NAACP leaders to open branch in South Africa

March 03, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

A Soweto branch of the NAACP?

That will be one result of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's first high-level visit to South Africa, says the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the civil rights group's executive director.

A dozen-member NAACP delegation, headed by Dr. Chavis and board chairman Dr. William F. Gibson, left yesterday and will return March 7. The NAACP is based in Baltimore.

The group plans to meet today with Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader, who is expected to become president after South Africa's first multiracial election next month. Mr. Mandela addressed the NAACP annual convention last July.

The delegation hopes to meet tomorrow with Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, which had threatened to boycott the election.

Dr. Chavis said the NAACP would encourage black South Africans to forgo "black-on-black violence" and vote.

He said the group would also help lead a campaign to encourage Americans to invest in a black-run South Africa.

"For African-American children to be born into a world where an African-run government is a major industrial nation and a nuclear power would bode well," he said. "African-Americans need some good news."

The NAACP has 40 branches abroad in the Caribbean, Europe, Japan and South Korea. Most are linked to U.S. military bases.

The branch in Soweto, a black township outside Johannesburg, would be the group's first in Africa.

Dr. Chavis and Mr. Mandela have a relationship that dates to the 1970s. The men corresponded when the ANC leader was a political prisoner in South Africa and the NAACP chief was jailed in North Carolina.

Dr. Chavis' conviction in the firebombing of a white-owned grocery during a battle to desegregate the Wilmington, N.C., schools was later overturned.

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