The Choice for U.S. Policy in South Africa: Reform or Vengeance

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The Choice for U.S. Policy in South Africa: Reform or Vengeance

July 25, 1986 17 min read Download Report
Jeffrey B.
Senior Associate Fellow
(Archived document, may contain errors)

I 527 July 25, 1986 THE CHOICE FOR US. POLICY IN SOUTH AFRICA REFORM OR VENGEANCE INTRODUCTION Ronald Reagan this week outlined in.detai1 the objectives of his policy towards S outh Africa. His speech challenged many of the prevailing assumptions concerning South Africa that increasingly have dominated discussion of sanctions in the United States Congress. At the same time, the President took some important initial steps to enga g e the U.S. more deeply in a search for a durable political accommodation in South Africa. While the President avoided any new catchword to characterize his policy, he nonetheless stated forcefully that a broad moral and political argument can be made agai n st' both sanctions and apartheid. By virtue of his personal involvement in the issue, the President has now aligned himself with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in defining and defending a common policy of promoting reform in South Africa and rej e cting arbitrary punitive sanctions which have the sole virtue of vengeance for Pretoria's racist sins critics in Congress derives from precipitous new sanctions legislation approved by the House of Representatives in June. The legislation provided for bro a d mandatory prohibitions on trade with South Africa and complete disinvestment of American companies as a means of pressuring Pretoria to dismantle apartheid. The measures, passed in haste, without even a recorded vote, properly face a critical examinatio n in the Senate The confrontation that now looms between the President and his If reform in South Africa genuinely is sought, sanctions legislation and discussions of South Africa should move from debates over symbolic actions to serious examination of the i r potential consequences. In fact, countries other than South Africa may be the most serious victims of sanctions. Indeed, Pretoria indicates that it is considering its own retaliatory sanctions against its neighbors. I I I The attempt to find a reasonabl e accommodation in South Africa that benefits everyone seems to be slipping further away as sanctions and counter-sanctions dominate discussions. Over the past several years the South African government has pursued reforms designed to eliminate discriminat ion in the country, particularly to improve opportunities for blacks and include participation in government.

Pretoria, for example, has repealed pass laws and influx control opened downtown areas to businesses of all races, granted South African citizensh ip to all blacks previously defined as lltemporaryll residents, abolished the Mixed Marriage and Immorality Acts, extended the rights of property ownership to blacks, and created a mechanism for including blacks in a system of representative government.

O nly the active engagement by the U.S. and other Western nations can speed these changes. The House legislation, by contrast, seeks only retaliation and punishment of South Africa for having embraced a system of apartheid that is now being rapidly dismantl e d mechanism for escaping sanctions, the House legislation forces a confrontation between Washington and Pretoria With no The alternative to this is to support genuine reforms Africa that will dismantle apartheid and avoid igniting all Southern Africa in a great conflagration in South of These reforms include expanded American investment to promote the growth of racially integrated business with job opportunities for blacks. The growth of free enterprise with a free labor market has a corrosive effect upon e xisting social practices of discrimination in South Africa. Thus existing restrictions on economic activity in South Africa should be rescinded if the activities do not directly support remaining institutions of apartheid. This means that Export-Import Ba n k, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and International Monetary Fund financial benefits should be made available in South Africa for businesses and projects conducted on a nondiscriminatory basis. State disinvestment laws should be challenged in U. S. courts as violating interstate commerce.

Existing U.S. programs to aid the disadvantaged in South Africa specifically should promote the reform process by such things as directly assisting the upgrading of black education, including more scholarships fo r blacks to integrated universities and ending discrimination against students in so-called tribal homelands. Black businesses' attempts to exercise new rights to operate in white areas should receive assistance under programs such as the National Endowme nt for Democracy, as should labor unions operating under new labor laws. To build a true representative government in South Africa, the institutions to underpin such a government must be built.

The U.S. has a vital national interest in preventing a further escalation of violence, confrontation, and economic impoverishment in 2Southern Africa. If sanctions on investment and trade with South Africa are broadly supported in the Western world, they could trigger catastrophic consequences for the eighty million people in the seven African countries dependent on South-Africa for food, trade routes electricity, and other necessities. In short, sanctions policies that promote further disorder in South Africa could have a profound residual impact of causing the Ethi opianization of all of southern Africa.

THE LEGISLATIVE SANCTIONS On May 21, 1985, the House of Representatives passed the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985; the United States Senate later passed similar legislation. Both bills were derailed by a series of sancti ons imposed by Ronald Reagan in an Executive Order in September.

Exactly one year after the original House action, new legislation was introduced. What eventually passed.the House on June 18 1986, went far beyond the sanctions proposed in 19

85. These ne w sanctions would prohibit trade and other economic relations with South Africa and would mandate complete U.S. disinvestment from South Africa 180 days after the date of enactment. Specifically they require that 1) all trade be terminated except for stra t egic materials which the President certifies are for military purposes and not available elsewhere 2) no U.S. person may, directly or through another person, make or hold any investment in South Africa; and 3) the air landing rights of South United States and South Africa, be terminated African Airways, the only airline with direct service between the Unlike the sanctions imposed by Reagan on September 9, 1985, the House legislation erases any distinction between sanctions against the government of South A frica and U.S. companies operating in South Africa, regardless of how progressive their racial policies may be.

Africa can avoid sanctions, the two other legislative proposals before the Senate contain such provisions To avoid imposition of the sanctions, both the original Kennedy-Weicker bill S. 2498) and the Kassebaum bill S. 2636) require specific actions be taken by Pretoria. These include freeing from prison ItNelson Mandela and all political prisonersll and entering "into good faith negotiations with truly representative leaders of the black majority for a new political system.1v As an alternative way to avoid the sanctions, Pretoria could ensure that it "has totally dismantled the apartheid system.ll While the.House legislation provides no means by w h ich South Thus the legislation mandates that Nelson Mandela, former President of the African National Congress, be freed from prison whether or not he disavows violent action to overthrow the South African government. Moreover, proponents of the legislati o n have clearly defined "truly representative leaders of the black majoritytm 3as specifically including the African National Congress. Not only does the ANC refuse to forswear violence, but a majority of this group's executive committee are members of the Communist Party of South Africa.

Clearly the intention of the legislation is to create as much economic disruption as possible in South Africa and isolate the South African government. Within South Africa, extremists on both sides support such sanctions v ision can be promoted by isolating South Africa and increasing hardships for its people They apparently believe their own apocalyptic I THE REFORM PROCESS IN SOUTH AFRICA This January, in his annual address to the South African Parliament, Prime Minister P .W. Botha declared that "South Africa has outgrown apartheidol# Indeed, in the past seven years the ruling National Party in South Africa has begun to eliminate the apartheid policy of racial segregation. The government integrated many hotels restaurants, and some transportation facilities, and lifted the prohibition on mixed marriages and sexual relations between the races. Higher education has been integrated.

Prohibitions against multi-racial political parties have been abolished unions and membership has grown dramatically to over five million by 19

85. Through a constitutional amendment South Africa ended the whites-only parliament and representation was extended to Asians and coloreds (persons of mixed races) who elected their own members in nationwi de elections. The South African government also acknowledged that blacks within South Africa would be regarded as citizens of South Africa and no longer assigned citizenship to their ''tribal homeland."

In the past several months, Pretoria has taken three key steps to remove some of the remaining most significant elements of apartheid and to provide a mechanism for peacefully resolving the most divisive problem of black political participation in the government actions extended the right of property owner s hip; repealed the pass laws; and created a National Statutory Council designed to ensure a government representative of all racial groups in South Africa Blacks and other groups have been able to form trade These The reforms of recent years indicate that t he predominant majority of the ruling National Party are conscientiously trying to work themselves away from a legacy that they readily acknowledge as awful. Indeed, it is precisely due to the abandonment of apartheid that the National Party split in 1982 , with the new Conservative Party of South Africa adamantly clinging to the banner of apartheid I I 4Thus the question is no longer whether South Africa will maintain a system of apartheid, but whether the remnants of apartheid can be dismantled in a way t o prevent both reaction and revolution.

THE REGIONAL CONSEQUENC ES OF SANCTIONS Economic data demonstrate the importance and power of South Africa and the potential impact of sanctions on the region. Of the eleven countries in southern Africa, South Africa is the most populous Africa's GNP is generated by the economy o f South Africa. With just under 29 percent of the region's population, South Africa produces 77 percent of the electricity, 97 percent of the coal, 98 percent of the iron ore 82 percent of the chrome, 70 percent of the corn, 87 percent of the wheat, 67 pe r cent of the sugar cane, 80 percent of the sheep and 39 percent of the cattle stock. South Africa also contains 80 percent of the motor vehicles in the area, 63 percent of the tarred roads, 84 percent of the telephones, and 60 percent of the railways and h arbors. and dominant economically. An estimated 75 percent of southern What this means, of course, is that South Africa's neishbors are nearly totally dependent on it for transportation and commu&ation. p>
Any serious disruption of the South African economy can have profound consequences for many of the over 80 million other-Africans in the region.

If South Africa were subjected to sanctions denying it important commodities from overseas, it is difficult to imagine that Pretoria would continue to allow the tr ansit of these.products through South Africa to precisely those neighboring nations which had demanded that sanctions be imposed. South Africa either could continue to receive via Ilopposingll neighboring countries all the goods previously received from t h e Western world or South Africa could impose its own sanctions that would close corridors of trade in southern Africa. This could trigger a political and economic crisis of enormous magnitude. With so many of the nations in the region on the edge of subsi s tence, any additional economic dislocations could prove catastrophic sanctions on South Africa could impose Ethiopianization on the entire area Forcing Pretoria also could impose a kind of military sanction on its neighbors By increasing what so far has b e en only minimal aid to indigenous national liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, Pretoria could threaten, perhaps fatally, the one-party Marxist regimes that run these countries 5THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS AND REVOLUTION The integra l role played by communists in the African National Congress (ANC) has been well known for years. There are now at least 18 communists on the ANCIS 30-member executive committee. Most important, the armed wing of the ANC the Spear of the Nation," is led by a prominent white communist, Joe Slovo from Lithuania, who joined the Communist Party in 19

40. Other communists holding ranking ANC executive committee positions include the Secretary-General Alfred Nzo; Treasurer-General Thomas Mkobi; Publicity Secretar y Thabo Mbeki; the editor of ANCIS publication Sechaba, Frances Meli; and Mzawi Piliso, special aide to ANC leader Oliver Tambo. At the Soviet Union's 27th Communist' Party Congress earlier this year, the ~LNC delegation was accorded the same status as a c ommunist party calls for radicalism and violence monitored by the BBC the ANC proclaimed that In its radio broadcasts into South Africa from Ethiopia, the ANC In a broadcast late last year The [other] campaign that must continue to escalate is the one'of extending the theater of war into white residential areas...we must attack them in their homes and holiday resorts just as we have been attacking black boot-lickers at their homes white colleagues.

This must now happen to their Even the Executive Director of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, himself not a communist, stated in a broadcast We cannot and should not allow a situation of relative peace and tranquility to obtain in the white areas of the country while black townships are in flames. We must take the struggl e into the white areas of South Africa And in the most open admission of the ANCIS role in terrorism, Winnie Mandela pledged to a crowd at Munsieville on April 13 that "with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate the c~untry The proclaim e d ANC goal is Itto make South Africa ungovernableIg through violent disorders against blacks who do not agree with them the ANC called upon supporters "to identify collaborators and enemy agents and deal with them The brutal assassination of other blacks i n South Africa through so-called necklacing (the practice of burning people' to death with ignited tires around their necks) has nothing to ANC terrorism thus has been directed In another radio message 1. For an examination of how the'work of the ANC coin c ides with Soviet foreign policy goals in the region, see: William W. Pascoe, 111, "Moscow~s Strategy in Southern Africa: A Country by Country Review Heritage Foundation Backnrounder No. 525, July 21, 1986 6do with apartheid. It is estimated that over 600 b lacks have been murdered by rival black groups. Most of those killed have been moderates persecuted by radical ANC supporters who charge them with being collaborators of the South African Government. In fact anyone who does not agree with the radical prog ram of the ANC is being labeled a traitor.

It is clear that the African National Congress supports a revolutionary transformation of South African society support for disinvestment, opposition to broad-based aid to those suffering in the black community, a nd promotion of terrorism are actions calculated to cause the situation in South Africa to deteriorate and precipitate the total unravelling of society into civil war As such its AN EFFECTIVE U.S. POLICY: ECONOMIC ENGAGEMENT The complicated, but realistic , achievement of durable and meaningful changes in South Africa must come throQgh peaceful accommodations between all groups in the country. An integral aspect of this is the engagement rather than disengagement of the Western world with South Africa. Remo val of Western influence precisely at the time of positive changes in South Africa can only retard such change.

Few deny that foreign investment has been a force for positive change in South Africa or that the greater integration of South Africa into the w orld community has had a beneficial effect upon traditionally isolated South Africans who grew up with a narrow and unrealistic view of the world. To be sure, increased foreign investment alone will not solve the problems of South Africa; indeed 90 percen t of all investment in South Africa is internally generated.

But as part of broader program of effective engagement in South Africa, investment can contribute to a solution by establishing racially integrated companies pursue a strategy of Ilinvestment lev erage. This means To spur change in South Africa, the Reagan Administration should 1) Instead of disinvestment, increased American participation in the South African economy should be encouraged 2. Stuart M. Butler An Investment Strategy to Undermine Apar theid in South Africa,"

Heritage Foundation Backnroundec No. 427, April 30, 1985 72) The U.S. government should provide special assistance through American companies to upgrade the educational and management skills of black South Africans and help them for m businesses of their own 3) Assistance should be given to American trade unionists to train black union organizers 4) Technical assistance and encouragement should be given to speed the recent decision by the South African government to return to the pri v ate sector key segments of the nationalized economy, thus taking control from Afrikaner bureaucrats To foster continued economic interaction with South Africa. the Reagan Administration should review existing policies that are incompatible with this objec t ive should Specifically the Administration 1) Modify Eximbank, OPIC and IMF restrictions. Institutions supporting apartheid should not receive Eximbank financing of sales to South Africa, or Overseas Private Investment Corporation gurantees and Internatio n al Monetary Fund credits. But other institutions should be authorized to receive such aid provided they observe nondiscriminatory policies 2) Rescind restrictions on the sale of gold Krugerrand coins. Such sales cannot .be considered supporting instrument s of apartheid with South Africa.

Banning them is an unjustifiable restraint on trade On the other hand, any further disinvestment and a cessation of trade with South Africa will be counterproductive uncertainty in South Africa, coupled with moves in Congr ess to require economic disinvestment, already have prompted some American firms to withdraw from South Africa. Such withdrawal only enhances the role of those South Africans and foreign firms not as committed to integration as are American companies. Sou th Africa needs foreign investment for its economy to grow sufficiently to cope with the rising demand for jobs in South Africa, especially among the black population.

Moreover, as President Reagan asserted in his speech on South Africa on July 22, Western businessmen are the Itstrongest alliesll of blacks in South Africa because they "bring to South Africa ideas of justice from their own countries Existing The United States can play a positive role in the reform process by encouraging the acceleration and expansion of programs specifically aimed' at assisting the most disadvantaged in South Africa. With disinvestment, American influence on the situation in South Africa will diminish, as will the capacity of the South African government to continue with imp o rtant reforms that have recently been initiated 8U.S. POLICY AND POLITICAL REFORM IN SOUTH AFRICA Beyond encouraging continued and expanded economic interaction with the private sector in South Africa, the United States should indicate its willingness to w ork closely with the South African government in the implementation of the reforms it has announced in various important areas 1) Education. The South African government's efforts to upgrade black education in the country could be supplemented by American advice and assistance in constructing programs designed especially for disadvanced students. The U.S. could widen its scholarship program in South Africa to include blacks wherever they live in the country including those now disqualified because they leg a lly reside in the so-called tribal homelands in South Africa, more U.S. assistance should be provided for college education.for disadvantaged groups in South Africa. This could be accomplished by using the 30 million now spent for several hundred South Af r ican students studying in the United States to provide educations for several times that number in South Africa. Also in recognition of the changes in higher education, the U.S. Information Agency should create a bi-national commission in South Africa to o versee the existing Fulbright exchange program with South Africa and thereby work more closely with the integrated South African universities With the integration of higher education 2) Discrimination. The South African government has indicated its intent i on of abolishing all forms of discrimination. The U.S. can provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination in South Africa who attempt, through peaceful judicial challenges, to assert their rights under changes in South African law. Some support for them has already been provided through the Human Rights Fund at the Agency for International Development 3) Institution buildinq. The National Endowment for Democracy NED1 should become more actively enqased in the process of broaden the infrastructure of representative government beyond the white community in South Africa. While leaving it up to South Africans to decide their political future, NED can provide guidance and support the institutions necessary for any open political society ing to 4) Black bu s iness. The Center for International Private Enterprise at NED should be encouraged to work with black businesses in former white areas of South African cities. The Entrepreneurial Training Project of the Agency for International Development should emphasi z e this in its programs in South Africa. The congressionally funded African Development Foundation should expand its work into South Africa by providing assistance to black entrepreneurs I 95) Labor Unions. Experts from the U.S. labor movement should broad e n their engagement in the process of reform in labor relations in South Africa to guarantee nondiscriminatory employment practices 6) Political ~artici~ation. The U.S. should encourage talks concerning political reform between representative leaders of th e non-white communities in South Africa who renounce violence and the South African government.

African government for a National Council to discuss serious political reform should be pursued Specificallx-the proposals of, the South Through active support for reforms in South Africa, the U.S either can help guarantee their success or be aware of their failings In short, the reform process should be given a chance to develop as an element of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in South Africa.

More broadl y, the United States should declare forthrightly its support for the construction of a political order in South Africa based on a representative form of government which would include all people indicate that it will disassociate itself with any group or i ndividual who promotes violent change in South Africa At the same time the UlS. should denounce violence and Therefore, the U.S. government should maintain a minimal level of contact with the African National Congress until it renounces violence and endor s es a representative pluralistic society. As the House of Representatives voted 365 .to 49 on June 18th, the United States should provide no economic assistance to the ANC until'it removes all communists from its executive committee. Terrorism by the ANC s hould be officially condemned by the U.S. government.

The U.S. should work with, and encourage the South African government to work with, all leaders in the black community who advocate peaceful change. For example, the U.S. should work more closely with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his Inkatha Zulu moveme n t in South Africa. The U.S. should support efforts to create multi-racial governments within South Africa, such as in a new Kwa-Natal political consolidation. Existing U.S. assistance programs to blacks in South Africa have given too much support to radic al black factions and unfairly discriminate against blacks living in the tribal llhomelands.ll The U.S. should cease advocating the release of Nelson Mandela until he forswears violent change in South Africa.

CONCLUSION As an effective reform process proce eds in South Africa and the government seeks to negotiate changes in the political system to I I 10 - guarantee universal participation in government, the United States should promote that process the constructive engagement currently being pursued. Const r uctive engagement became a largely reactive policy, which allowed forces of revolutionary change in South Africa to gain prestige and momentum while those seeking peaceful change in the black community have been largely ignored. Thus those promoting a vio l ent, revolutionary change in South Africa now dominate Washington's attention. A dynamic alternative o,f effective engagement .in South.&frica is; necessary to avoid potential further polarization into reaction and revolution both of which would create mu ch greater hardships on the people of South Africa than they thus far have endured To do this, Washington must move beyond Only by continuing to invest, trade, and conduct other economic activity in South Africa can the U.S. encourage the reform process.

E xisting policies that restrain economic activity thus directly support institutions of apartheid. In his address on July 22, Reagan outlined the dire consequences of sanctions as well as the positive role played by Western businesses in South Africa U.S. assistance in South Africa should be tailored to the prescriptions of the President and become more directly engaged in both the economic advancement and political reform of South Africa.

While the U.S. government has had beneficial programs involving supp ort for expanded educational opportunities and for the growth of labor unions businesses, such programs now need to be integrally related to the opportunities afforded for change by reform processes proclaimed by the South African government. In conjunction with the building of the institutional infrastructure of a representative form of government in South Africa, a large and challenging role exists for the National Endowment of Democracy.

Finally, in the difficult political situation confrontin g South Africa, the U.S. should provide more positive support for moderate proponents of peaceful accommodation in South Africa and forthrightly condemn all forces of terrorism and intimidation that appear determined to create revolutionary upheaval.

The process of transforming a complex, multi-racial society such as South Africa into a durable representative form of government remains an arduous task the black, white, and other communities can accomplish such a task in a climate of stability, prosperity, and good will. The United States must continue to be a catalyst in that critical process Only the combined forces of moderation in Jeffrey B. Gayner Counselor for International Affairs 11


Jeffrey B.

Senior Associate Fellow