SA poll announced as far right meets

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AS SOUTH AFRICA's 26-party negotiating council announced yesterday the holding of general elections within 12 months, the faction-ridden extreme right wing attempted to unite in an Afrikaner Volksfront, centred around five former Armed Forces and police generals, to block the country's move towards democratic rule.

The multi-party negotiation council said the exact date for general elections would be set within four weeks. But its announcement that the polls would take place within a year should ease the buildup of tension, particularly among the majority black population.

The announcement was sure to anger the right-wing generals, including the former chief of the South African Defence Force General Constand Viljoen, who met leaders of like-minded parties and farmers' groups in Pretoria yesterday to launch the Volksfront. They said their goal was to press President F W de Klerk into suspending multi- party negotiations with the African National Congress and other political groups.

The generals met on 21 April as the self-styled Committee of Generals and said their aim was to establish an Afrikaner independent state. Representatives of at least four right-wing parties, including the Conservative Party, attended the meeting yesterday, although one of the most militant factions, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging's Wenkommando, has criticised the new group.

The Pretoria meeting followed a rally on Thursday of up to 8,000 farmers who rejected the prospect of an ANC government. The gathering, which marked the first time General Viljoen had declared his political affiliation, came after attacks on white farmers following the murder of the ANC military commander Chris Hani.

A march in Johannesburg planned for thousands of students fizzled out yesterday after armed police patrolled the streets and prevented protesters leaving their townships.