Pretoria makes sure it closes door on black political role
Durban, South Africa
Although the South African government suggests it may open the door to ''power sharing'' with Indians and Coloreds, it seems to be going out of its way to make clear no such option exists for blacks.
As a result, Prime Minister P. W. Botha's reformist-sounding initiative for limited sharing of power with ''nonwhites'' runs the risk of worsening relations with blacks, say a number of blacks here.
Many blacks view the power-sharing strategy of the South African government as against their own interests. It is seen as an effort to divide nonwhites and to lessen their opposition to the ruling white minority. (Blacks represent 70 percent of the nation's population.)
The National Party has explained power-sharing with Coloreds (people of mixed race) as a way to ''broaden our own power base and not hand (the Coloreds) over to the 'black power' situation.''
Now that the government appears to be preparing explicit proposals for some form of political representation for Indians and Coloreds, the exclusion of blacks from the political mainstream is also being made all the more explicit.
A recent proposal for sharing power with blacks here in Natal Province was rejected by the South Africa government outright.
Most analysts see in the speedy rejection an effort by Mr. Botha's government to shore up conservative white support and to lessen the momentum of the right-wing rebels who recently split from the National Party over the issue of power-sharing.
However, early this week the party went on to expel 10 conservative members of Parliament for refusing to back its power-sharing position. This makes a total of 26 MPs expelled from the party. And in Transvaal Province, four party members who hold provincial administration posts were expelled from the party.
Despite the right-wing split and party expulsions, the Afrikaans press, which normally supports the government, mildly chastised it for acting ''over-hastily'' in so quickly discarding the Natal report. In an editorial the Beeld newspaper earlier had called the report a ''chance for dialogue.''
''I didn't expect the government to agree with this,'' said black leader Gatsha Buthelezi, who formed the commission on power-sharing for Natal. ''This report is a move away from apartheid (forced separation of the races),'' he told journalists.
But Chief Buthelezi, chief minister of the Kwazulu ''homeland,'' which is located within Natal Province, characterized the government's reaction to the report as ''unseemly in its haste.''
Buthelezi said he is concerned that the government's acceptance of the concept of limited power-sharing masks a ''widening'' gulf between black and white views on any future political accommodation.
The white government appears to feel pressed into formally ruling out any possibility of joint rule with blacks as it embraces the possibility with Coloreds and Indians. But in the process it is excluding the ''minimum starting point'' for a dialogue with blacks, said Mr. Buthelezi.
Buthelezi said a growing number of blacks want black majority rule in South Africa. He said moderates within the black political spectrum such as himself can entertain nothing less than some form of power-sharing with whites and ''remain politically viable.''
Blacks generally appear to view Botha's planfor power-sharing as a ''stalling tactic'' that avoids the issue in South Africa of how blacks and whites will learn to share power.
''The whole discussion makes the black community feel that violence is the only language that these people understand,'' says a black merchant in Soweto. ''It's still the same strategy: Divide and rule,'' he added.
If there is any silver lining for blacks in the National Party dispute, it is a certain satisfaction, and hope, in seeing turmoil in the Afrikaans community.
''It's not a good development. It is a sinister one for blacks, but it is one that we can exploit. Blacks will see that the Indians and Coloreds have crossed the fence and it will motivate us even more,'' said one black.