TOPICS > Politics

Democratic Disunity?

May 9, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


LINDSAY TAYLOR, ITN: The decision by the white-led National Party appears to end the dreams of a one-nation South Africa built by a government of national unity. Given F.W. DeKlerk’s party’s deep misgivings about its role in that government, today’s announcement was perhaps inevitable.

F.W. DeKLERK, Deputy President, South Africa: The National Party decided at a meeting of its federal executive committee this morning to withdraw from the government of national unity with effect from the 30th of June 1996.

LINDSAY TAYLOR: It comes just 24 hours after the scenes of celebration when the country adopted a new constitution guaranteeing equal rights and majority rule. But for all the jubilation, the National Party and other minority groups fear that under the constitution their voice will no longer be heard. For all that, today, F.W. DeKlerk was placing a positive gloss on withdrawal, presenting it as South Africa’s democracy coming of age.

F.W. DeKLERK: Yesterday was correctly described as the final moment of the birth of a nation. That nation needs a sound, strong multi-party system, and our vision and mission clearly states that it is fundamentally necessary that such a political movement develop which can ensure that we don’t drift into a one-party state.

LINDSAY TAYLOR: President Mandela, who’d earlier warned that the National Party withdrawal would help neither them nor his government, later stressed the positive too.

NELSON MANDELA, President, South Africa: I am confident that we shall continue to work together in pursuit of the country’s interest and that their withdrawal will have the effect of strengthening, rather than weakening their commitment to the country’s political security and economic interest.

LINDSAY TAYLOR: Today’s events seem a long way from the optimism of two years ago when President Mandela’s inauguration symbolized the rebirth of a nation whose history had been one of political and racial division; however, euphoria has given way to political reality with open disagreements between the ANC-led government and the National Party over issues such as property rights, employers’ and workers’ rights, and education. Political uncertainty has reflected in the economy, the rand down 18 cents against the dollar since February, 11 cents today before the withdrawal announcement.

DAMON HOFF, Broker: Our financial markets are telling us things are bad, not only bad, they are terrible. You don’t see a 3 and 4 percent drop in a market without there being–as they say, there’s no smoke without a fire.

RICHARD DOWDEN, The Economist: The basic problem in South Africa is new investment which create jobs, and they, they only created a few thousand jobs last year, and they need something like two hundred and fifty thousand to fill the number of school leavers who are coming on to the job market.

LINDSAY TAYLOR: President Mandela has achieved so much already his place in history is secure. But 1994 only marked the birth of a new South Africa, and today’s events are a reminder that the path to political maturity will be a difficult one, even for the father of conciliation.