A Moderate Policy Toward South Africa

UNITED STATES policy seeks an end to apartheid and the emergence of an egalitarian society in South Africa. To achieve this, sanctions were tried in 1986, largely with unsatisfactory results. Stronger sanctions now will also backfire, undercutting progress already made by South Africa and isolating the US in the region. Is there an alternative to sanctions? What can the US do to facilitate change, other than trying to force events in ways the South Africans will probably reject?

The alternative is a policy of moderation, of support and stimulus to the reform program, and assistance in making it work. Moderation means facilitating, not forcing negotiations. It means creating opportunities for responsible dialogue. It means helping get the full range of constitutional options on the table and then backing off while blacks and whites craft their own future. Moderation also includes expecting the white government to get on with the job as quickly as possible.

The United States should:

State its preference for self-determination and an internal resolution, provided it is acceptable to all population groups.

Accept that there is no quick fix. Give South Africans necessary time, provided there is steady, visible progress toward a negotiated settlement. President P.W. Botha seemed to be headed toward black enfranchisement by the year 2000. Frederik de Klerk has promised that same goal in five years.

Limit its stated expectations to internationally accepted, ethical principles rather than specifics such as ``one man - one vote.'' South Africa needs the latitude to negotiate just how ethical principles are to be given form in the current, complex situation.

Facilitate negotiations by helping to broker ideas from all sides. This would draw-out new black leaders, expand the range of negotiable options, and re-establish a positive US influence.

Convince the African National Congress to suspend violence and join in negotiations. Buoyed by support from the sanctions movement, the militants do not yet feel that they have to bargain.

Finally, withhold sanctions for now with the clear understanding that this presumes continued reforms through a process of dialogue that black leaders can recognize as legitimate.

Beyond these passive measures, moderation might also include a pro-active dimension.

Most of the changes made thus far in apartheid's laws and rules can be classified as enabling. Several doors have been opened for blacks. However, taking advantage of them is difficult without skills or capital and with a stagnant economy and widespread poverty.

The urgent need is black empowerment, providing the economic clout that can turn opportunity into reality. Moving blacks quickly into the mainstream requires more capital investment. Carefully designed foreign assistance could make a difference.

Such assistance programs would be implemented through black institutions and designed to build long-term capabilities, not just temporary relief of poverty or hunger. And, they should be extended to blacks regardless of place of residence.

Empowering blacks can include several strategies. Some of the more obvious include:

Education and training to develop black skills and capabilities with emphasis on management, administration, and leadership.

Create new opportunities for blacks to express themselves, and for black-white interaction.

Assist with erasing income inequalities, unemployment, and poverty.

Improve social services in areas where the quality of life for blacks is particularly depressed.

Capitalize blacks and black initiatives, either as entrepreneurs, investors, or home owners.

Several specific program options exist. First, parity in schooling, already accepted as a goal by the government, faces two serious constraints. One is the need for greatly expanded black school facilities and teaching materials. Progress has been slower than desired due to economic sluggishness. With present budget limits, educational parity is possible only in the distant future. This could be accelerated by external aid.

Second, the shortage of well-trained teachers and school administrators is acute. With a large and growing black school-age population and a stated goal of lowering student-teacher ratios, massive infusions of teacher and administrator training are needed.

Foreign assistance is an excellent vehicle to accelerate this program. Building schools and providing libraries, textbooks, science kits, and computers is humanitarian enough to be funded by donors and accepted by South Africa.

There is also room each year in US universities and colleges for at least 2,000 teachers, principals, coaches, and others drawn from the black school system in South Africa to pursue advanced degrees or refresher training.

Black entrepreneurship is constrained by inexperience and severely limited access to business education. Foreign donors could assist in many ways, ranging form training abroad to stipends for blacks to attend existing schools in South Africa. One important need is technical business-training centers aimed at small businesses and informal sector entrepreneurs.

Black capital is scarce, which limits initiative. Couldn't foreign assistance capitalize a black banking system, or black-directed funds within the present banking system? Housing loans, small-business loans, investment, and venture capital are badly needed.

Finally, support for urban renewal, low-income housing, or community facilities in black residential areas could have an important impact. If it was distributed only in areas that declare themselves desegregated under the Free Settlement Areas Act, it would make a strong political statement as well.

The rhetoric on sanctions has lost the distinction between ends and means. Removing apartheid has become the goal, when in fact, the greater goal is to enhance the welfare of all peoples of South and southern Africa. Moderation by the US, encouraging and facilitating negotiations, building on the strength of the present economy, and reinforcing it with economic assistance for black empowerment can speed the end of apartheid. And it will do so in ways that benefit all groups, creating the basis for a shared future.

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