Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "People's state") is a proposal for the establishment of a homeland for Afrikaners. Outside a possible use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for the establishment of such a state. The South African regime declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but "would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture". What a fine job they are doing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cry for the Beloved Country: The Post-Apartheid Denouement

From a paper presented by Professor John S. Saul of York University on Friday, 30 August 2002, at the RAU, Auckland Park, Johannesburg. This essay has been published in Monthly Review and Review of African Political Economy.

In spite of the release from prison of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the unbanning of the ANC, President F. W. de Klerk and his associates had still not reconciled themselves to the notion of the ultimate establishment of an ANC government. Well into the transition period (1990-1994), they continued to harbor hopes of safeguarding various attributes of the existing racial order within any new constitutional/political dispensation that would eventually emerge from negotiations. Moreover, de Klerk almost certainly was knowledgeable of various on-going attempts by the South African military and police both to strengthen the hand of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi and his conservative Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in the jockeying for political positioning that now occurred and to actively undermine, in this and other ways (both direct and indirect), the capacity of the ANC to emerge as a hegemonic force in a new South Africa.

There was also a significant threat to a peaceful transition from further to the right within the white polity. Both the Conservative Party and more overtly fascist organizations like the Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (AWB) remained players to be reckoned with, committed as they were to rolling back the clock to the days of unqualified apartheid. As Jonathan Hyslop has convincingly argued, however, by far the greatest danger from the White Right was represented by General Constand Viljoen. He, not Ferdy Hartzenberg (of the CP) or Eugene Terreblanche (of the AWB), had lines into a security establishment not otherwise inclined towards putschist activity and also had a much better chance of linking up with potentially divisive forces in the African community (with Buthelezi, for example, and with the "independent Bantustan" governments of the Ciskei and Boputhatswana). This was because, as a realist, Viljoen had concluded that the Afrikaners' last best hope lay in separatism, not apartheid overlordship. The foiling of white intervention to shore up Lucas Mangopes regime in Boputhatswana narrowed Viljoens options, however, and when the ANC skillfully allowed some space in the negotiations for the separatist notion of a Volkstaat to remain a possibility the general chose, late in the day but fatefully, to commit himself to the electoral process. Despite a spate of bombings on the eve of the elections, the White Right was thus largely corralled into the fold of peaceful transition. And even though his own last minute entry into the election did not create quite so peaceful a process in Kwa-Zulu, Buthelezis decision to participate must surely have been produced, at least in part, by Viljoens decision to abandon his own resistance.

One might argue that the ANC was equally adept in dealing with Chief Gatsha Buthelezi and Inkatha. The IFP brought to the table a blood record of harassment of the ANC, often carried out hand in glove with the apartheid state. But it had also developed a significant base amongst many (although by no means all) Zulu-speakers in the rural areas and squatter settlements of the KwaZulu Bantustan and in workers' hostels especially on the East Rand. Small wonder that, despite Inkatha's eleventh-hour conversion to participation in the 1994 polls, fraud, violence and considerable chaos marked the electoral process in Natal -- with "no-go" areas for one or the other of the chief protagonists in the election, especially in Inkatha-dominated rural Natal, imposing a firm limitation on open campaigning, for example. In the end, no accurate count of the vote proved to be remotely possible in Natal: the result was, quite simply, diplomatically brokered and in the IFP's favour, this being a choice of tactic made by the national-level ANC in order to draw Buthelezi further into the tent of compromise. This result also meant that the IFP would form the government in the province of KwaZulu/Natal, one of nine such provincial units established within the new federal system affirmed in the constitutional guidelines produced by the inter-party negotiations that preceded the elections.



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