Compromise near on question of SA political prisoners

THE MAIN obstacle on the way to a summit this weekend between F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela - the release of political prisoners - brought the South African government and the African National Congress to the brink of compromise last night.

A deal appeared imminent after three months in which constitutional progress has been blocked by political violence and what has amounted to a dialogue of the deaf between the country's two main political players.

Sources close to the talks said the main sticking-point after 10 days of bargaining by negotiators was the fate of Robert McBride, an ANC prisoner responsible for a bomb blast six years ago which killed three white people and injured 87. The sources said that a way out of the problem had been found in a proposal for a parole for McBride - in white circles the most notorious ANC prisoner behind bars - and two other, lesser known, ANC guerrillas who also killed whites. A number of ANC guerrillas who killed blacks were released last year.

The track record of government-ANC negotiations shows that the deal could collapse at the last minute but the indications last night were that a substantial number of political prisoners - if not all 400 claimed by the ANC - would be released soon.

If agreement is reached then the hope is that the country's two main political leaders will instill a measure of stability into a constitutional process that is adrift and in danger of sinking.

Sound political leadership is required urgently in Natal, where the long-running conflict between the ANC and Inkatha threatens to escalate into all-out war. The ANC's provincial leadership raised temperatures this week with an announcement that they planned to march on Ulundi, the capital of the KwaZulu homeland over which Inkatha exercises one- party control. Although no date has been given for the march and the ANC's national leadership has yet to endorse the decision, the homes of three alleged ANC supporters in Ulundi were burnt down on Wednesday night.

More imminent is a planned Inkatha rally on Sunday in KwaMashu, an ANC stronghold outside Durban. A Johannesburg radio station reported yesterday that residents were already fleeing the township, chased away by Inkatha supporters carrying guns.

Dire as the need is for a political solution to be found to the country's problems, the government and the ANC spent all day yesterday 'picking the nits', as a diplomat in Pretoria put it, of a compromise deal.

One of the few South African political figures allied neither to the government nor to the ANC, the Democratic Party leader, Zach de Beer, spoke for many yesterday when he said: 'If they release a few prisoners who some people think shouldn't be released this doesn't seem to be important in relation to the vast issues of the future of South Africa.'

Mr de Beer described bargaining between the two main players as 'an endless arm-wrestling contest'. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader, had more than arm-wrestling in mind yesterday when he said his people would stop the ANC with 'bare hands'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine