Oliver Tambo’s war cry

HILARY MACKENZIE September 7 1987

Oliver Tambo’s war cry

HILARY MACKENZIE September 7 1987

Oliver Tambo’s war cry

He stepped off the airplane at To ronto's Pearson International Airport to mobs of well-wishers

and to welcoming shouts of Amandla— the Zulu word for power. Then, Oliver Tambo, the soft-spoken 70-year-old South African nationalist leader, raised both hands and vowed to fight for an end to apartheid, the system that denies political rights to South Africa’s 24 million native blacks and concentrates power in the hands of five million whites. Tambo, a former schoolteacher and lawyer who heads the outlawed African National Congress, said that he would press Ottawa to impose tough new economic sanctions and to cut its diplomatic ties with the white minority government. Said Tambo: “I’m going to ask for everything I can. It means economic, political, cultural isolation.”

But in fact, during an 80-minute private meeting in Ottawa last week with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, Tambo did not ask Canada to impose total sanctions. Instead, he urged Canada to maintain the pressure on South Africa while continuing to assist the economically beleaguered frontline states—including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique—that border South Africa. Mulroney was supportive, but not specific—reiterating Canada’s opposition to violence and its hope for a peaceful end to apartheid.

During an earlier private meeting, Clark told Tambo that the ANC suffers from a poor image abroad—as an organization that condones violence and has many Communist members—which is hindering the possibility of negotiations. Clark also said that the ANC should condemn the use of “necklacing,” a form of terrorism in which a rubber tire is draped around a person’s neck and set on fire. But Tambo rejected charges that the ANC is engaged in terrorism. Said Tambo: “The terrorist in South Africa is the Pretoria regime.” He also rejected proposals that the ANC abandon armed struggle before talks are opened between the Botha government and representatives of the black majority. Until negotiations start, he said, the ANC is trying to raise the pressure on Pretoria. To that end, Tambo discussed with Mulroney and Clark new initiatives against apartheid to be taken when Canada hosts the francophone summit this week in Quebec City and the Commonwealth summit next month in Vancouver.

While Tambo was making his point in Ottawa, the South African Embassy was fighting a propaganda war on Canadian soil. It published a three-quar-

ter page advertisement in Toronto’s Globe and Mail that used selective quotes from Tambo and other ANC supporters to paint a chilling picture of an organization committed to the violent

overthrow of the white regime. Part of the advertisement did not appear: the Globe refused to print photographs of a two-week-old infant who had been

maimed by an ANC bomb and of a necklacing victim. The South African Embassy said later that the photos were intended to “show Canadians clearly the reality of the indiscriminate violence the ANC indulges in.”

In another attempt to embarrass Ottawa, the South African government offered to provide scholarships and uni-

versity places for Canadian native students. Returning from an allexpenses-paid 10-day fact-finding mission to South Africa, four Saskatchewan Indians accused Ottawa of failing to treat its own native minority fairly. Lindsay Cyr, chief of Saskatchewan’s Pasqua band, also criticized Ottawa for supporting sanctions. Sanctions, said Cyr, “are causing a lot of black people to commit crimes to survive.” But Tambo disagreed. “Don’t swallow this kind of lie,” he said. “The real issue is the monstrosity of the

crime that the government is perpetrating against the black majority.”

HILARY MACKENZIE