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NP and ANC Have Different Histories

The author of the Opinion page article "Medals' Moral for S. Africa," July 7, writes that the National Party (NP) and the African National Congress (ANC) have both historically been "authoritarian, intolerant of dissent, and at times extremely brutal."

For the first fifty years of its existence, the ANC practiced, against the odds, democratic decisionmaking and peaceful tactics promoting nonracialism. Its resort to armed struggle after 1960 was a direct response to the NP's embrace of state-sponsored war and terror in order to maintain white minority rule.

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No doubt, during the armed struggle, there were excesses of the part of the ANC, although the author's evidence is only "the ANC's reputation for quietly condoning the infamous practice of `necklacing' ...." Its strategy never systematically embraced terrorism against civilians, whether African or white.

The best the author can do on the ANC is assert that it may have quietly condoned a brutal tactic during the insurrection in the 1986-88 period.

This is hardly a basis upon which to indict the principles of the ANC, given its 80-year history.

The jury is still out on how democratic an ANC or ANC/NP government will be in South Africa. But only one of those parties has any claim at all to democratic experience. Jack Parson, Charleston, S.C. Professor of Political Science College of Charleston

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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