have already returned. As regards the peace accord, the proposals have yet to be formally endorsed by the executives of the three parties and by other key political players who did not take part in the National Peace Initiative - notably the right-wing Conservative Party and the left-wing Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the rival liberation movement. "I am very confident that the proposals will be accepted by the principals because the representatives in the peace committee have kept in close touch with their party leadership," says Johan Heyns, former head of the Dutch Reformed Church who has played a key mediating role. "There is no doubt that the peace initiative will assist in convening a multparty conference," he adds. "I can't see any further obstacles to negotiations once this accord has been formally adopted." Political violence, which has claimed 50 lives in the past two weeks, has emerged as the major obstacle to interracial negotiations. Heyns says the priority over the next four weeks will be to brief political parties and community organizations about the contents of the peace proposals, with the aim of winning the widest possible support for the initiative. Details of the accord were published for the first time in yesterday's Sunday Times of Johannesburg. The main focus of the proposals is the setting up of a code of conduct for the police which provides for close community supervision of police action and mechanisms to enforce the code of conduct. The draft accord empowers a standing commission on violence, which has been approved by Parliament but is not yet in operation, to seize state records and interrogate members of the security forces if there are grounds to suspect clandestine state funding of political parties. The role of the commission, to be headed by a judge or retired judge, will be to investigate and expose the causes of violence. Hearings will be open, and the commission will have the power to enter and inspect police premises. A National Peace Committee will enforce the accord and resolve conflicts through a network of rerpesentative local and regional committees. Peace committee members are hopeful the Conservatives can be persuaded to take part in the peace summit if they can be convinced that all parties will abide by the codes of conduct established by the accord, which outlaw "private armies" and the carrying of weapons at political gatherings. The accord proposes separate codes of conduct for political parties and the police. The codes seek to establish the principles of democratic tolerance and police accountability to the broader community. Some Conservative legislators worry their party will be politically marginalized unless it takes part in the peace process, while some committee members are concerned the peace initative might fail unless the Conservatives take part. Radical black groups - such as PAC and the Azanian Peoples Organization - could be drawn into the process through the so-called Patriotic Front Conference of anti-apartheid groups to be held in Cape Town on September 6-8. The Conservatives and the PAC have until now refused to participate in dialogue with the government over a transition of power. The peace proposals represent the most significant political breakthrough since President Frederik de Klerk legalised political opposition to apartheid 18 months ago. Other elements of the proposals include: * Creation of two special police units - one to investigate allegations of police misconduct, and the other to investigate political violence. * Establishment of special courts to deal solely with political violence. * Appointment of ombudsmen to ensure the proper investigation of all complaints against the police. * Appointment of a police board, with equal community and security force representation, to advise on future policing policy.