Mandela Announces Concessions in Face of Civil War

JOHANNESBURG -- African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela announced major concessions Wednesday to an opposition alliance in hopes of avoiding a boycott of national elections and reducing the threat of civil war.

"We must treat the threat of civil war seriously," Mandela told a news conference after an emergency meeting of the group's policy-making National Executive Committee. "That is why we have gone out of our way to make these concessions."

The ANC dropped its demand for a single-ballot system in the April 26-28 election to end white-minority rule and called for multiparty negotiations to be reconvened Monday to approve the decision, Mandela said.

This marks an important concession to the opposition Freedom Alliance, a coalition of anti-ANC white and black groups who have vowed to boycott the election and raised threats of political violence. The Alliance has said voters should cast two ballots in April -- one for a national parliament and another for regional legislatures.

This would give small, regionally based parties such as those represented in the Alliance a chance of establishing power-bases in their areas of support. A single ballot would have virtually assured the huge ANC a majority of seats in both the national and provincial legislatures.

Mandela also sought to reassure the Alliance by saying that the new government will not substantially change the post-apartheid constitution drafted in multiparty negotiations. The Alliance has said it fears the document will be rewritten by the next government, which is expected to be dominated by the ANC.

Even with the announcement, it was not certain the Alliance members would agree to take part in the vote.

The parties, led by pro-apartheid whites and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, also are demanding independent homelands for their supporters to avoid living under ANC rule. Mandela said his opposition to this was unchanged.

"Our position is that of a united South Africa. Apart from the fact that there will be provincial governments and they will be able to decide their own structures, our position remains the same: a united South Africa," he said.