SOUTH African President Pieter Botha insists that the shift to the right in that nation's parliamentary elections last week should make it abundantly clear to ``the outside world'' that it cannot dictate to South Africa - that the nation's white electorate is there to stay. Unfortunately the all-white election, involving less than one-eighth of the population, makes clear only where the reins of official power still lie and that many voters feel that a tightening of the reins will make them more secure.
Still, the gains for the ruling National Party, which already had more than a two-thirds majority of the white Parliament's 166 elected seats, and the gain of a handful of seats for the Conservative Party on the right appear to be a sharp setback for the many millions of South Africans who want an end to apartheid and some form of power sharing with the nation's black majority. President Botha calls the election a mandate for ``gradual reform.'' However, with the Conservative Party as the new opposition rather than the more liberal Progressive Federal Party, which lost several seats, the ruling National Party will be under increased pressure to move even more slowly on reforms and to step up security measures.
Only one of the three candidates who broke away from the National Party to run as liberal independents won. Yet, Denis Worrall, the former South African ambassador to Great Britain, lost by a mere 39 votes and has vowed to continue his efforts for speedier reform.
Thus it becomes even more imperative for the majority of South Africans who want a nonviolent, common sense solution to their nation's problems - and the rest of the concerned ``outside world'' looking on - to keep up the pressure.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu's prediction that the election results mark the beginning of the ``darkest age'' in South Africa's history must not be allowed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.