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.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Freedom Alliance badly shaken in Bop fallout

This was the cover story of the Green Left Weekly -- which calls itself Australia's leading radical newspaper -- on 23 March 1994.

The right-wing alliance of parties opposed to the holding of democratic elections has been severely weakened by the Bophuthatswana uprising. The Freedom Alliance has all but collapsed, with a significant component of the white right splitting away to participate in the April 27 elections.

Following the AWB's morale-shattering public humiliation in Mmabatho, the decision of former SADF head Constand Viljoen to desert lessens substantially the ability of the white far right to launch its threatened civil war.

While the main threat of violence now comes from the Inkatha Freedom Party, it too has not emerged from the Bop events unscathed.

As the extent of the right-wing debacle in Bop became apparent on March 12, Viljoen seems to have finally decided that the fantasy of a white homeland -- volkstaat -- could not be won through military confrontation with the new majority rule government. The events also made it plain that South Africa's black majority, and probably blacks in the defence force and police, would not stand by idly during a confrontation sparked by an uprising like that he had just witnessed. Citing the “undisciplined” conduct of the AWB in Mmabatho (as opposed to his own willingness to invade the town with thousands of AVF gunmen), Viljoen resigned from the Afrikaner Volksfront.

He announced that his new organisation, the Freedom Front, would take part in the elections. The AWB responded by calling Viljoen “a political Judas sent by the Broederbond/ANC/NP/Communist Party alliance to lead us to slaughter”.

Viljoen's move fractured the white-supremacist Conservative Party, which dominates the AVF and its Volksraad or “Volkstaat Parliament”. Seven CP MPs signed a document supporting participation in the elections. A majority of the CP's Natal executive on March 13 aligned with the FF. When Viljoen made public on March 16 the FF's candidates, they included 10 CP MPs.

Viljoen's loyalty to the more militarist wing of the AVF had been suspect for some time. When the Inkatha Freedom Party decided to register “provisionally” for the elections on March 4, Viljoen registered his Freedom Front without consulting his AVF partners. At the time he said it gave the Afrikaner people the option of proving support for a volkstaat at the polls.

On March 5, Viljoen was howled down at a meeting of the Volksraad and his proposal that the AVF participate in the elections through the FF was defeated 73 votes to 20.

In an effort to widen the divisions between the AVF hardliners and the “moderates” in the right-wing camp, the ANC proposed the formation of a Volkstaat Council made up of those MPs elected in April who support a volkstaat.

While making it plain it would not allow the creation of a volkstaat on an undemocratic or racist basis, the ANC offered to continue talks with volkstaat supporters if they had proven “substantial support” at the April polls. In the end, Viljoen and his supporters grasped this offer to save face and secure a future role in South African politics rather than go down the political gurgler with the rest of the white far right.

The Freedom Front is likely to take tens of thousands of votes away from the F.W. de Klerk's National Party. Supporters of the Conservative Party and other components of the white far right would have voted for the National Party if the boycott had held. With the entrance of Viljoen's party into the race, it is estimated that the NP may lose up to a third of its vote, reducing its likely representation in the post-April cabinet of the government of national unity.

The Inkatha Freedom Party is now main threat to a peaceful, free and fair election in April. Political violence against opponents campaigning in the KwaZulu and Natal regions is escalating. Violence continues to be directed at those engaged in the voter education programs. Despite Inkatha's “provisional” registration, Buthelezi has reverted to a boycott stand.

As talks have continued between ANC and IFP on proposals for international mediation of the differences over the interim constitution, IFP spokespeople have hardened their positions. The IFP began to repeat demands that the election be postponed. The ANC remained adamant that the election date could not be changed. The ANC's Thabo Mbeki on March 5 promised that any agreements reached would be binding on the ANC and would be incorporated into the constitution immediately after the election.

An IFP central committee meeting on March 9 decided that the party would not provide a list of candidates by the March 16 deadline. As a result its registration lapsed and its name was deleted from the ballot paper. Inkatha national chairperson Frank Mdlalose confirmed that it would “campaign for a boycott” of the election.

However, events in Bophuthatswana have also weakened Buthelezi's position. Apart from depriving him of important allies, the uprising highlighted the impossibility of postponing the elections without a mass response. Those elements in the National Party government who were tempted to support a postponement have been frightened off.

That the revolt was sparked primarily by the Mangope regime's refusal to allow free political activity may cause Buthelezi to think twice about extreme repression of election-related activity. Certainly, the fear of similar unrest in Buthelezi's KwaZulu fief has galvanised South Africa's big business press to editorialise that the TEC and the South African government must take a hard line and use all their powers to force Buthelezi to allow free political activity.



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