chapter  6
Negotiating the New South Africa
Pages 39

February 1990 marked a turning-point in South African history. In his opening address to parliament state president F. W. de Klerk2 committed his government to negotiation. 'The aim', he said, 'is a totally new and just constitutional dispensation in which every inhabitant will enjoy equal rights, treatment and opportunity' in all spheres.3 P. W. Botha had made similar promises but he baulked at crossing the Rubicon. De Klerk liberalized the political process and initiated a new programme of deracialization. Western leaders applauded; some even made favourable comparisons with the Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But de Klerk did not have a profound vision for the future.4 Nor did he voluntarily surrender white privilege. De Klerk reacted to intense pressures and to the new international climate of super-power reconciliation by accelerating the process of state restructuring begun by Botha. His objective was to control the process and secure the National Party's place in a post-apartheid society.