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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world