South African Election: Election Notebook
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Tuesday 26 April 1994
We use intelligence and the vote instead.
AS RIGHT-WING bombs punctuate the final hours before voting, the ANC might prefer not to be reminded of its own terrorist past. The above words are the opening lines of a song in ragamuffin style, intended as a tribute to the ANC's military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation or MK). The tape, Victory] Mission Accomplished by MK Platoon, was produced in London by Andrew Kasrils and Robert McBride. Kasrils is the London- born son of Ronnie Kasrils, a leading figure in the South African Communist Party. McBride is a former MK operative and Death Row inmate, convicted of bombing Magoo's Bar in Durban in 1986 when three people died.
McBride, now an ANC official, says music is a powerful way to remind young people about MK's role in bringing apartheid to its knees. (Actually, historians of the last few years give very little credit to MK, one of the most incompetent and deeply penetrated organisations in the history of terorrism.) In any case, in the spirit of the times, the song takes a conciliatory and forward-looking line: 'Too much blood shed too much of we dead. Now is the time for love and peace to spread.'
WHITE poverty barely used to exist in the old South Africa. For all its fierce denunciations of Communism, the apartheid system provided a generous kind of whites-only welfare socialism. Now, white beggars do exist. There was little sympathy, however, for the grizzled man with a sign standing outside the opulent shopping mall in the Johannesburg suburb of Hyde Park (pronounced Hard Pork). His sign said: 'Can anyone help? Not seen my sister in Romania for 48 years.'
WINNIE Mandela is having a fine time putting her head in the lion's mouth and, at the same time, her foot in her own mouth. The ANC is at pains to reassure white farmers that they will not have their land taken away. But Mrs Mandela swept into Orkney, deep in white supremacist territory in the eastern Transvaal, and announced that the farms of Eugene Terre-Blanche, the leader of the neo-Nazi AWB, would be expropriated after the election. 'He is going to be the first person from whom we are going to repossess our land and farms.'
POLITICAL campaigning, in the style of the new South Africa, performs a kind of hair-raising switchback between the most vicious abuse and the most cloying politeness. The Democratic Party, which appeals mostly to wealthy, white liberals, likes to present itself as the party of honesty and reason. But it has also taken to running advertisements showing full-page pictures of dead Zulus and, in effect, accusing the ANC of harbouring murderers.
Nelson Mandela, in an interview with the Johannesburg Star, accuses F W De Klerk of standing by while thousands died in the townships. In the next breath, Mr Mandela (in his occasional P G Wodehouse manner) describes Mr de Klerk as 'quite an interesting chap'. 'He has the capacity of quarrelling with you and the next moment shaking hands and sitting down to coffee.'
IN THE same interview, Mr Mandela says he is taken aback to find himself compared to one of the leading godfathers of apartheid. 'Well, I've got this habit of finger pointing . . . but the habit that you've had for 75 years is not easy to get rid of. I use it not to make a threat but to emphasise a point. I regret that I reminded people of P W Botha.'
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