A United States advisory commission has recommended a fundamental recasting of the political and geographical landscape of South Africa. The panel, appointed by the Reagan administration to recommend future courses for US policy toward South Africa, called for an end to South Africa's racially restrictive laws, the reincorporation of the so-called independent black ``homelands'' into South Africa, and radical changes in the country's legal system.
The 72-page report was issued by the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on South Africa. Thirteen pages of dissenting opinions and alternative conclusions made it clear that some of the group's findings were controversial.
To impress the need for change upon Pretoria, the panel recommended that the US press its allies to join in wide-ranging international sanctions against South Africa.
The panel said that a major US ally - Israel - seems to be involved in secretly helping South Africa to avoid sanctions and arms embargoes. It indicated that Israel is importing US arms and then shipping them to South Africa. The report said the arms were being used not only for internal repression, but also for destabilizing other nations in southern Africa.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman responded that the US does not ship ``arms or military technology to South Africa ... and we don't permit other countries to transship American technology to South Africa. Any violations of this policy by another government would be a matter of grave concern to us.''
The report further suggests that Israel, along with France and Taiwan, is helping South Africa build up its own domestic arms industries - now the tenth largest in the world. The report notes that the development of South Africa's new jet fighter, the Cheetah, would not have been possible ``without direct or indirect assistance from foreign sources.''
Conceding the difficulty of finding a way out of South Africa's turmoil, the panel concluded that the goal of a ``nonracial democratic political system'' in South Africa would not likely be accomplished ``in a peaceful manner.''
But it outlined a wide-ranging set of actions - from encouraging more blacks to study law to improving black housing - that might ease the transition to a post-apartheid South Africa. (Recommendations on Page 4.)
The most controversial recommendation was for the President to begin ``urgent consultations'' with US allies, notably Britain, Canada, West Germany, France, Japan, and Israel, to plan multilateral sanctions against Pretoria.
A source familiar with the group's deliberations noted that the report was not calling for new, tougher sanctions, but was stressing that US allies should be pressed to join in the same kinds of sanctions that the US adopted last year. These included a ban on new investments in South Africa, termination of landing rights for South African Airways, a ban on loans to the South African government, and curbs on South African exports and imports.
``There was a widespread feeling,'' the source says, ``that the allies should share the burden of this very strong gesture'' against apartheid.
The group, composed of 12 prominent black and white Americans, said that broader sanctions should be imposed ``unless the South African government releases all political prisoners, lifts bans on the [African National Congress] and other political parties, and terminates the state of emergency.''
If Pretoria remained defiant, the group concluded, other nations might be forced to take ``additional diplomatic and economic steps,'' including a trade embargo and restrictions on the sale of newly-mined South African gold.
Since December 1985 the panel has conducted hearings in Washington and visited South Africa. The co-chairmen were Frank T. Cary, former chairman of IBM, and former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr.
Mr. Coleman described his participation in the group as a ``searing and shattering experience'' because it laid bare the ways in which ``most whites in South Africa'' treat ``the overwhelming number of their black citizens and residents in inhumane ways, denying them even the most basic human rights.''
Secretary of State George Shultz said through a spokesman that he ``does not share all of the judgments contained in the report,'' but that he was in ``complete agreement'' with what the panel judged to be the ``first and foremost priority'' of US diplomacy: ``To help to facilitate the beginning of good faith negotiations between the South African government and representative leaders of the black majority aimed at shaping a nonracial democratic political system.''
But the report criticized the Reagan administration for ``applauding'' piecemeal reforms in South Africa that did not really address black grievances and aspirations. And it concluded that the Reagan administration's policy of ``constructive engagement'' with Pretoria has ``failed to achieve its objectives.''