A historic session in S. Africa. First sitting of nation's multiracial Parliament leaves members of right and left wings unhappy
South Africa's 308 members of Parliament are back home with their constituents following the country's first attempt at multiracial government. For some legislators, such as the members of the right-wing Conservative Party, the session was a bitter experience of what they call white abdication of power. Under the new system, Asians and Coloreds (people of mixed race) now have a direct say in how the country is run.
Other parliamentarians, on the left wing, regard the new system as a pitifully inadequate attempt to address South Africa's problems because the nation's black majority is still excluded from Parliament.
Political observers who watched the first full session of the three-chamber Parliament believe that South Africa can not ever be the same again politically as it was before.
The new Parliament scrapped several laws previously regarded as fundamental to apartheid, the policy of strict racial segregation. First to go were laws that banned racially mixed marriages and intimate relations between whites and blacks.
Also repealed was a law that banned any multiracial political movements. Its repeal revived fears going back to the start of this century that white English-speakers might one day align themselves with blacks for a confrontation against Afrikaners.
The major opposition party in the white House of Assembly, the Progressive Federal Party (PFP), has played on these fears by announcing a major campaign to recruit black members. The party is trying to become the country's largest and most racially representative party.
Because of its outspoken stand on civil liberties and racial justice, the PFP is the white party with the greatest credibility among blacks. But it will meet strong opposition from the established black political movements if it starts trying to lure away their members.
The ruling National Party has declared it will not admit black members. But it is still aware of changed political circumstances. It is already deeply involved with the major Colored and Indian parties in Parliament. Members of both parties are full members of the Cabinet.
In his closing speech to Parliament, President Pieter Botha made it clear the government is ready to consider virtually any political option except one man one vote, which he said would be a disaster under present conditions.
He indicated that a series of ``summit'' meetings with top black African leaders is feasible.
The Parliament recess comes as racial violence continues throughout the country with blacks attacking other blacks and government police.
Many observers here regard the violent opposition to the political system as endemic, indicating that time is limited in the search for peace and stability.