No white lies from Mandela

NELSON MANDELA has been described by some of his colleagues in the African National Congress as a man whose social manners are drawn from an earlier, more courtly age. For a politician in the late 20th century it is a characteristic that carries with it some dangers. For example, he cannot tell a lie.

So when he was asked by reporters in the United States, where he is now on a visit, what he thought of right-wing demands for an independent Afrikaner 'homeland', he flatly ruled out demarcating a piece of South African territory along ethnic lines.

Faithful a reflection of ANC policy as this was, its timing was unfortunate: it gave hardliners on the right wing a pretext to pull out of talks with the ANC.

After it had been revealed in a joint statement last Friday that the ANC had been negotiating secretly with the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), an umbrella right-wing body headed by retired army general Constand Viljoen, the ANC told its officials not to make any further comments. Evidently the message did not cross the Atlantic.

On Wednesday, the AVF announced withhdrawal from all bilateral contacts with the ANC and the government of F W de Klerk. A statement by General Viljoen and the parliamentary Conservative Party leader, Ferdi Hartzenberg, said Mr Mandela had made it plain in the US that he did not accept Afrikaners' right to self-determination.

The statement also shed some light on the friction widely known to exist between the AVF's two most senior figures. Last week Mr Hartzenberg spoke repeatedly in parliament of war. Simultaneously, in speeches at right-wing meetings, General Viljoen was scolding those who, not knowing war as he did, advocated it. He had met Mr Mandela, he explained, and then held a number of meetings with the ANC's national chairman, Thabo Mbeki, to try and avoid a bloodbath.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, is another right-wing leader the ANC is trying through bilateral meetings to woo back into the democratic fold. Mr Mbeki, undoubtedly the smoothest political operator in the ANC, has again been the man assigned to this delicate task.

He will not have been pleased to learn that in another excess of honesty during a press conference in New York, Mr Mandela contrasted Gen Viljoen, 'a responsible man', with the notoriously hyper-sensitive Zulu chief, who he said was 'in danger of being hopelessly isolated'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
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: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?