COVER

The world reacts to the crackdown

GLEN ALLEN August 5 1985
COVER

The world reacts to the crackdown

GLEN ALLEN August 5 1985

The world reacts to the crackdown

Since the outside world became aware of apartheid almost four decades ago and learned to abhor the practice of constitutional government based on race, each fresh assault by South African white rulers on the lives and civil rights of their nonwhite subjects has drawn censure from the community of nations. Often the denunciations have been little more than polite reproach. But last week Pretoria, cornered and alone, heard the rumblings of a siege from abroad as well as at home.

Threatening: While France led the way by recalling its ambassador and banning further French investment—the first such sanction by a Western power —the chorus of condemnation from others was both corrosive and threatening. Commonwealth Secs retary-General Shridath §

South African governy ment a “terrorist organiÍ zation,” urged concerted z economic sanctions. In Brussels, European Community ministers discussed an eventual economic blockade, but in the interim settled for an unusually tough statement calling for sweeping reforms. At the United Nations, Britain and the United States vetoed a measure in the Security Council that would have led to mandatory sanctions if Pretoria failed to retreat from its racial segregation laws. But the Council voted 13-0, with the British and Americans abstaining, to urge all states to apply voluntary sanctions. Said French Ambassador Claude de Kemoularia: “Let us hope this warning will be heeded.”

Protests elsewhere carried explicit demands and implicit warnings. Although Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rejected sanctions, the government called for the release of Nelson Mandela, the black leader imprisoned for more than 20 years. The global cries reached as far as a Scottish sports stadium, where fans at a track meet featuring South African-born runner Zola

Budd raised a sign reading “Edinburgh against apartheid.” But the South Africans remained unmoved. Said Pretoria’s delegate to the UN, Kurt von Schirnding: “Nothing this council may say or believe will deter us.”

If its critics agreed that South Africa

must be made to reform its white supremacist policies, they were divided on the wisdom* and efficacy of economic sanctions. Nowhere was this division more evident than in the United States, which has an important economic and strategic stake in South Africa and is potentially the leading influence on the white-ruled nation. The Reagan administration hewed to its position that lines of “constructive engagement” with South Africa must be kept open. But congressional leaders bargained over the final draft of a stern bill—opposed by Reagan—that would ban new bank loans and investment, prohibit the export of computers and nuclear hardware and stop the import of South African gold coins.

Emergency: At week’s end, Reagan administration officials met to draw up a list of options requested by the President to induce South Africa to move away from apartheid. As well, as Reagan left for a recuperative vacation at

his California ranch, the White House issued an uncompromising statement calling for an immediate end to the state of emergency and asserting that “a lasting peace will take hold only when apartheid is dismantled.” Said presidential spokesman Larry Speakes: “We

want the state of emergency removed.” But the White House was torn between the moral imperative that apartheid must be opposed and the political conviction that South Africa has economic and strategic importance. U.S. business has $2.3 billion invested in the country—10 times the Canadian figure. When loans and stockholdings are taken into account, American investments total $14 billion. South Africa, moreover, has vast reserves of rare strategic minerals—89 per cent of the platinum in the noncommunist world, 84 per cent of the chromium, 93 per cent of the manganese and vast reserves of uranium and vanadium. Its position on the southern tip of Africa dominates a vital east-west sealane. And Washington believes that Pretoria acts as a bulwark against rising Soviet influence in southern Africa. Said a state department spokesman: “The Soviets want to be in a position to exploit the opportunity to the extent that South Africa falls apart.”

There are 28 Canadian enterprises that own subsidiaries in South Africa with a book value of $247 million—and the government is torn by the same ambiguities. However, Ottawa has sent strong messages of rebuke ever since Prime Minister John Diefenbaker helped engineer South Africa’s exit from the Commonwealth in 1961. Last month External Affairs Minister Joe Clark announced a 12-point package of trade and political restrictions. Speaking of the “rising tide of revulsion in Canada and elsewhere,” Clark said the time had come for “basic change” in

South Africa. Under the new measures, Ottawa’s 1977 voluntary code of conduct for Canadian business in South Africa —covering employment practices, housing and wage scales for blacks—will be strengthened. As well, Canadian banks

will be encouraged not to _

sell South African gold coins and Canada will stop selling computers and other sensitive equipment to South African police and military forces.

Investment: Clark’s measures met with limited interest in Canada. Spokesmen for the largest Canadian firms operating in South Africa, including Bata Ltd. shoes and Alcan Aluminium Ltd., claimed that the effects on their operations would be minimal.

J. R. Nowling, director of communications for Mas-

sey-Ferguson Ltd., which has a 24-percent investment in the South African holding company of FedMech, declared: “Our investment in South Africa is under review, not for political reasons, because we don’t have the luxury of indulging in a lot of political exercise.” Warning: Following the imposition of harsh emergency rule in South Africa, and after criticism by other Western governments, Ottawa issued a diplomatic warning to Pretoria last week calling on it to “break the cycle of violence and abandon repression” of the black majority. And in an interview

with The Toronto Star, Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis warned that “time is running out” for South Africa. “Now there is real deterioration,” he said. “The extent of repression invites further violence.”

_ For Maurice Sauvé,

husband of Gov.-Gen. Jeanne Sauvé, the furore over South Africa developed into a peculiar personal embarrassment. Last week Sauvé abruptly resigned his position as vice-chairman and director of the CanadianSouth African Society, a South African-funded lobby group that encourages investment in that country, after the group’s president, James McAvity, was quoted as saying there would be no power-sharing in South

Africa “until they can get that black mob under control.” McAvity also told the Montreal Gazette that Pretoria would not heed the denunciations of the “Goddamn Canadian government,” adding, in a reference to Canada’s Prime Minister: “Why should the South African government be influenced by what that pipsqueak Mulroney says?” In a statement released by Rideau Hall, Sauvé disassociated himself from the remarks and said that he had originally joined the society “in a spirit of reasonable dialogue.” For her part, the Governor General said she had not known of her husband’s membership.

Pressure: In Canada and throughout the West the debate about how to exert pressure on Pretoria will likely rage for as long as apartheid remains in force. In one camp, Britain and the United States continue to argue that isolating South Africa is counterproductive. “We oppose sanctions,” said British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe last week, “because we believe that economic growth in South Africa offers the most likely route for peaceful political changes.” Others, like France and the Scandanavian countries, s insist that the only way 2 to force real change is to I make Pretoria hurt.

§ Either way, many observers believe, the prospects for successfully influencing the South African government do not appear promising. Nearly 25 years ago, not long after the regime’s last declaration of emergency following the infamous Sharpeville killings, Maclean’s Overseas Editor Blair Fraser suggested that South Africa’s white tribe actually fed off isolation. “Anything to maintain a wartime psychology,” Fraser wrote, “does a valuable service” to the Afrikaner ethic. Years later, then-Liberal external affairs minister Don Jamieson said that the 1977 Canadian measures designed to limit commerce with South Africa, which followed the police killing of black leader Steve Biko, seemed to have had no effect when he visited the country the following year. “I was quite appalled by the lack of impact,” he told Maclean’s. “It was a bit of a shock to discover that they simply didn’t care.”

-GLEN ALLEN, with HILARY MACKENZIE in Ottawa and WILLIAM LOWTHER in Washington.

HILARY MACKENZIE

WILLIAM LOWTHER