It was a powerfully symbolic gesture. Clutching black and white candles that flickered in the cool night air, 3,000 people gathered on a Toronto waterfront pier last week for a jazz concert-part of a protest against apartheid in South Africa. They swayed to the anthem of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), played by South African-born jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Then, as eight Commonwealth foreign ministers made their way onto a makeshift stage, the crowd raised their fists in salute and chanted rhythmically, “Sanctions now! Sanctions now!” It was a heartfelt appeal to the ministers, who make up the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa, on the eve of discussions to increase worldwide pressure against apartheid.
But that appeal fell on deaf ears. After two days of talks, the committee— formed last year at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Vancouver—could not agree on new sanctions against the white minority government in Pretoria, South Africa. Canada and Australia, which did not want further sanctions, found themselves pitted against Guyana, India, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which wanted tougher measures. In the end, the committee simply agreed to try to persuade Commonwealth and other governments to tighten existing sanctions. As well, Canada pledged $1 million to combat South African news censorship and
propaganda. Said a disappointed Johnny Makatini, the ANC’S Zambia-based international affairs director, who was invited to attend the talks as an observer: “The outcome falls short of what we expected.”
In fact, South Africa may have found a way to minimize the impact of existing sanctions, according to a confidential report prepared for the ministers by their international policy experts, which Maclean's obtained. It states that sanctions that have been in effect since 1985 have had some limited success in reducing South Africa’s exports, but “it is less than half of what was needed to reach a minimum noticeable level.” Meanwhile, despite worldwide disapproval, six countries—Taiwan, Spain,
Italy, Turkey, Japan and West Germany— have aggressively increased their trade with South Africa since the Commonwealth applied its sanctions. Says the 51-page report: “A much harder push is needed from the international community. White people still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle and benefit from apartheid; sanctions have yet to cause real discomfort.”
Still, the foreign ministers could find no com-
mon ground. Spokesmen for both the Canadian and the Australian delegations said that they wanted to avoid deepening the current division in the Commonwealth arising from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s adamant opposition to the current sanctions. They also said that they did not want to make changes in the policy during the campaign for the U.S. presidential election in November. For their part, officials from the London-based Q Commonwealth secretariat disclosed that I the other six countries u wanted to increase the S pressure by adopting “ new sanctions. Acknowledged External Affairs Minister Joe Clark: “There are differences on the speed with which we proceed with sanctions.”
The secret report strongly advised that the 48 Commonwealth countries widen their ban on natural-resource imports from South Africa—now limited to coal, uranium, iron and steel— by adding copper, lead, tin, zinc, aluminum, nickel, iron ore and other minerals. As well, they suggested the addition of cotton, wool, hides and skins, leather, fish and seafood to the already comprehensive list of banned agricultural products. Said the report: “Until the pressure reaches that level it is unreasonable to expect sanctions to have any but the most limited impact.”
While the foreign ministers wrestled with the thorny issue of sanctions, the fourth round of Geneva peace talks be-
tween Angola, Cuba and South Africa achieved an unanticipated breakthrough. The three delegations started discussing a timetable for independence in Namibia and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Angola. While giving no details, they said in a joint statement that their talks were “detailed, positive and productive.” But the continuing pressure for sanctions—and the candles on Toronto’s waterfront—symbolized the continuing isolation of South Africa.
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