De Klerk faces influential foes in Afrikaner establishment

MR F.W. de Klerk - the Afrikaner leader who took the momentous decision to unban the African National Congress and to negotiate…

MR F.W. de Klerk - the Afrikaner leader who took the momentous decision to unban the African National Congress and to negotiate a peace settlement - is under pressure from powerful forces within Afrikanerdom to step down as leader of the National Party.

One sign of the pressure is manifest in the stand taken by two of the most influential Afrikaans newspapers, Die Burger and Beeid, both of which loyally supported Mr De Klerk after his 1990 decision to release Mr Nelson Mandela and to seek a negotiated settlement.

Die Burger has stated flatly that the time has come for Mr De Klerk (60) to make way for a new leader. In an editorial entitled "Surrender", it accuses Mr De Klerk of presiding over a sequence of events which led to the surrender of Afrikaner sovereignty and centralised government in a one party dominant state controlled by the ANC.

A Beeid assistant editor, Mr Tim du Plessis, agrees it is time for Mr De Klerk to move on. But he does not believe Mr De Klerk can justifiably be accused of "sacrificing Afrikaner national sovereignty", arguing that Mr De Klerk did his best to protect Afrikaner interests in difficult circumstances.


But Mr Du Plessis concludes: "Every NP leader can only achieve one big thing in his time."

F.W. de Klerk has done his and more. A new leader must now take it further."

Mr Isak de Villiers, editor of the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Rapport, says in an article on Mr De Klerk's "failure" to protect Afrikaner rights: "The Afrikaner was defeated at the negotiating table... The broad Afrikaner community must start rectifying action as never before in our history."

These views dovetail with those expressed in his newspaper column by a distinguished Afrikaner historian and political philosopher, Mr Hermann Giliomee. He compares the position of Afrikaners today with their plight after the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902), declaring: "Over the past decade or so, poorer Afrikaners have been sold out by the Afrikaner middle class."

An opinion poll commissioned by the Helen Suzman Foundation shows that support for Mr De Klerk's NP has dropped from 20 per cent in the 1994 election to under 14 per cent.

Against that, however, a Beeid poll shows that nearly 60 per cent of its readership believes he should stay as NP leader.

Reuter adds from Cape Town: A United States South Africa binational commission convened yesterday determined to play down disagreements over a proposed South African arms sale to Syria. Relations between Pretoria and Washington have been strained by news that South Africa is considering selling tank firing systems to Syria, a plan opposed by Israel and the United States.