South Africa: adding bite to US bark
The weakness of the Reagan policy of constructive engagement lies not in the concept, which is bold, but in the execution, which has been fainthearted. Whenever an opportunity has occurred to put some bite into our policy toward South Africa, this administration has backed away. Our vote against the United Nations resolution to impose compulsory sanctions is only the most recent example of a policy that refuses to follow the logic of its own rhetoric. An abstention by the United States would have sent a n unmistakable message to Pretoria to begin to face reality or prepare to stand alone. On the plus side, the Reagan foreign policy team straightforwardly condemns the evil of apartheid. It also seems to understand that gestures toward reform are designed only to conceal the white minority's determination never to share power with the black majority. Secretary of State George Shultz has unequivocally told the South African government to free Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress, and to begin negotiations. President P. W. Botha and his collaborators MDNMhave responded with a propaganda campaign, which falsely accuses Mandela and the ANC of anti-white bias, terrorism, and an ambition to establish a Marxist-type total control over the country.Skip to next paragraph
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South African propaganda is designed to appeal to our latent racism. Apparently some administration aides have allowed themselves to be persuaded that an end to white domination will inexorably result in persecution of whites, anarchy, and the loss of South Africa to the West. Botha leads this disinformation campaign by labeling the black struggle for equality part of the ``world communist conspiracy.''
It is generally admitted, even by its adversaries, that the ANC commands the political loyalties of the majority of South Africans.
Among the predominantly black political movements, the ANC alone has a coherent program, a countrywide following, and a network of international support. In 1983 a Soweto poll showed Nelson Mandela as the first choice for national leader by 82 percent of those interviewed. This despite laws which forbid support for the ANC and make it a punishable offense to quote Mandela's statements or writings.
In direct contradiction to the ugly charge of black racism, the ANC is officially colorblind. Its goal is a united South Africa with an integrated, nonracial society. A recent issue of the ANC monthly, Sechaba, condemned racist revolutionaries, ``even if their pigment is blacker than coal.'' The ANC regularly affirms that the enemy is not the white people but ``a system of white supremacy and national domination.''
From its founding in 1912 the ANC has emphasized nonviolent action and dialogue as the preferred method to end apartheid. Tragically, white minority governments have consistently met peaceful protest with official violence. At Sharpeville in 1960 government troops fired at unarmed demonstrators, killing 69 and wounding 200. The government followed up this massacre of innocent people by rounding up over 20,000 suspected activists and outlawing the ANC.