PRETORIA, Feb 16 (IPS) - President Nelson Mandela opens the first session of parliament Friday amid growing tensions within his own African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party (NP), their junior partner in government.
The strain in the ANC centres around allegations of corruption involving senior party figures and a perception the leadership is willing to sell out the election promises made to the black majority in favour of reconciliation with whites
The tension this week culminated in a public repudiation of Arts, Culture and Science Deputy Minister, Winnie Mandela, when she was forced by the president to apologise in writing for criticising the government over its post-election record.
President Mandela is also expected in his opening speech to throw down the gauntlet to increasingly militant trade unions which in the past month have threatened mass action and, if there demands are not met, the taking of white hostages
Mandela said on Wednesday that although the right of workers to strike is recognised, strict action would be taken if the law is broken. Violence and disruption, he warned, are undermining stability and economic growth.
But while media attention during the last week focussed on squabbles in the ANC, including the repudiation of Winnie Mandela, the NP of Deputy President FW de Klerk is suffering its own, much less public crisis.
There is growing concern in NP circles that the party lacks a clear vision for the future.
The party will have an extended caucus meeting in Stellenbosch over the weekend, to be attended by NP members of the national parliament as well as from the nine provincial legislatures, to discuss the problems.
According to Afrikaans newspapers, which have a close ear to the party, conflict is still brewing over the question of whether it should play the role of opposition or take the approach -- as it has until now -- to seek common ground and reconciliation within the ANC-dominated government.
Rightwingers, including Andre Fourie, the former Minister of Provincial Affairs in the previous government, argue that the ANC should be pressurised and ''exposed''. This is the only way, they say, that the NP can build a strong and clearly defined identity.
Those in favour of closer cooperation with the ANC -- including most of the NP ministers in Mandela's Cabinet -- argue that the party can best exert its influence behind closed doors. They say to openly oppose the ANC will only lead to further polarisation.
The example of Namibia is seen as pertinent. Dirk Mudge, the leader of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), preferred to stay in opposition after the country's first democratic elections in 1990 which saw the South West African People's Organisation (Swapo) come to power.
In the second elections at the end of last year, the DTA lost most of its support and Swapo won a land-slide victory.
The NP, it is argued by the ''doves'' in the party, can only survive as long as it is seen by the black majority as sympathetic to their plight. It is not possible to have whites, coloureds and Indians -- 30 percent of the population -- as the party's only power base.
The NP supporting newspaper 'Beeld' this week predicted that the internal tension in De Klerk's party is in fact worse than that in the ANC. The chances of the NP splitting into various groups, according to 'Beeld', are much greater than the chances that the ANC will break up.
De Klerk will be expected to give a clear vision to his party faithful on Saturday, but newspapers are already predicting that he will try to keep both factions in his party happy by adopting an approach of ''loyal criticism''.
This will entail the party remaining part of the Cabinet of National Unity while allowing its members to be more open ly critical of aspects of ANC policy.
While the NP will be trying to solve its identity crisis, the ANC is increasingly plagued by accusations of corruption in its ranks.
President Mandela said on Wednesday ''appropriate action'' would be taken if former ANC Western Cape leader, Allan Boesak, is proven to be guilty of misappropriation of foreign donor money.
Two other senior ANC members have been implicated in corruption allegations.
Around 100,000 rand (29,000 dollars) disappeared from the Tourism Forum headed by ANC MP, Peter Mokaba, and in the North West Province senior ANC member Rocky Malebane-Metsing is accused of having put undue pressure on a bank to loan more than 4.5 million dollars to a Jamaican businessman, who is now in gaol pending fraud charges.
Mandela's swift action against Winnie Mandela for criticising the party is seen by some commentators as a bad omen. I nstead, he should have shown the same urgency in acting against people implicated in corruption. (end/ips/cl/oa/95)