Keep the pressure on

June 27, 1991

Despite reports that South African army units have been secretly abetting the township violence that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 blacks this year, President Bush says he is ready to lift economic sanctions against Pretoria. Bush made the announcement during a recent White House visit by Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whose Inkatha Freedom Party has been engaged in bloody factional fighting with members of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

Citing the progress South African President F.W. de Klerk has made in dismantling the legal basis for the apartheid system, Bush said the U.S. could be prepared to end its 5-year-old economic boycott of Pretoria as early as this summer. The president indicated that lifting sanctions was necessary in order to encourage South Africa to continue along the road toward negotiations leading to the establishment of a true, multi-racial democracy.

But while de Klerk's reforms have given rise to hope that a peaceful transition from white minority rule may be possible, the reality has been that life for ordinary South Africans -- black and white -- has changed very little. That is why some in the U.S. Congress, like Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore, caution against any a rush to lift sanctions, which so far have proven the only effective means of forcing the South African government to come to terms with the country's black majority.

Trotting out so-called "tribal leaders" like Buthelezi, whose credibility as a representative of South African blacks has been rendered highly suspect as a result of his well-documented collaboration with government security forces, hardly strengthens the case for lifting sanctions. Until Pretoria has shown that it is commited to bringing blacks into the political process under a new constitution that embodies the principles of one-person, one-vote, continued sanctions are justified to ensure that the dismantling of apartheid truly is irreversible.

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