JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Negotiators agreed yesterday on what will, in essence, be South Africa's first multi-racial government.
They created a Transition Executive Council that when fully empowered, probably by October, will have non-whites making governmental decisions for the first time in South Africa's 350-year history.
The groups represented in the TEC would essentially be the same groups represented in the current talks on South Africa's future -- two dozen parties, including President F. W. DeKlerk's National Party and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
The approval of the TEC was the last of four measures passed by the negotiators to ensure that all parties get fair treatment leading up the country's first democratic elections, currently set for April 27 next year.
The three other bills, which were completed by the negotiators last week, call for the establishment of commissions to run the elections and oversee state media and the broadcasting authorities until a new government is in place.
But the TEC, with its genuine powers over police and the military and its broad supervisory authority over all aspects of government, was considered the key piece.
The current government will stay in power but will be required to provide information to, and get advice from, the TEC. Disagreements in police and military matters would be subject to binding arbitration.
Approval of the TEC by the so-called Multi Party Talks has been seen as the last step needed for the ANC, the group favored to win the elections, to call for the end of economic sanctions against South Africa.
As the negotiations on the TEC neared completion last night, Thabo Mbeki, chairman of the ANC, said, "We expect that later this month, those sanctions will be lifted."
Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's chief negotiator, said, "This is an historic moment for those who have struggled against apartheid because the adoption of the TEC bill is one of the final steps in removing the apartheid edifice."
Rolf Mayer, the government's negotiator, called it, "A major achievement for the negotiating process."
However, the TEC did not meet with universal acclaim. It was denounced by the right-wing Conservative Party. Its leader, Ferdie Hartzenburg, said in a speech last weekend that the TEC's implementation would be a call for a white civil war.
Putting a further damper on the celebration was that the TEC was approved by a negotiating committee with several empty seats at its table. Only 22 of the 26 parties at the talks were represented yesterday.
The talks are being boycotted by the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party and its allies -- including the Conservative Party -- who want South Africa's regions to hold more power than its central government.
Though seen as a relatively small vote-getter in the election, Inkatha has fervent supporters, concentrated in the Natal regions and the workers' hostels near Johannesburg, who are capable of causing large-scale disruptions during an election campaign.
Fighting between ANC and Inkatha supporters is blamed for most of the country's political violence.
The negotiators, struggling to get an interim constitution in place in time to hold the elections in April, put off approval of the TEC until the last possible moment, with closed-door talks between the government and the ANC smoothing out several rough spots up until minutes before final passage late last night.
Final approval was needed by yesterday as all of these measures are expected to be enacted by the South African Parliament in a special session that will begin Monday.
The difficulty that the Multi Party Talks have had in arriving at any major decision, such as the TEC, calls into question exactly how effective the TEC will be since its membership will virtually duplicate that of the Multi Party Talks group.
At issue until the last minute was a dispute between the government and the ANC over the current president's ability to declare an emergency that would greatly enhance the state's police power.
The final measure retains the president's right to declare an emergency but gives the TEC the right to veto that declaration with an 80 percent vote.