Friday, February 9, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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New Black Official Is In Afrikaners Party -- Veteran Politician Joins Cabinet


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - President Nelson Mandela's government has many black faces, but the latest belongs to a member of the party that ruled under apartheid.

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 government led by the African National Congress.

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

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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