Abraham Viljoen: Longtime Campaigner For Black-White Solidarity in South Africa
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA
NO the face of it, the Viljoen twins live in very different political worlds.
While Gen. Constand Viljoen is a professional soldier and heads the right-wing Afrikaner People's Front, identical twin Abraham (Braam) Viljoen works for the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa. The IDASA is a pro-democracy lobbying group founded by former Liberal opposition leader Frederik van Zyl Slabbert after he quit Parliament in 1986 to try to bring Afrikaners and the African National Congress (ANC) closer together.
While Constand was rising through the ranks to become chief of the formidable South African Defense Force (SADF) from 1980-85, Braam was involved in anti-apartheid activities.
In 1987, Braam traveled with Mr. Slabbert to Dakar, Senegal, for a historic clandestine meeting with then-outlawed ANC leaders. Later, he joined the underground resistance in the black homeland of KwaNdebele, where he came into open confrontation with the security forces under his brother's command.
Yet the momentous events in South Africa over the past four years have thrown these twin brothers into a closer relationship in their efforts to secure a place for Afrikaners in the black-majority government to come.
Braam was instrumental in bringing his brother together with ANC President Nelson Mandela in mid-August in a bid to find a negotiated solution to the residual conflict between the ANC and right-wing Afrikaners bent on resisting majority rule.
MANY times, Constand and Braam's friends have greeted the wrong brother.
But despite the vast gulf in their politics, Braam seems to understand his brother and shares his love of farming and his deep concern for the future of their country.
They also share a concern that the ideology of communism, though outmoded and disgraced in much of the world, will gain a foothold here.
``Constand was influenced by his training in the military,'' Braam said in a Monitor interview in his tiny Pretoria office from which he directed the Northern Transvaal Peace Committee before joining IDASA several months ago.
``Constand formed his opinions during the McCarthy era [of the 1950s], when there was a worldwide obsession with communism. That is why he could return so glibly to this theme of anticommunism.''