The Dilemma Of President Botha In South Africa

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This week, President P.W. Botha of South Africa returned to office, after recovering from the stroke he suffered about six weeks ago. He returned to office, amidst some of the most intricate constitutional crises that the racist regime would be going through in years. At the epicentre of these developments, is the call made by the caucus of the ruling Nationalist Party, and its assembly men, for President Botha to step down, in favour of F.W. De Klerk, who was recently elected the party leader.

True to his intransigent nature, P.W. Botha made it clear, that he would stay in power till the end of his term, which does not terminate until March, 1990. As an analyst put it, South Africa is saddled with a President that will not stand down, and a party that has rejected him. Over the past fifty years, P.W. Botha worked as an activist of the Nationalist Party, helping to fashion out the obnoxious laws of apartheid. When he became President, Botha gave himself awesome constitutional powers, could not stand any opposition, and behaved like a tyrant in relation to other members of his party.

The stroke he suffered, therefore, offered the opportunity for other tendencies within the apartheid ruling circles to emerge, make a bid for power, and finally oust P.W. Botha. The present in-fighting within the racist hierarchy, confirms the general crisis that has gripped the whole edifice of apartheid. The struggle does not concern how to put an end to the outlaw system, but to tinker with it.

F.W. De Klerk represents the younger generation of activists within the Nationalist Party. It is a very sophisticated generation that has seen the militant rise of the African people in South Africa. De Klerk knows that unless decisive actions are embarked upon, the South African state was headed for a revolutionary upheaval. But as true heirs of the founders of the racist state, they are not setting out to handover to a Black majority government in South Africa. Far from it. The drama that is playing out, is therefore, one that will not significantly change the political landscape in South Africa.

It is interesting to note, that the fight for the Presidency, coincides with the release of a report on the State of South Africa. The report called for a total dismantling of apartheid, and moves for the total enfranchisement of the Black majority in the country. All observers now agree, that change of a fundamental nature is what is needed now in South Africa. This is the way that the two contending parties in the Nationalist Party seem determined not to trod. It seems clearer, that De Klerk would eventually become State President, Botha’s present intransigence not-withstanding. But it is in the essentials of the survival of the system that he will be judged.

On the other hand, P.W. Botha will be remembered as the reformist who took bold steps, eradicated petty apartheid, but was unable to satisfy the majority of the South African people, because his steps were too little, too late. We don’t need any other confirmation of the fact, that apartheid and its masters, belong in the dustbin of history.

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