De Klerk party hits the tribal trail in pursuit of votes

AN African National Congress (ANC) election poster going up all over South Africa's black townships carries a sequence of photographs of five of the last National Party (NP) heads of government: D F Malan, Hendrik Verwoerd, John Vorster, P W Botha and F W de Klerk. The caption reads: 'These people want you to vote for them.'

The message, brutal in its simplicity, provides a sardonic measure of the task the NP faces if Mr de Klerk is to succeed in his stated objective of securing a significant proportion of the black vote in the coming all-race elections.

On the advice of (among others) Sir Tim Bell - the professional British image-maker who is being paid to do for Mr de Klerk what he did for Margaret Thatcher - the NP has hit upon the device of projecting itself as more African than the ANC.

Thus, on an election stop in a rural village last weekend, Mr de Klerk did what Nelson Mandela has yet to do on the campaign trail and, courtesy of a local chieftain with either a very good or a very bad sense of humour, sheepishly donned traditional African tribal dress.

At the party's national congress, which started on Wednesday and ended yesterday, the white delegates were almost outnumbered by those with dark skins. The congress chairman was a black former member of the ultra-radical Pan-Africanist Congress, and the church minister who led the opening prayer was from Soweto.

The party was trying hard not to be white and the spectacle should have been heart-warming. But the note failed to ring true.

Perhaps it was the speech of the black minister praising Mr de Klerk as a visionary, as the man who liberated black South Africa, who freed the ANC prisoners from the jails. Perhaps it was Mr de Klerk himself confidently urging his audience to ponder the question, 'which of the two main parties - the National Party or the ANC - has dirty hands?' Or perhaps it was the assembled 'new Nats' ' rendition of black South Africa's traditional anthem of liberation, 'Nkosi Sikelele i'Africa' ('God bless Africa').

In Katlehong township, 24 hours earlier, a crowd of around 1,000 ANC supporters who spontaneously gathered to see Mr Mandela had bellowed out the song's melancholy cadences with the jubilation of a crowd whose team has just won a cup final. At the NP rally, however, both the white and black sectors of the audience seemed at an embarrassed loss, most of them lip-reading the words from a big screen.

Why were the blacks there? A number, judging from the zeal with which they aped the ANC liturgy with their 'Viva de Klerk', had evidently undergone a genuine conversions. Others, it was hard to avoid the conclusion, were there for the food and beer.

On Sunday a smiling Mr Mandela had told a crowd of his supporters: 'If the National Party offers you stew, potatoes and an orange to go to the rally, I say go. And then vote for the ANC.'

Some people have already taken Mr Mandela's advice and, no doubt, many more plan to: proof, after all, that there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific