Letters to the Editor. Assessing South Africa

People in the US do not realize the extent of the opposition to the Nationalist government in this country since it came into power in 1948 with its policy of apartheid. Many white South Africans opposed the introduction of the apartheid legislation and have repeatedly called for its repeal. The government has been frequently requested in Parliament over the years to bring about the necessary changes to ensure a free and just society. Many of us feel let down by President Botha who, in a recent speech, failed to announce the changes he was urged to make. It must, however, be remembered that there is a right-wing party doing all it can to retard progress and encourage a white backlash to the current black violence.

Yet we feel frustrated by the lack of recognition of the changes that have taken place.

Most South Africans feel there should be a sharing of power, but not a one-man, one-vote system where power could come into the hands of those whose aims would lead to chaos and would be a tragedy for black and white alike. Alan J. Flederman Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa

Joseph C. Harsch's excellent article Sept. 5 was needed [``South Africa: what might have been, and still can be'']. The black majority do need to see hope. However, it is right for the US to let South Africa know how we feel about apartheid, but to attempt to force a resolution of their problem along the lines of our thinking, by sanctions or otherwise, seems unwise and immoral. Robert W. Hoel Roanoke, Va.

Joseph C. Harsch states that change should be gradual because ``No all-black-ruled country in Africa has yet achieved a stable democratic government along with a successfully managed economy.'' He is wrong. The Republic of Botswana meets both of the criteria; therefore, on Mr. Harsch's logic black South Africans can and should continue pressing for full citizenship. Jack Parson The College of Charleston Charleston, S.C.

Tough sanctions and economic boycotts that would endanger the present South African government would be a very grave mistake on the part of the US and Europe. If the present government falls, communism will come to power directly or through Russia. The loss of South Africa would do serious and irreparable harm to the free world, because it produces 70 percent of the gold (Russia produces 25 percent), great quantities of platinum, manganese, chromium, and tungsten -- all materials important to the US and Europe. South Africa also controls the Cape of Good Hope, a very influential region in world politics. Gherardo Braidi Modena, Italy

Woody Allen signed a contract with Orion Pictures that includes a clause prohibiting any of his movies from being released in South Africa. If more celebrities would follow suit, we could have a grand slam in freeing South Africa from apartheid. Rae Morrock Brooklyn, N.Y.

Douglas MacArthur II's article on ``Three Africas'' Aug. 12 was an interesting clarification. But his interpretation of colonialism reflects present-day emotionalism.

The key date in African history is 1875. Before this, Europeans took little interest in Africa. It's estimated that Arab slavers cost the lives of a million Africans a year. Famine and warfare decimated the population. Yet, the British built a railway to Uganda and stamped out slavery and warfare. They experimented with crops and curbed famine. Missionaries taught the Bible.

I hold no brief for the white government of South Africa. But we want to give blacks their true freedom and not let ``one man, one vote'' disintegrate into ``one man, no vote'' or a dictatorship. Esther Roos Brink Arlington, Va.

Patrick Laurence in his profile of Nelson Mandela [Aug. 28] referred to the interview of Mandela by columnists John Lofton and Cal Thomas, but neglected to report Mandela's views on communism as stated in that interview. According to Lofton and Thomas, Mandela said communism was preferable to apartheid and that it gives ``equal opportunity to everybody,'' and that under communism ``everybody would be living better.'' Mandela reiterated earlier denials that he was a communist. If this means that he is no t a dues-paying member of a communist party, the statement is true. But it does not mean that Mr. Mandela is philosophically hostile to communism. Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Inc., Washington

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