Rightists Set to Skip South Africa Poll

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The Freedom Alliance of holdout whites and blacks has signaled it will likely boycott South Africa's first multiracial elections, raising the specter of organized resistance to the country's new constitution.


After meeting in Pretoria, the alliance said Tuesday it would make no move to reopen talks with the government and the African National Congress before a deadline to get on the ballot Saturday.


Talks deadlocked Monday night when the ANC and government laid down what they said was their last offer to satisfy the alliance's demands for greater power for regions under the new constitution, which takes effect after the April 26-28 vote.


The alliance is made up of pro-apartheid white groups, the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party and the Bophuthatswana homeland government.


The alliance says a new ANC-led central government, aligned with the South African Communist Party, would oppress whites and other minorities. Therefore they say they want the constitution to guarantee virtually independent regional governments for white Afrikaners, Zulus and Tswanas.


Its critics view the alliance as merely trying to preserve the positions of privilege that its members enjoyed under the apartheid system of racial segregation.


White extremists and Zulu nationalists in the alliance have threatened armed resistance to the constitution negotiated with the ANC and adopted by parliament last year. A series of suspected right-wing bombings of ANC offices over the past month is believed to be a harbinger of rising violence if the alliance does boycott.


Freedom Alliance Chairman Rowan Cronje said the alliance would make no further concessions to reopen discussions. The final sticking point, he said, was its inability to obtain a promise that any regional powers negotiated could never be reduced.


In another development, a police chief in the Inkatha-run Zulu homeland who had flouted South Africa's multiracial governing council finally submitted to questioning Tuesday.


KwaZulu Police Commissioner Roy During had refused to recognize the Transitional Executive Council's authority when it first demanded he appear before it in December.


In the first display of its powers, the council went to court to compel During to appear before it.


The council, which includes representatives from the ANC and the governing National Party, acts as a government watchdog until the first all-race election in April.


The council called for During's testimony after an independent commission accused KwaZulu police officers of the politically motivated killings of nine people, including ANC members and leaders, in 1992 and 1993. KwaZulu is a semi-autonomous region formed under the apartheid plan to deny blacks citizenship in South Africa.


Its leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, is a prominent leader of the Freedom Alliance and a strong critic of the ANC.