AWB invasion of talks puts De Klerk on the spot: Awkward questions are being asked, John Carlin writes from Johannesburg

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk was under pressure yesterday to provide answers to two critical questions following the fiasco on Friday when right- wing extremists, in what amounted to an armed insurrection, stormed the building where South Africa's leading political parties have been engaged for 18 months in constitutional negotiations.

The first question is whether the President has control over his security forces. The second is whether he sincerely believes, as he professes to do, that the law must be applied with equal force against whites and blacks.

The answers will provide significant clues as to whether, in a third question on people's lips yesterday, peaceful democratic change remains a viable option in South Africa.

Those posing the questions include Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, most other South African political parties, the local press and international peace observers, all of whom have publicly deplored the outrage and called for swift justice. 'The fact that law-enforcement agencies appeared either unable or unwilling to contain the incident is a particularly disturbing feature of Friday's events,' the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Organisation of African Unity said in a joint statement.

In fact the police stood by and watched as, first, 2,000 heavily armed right-extremists marched into the compound of Johannesburg's World Trade Centre and, second, several hundred stormed into the building itself, seizing possession of the main negotiating chamber. The police explanation was that had they opened fire they would have provoked a bloodbath.

The Johannesburg Sunday Times, in an editorial yesterday, said this argument was acceptable enough. 'The fault lay not with the policemen on the spot but with the command structures' that failed to prepare adequately for the demonstration. The newspaper said that General Johan van der Merwe, South Africa's Commissioner of Police, should resign.

Mr de Klerk, whose track record betrays a hesitance to confront the higher echelons of the security forces, has promised that arrests will be made. The police said on Saturday, however, that this would be very difficult, as a number of demonstrators had given the police false names and addresses.

Mr Mandela, after speaking with Mr de Klerk on the telephone, said on Saturday night: 'What he told me doesn't arouse much hope for immediate arrests.'

The position of the ANC, which said it would carry out a counter-protest nationwide on Thursday, is that the leaders present at the demonstration should be arrested - namely Eugene Terre-Blanche of the AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), the former chief of the South African Defence Force, General Constand Viljoen, and the Conservative Party's leader, Ferdi Hartzenberg.

Only last month the police swooped on the entire leadership of the radical Pan-Africanist Congress on suspicion that they were involved in attacks on whites.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing