ADVOCATES of sanctions against the South African government have been vindicated. Economic sanctions have produced the desired pressure on Pretoria to begin the process toward negotiations with the leaders of South Africa's black majority population and the elimination of apartheid. If freedom-loving people in the international community truly want this process to succeed, we need to escalate the sanctions pressure now. That sanctions were, in part, responsible for President Frederik de Klerk's dramatic Feb. 2 unbanning of the African National Congress and 33 other organizations and the Feb. 11 release of Nelson Mandela has been confirmed by both government and anti-apartheid spokesmen in South Africa.
A broadcast on Nov. 9, 1989, by the state-controlled SA Broadcasting Corporation stated that ``sanctions can no longer be brushed aside as irrelevant or easily surmountable. ... The starting point is to acknowledge that sanctions have had ... a serious influence on the national economy.''
The broadcast referred to a study made by one of the country's largest banking groups, Bankorp, which found that sanctions and disinvestment have cost South Africa 40 billion rands (about $15 billion) in foreign-exchange losses.
Bankorp said that corporate disinvestment has had a negative long-term impact on the transfer of technology and skills.
The US General Accounting Office recently estimated that South Africa lost $417 million in exports to the US from trade sanctions. According to Business Week, South Africa has suffered from the capital flight of nearly $25 billion in the last three years alone. Even Kennedy Maxwell, president of the South African Chamber of Mines, had to admit that ``those chanting the mantra of sanctions ... have played a part in bringing South Africa to its present crossroads.''
One form of economic sanctions, the oil embargo, has been particularly effective. While the embargo is voluntary, public monitoring of oil tankers shipping oil to South Africa and grass-roots pressure on oil multinationals like Royal Dutch/Shell have put economic pressure on South Africa. This was confirmed recently by the South African government's National Energy Council (NEC), which blamed the embargo for three fuel-oil price hikes within the last year. ``There is at present renewed pressure on suppliers not to supply crude oil to South Africa,'' the NEC stated. It is estimated that the oil embargo has forced South Africa to pay a premium of up to $2 billion a year for oil.
The impact of sanctions was further confirmed last October. Just days before the Commonwealth summit's consideration of added sanctions, Mr. De Klerk released Walter Sisulu and other ANC prisoners. De Klerk purposely timed the release to help British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher defend her opposition to further sanctions. Here, the mere threat of sanctions produced a significant action.
Nelson Mandela is clear why De Klerk is moving in the right direction. ``It is not President de Klerk,'' he wrote in a Feb. 3 message from prison. ``It is partly the international community which has forced these concessions.''
Mandela has reiterated his support of sanctions since his release. ``Everything that we set out to achieve through sanctions is still the same,'' said Mandela. ``Nothing has changed.''
``To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process toward the complete eradication of apartheid,'' he said.
Even if De Klerk suspends the state of emergency, it would be unwise to lift sanctions. We must remember that the state of emergency is only a five-year phenomenon; apartheid was instituted in 1948.
As a labor leader, I know something about the relationship of power, leverage, and negotiations. It would be stupid for a union to stop a strike when collective bargaining negotiations begin, but before a contract is signed. The strike is one of the union's levers to pressure management to sign a fair agreement.
Sanctions are similarly an important nonviolent weapon in the hands of the black majority. Sanctions, combined with pressure from blacks inside South Africa, are why the South African government has made the moves it has. Rescinding sanctions when Pretoria is just beginning the negotiating process would decrease leverage just when it is needed most. State power still rests in the hands of the white minority government; sanctions help level the playing field while negotiations are under way.
In the midst of the justified jubilation over the events in South Africa over the past months, we must remember that Nelson Mandela is still not free. He may have been released from incarceration, but he and his fellow countrymen are still prisoners in their own country, shackled under the chains of apartheid. Until that system is unalterably eradicated, we must remain true to our principles of liberty and justice for all and keep the pressure on. As Mandela put it so eloquently:
``We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now its the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive.''