SA parties fail to reach deal on April poll: Deal eludes SA parties on taking part in April poll

FIRST prize yesterday, as the South African government and the African National Congress saw it, would have been for all political parties to meet under one roof and agree peacefully to participate in the April elections.

As it was, those already in favour of participation met in Johannesburg, the rejectionists met in Pretoria and never, despite some last-minute efforts, did the twain meet. The Johannesburg meeting, at the World Trade Centre, brought together the 19 parties that approved South Africa's first democratic constitution in November. In Pretoria, at the embassy of the nominally independent republic of Bophuthatswana, delegates of the black and white right-wing Freedom Alliance coalition held a meeting of their own.

The Johannesburg group, the Negotiating Council, agreed to approve constitutional concessions put forward last week by the ANC. These will be taken to parliament, where next week they will be passed into law and introduced into the national constitution. The Pretoria group agreed that the concessions did not go far enough to persuade them the new democratic order would be sufficiently to their taste to obviate the need to resort to violence.

Since the point of the Johannesburg exercise was to convince the Alliance partners - Inkatha, the Afrikaner Volksfront and the Bophuthatswana government - that they should join the election and drop threats of war, the day was, a government official said, 'no more or less frustrating than what we've become sadly accustomed to over the last three months'.

When the documentation was placed on the table at the World Trade Centre yesterday, grounds seemed to exist to believe that the Alliance might be persuaded by the end of the day to drive down from Pretoria and talk. In deference to Volksfront demands for a separate Afrikaner state, it was agreed a 'Volkstaat Council' would be established to examine the option of Afrikaner self-determination. The council, a legally entrenched constitutional body, would be financed by the state and run by 20 members, whose task would be to define the boundaries and powers of a volkstaat and submit its plans to the parliament that emerges after the April poll.

Responding to demands by Alliance partners, it was decided each provincial government would be given greater taxation powers and guarantees that these would not be diminished by a new government. A switch from a single to a double ballot, one poll each for the national and the provincial parliaments, was also approved for insertion into the constitution.

The Alliance partners were studying the same documentation. The chairman of the Negotiating Council in Johannesburg won approval for a proposal to fax the Alliance, inviting the delegates to attend their meeting. The response was a sharp 'No, thank you.' The Alliance said the ANC's concessions did not go far enough, that they wanted more regional powers and more certainty a volkstaat would be carved out within South Africa's boundaries.

The Alliance chairman, Rowan Cronje, said if no more concessions were made, 'they leave us with no alternative but to look at alternatives'. An indication of what he might mean was provided on Saturday, when 15 ANC youths were killed by suspected Inkatha gunmen.

PRETORIA (Reuter) - South African police said yesterday they had arrested 46 people in one of the biggest exposures of a crime syndicate in the country.

Police spokesman Captain Evan Johnson said the arrests were made on Sunday after a two-year investigation into a syndicate known as the 'Boere mafia' due to its many Afrikaans-speaking members. He said the arrests followed a joint operation by more than 300 police officers in the Transvaal and Natal regions.

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