ANTI-APARTHEID groups must reach a consensus for the lifting of financial sanctions on South Africa, so that the country can receive development capital to help the transition to democracy, says US Ambassador to South Africa Princeton Lyman.
"The sooner a consensus can be developed on this the better," Ambassador Lyman said in a wide-ranging interview with the Monitor Feb. 10.
Most sanctions have been lifted since the African National Congress (ANC) was legalized in February 1990. The US Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act was revoked in June 1991 when major apartheid laws were scrapped.
But US cities and states have retained embargoes on doing business with South Africa and the United States retained the Gramm Amendment of 1983, which requires it to veto South African applications for World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans.
Lyman says finances from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and others will be needed to meet South Africa's developmental needs during the transition. But they are awaiting a signal from South Africa that consensus has been reached for lifting sanctions, he says.
"The signal has to come from here," Lyman says. "Because in the US, for example, states and local communities are not going to lift sanctions until they feel there's a political consensus here. And the same is true for the international financial institutions."
Lyman noted that in the past the ANC had always said that sanctions should not be lifted completely until an elected interim government is in place.
But ANC President Nelson Mandela recently signaled that the ANC was considering accelerating the timetable for the lifting of sanctions.
On Feb. 12, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu - the Nobel Peace laureate who called on the world to impose sanctions in 1986 - said he was prepared to ask President Clinton to give South Africa access to World Bank and IMF funds as soon as a "multiparty control of the security forces" was established. This could happen when the Transitional Executive Council is installed in June. But agreement on the mechanisms will have to be made first.
The ANC responded positively to Archbishop Tutu's initiative and said the issue of sanctions would be high on the agenda at a three-day ANC executive meeting that began Feb. 16.
"It is a matter that we can no longer avoid," ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa said last week.
Lyman, who became ambassador last July and served as deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs (1981-1985) and US ambassador to Nigeria (1986-1989), is urging political players across the political spectrum to give more attention to the economic and developmental aspects of the transition in South Africa.
Two months ago, Lyman warned in an interview with a South African newspaper that further delays in political negotiations could make the descent into violence and damage to the economy irreversible. But he says he is more optimistic about negotiations in recent weeks, because the parties were now working under a firm timetable and had accepted that the level of political violence should not be used as a pretext for halting or delaying talks.
"I think there is a real momentum to negotiations now," Lyman says.
He says the next major task for the negotiating parties is to start devising specific plans to start countering unemployment and poverty.
"The reason that it's important to move now is the terribly long lead times in doing anything about the economy," Lyman said. "It's in terrible crisis shape, and it's going to take a year or two years to even start turning it around. That's a long time to ask people who are really hurting to wait."
With the economy in deep recession, a multiracial interim government will need substantial foreign loans and aid to reduce the legacy of massive racial disparity in development and welfare.
Already, the US provides $80 million in aid to South Africa, its largest recipient in sub-Saharan Africa. And Lyman says he believes there is a major role for the international community in promoting forums and programs here.
On its own, Lyman says, "The new government ... is not going to be able - no matter who is in power - to make the dramatic changes that the vast majority would like to see."