KEMPTON PARK, South Africa -- Black and white leaders fro a wide spectrum of political parties agreed yesterday to return within a month to full-scale constitutional talks aimed at ending apartheid.
The agreement broke a 10-month freeze in South Africa's constitutional negotiations. If the talks remain on track, they could lead to this country's first democratic elections in which blacks may vote.
"This conference has been an unqualified success. The torch of hope has been lit for the country," said Cyril Ramaphosa, top negotiator for the African National Congress.
"It is now for all of us to prove beyond the shadow of doubt that South Africa will overcome the shameful legacy of apartheid and that together we can create a just and democratic society," he said.
The agreement was reached at a two-day conference outside Johannesburg. Twenty-six parties and organizations from the far left to the far right attended the meeting in the widest assortment of parties and organizations ever in this country.
A conference resolution called for the constitutional talks to be "reconvened as a matter of national urgency not later than the 5th of April." It urged groups to "move as speedily as possible towards attainment of our primary objective, which is the drafting and adoption of a new constitution."
Only the right-wing, all-white Conservative Party voted against it.
The conference was marred by a new outbreak of bloody violence in Natal Province, where supporters of the ANC and its main black rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party, have been locked in a deadly civil war for more than three years.
Ten people were gunned down Friday in an ambush on a minibus near the town of Pietermaritzburg, an apparent revenge attack for the brutal slaying of six schoolchildren three days earlier. Among victims of the first incident were children of local Inkatha leaders.
"It is clear certain forces are trying to frustrate the efforts we are making here," said Mr. Ramaphosa. "We are beginning to see a link. . . . There may well be people trying to derail the talks."
Frank Mdlalose, the chief Inkatha delegate at the conference, said, "We weep and mourn yet again. This is a clearly political killing, well planned, and we think it was meant to scuttle the talks."
Law and Order Minister Hernus Kriel said he didn't think the killings were linked directly to the conference and called on leaders in Natal to "do something about it."
But black leaders have long maintained that there are elements in the country, generally referred to as a "third force" and said to include right-wing security officials, who are fomenting violence and chaos in an attempt to damage efforts for a peaceful, negotiated end to apartheid.
Major incidents of violence have accompanied most negotiating sessions since the multiparty talks began in December 1991. A rTC massacre in Boipatong, in which more than 40 people were slain in their sleep, was one factor contributing to the breakdown of talks last May.
If the talks proceed this time with no major interruptions, the government hopes to hold all-race elections early next year, if not sooner, for a constituent assembly that will write a democratic constitution.