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Bring the Botha Regime to Its Senses : New Sanctions Will Signal That U.S. Wants Apartheid Ended

August 11, 1988|RONALD V. DELLUMS | Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley) is the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on military installations and facilities

For 40 years the apartheid regime in South Africa has practiced the politics of persecution, prosecution and procrastination in its sustained effort to deny political rights and equal opportunity to the nonwhite majority in that country. Its reign of terror has caused the deaths of thousands, the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the forced relocation of millions to segregated, barren homelands.

In 1968, just before he was murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: "The tragedy of South Africa is not simply its own policy: It is the fact that the racist government of South Africa is virtually made possible by the economic policies of the United States and Great Britain, two countries which profess to be the moral bastions of the Western world."

King's analysis remains tragically accurate. The Reagan Administration and the government of Margaret Thatcher--aided and abetted by West Germany, France and Japan--continue to hold out against effective international economic opposition to that avowedly racist regime.

But freedom is on the march to Pretoria. Having tried to ignore and then defy history, the Botha government must confront the historical nightmare that it has created. It must accede to peaceful political and social change; if not, it will self-immolate in a holocaust of its own choosing.

The House of Representatives can help avoid that destruction by making freedom for all in South Africa a more imminent reality, through passage of the Anti-Apartheid Amendments Act of 1988. This bill caps a 17-year legislative effort to have the U.S. government assume moral leadership in the international arena to help achieve political and social equality for the nonwhite majority in South Africa. To achieve maximum economic pressure against Pretoria, sanctions must be comprehensive in scope and multilateral in implementation. The goal is not to bring the South African economy to its knees but to bring the Botha regime to its senses,by ending apartheid. Sanctions hurt--but apartheid kills.

The termination of apartheid is a fundamental human-rights issue that transcends national boundaries and the narrow confines of ideology. An integral interrelationship should exist between our domestic and foreign policies. We must be true, and truly consistent, to our democratic ideals. We cannot be progressive at home and reactionary abroad, or vice versa.

Because of this Administration's failed policy of "constructive engagement" and its deliberate failure to enforce the meager sanctions that were enacted in 1986, Congress has the obligation to assume the mantle of moral leadership. The main provisions of the proposed bill include required withdrawal of all U.S. investments from South Africa, a ban on trade between the United States and South Africa, prohibitions against involvement in the South African energy sector, a ban on any cooperation between the U.S. military and South African intelligence agencies, and economic assistance, education and job-training benefits to disadvantaged nonwhite South Africans--especially those adversely affected by other provisions of the legislation.

The legislation also would compel the President to work with U.S. allies and trading partners to impose and maximize multilateral sanctions and to levy penalties against foreign countries that try to take commercial advantage of U.S. sanctions. This legislation would also reinforce the recent decisions of the Common-wealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa: to intensify their pressure for more stringent economic sanctions and to insist on more effective enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo against South Africa by all nations, especially the United States and Great Britain.

Passage of the Anti-Apartheid Amendment Acts of 1988 would also come at a time when, despite intensified press censorship by the Botha regime, we are learning more about increasing white resistance to the apartheid system. For example, the Pretoria government recently sentenced David Bruce, a white South African, to six years in prison after he refused military service because he said that it exists "purely to maintain white supremacy."

Recent estimates indicate that Pretoria now spends more than one-fourth of its annual budget on maintaining the apartheid system. At the same time, almost 20% of its capital investment and more than 90% of its oil and natural-gas supplies come from foreign sources, despite 1987 offshore discoveries.

Passage of this House bill and its Senate counterpart would be a firm statement that the United States is determined to stop subsidizing racist repression in South Africa. The nonwhite majority in South Africa needs and deserves our support in their struggle to win freedom for themselves--and freedom for their oppressors, whose self-destructive policies generate violence throughout the region. Unless we act decisively and urgently, we will forfeit the opportunity to minimize the death and violence--and to help accelerate the process of national reconciliation leading to a just and equitable society.

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