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White-Led Party Appoints First Black to Cabinet Post

February 9, 1996

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President Nelson Mandela’s government has lots of black faces, but the latest doesn’t belong to his African National Congress.

John Mavuso, a veteran politician who has changed parties three times in a long career, this week became the first black Cabinet member named by the National Party.

The formerly all-white party ruled South Africa for 46 years under apartheid, but has been trying to broaden its appeal since losing historic all-race elections to Mandela in 1994. Now, it and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party serve as junior partners in the ANC-led government.

Mavuso has belonged in all three groupings and says he finds nothing odd about a black joining a party run by Afrikaners, descendants of 17th century Dutch settlers and the dominant ethnic group under apartheid.

``If Jews and Germans can intermarry, what the hell is wrong with us coming to terms with the Afrikaners?″ Mavuso said. ``Of all the parties I have come to know, the National Party had the courage to make a U-turn on a horrendous policy.″

Mavuso, who joined in 1993, was selected by party elders to serve as general services minister, a minister without portfolio who performs special tasks assigned by the Cabinet.

The slot opened last week when the National Party tried a major image overhaul, appointing an up-and-coming politician untainted by the apartheid past, Roelf Meyer, as secretary general. Mavuso was named to his post Thursday as part of the shuffle.

The National Party has added thousands of members of mixed-race and Indian origin in recent years, appealing to conservative, religious South Africans who distrust the black majority and the ANC’s roots in socialism.

A mixed-race party member, Abe Williams, was appointed sports minister in the last pre-1994 government. But for the most part, the party’s appeals to blacks, who suffered the most under apartheid, have fallen on deaf ears.

Mavuso, born in 1927 in what is now rural KwaZulu-Natal province, joined the ANC in 1948 and rose through its ranks. But he quit in 1960 when Mandela and other leaders took up a policy of armed struggle against white rule. He subsequently drifted to Inkatha and then the National Party.

Mavuso expressed contempt Thursday for the violence that tore South Africa apart in the 1980s as blacks kept up a semipermanent uprising against white rule.

``Let other people who’ve been responsible for burning other blacks alive in the name of liberation take the courage to apologize to the nation,″ Mavuso said. ``Then I will see some credibility in black leadership.″

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