The closer Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress get to sharing power with the government of South Africa, the greater will be their need to produce higher living standards for the black majority they represent. It can't be done while South Africa's stagnant economy fails to keep pace with population growth. It can't be done without importing capital. It can't be done in economic isolation, of which foreign economic sanctions are a part. With constitutional talks scheduled, it is certain that at some point Mr. Mandela will become a spokesman for lifting sanctions.
Mr. Mandela's latest maneuver on the subject suggests that such a time has not arrived, but is drawing closer. He announced that the ANC, which will hold a major conference next weekend, is reviewing its support for sanctions and consulting the religious and labor organizations that, with it, constitute the moral force for sanctions. But he did this in a letter asking European Community government chiefs not to reconsider their sanctions at their summit meeting in Rome just before the ANC deliberations.
Mr. Mandela hinted at February or March, after the expected repeal of key apartheid laws by the government of F. W. de Klerk when the white parliament convenes Feb. 1. European governments approve of the direction Mr. de Klerk is taking and are tempted to reward him, though the leader most impatient to do so, Margaret Thatcher, is no longer prime minister of Britain.