The South African ambassador to the United States on Wednesday criticized anti-apartheid protests outside his country's embassy and consular offices as insincere attempts by American liberals to gain publicity.
During a press conference before his noon address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Ambassador Bernardus G. Fourie said, "South Africa has changed more during the last five years than in the previous 50, so we find the reaction against us perplexing."
Outside the downtown Biltmore Hotel, where Fourie gave his press conference and speech, about 150 protesters peacefully rallied against the segregationist policies of South Africa's white-minority government. Carrying anti-apartheid signs and chanting slogans, they offered passers-by facsimiles of the "passbook" identification document that South African blacks are required to carry at all times.
Fourie, asked his reaction to such protests, said opponents of apartheid have not singled out other alleged human rights violators--such as the Soviet Union and Asian and African nations--for criticism.
'That's Not Sincerity'
"It seems to us the pure motive can't be infringement of human rights," he said. "It's obvious. . . .Certain groups that lost out in the (U.S.) election are looking for something to propel them back into the media, to the news of the day.
"I don't believe in standing in front of the South African Embassy two to three minutes and when the cameras clicked and the TV people are gone, the afternoon show is over. That's not sincerity."
Asked to which groups his remarks were directed, Fourie declined to comment. But in his speech, he referred to the protests by quoting a newspaper editorial critical of "American liberals."
Fourie, ambassador to the United States for nearly three years, also noted that American blacks struggled for decades to obtain their basic rights. "We would like to think the United States would have a little patience with us," he said.
Toni R. Cook, one of the protest organizers, called Fourie's remarks "an insult to America. Even in the worst of its traditions, the American experience does not include locking up and mass killing," said Cook, chief deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell.
In his 30-minute speech to the World Affairs Council, Fourie emphasized South Africa's importance in the economic growth of the southern part of the continent.