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Britain Accused of Racism on S. Africa

July 11, 1986|From Reuters

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Prime Minister Robert Mugabe accused Britain of racism Thursday and dismissed as useless a bid by British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe to resolve South Africa's racial conflict.

Mugabe, who held talks with Howe earlier in the day, said, "My conclusion was that the exercise is futile and the European Community must know it is futile."

At another point in a press conference after Howe's departure for Mozambique, the last stop on his three-country tour, Mugabe said:

"I interpreted his exercise as an idea to divert us from a program of possible economic sanctions against South Africa to a useless path of talking to South Africa in vain."

Mugabe, an anti-apartheid hard-liner, said he completely rejects Britain's argument that economic sanctions would hurt blacks in South Africa and its neighboring black-ruled nations.

'Shorten This Burden'

"Why should anyone try to speak for us? We would rather go for sanctions. They would shorten this burden of economic suffering. . . . This is Zimbabwe's position and let him (Howe) get it clearly from us," he said.

Mugabe said British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is guided by racism and economic interests in her refusal to back a trade embargo on Pretoria.

He said the majority of those "suffering" in South Africa, where Britain is the largest foreign investor, are not whites or British citizens but blacks, as happened in Britain's former colony of Rhodesia, the name of Zimbabwe before independence.

"To us this is racialism, that support still being given directly or indirectly by the Thatcher government to South Africa," Mugabe added.

Mugabe said he was surprised that Howe undertook the trip despite the failure in May of a similar initiative by a group of eminent Commonwealth personalities.

'A Lone Adventurer'

"In those circumstances, what was he, as a lone adventurer on this journey to South Africa, going to achieve, where seven men . . . declared they had failed?"

Howe heard similar calls for sanctions from President Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia during the first stop on the tour he has undertaken on behalf of the European Communities.

Howe will visit South Africa for talks with President Pieter W. Botha on July 23 and 29. Botha had refused to meet Howe earlier, saying he was too busy.

South African black leaders such as Anglican Archbishop-elect Desmond Tutu and the African National Congress, the guerrilla group fighting white domination in South Africa, have said it would be a waste of time to talk to the British minister.

Howe seemed likely to receive another rebuff in Mozambique. Even before he arrived there Thursday night, Mozambique called on him to influence Thatcher to heed calls from South Africa's neighbors and the country's black majority to impose sanctions on the white-led nation.

"If (Howe) has a sense of history he will warn Mrs. Thatcher of the dangers for Britain of continuing to be seen as allies of apartheid and will advise her," the official Mozambican news agency AIM said in a commentary.

Earlier, Howe described his talks with Mugabe as "candid, open and direct." He said they had agreed on the need for a speedy end to apartheid but "significant divisions" still remain on how to achieve this.

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