WITH the magnificent drama of the South African elections still fresh in our minds, we should pause to ask what the United States should do to help ensure an equally hopeful future. Soon after the elections, President Clinton announced a highly publicized assistance package for South Africa. He spoke movingly of the need to ``help all South Africans build onto their new-found freedom.'' I commend the president's initiative and support his package. After closer scrutiny, however, I believe this country should do more.
The transition to democracy in South Africa so far has been a monumental success. Every South African who has suffered the effects of apartheid finally has reason to be hopeful about the future. But important US interests also are at stake in the South African transition. A successful transition would mean vastly expanded opportunities for trade and investment by American business, not only in South Africa itself but throughout southern Africa.
A successful transformation also would enhance the prospects for stability throughout Africa; it would serve as the model for democratic reconciliation, and a dynamic South African economy would fuel regional growth.
Finally, a stable South Africa would be an active partner for the US in addressing crucial global issues such as conflict resolution and peacekeeping, the environment, and the scourge of AIDS.
In his remarks at the White House, Mr. Clinton pledged $390 million over three years, not including loans and guarantees, to help promote democracy and economic development in South Africa. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that the end of apartheid is a historic event rivaling the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I am not convinced, however, that the US response to South Africa has been commensurate to our response to other transitions around the world, or to our national interest in South Africa.
When compared to three-year funding levels for the former Soviet Union ($3.8 billion) and the Middle East ($6.4 billion), South Africa's total is small. To make matters worse, virtually all of the funds for ``the South Africa initiative'' will be taken from the development assistance of other African countries. This approach is in sharp contrast to the US response to other historic transformations, where a creative search for ``new'' money received strong support from the executive branch.
The South African government urgently needs foreign assistance to carry out a successful transition, despite the fact that South Africa is well endowed with natural resources and has a per capita income of roughly $2,000 a year. The stark reality is that South Africa is a rich country for whites and a very poor country for blacks.
South Africa's majority population has overwhelming needs, resulting from the devastating effects of apartheid. Seven million South Africans are homeless; millions more lack electricity. One-third of the adult work force is without work and 50 percent are functionally illiterate. The income gaps in South Africa are the largest in the world, with 4 out of every 10 people living in poverty. More people die in infancy than graduate from high school. In the new South Africa, these conditions must be addressed.
US assistance will be especially critical in this immediate postelection period. The South African government faces the legitimate and rapidly rising expectations of millions of people, and it will need help in meeting these demands. Foreign aid will play a role in designing public policy programs that will harness South Africa's wealth to the advantage of all its citizens. And the US must help consolidate the astounding advance of democracy in South Africa.
Finally, the president's decision to use money appropriated for other African countries to fund the South Africa initiative is a disappointment. Many African nations are staggeringly poor and need aid for the most basic nutrition and education programs. Countries surrounding South Africa have suffered from the brutal policies of destabilization that emanated from apartheid.
These countries, and the rest of the African continent, should not be penalized by the success we are trying to build at the southern tip. The Clinton administration should make a greater effort to find other sources of funds for South Africa that will not jeopardize existing Africa accounts.
In his inaugural address, President Nelson Mandela welcomed a new era in which ``humanity has taken [South Africa] back into its bosom.'' South Africa, and the southern African region as a whole, have a chance to sustain the momentum of the historic elections and transform the lives of millions.
The US must play a substantial role in this process and fully support South Africa, a country that we all hope will become a ``rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.''