EC team fails to restart talks in South Africa

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The Independent Online
AS A TRIO of European ministers, headed by Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary, ended their brief visit to South Africa in an attempt to jump-start constitutional negotiations, the African National Congress (ANC) said full talks would remain on hold until the government took steps to curb political violence and release the remaining political prisoners.

But crucial bilateral contacts between ANC leaders and the government's main negotiator will continue, keeping open the lifeline until there is sufficient common political ground for the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) talks to resume.

Mr Hurd, after touring Alexandra, a Johannesburg township which is plagued by violence, said the European Community would send 15 observers to bolster a United Nations force monitoring the attacks. It would also send investigators to assist the Goldstone Commission's inquiry into political killings. But the ANC is looking for substantive action by the South African government.

After a three-day meeting of its national executive, the ANC said there was no point in resuming full negotiations, broken off in June, until concrete measures were in place to deal with the immediate concern of many South Africans, principally blacks - the daily fear of political murder.

The ANC feels that while the government makes the right noises and takes some very visible measures, such as the recent purge of hardline senior policemen, the white regime intends to continue to use the violence to undermine its opponents' support.

'The government still lacks the political will to take visible steps to stop the violence . . . We have come too far in the negotiations process for the people of our country to be lulled by continued government delay and double- speak,' the ANC said. The government attempted to express disappointment at the ANC decision, although it was widely expected.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC Secretary-General, said the organisation intended to intensify its mass-action campaign of strikes and demonstrations to press its case. The rolling campaign has been successful in showing the extent of support for the ANC's position in the country, although it has yet to force significant concessions from the government.

The ANC also released its Transition to Democracy Act, which it plans to present as a constitutional framework until a new constitution is in place.

It would replace the present racially based tricameral parliament with a single assembly elected by proportional representation. The assembly would act both as a constitution-making and legislative body. If a new constitution was not agreed by a two- thirds majority within nine months there would be fresh elections.

The ANC said the government agreed in principle with its proposals, including the need for a time-frame and means of breaking any deadlock. But it was the government's insistence on an extended interim administration, over several years, and a three-quarters majority in the assembly on the important issue of devolved power to the regions that contributed to the breakdown of negotiations in the first place.