De Klerk threatens to call poll to foil the right

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk hurled down the gauntlet before South Africa's black and white right-wing last night when he warned that a referendum testing the national commitment to a democratic constitution could be the only way to ensure peaceful all-race elections next year.

Mr de Klerk's first admission that efforts to lure the right-wing into accepting a negotiated solution to the country's problems have all but failed is certain to dominate talks due in Downing Street today between John Major and Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress.

'The whole process of negotiation is under enormous pressure at the moment,' Mr de Klerk told a National Party congress last night in Stellenbosch. 'It would be no exaggeration to speak of a crisis in the future.'

'Crisis' in the less polite language of the right-wing, which includes Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party and Afrikaner separatists, means civil war.

This is what they have been threatening should the government and the ANC go through with agreements reached in multi-party talks to draw up an interim constitution in November, to pave the way for elections on 27 April for a five- year coalition government.

Yesterday afternoon Mr de Klerk met with all the right- wing leaders opposed to the deal - Chief Buthelezi, General Constand Viljoen of the Afrikaner Volksfront, the Conservative Party leader, Ferdi Hartzenberg, and the rulers of the Bophuthatswana and Ciskei 'homelands', Lucas Mangope and Oupa Gqozo. The five came together last week under a new banner, the Freedom Alliance - an odd assortment of bed-fellows, as their rivals have noted, united more by their fear of an ANC government than by a common vision of the future.

Chief Buthelezi, for example, says he seeks a non-racial, federal solution while General Viljoen, a former armed forces chief of staff, demands a sovereign Afrikaner state within whose boundaries resident blacks would be deprived of political rights.

The latter option, which Chief Buthelezi would seem now to endorse, is categorically rejected by Mr de Klerk - as it is by Mr Mandela. An indication of how unsuccessful the South African President's talks with the Freedom Alliance yesterday had been was provided just hours later by Mr de Klerk's words to his party congress. If the right were not brought on board within four weeks, he said, 'another plan' would be required. 'As a democrat, I believe that there is no better instrument than a referendum,' he said.

The referendum option has been discussed in political circles for some months, the logic being that it provides Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela with a trump card against the right-wing. Chief Buthelezi claims to represent 'the Zulu nation'. General Viljoen and Mr Hartzenberg claim to represent 'the Afrikaner nation'. Opinion polls have cast grave doubts over these propositions - and have ridiculed similarly large claims by Mr Mangope and General Gqozo.

The Freedom Alliance as a whole fear a referendum because they realise that not only would the thinness of their purported support base be exposed, it is certain that the combined ANC and National Party vote would guarantee a large majority for a 'yes' vote.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform