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Mandela sends ANC his plan for peace
Lusaka to discuss the plan Nelson Mandela presented to FW de Klerk.
Mandela sends ANC his plan for peace
Mandela sends ANC his plan for peace

Nelson Mandela has sent a 10-point proposal on negotiations to the African National Congress to be considered at a crucial meeting which began in Lusaka yesterday.

Mandela told the ANC he would phone them on Sunday to bear their response.

The document, which was brought to Lusaka some weeks ago, is the same one he presented to State President FW de Klerk during their meeting last year. It deals with a number of issues, but centres around a proposal of how negotiations should be handled.

It emerged yesterday that Mandela is in regular contact with the ANC. Acting ANC president Alfred Nzo indicated in a speech that he had communicated with Mandela as recently as Wednesday. Nzo said this weekend's meeting of the National Executive Committee would discuss and decide on Mandela's proposals.

ANC leaders were not giving away any details of the contents. However, one NEC member indicated that the document showed that Mandela was "right on the mark” and any speculation that his position differed from that of the ANC or the United Democratic Front was ludicrous.

Even before Mandela's proposal was made it was clear the three-day meeting in Lusaka would be vitally important, taking place amid debate about the direction of the ANC.

For, the first time, the meeting brings together the 35-member NEC, eight released political prisoners, led by Walter Sisulu, and representatives of the Mass Democratic Movement, led by Cyril Ramaphosa of the National Union of Mineworkers and Chris Dlamini of the Congress of
South African Trade Unions.

The meeting will be crucial in setting attitudes towards the prospect of negotiations with Pretoria, the future of armed struggle, sorting out leadership structures following the release of the prisoners and ANC president Oliver Tambo's illness, and charting a course for the rest of the year.

They settled down behind closed doors yesterday morning for what a senior ANC member called "a terribly important meeting". The gathering comes on the eve of a special frontline state summit, starting in Lusaka on Monday, and called by the ANC.

It is also seen as the precursor to the Consultative Conference called by the ANC for later this year. This is the ANC's highest decision-making body and it will be meeting for only the third time since the organisation was banned The ANC is grappling with political developments in South Africa, implications of changes in Eastern Europe, and die difficult issues of leadership.

However, much of the debate centres around negotiations: are they likely to happen, will they succeed, how will they affect armed struggle?

Sisulu set a harsh tone for the meeting yesterday when he addressed about 700 ANC members at a welcoming ceremony. Be called on ANC members to be open to strong criticism and to subject themselves to constructive self-criticism.

"The important thing is that when an organisation makes mistakes, it must learn to correct them," he said. "A political movement can only succeed if there is criticism and self- criticism, if there is honesty, discipline and order."

Sisulu's speech appears to be part of an attempt by ANC leaders to prepare their cadres for adaptations that may be made necessary by the fluid situation in South Africa. ANC leaders and ordinary members alike confirm there is some resistance in their ranks to talk of negotiations.

"The feeling that MK cadres are being railroaded into something not of our making is real," said a guerrilla.

The ANC leadership, military and political, are united in their support for the ANC's document on negotiations, the Harare Declaration.

While the diplomats and most Lusaka cadres appear to be optimistic about the prospect of a imminent negotiated change, the military leaders scoff at such a suggestion.

"The Harare Declaration is important because it wins us support internationally, helps isolate the South African government and gives us the initiative on the issue.

But we don't believe FW de Klerk is ready to talk. Even if he meets our preconditions, I don't think he is ready to talk about real democracy," a senior MK commander said.

Military leaders concede, the armed struggle is faltering. Last year saw a drop in the number of insurgency incidents over the previous year.

While nobody in Lusaka would consider a suspension of armed struggle until De Klerk "gives us a sign that he is serious", it is the ANC diplomat --those leading the push for negotiations -- who hold sway in the organisation.

This has given rise to strategising over how to handle negotiations. The ANC is assuming Mandela will soon be released, it will be unbanned and the State of Emergency lifted.

The meeting will consider how the ANC will react to an unbanning. Will it operate openly or will it maintain underground structures?

How will it relate to other organisations, like the United Democratic Front and MDM?

It will also be a priority to sort out the complex leadership problems: how to absorb the recently released leaders and Mandela on his release.

A constant theme in speeches and interviews this week was: whether or not negotiations begin the military must step up its mobilisation and activities.

Sisulu himself called on MK guerrillas to step up their actions. The meeting will deal with ways of increasing pressure on the government. The ANC is known to be worried that De Klerk's actions may make it difficult to maintain sanctions.