The five-year plan placed before the National Party conference by President-elect F.W. de Klerk yesterday, 29th June, 1989, is a shocking insult to the people of South Africa.

The idea that our people should fold their arms and sit back for half a decade while apartheid is given a change of clothes would be laughable were it not so insufferable.

As we have repeatedly warned, F.W. de Klerk has nothing better on offer than a refurbished version of apartheid - "a reformed apartheid". Consistent with the central dogmas of that system, de Klerk insists on establishing and reaffirming race as the basic plank of the constitution. Political rights will continue to be defined on the basis of race.

In other words apartheid, in its essentials, will be retained. Legislative power based on separate racially defined bodies is to be entrenched through the device of group rights written into the constitution. This elevation of group rights, above the rights of the individual, is the essence of apartheid. Behind this are two basic principles that de Klerk and his party adamantly refuse to relinquish:

  • There shall be no majority rule.
  • There shall not be any fundamental change.

We have become accustomed to the abuse of language by the ruling circles of our country. Thus de Klerk asserts that his main objective is to prevent the domination of any one group by others, but in the same breath he seeks to establish an institutional framework that will leave the decisive levers of power in the hands of the dominant white minority. The notion of consensus as the operative principle of government, in the South African context, effectively invests the privileged minority with the power of veto over the will of the majority.

De Klerk will maintain the fundamental features of the apartheid system - separate schools, separate group areas and the division of the African population through bantustans and "independent homelands".

Every aspect of the National Party`s platform is deliberately designed to convey the impression of change, while retaining the hegemony of the racist minority. The oppressed are to be given the shadow of power while its substance remains exactly where it is today.

Nothing that de Klerk has said can change our assessment that the regime is merely employing the rhetoric of reform as one more means of buying time for apartheid and to fend off growing pressures from a world community whose patience with racism has been exhausted. We should see this platform for what it is - apartheid with a facelift. We should not permit this to obscure the human degradation and social putrefaction that underpins the system.

Had the National Party any serious intention of moving our country forward it would at least have addressed the demands of the overwhelming majority of our people:

  • Unconditionally free Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners.
  • End the State of Emergency and remove all troops from the townships.
  • Lift the bans on all political organisations and repeal all repressive legislation.
  • Permit the return of exiles.
  • End all political executions.

These demands have won the support of millions throughout the world who are genuinely interested in the transformation of South Africa.

It is time that those government leaders, who only yesterday trumpeted the praise of P.W. Botha as a reforming statesman, and today seek to convince us that de Klerk holds out the promise of something new, recognise that the majority of South Africans can have no confidence in a process of restructuring presided over by de Klerk or any other racist President.

The National Party has been compelled, by the deep crisis of the apartheid system, to appear to be moving. This is the outcome of hard-fought struggles by the people of South Africa, including its armed component, supported and sustained by the solidarity of the international community. Ironically, de Klerk`s myopic proposals are, however, a vindication of the multi-pronged strategy employed by the ANC and other democratic forces. Only an intensification of the struggle on all fronts, and an international campaign for the total isolation of apartheid South Africa, will hasten the dawn of freedom in that country.

ES Reddy