JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government is moving to restrict the flow of foreign funds to anti-apartheid groups here in what the groups see as a further attempt to curb political opposition.
Legislation is being drafted to strengthen controls over foreign donations to South African organizations, according to government officials, and severe restrictions, if not a complete prohibition, are likely on their use for "political purposes."
A certain target of the new measures, according to well-placed sources, will be the large aid programs of the United States and European governments and of some multinational companies that in recent years have moved beyond the financing of such traditional projects as black education, famine relief and refugee aid to promote human rights and social justice.
In a forceful commentary reflecting government views, state-run Radio South Africa said recently that Western governments are pouring millions of dollars into the country and that much of it is "directed specifically toward trying to establish a particular political order in this country."
As "a proud nation," the commentary concluded, South Africa "cannot much longer tolerate a situation where those who daily disgorge negative and destructive criticism at the same time spend hundreds of millions of rand (the South African currency) on trying to sabotage the sovereign right and responsibility of South Africans to decide on their own future."
The United States, under anti-apartheid legislation enacted last year, has the largest aid program in South Africa, with grants that totaled about $26 million last year and a congressional authorization for $40 million annually for the next five years. About half the money goes for educational programs, but increasing amounts have been allocated in recent years to promote human rights.
Britain, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, West Germany and the Netherlands all have smaller, but expanding, aid programs which, like those of the United States, provide important financing for a wide range of anti-apartheid groups. More money comes from churches, labor unions and charitable organizations overseas, as well as from multinational companies with operations here.
According to an estimate prepared by a Western diplomat who worked with reports from more than 20 capitals, at least $120 million a year is being given by foreign sources to anti-apartheid groups here for all purposes. The total may be more than $180 million when the money given to the African National Congress and various exile organizations is included.
"Given the sensitive nature of these funds and of the purposes for which they are provided, neither the donors nor the recipients want to say much about them," the diplomat said, asking that he not be quoted by name. "As a result, nobody knows the full extent of the foreign funding, not even (South Africa's) National Intelligence Service, which is working very, very hard at finding out."
President Pieter W. Botha told a rally of his ruling National Party last month that, after the parliamentary elections to be held Wednesday, unspecified steps will be taken "against people who receive funds from abroad in order to undermine South Africa." The African National Congress and other groups "are being fed with money for terrorism and propaganda from foreign sources," he said.
Botha had earlier accused Chris Ball, managing director of Barclays National Bank, of advancing the money used to pay for a series of advertisements calling for legalization of the African National Congress. A judicial inquiry was told that Ball had authorized a $50,000 loan to a Johannesburg businessman without knowing its purpose. The loan was repaid largely with funds that Winnie Mandela, wife of the imprisoned congress leader Nelson Mandela, apparently received from overseas.
Botha also suggested that three independent candidates who broke with the National Party to run in the elections were getting foreign money, perhaps in violation of South African law. "Who is behind the independents?" he asked at another campaign rally. "Who is financing them? Is it just South African interests?" The independents have said that all their contributions have come from within the country.
To the National Party's subsequent embarrassment, Org Marais, the deputy finance minister, later acknowledged that the Nationalists had received substantial campaign donations from the South African subsidiaries of American, British and West German companies, among others.
Prof. Carl Noffke, director of the Institute of American Studies at Johannesburg's Rand Afrikaans University, describes as a crisis the "growing involvement of some Western governments and organizations in our internal affairs . . . because they are undermining the ability of South Africans to determine our own future."