Politics of South Africa

Ambassador Robert H. Phinny's column on South Africa misses the real issue [``Why it is important to keep South Africa afloat,'' Feb. 13]. The rhetoric about Soviet expansionism and the economic necessity of minerals and strategic waterways is superfluous to most in South Africa; their concern is with freedom. The United States needs to let the South Africans decide for themselves what form of government they want. The US can play a role in shaping its political direction, but it cannot force decisions onto the people. If the majority of South Africans support the African National Congress (I believe they do), then our nation should do the same. Robert A. Kelley Belmont, Mass.

Phinny stresses the importance of keeping South Africa afloat with its essential minerals, cape sea routes, and Western economic systems. Dimitri K. Simes has also pointed out that those who would destabilize South Africa must bear the disastrous consequences. Harry K. Snellbaker Naples, Fla.

To call South Africa ``our friend'' betrays a bias. Many black leaders shun the US embassy, and much of the population looks upon Washington as an ally of the government that oppresses them. Black Americans certainly do not share Phinny's view.

Do we want to call ``our friend'' a nation which (1) denies political participation to the majority of its people; (2) has a record of gross violations of human rights; (3) has invaded neighboring states -- Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho -- killing citizens and refugees there; (4) has illegally occupied Namibia (South-West Africa) for decades despite constant international pressure?

Phinny stresses the danger of Soviet penetration or domination. Yet this danger exists solely because the present government in South Africa is so intransigent in refusing to meet legitimate demands of the black population.

South Africa is not really strategically important to the US. Even if a Marxist government were in control, its minerals would still be for sale to the world market: They are a principal source of the revenue any government needs. Closing the sea lanes, virtually impossible in a vast ocean, would be an act of war. If the USSR wanted to choke oil traffic, it would be far easier to do so closer to the sources in the Middle East than in the southern part of the Indian or Atlantic Ocean. Rollins E. Lambert Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address to ``readers write.''

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