Right-wing alliance feels free to differ: A new South African grouping struggles to define its goals

SUCH has been the pace of change in South Africa since the start of the decade that even the right wing - and now it is official - has gone multi-racial.

Yesterday the newly formed black and white Freedom Alliance, bound by its abhorrence of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, introduced its leadership to the world's press and the diplomatic corps at a Pretoria hotel.

From left to right on the podium, there was, first, General Constand Viljoen, former chief of the South African Defence Force and now 'convenor' of the Afrikaner Volksfront, a separatist umbrella movement that counts among its members Eugene Terre-Blanche's racist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB). Next to him sat Ferdi Hartzenberg, chairman of the Volksfront, leader of the parliamentary Conservative Party and farmer.

On his left was Lucas Mangope, president of Bophuthatswana, a black 'homeland' whose sovereignty only Pretoria recognises and winner again of last year's 'general election' after the failure of anybody to stand against any of the MPs of his Christian Democratic Party.

Then there was Brigadier Oupa Gqozo of the 'homeland' Ciskei, who swept to power after a coup in 1990 and who last week was charged with the murder of one of his political opponents.

And, primus inter pares in the alliance, there was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of the Inkatha Freedom Party, chief minister of the KwaZulu 'homeland' and, by his own definition, a leading light in the struggle against apartheid.

And there was also the freshly appointed chairman of the Freedom Alliance executive committee, Rowan Cronje, once a minister in Ian Smith's Rhodesia, a former adviser to Ciskei who now holds the most powerful ministerial portfolios (defence, home affairs) in Mr Mangope's government.

Mr Cronje introduced the alliance manifesto, the goals of which were set out in 12 paragraphs and each of which included the word 'shall'. For example: 'Southern Africa shall be organised in member- states . . . to express their rights to self-determination' and 'the peoples shall preserve their undeniable right of self- determination.'

The problem lay in the key term 'self-determination', the meaning of which the alliance, it emerged, is still struggling to define. General Viljoen and Mr Hartzenberg had the clearest vision - they want a sovereign Afrikaner state - but conceded they were grappling with the notion of whether this meant all blacks would have to be removed by force.

Brigadier Gqozo said that he spoke for the Xhosas - the tribal group to which Mr Mandela belongs.