ANC cuts deal with Afrikaner right wing

A NON-AGGRESSION pact and a pledge to continue negotiations on a white Afrikaner homeland was due to be signed today between the African National Congress and the right-wing Volksfront movement as parliament prepared to approve South Africa's first democratic constitution.

The ANC-Volksfront 'strategic interim agreement' paralleled attempts by negotiators in Cape Town to reach accord on a series of amendments to the draft constitution proposed by the Freedom Alliance, a coalition of Afrikaner groups and leaders of South Africa's semi-autonomous black homelands, including the Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The 10 hours of talks ended last night without agreement. The goal was to bring the alliance back into the democracy process before parliament votes on the constitution tomorrow. Talks are to continue today.

The alliance boycotted the negotiations on the new constitution and demanded greater autonomy for the provinces, including powers of taxation, replacement of the proposed one-ballot system by two ballots, one for national and one for provincial governments, and for representatives of provinces to be resident there. It also wanted constitutional provisions allowing the provinces to write their own constitutions, subject to the endorsement of the Constitutional Court.

The alliance said it would boycott the country's first multi-racial elections on 27 April, unless its demands were met. Roelf Meyer, chief negotiator of President F W de Klerk's National Party government, set tomorrow as a deadline for parliamentary approval of the constitution, with or without the Freedom Alliance, although many believe a reconvening of parliament in January is possible should this week's talks fail.

Today's agreement between the Volksfront and the ANC, which is widely expected to form the next government, effectively postponed the day of reckoning over the demand by conservative Afrikaners for their own homeland, the Volkstaat. The accord, which said both sides supported a non-racial democratic society, was a set of principles that would acknowledge the desire of many Afrikaners for a homeland. It set up a task force to negotiate in January on a Volkstaat, and renounce the use of violence.

The accord was to be initialled by the ANC assistant Secretary-General Jacob Zuma, and Constand Viljoen, the former armed forces chief of staff who leads the Volksfront. Ferdi Hartzenberg, the hardline leader of the Conservative Party, was not expected to endorse the agreement. That could signal the beginnings of a leadership contest within the Afrikaner right between Gen Viljoen, regarded as the movement's moral conscience and Dr Hartzenberg, a gritty machine politician.

Gen Viljoen is thought to be open to compromise on what form Afrikaner self- determination takes, while more extreme Afrikaner sectors have demanded the immediate establishment of a white homeland to escape rule by an ANC-led government. The ANC president, Nelson Mandela, said the ANC would never concede an independent white homeland.

Inkatha has been opposed to the proposed one-vote system which denies voters a chance to choose one party for the national parliament and another for their provincial legislatures.