PRETORIA, South Africa — Bishop Desmond Tutu appealed to President Pieter W. Botha on Monday to lift the current state of emergency in South Africa and release political detainees, but he was rebuffed with assertions that order has not been fully restored and that the result of such a move would be more violence.
Botha nonetheless agreed to maintain his dialogue with Tutu, one of his government's sharpest critics, and to review government policies on such crucial issues as the crisis in the country's black schools, the wholesale detention of black community leaders and the growing conflict between church and state.
"The state president did not agree that the situation had deteriorated since the state of emergency was imposed," Tutu said after his two-hour meeting here with Botha. "It was a very friendly exchange, frank. Both of us, we didn't mince words. . . . The meeting could have been better, but it was good that we met."
In a statement, Botha said his June 12 declaration of emergency rule, which gives the police and army virtual martial-law powers, has been effective in sharply reducing the level of unrest. He said it has brought a "sense of safety and security" to blacks and established "an atmosphere of greater calm throughout the country."
Fears New Violence
"The imposition of the state of emergency was a result of unrest and not the cause thereof," Botha said, expressing his fears that if emergency rule were lifted prematurely, new violence would flare and the country's civil strife would escalate further.
Botha also warned Tutu in strong terms against continuing his advocacy of international economic sanctions against South Africa as a way of forcing an end to apartheid.
Under the current emergency regulations, calls for economic sanctions, such as foreign divestiture, are punishable by 10 years in prison; those advocating punitive measures might also be prosecuted for sabotage under the country's severe security laws.
"I told Bishop Tutu that I expect it of him as a South African to take a stand rejecting the imposition of sanctions," Botha said later, "and that I expect it from him to stand up against foreign intervention in the affairs of our country."
Tutu also urged the president to legalize such banned organizations as the African National Congress, now the principal group fighting minority white rule, in order to open a broad dialogue aimed at a political solution of South Africa's problems.
Precondition for Talks
But Botha replied that, while he very much wants such negotiations, black participants must first reject violence as a means to their political ends. This precondition involves fundamental principles for both the government and the African National Congress and has become a major obstacle to any talks between the major antagonists.
"The state president's response is that he is ready to deal with anyone who renounces violence," Tutu commented. "I say that it should be unconditional."
The one-on-one meeting was the second between Botha and Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace laureate and Anglican archbishop-elect of Cape Town, since the state of emergency was declared. For both, it represented an effort to develop a personal dialogue even at a time of acute political tensions.
In contrast to their first meeting in Cape Town five weeks ago, the two men posed together, bantering back and forth, for several minutes for news photographers and television camera crews as if to symbolize this new relationship of respectful adversaries. Botha later described the discussions as "candid" and the atmosphere as "relaxed," and he stressed his intention to keep "an open door."
Botha was highly critical nevertheless of growing church opposition to his government and the state of emergency, marked by the detention without charge of dozens of clergymen and by alleged police disruption of church services.
"The churches and their clergymen share the moral responsibility to assist in trying to normalize the national situation of unrest," Botha said later in his statement. "Their message should be the true Christian message and not politically colored messages such as the theology of revolution and liberation that subtly encourage violence by means of veiled incitement."
Although religious freedom is constitutionally protected in South Africa, Botha continued, "this freedom should not be abused to work against the message of Christ and the spirit of the Christian church. . . . The state does not act against church leaders and church members as such (but) certain steps are taken against lawless elements who promote violence and terror. Those who are sincere in the preaching of the true Gospel of Christ need not fear any action against them."
The government's Information Bureau acknowledged Monday that police at Elsie's River, outside Cape Town, had intervened in a church service there Sunday night, believing it to be "an illegal gathering" prohibited under emergency regulations.