Battle to represent the right

Sprinkling tolerance to left and right in a bid to get the new South Africa off to a smooth start, president Nelson Mandela has opened up fissures in the ranks of Afrikaner conservatives.

Deep tensions are surfacing between the Conservative Party/Afrikaner Volksfront (CP/AVF) grouping of Ferdi Hartzenberg and the Freedom Front/Volksfaat Council grouping (FF/VC) of General Constand Viljoen. Both parties are vying for the position of the representative of white conservatives, and have become hyper-sensitive to how the new government treats them.

When Mandela initially mooted the idea of a tripartite forum among the government, the FF and the CP/VF, the move was construed by the latter as an opportunity to negotiate with the government on an equal footing with the FF and perhaps oust Viljoen from his effective position as standard-bearer of ultra-conservatism.

Viljoen’s pro-election stance was rooted in the promise of providing the Afrikaner with a mechanism to negotiate a ‘volkstaat’ once the poll was over. The FF now feels it has paid its dues by participating in the election It therefore regards its position as main representative of the rightwing as its just reward. It would therefore much rather have Hartzenberg negotiating with the government via theVC than directly across the table.

After Mondays talks between the FF, the CP and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki it seems that Viljoen may be succeeding in his attempt to make the CP/AVF grouping subordinate to the VC. In a statement issued immediately after the talks, Hartzenberg complained that the discussions had “differed completely” in spirit from an agreement reached with Mandela two weeks earlier.

He vowed that he would go back to the president Sources inside the CP also tell of more private suspicions about Viljoen and Mbeki. The two negotiators are now accused of having concocted a private deal before Monday’s talks. “It seems,” added one source, “Mandela may say one thing but that his ministers have their own agendas.” He cited Justice Minister Dullah Omar’s hardline approach to the issue of indemnity.

AVF chief secretary Pieter Aucamp explained that the CP did not see theVC as a suitable body for achieving Afrikaner independence. Other differences revolve around the degree of autonomy envisaged for a Volkstaat or a representative Afrikaner body. While the AVF/CP is seemingly hell bent on total sovereignty, the FF/VC may only be looking towards a federal arrangement.

Under this, a representative body such as the VC would look after the interests of Afrikaners, much as the Jewish Board of Deputies safeguards Jewish interests. It is hoped that some statutory powers and eventual territorial independence will flow from such a body.

The AVF/CP also blames Viljoen for not allowing the so-called “two- pronged action”, to which it says Viljoen originally subscribed, to take its course. This would commit the FF/VC to pursuing the volkstaat ideal by pure constitutional means while theAVF/CP uses a mixture of negotiations, passive and active resistance.

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