Militant Pan Africanist Congress Trades Bullets For Ballots
SOVENGA, South Africa (AP) _ The ballots for South Africa’s first all-race election are topped by a black map of Africa cut by yellow sun rays - the symbol of a militant party many thought would never trade bullets for ballots.
The Pan Africanist Congress once argued that only force could topple the white minority government. PAC leader Clarence Makwetu, whose party got the top ballot spot in a random draw, still says the reform process is flawed, but he is nonetheless going to the polls April 26-28.
″Elections are what the PAC had been fighting for all along, so we cannot now be seen running away from the election,″ Makwetu said in an interview with The Associated Press.
His party’s spot on the national ballot, at the head of 17 other parties that also have their party symbols printed alongside their names, has inspired a new slogan: ″Vote PAC - Vote No. 1 3/8″
In reality, the militant black party is no match for the African National Congress, the country’s leading group. Polls have indicated PAC support at 3 percent to 8 percent, behind the ANC at 59 percent to 64 percent and the white-dominated National Party at 16 percent to 21 percent.
But Makwetu’s followers are fiercely loyal, and the PAC’s power lies in the anger of blacks robbed of land and rights by whites under apartheid. The small, militant group - so militant some call it racist - could emerge as the strongest of the small parties, winning more seats in Parliament than conservative white groups and giving a militant edge to the new government.
The group’s guerrilla wing has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks on whites. Three young PAC members are accused of murdering Amy Biehl, a white American student beaten to death last year by a black mob shouting ″kill the settler,″ a term some PAC supporters use to refer to whites.
But on the campaign trail, glasses perched on the tip of his nose, left index finger raised professorially, Makwetu is hardly the model of a militant black leader.
At Mashashane, a black farming hamlet at the end of a rocky dirt road, he addressed about 50 people - many of them restless children. One listener scolded Makwetu for not campaigning harder.
″There’s no groundwork being done here. I’m very disappointed,″ said George Ledwaba. ″The PAC has got supporters here. We want the land, we don’t want any reconciliation with whites.″
He and other Pan Africanists accuse the ANC of conceding too much to the white government in negotiations that cleared the way for April’s vote. The PAC refused to endorse the post-apartheid constitution because it failed to guarantee land to blacks, and because it gives any party that wins 5 percent of the vote a seat in the next Cabinet. That is likely to give the National Party, which enforced apartheid, strong influence in the next government.
″The problem with the government of national unity is it is designed by people who want to continue being in power even if they are defeated,″ Makwetu said.
The PAC formed in 1959 when militants defected from the ANC over its new charter, which proclaimed: ″South African belongs to all who live in it, black and white.″
Some are concerned about the PAC’s plan after the election.
″Will it choose ... to function simply as an opposition, or will it share power?″ said Tom Lodge, a political scientist. ″I think that some PAC leaders are actually hungry for the fruits of power.″
Makwetu refuses to discuss joining a government of reconciliation.
″We are striving not to get a minority vote. We are striving to win the election,″ he said.
Unlike the ANC, which has promised compensation for land seized, the PAC has no such plan.
″We say flatly that we shall not buy any land from the settlers who currently occupy it, for they bought no land from us,″ Makwetu tells cheering crowds at his campaign rallies.
Despite the ominous chant, ″One settler, one bullet 3/8″ shouted at PAC rallies, Makwetu insists his party is not racist. ″Settler″ refers only to whites who cling to apartheid, he said.
″To us, your color doesn’t matter. What is important is ... if you owe your allegiance to this country and you are prepared to be ruled by a government elected by an African majority.″