Struggle for Southern Africa

By Robert G. Mugabe

From Foreign Affairs , Winter 1987/88
Summary: The Republic of South Africa is both engaging in a ‘vicious and ugly’ civil war and ‘waging an undeclared war against its neighbours’. After reviewing RSA intervention in Mozambique and Angola, and arguing that the front-line states are opposed to apartheid, not to whites or to Western interests, calls for US policy-makers to match words with deeds, namely by backing a policy of economic sanctions. Then prime minister, now president of Zimbabwe.

Robert G. Mugabe is Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and currently chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement.

As the prime minister of a young and developing nation, I observe with sadness that several developing countries are locked in devastating conflicts. In most cases such countries are mere theaters of wars that have nothing to do with their people or their interests. More often than not, such conflicts occur in areas regarded as “spheres of influence” of stronger and wealthier nations. Indeed, most of the wars that have been fought in the last 40 years have been in Third World countries, but involved the limited participation of the superpowers and some of the great powers. Korea, Vietnam and the Middle Eastern wars are some of the conflicts that brought the world close to the brink of a generalized war.

One such area of conflict now is southern Africa. I use the example of my own region because it presents a clear illustration of wanton destruction of lives and property, and of the danger posed to international peace and security.

Zimbabwe and the United States have mutual interests in bringing an end to the problem of apartheid in South Africa. Time has indeed run out, and South Africa now poses a threat to international peace and security that has implications far beyond the borders of the southern African region.


The Republic of South Africa is in the middle of a vicious and ugly civil war. The root cause of this crisis is the obnoxious system of apartheid which the majority of black people of South Africa do not want, as well as their own desire for freedom and independence in the land of their birth.

In the run-up to the general elections of May 6, 1987, we heard a lot of rhetoric about reform of apartheid from the ruling National Party, led by President P. W. Botha. But that was soon proven to mean only cosmetic changes affecting pass laws, freehold title, trade unionism and aspects of social segregation. President Botha’s regime is determined to maintain the two pieces of legislation that form the cornerstone of apartheid—the Population Registration Act, which color-codes people according to their race, and the Group Areas Act, which color-codes the places where they live. The structure of political power in the hands of a white minority remains intact, reinforced by the military.

Following the collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire in 1974, the South African Ministry of Defense reviewed the political situation in the region and evolved a long-term strategy. In 1977 the ministry issued a White Paper on what was described as the “Total Strategy.” This strategy simply meant mobilizing all available resources for national defense purposes. It advocated the need to maintain “a solid military balance relative to neighboring states.” It also advocated economic and other “action” in relation to transport services, distribution and telecommunications, with the objective of promoting or enforcing “political and economic collaboration” in the southern African region.

P. W. Botha was then minister of defense; in September 1978 he became the prime minister, and later president. From the day he took over the reins of power, the military has assumed a dominant position in South African politics. Some people even say a military coup d’état has taken place. Real power and decision-making authority has been shifted from the Parliament in Cape Town to the State Security Council, in which all the branches of the military, the intelligence services and the police are represented. This council has more than 500 Joint Military Committees throughout the country, and members who sit on every village committee or town board. In other words, the entire governmental apparatus is run in order to prosecute the civil war in defense of the interests and privileges of five million white South Africans. About half of the white population consists of Afrikaners, most of whom support the ruling National Party and its racist ideology of apartheid and discrimination, and half are descendants of British settlers. The May election saw an alliance of Afrikaners and English-speaking whites voting together for the security promised by P. W. Botha’s National Party.

The representative organizations of the black majority, which numbers some 22 million indigenous people, are determined to overthrow the apartheid regime and establish a democratic government by a combination of internal armed struggle supported by economic sanctions and the material assistance that Africa and the international community are able to give. The balance of forces is shifting in favor of these organizations as more people get involved in the anti-apartheid struggle and the confrontation between black and white sharpens.

The African National Congress of South Africa was formed in 1912 and tried for almost half a century to negotiate the sort of society which we now have in Zimbabwe and are continuing to build. It was not until some 50 years later that the ANC decided that all peaceful options had been exhausted and there was no recourse but armed struggle. ANC leader Nelson Mandela, who has now been in jail for 25 years, explained in testimony during his trial on charges of subversion in 1964:

All lawful modes of expressing opposition to [the principle of white supremacy] had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and when the government resorted to a show of force to crush its opponents, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.

The decision to fight for independence is not a phenomenon peculiar to southern Africa. Nor is the decision to fight for a nonracial society. Americans, more than most, must be aware of this, and also Europeans, who fought only 45 years ago to free their countries from Nazi occupation. Independence and the democratic right of the majority to decide their destiny is, or should be, a sacred principle to all of us.

Unfortunately, in South Africa the stage is set for a protracted and bloody conflict. It is one into which African states, the middle powers and the superpowers will be drawn, possibly on opposing sides, thereby setting the stage for a generalized war.


Soon after taking power Botha proposed a “constellation” of southern African states dominated militarily, economically and technologically by Pretoria. It was to include the Bantustans or “homelands” (thus giving them de facto, if not de jure, recognition), other members of the South African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland) as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe, and possibly others in the region which could be co-opted.

To this end South Africa poured large sums of money into the 1980 pre-independence election in Zimbabwe. The objective was to bring to power a malleable client in our country which, for geographical reasons, held the key to the “constellation” concept. Zimbabwe, as a client state, and the other countries of the region caught up in South Africa’s plans for regional hegemony would have been under considerable pressure to recognize the Bantustans. And, in Pretoria’s view, once they had done so, other countries would follow.

Our independence in Zimbabwe, on April 18, 1980, was an important watershed for the region. The people of Zimbabwe thwarted the Botha “constellation” project by giving my party an overwhelming majority in the elections held at the end of February under the auspices of a British governor and his administration. As a result, I was able to join my colleagues from the other Frontline States in the formation of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, our instrument for closer regional economic cooperation and for reducing dependence on South Africa. To South Africa’s surprise, SADCC also incorporated Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho, and was initiated with the support of the European Economic Community.

The creation of SADCC was a recognition of our regional and economic reality. Six of the majority-ruled states to which I have referred are landlocked: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For our trade and our survival we have these alternatives: to use the railways and ports through Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania, or to use the South African transport system and its ports. Our stated intention of reducing dependence on South Africa by upgrading routes through Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania threatened Pretoria’s regional supremacy. The creation of SADCC also threatened to reduce South Africa’s trade surplus with the region, then estimated at $2.5 billion a year, at a time when its own economy was stretched. Much of this surplus derives from rail and port revenues.

Over 40 percent of Zaïre’s mineral exports transit South Africa to its ports when logically they should go along the Benguela line through Angola. Zimbabwe, forced to use the long routes through South Africa, pays an additional $38 million in freight bills each year. Malawi and Zambia also pay vastly increased freight bills to send their trade south because of South Africa’s destruction of our shorter and cheaper trade routes through Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The government of Mozambique had closed its borders with Rhodesia in early 1976, in compliance with U.N. sanctions. It paid a considerable price for doing so ($556 million over the next four years in lost rail and port tariffs, according to U.N. estimates). Mozambique had served as an outlet for the landlocked hinterland in Portuguese colonial times; the end of the Rhodesian impasse offered the opportunity for it to resume that role, which had accounted for a large percentage of its foreign currency revenue. My country’s independence in 1980 offered the possibility of using these non-South African routes. An early decision of my government was to maximize Zimbabwe’s usage of our most convenient trade routes through Mozambique.

At the time of our independence no Zimbabwean trade passed through the Mozambican rail and port system, but by the end of 1983 almost half of our trade was transiting Mozambique. Today South African-instigated sabotage has cut that figure back to less than 20 percent. We are increasing it again as we rebuild the Beira Corridor and rehabilitate the Chiqualaquala line to Maputo. We need to utilize the full capacity of the two ports of Beira and Maputo to handle about nine million tons of goods from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

We commend those friendly Western countries that have come to the aid of Mozambique and assisted with the rehabilitation of the port of Beira and reconstruction of parts of the Beira Corridor. South Africa has set out to destroy systematically our alternative communication routes to the sea and ensure our continued dependence on their ports and railways. Our dependence on South Africa has not come about by accident. It has been a strategy carefully worked out over many years.

The landlocked countries of the region can be serviced by five rail-to-port systems other than the South African routes. One is the Tazara railway linking Zambia to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. To the west is the Benguela railway to the Angolan port of Lobito. That has been out of action virtually for a decade as a result of sabotage by the Angolan rebel group UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), an instrument which is supported by South Africa and the United States. To our east, through Mozambique, we have three routes to the ports of Beira, Maputo and Nacala. These three ports could easily handle all the trade of Malawi, Swaziland, Zaïre, Zambia and Zimbabwe. But the routes to Maputo and Nacala have been out of operation for three years as a result of sabotage. And the Beira route is kept open only at huge military cost. Soldiers from the national armies of Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are now stationed in Mozambique to secure our communications routes and help rid that country of the terrorist menace South Africa has unleashed.

Documents captured from South Africa’s surrogates in Mozambique clearly show their South African military masters ordering them to destroy our trade routes and our power lines, and to begin urban terrorism in our cities. The minutes of a meeting on February 23, 1984, between the South African military and their Mozambican surrogates define the following targets: “Railways, Cabbora Bassa [a large hydroelectric dam in Mozambique], cooperantes and other targets of an economic nature such as the ones belonging to SADCC.” This is the type of state terrorism we have to contend with in this region.

Why does South Africa do this to its neighbors? It is certainly not because we are a military threat. South Africa’s motivation is in part economic, in part due to the acquiescence of the international community, and in part due to the deep-seated knowledge of apartheid’s rulers that their system of racial segregation and minority rule is doomed.

We are not militarily at war with apartheid, but apartheid is at war with us. And militarily, economically and socially we are paying an enormous price. Since 1980 the direct and indirect cost of South Africa’s destructive actions against its neighbors has been well over $20 billion. In the case of Mozambique alone the cost from 1980 through 1985 is estimated at between $5.5 billion and $6.5 billion. And even these figures do not give a true picture, for they exclude the vast amounts of money we are forced to divert from development to defense to protect our hard-won sovereignty.


South Africa, while at war with its own people, is waging an undeclared war against its neighbors. The combination of tactics varies from state to state, depending on the political, economic and military vulnerabilities of each, but at the heart of this policy of “destabilization” is the regular sabotage of the regional transportation system to ensure that all trade flows south through South Africa. In order to maintain this regional dependence Pretoria pursues a policy of aggression and destruction that has devastated neighboring economies and caused widespread suffering.

All of South Africa’s neighbors have been subjected to direct incursions by the South African Defense Forces—attacks ostensibly aimed at members of the ANC, but whose victims have almost always been innocent citizens of the target state. Pretoria also relies extensively on the use of the surrogate forces inherited from anticolonial struggles to its north, trained and armed by the SADF to murder, maim, rape and destroy on its behalf.

The history of the so-called Mozambique National Resistance has been told in considerable detail by the former head of Rhodesian intelligence, and was put on the record in Washington recently by State Department testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This group was created by Rhodesian Intelligence and handed over to South Africa’s military intelligence just prior to Zimbabwe’s independence. South Africa converted the MNR, as Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker said, “from a nuisance into a well-armed rebel group” and remains a “reliable supplier of high-priority items.” These surrogate forces have no political program and no credible leadership, and their brutalization of the population is not likely to win many converts.

We know that the leaders of these bandit units are campaigning hard for recognition by the United States. They have secured the support of several congressmen. Following the July 1985 repeal of the Clark Amendment (which banned aid to Angolan rebels) and the granting of aid to UNITA in March 1986, a meeting of these various organizations was held in Washington in August 1986. They hoped to get the kind of recognition and assistance that Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA has been granted. To deny the legitimacy of the government of the Popular Liberation Movement of Angola (MPLA) is to invite chaos and disorder. UNITA’s support is drawn from a single ethnic group, not from the population of the whole country. The South Africans have made no secret of their intention to overthrow the Angolan government. Cuban troops were invited by the MPLA government to defend the sovereign government of Angola, part of whose territory had been overrun by South African forces.

We would be as delighted as the Angolans to see the Cubans, and indeed all foreign troops, leave Angola—once South African troops have withdrawn, the occupation of Namibia by South Africa has ceased and an independent government has emerged there, and the violent apartheid state of South Africa has been destroyed. The root cause of the stalemate in Namibia’s progress toward independence is South Africa’s insistence that the popular liberation movement SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) should not rule, and U.S. insistence that the departure of Cuban troops from Angola be linked to Namibian independence.

The Western nations have failed to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 435, passed in 1978, which calls for Namibian independence. South Africa’s attempt to set up a transitional government as an alternative to SWAPO has failed dismally. South Africa’s administrator-general continues to rule Namibia with an occupation force of 120,000 South African military and locally raised irregular forces. No one can accuse SWAPO of being a communist organization; it has a national, democratic program with a socialist approach, the form and timing of which are to be determined by an independent legislature. South Africa’s campaign for regional dominance has cost about 500,000 lives in Angola and Namibia in the past five years, according to an estimate by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Given South Africa’s destructive strategy against all its neighbors, we are shocked that the U.S. Congress, instead of coming willingly to our assistance, has attached conditions to the proposed $50 million in aid to SADCC. The aid legislation, passed in July, includes the Pressler Amendment, which bars assistance to countries in the region that advocate the form of terrorism commonly known as “necklacing” or allow persons who practice “necklacing” to operate in their territory. “Necklacing” is used by certain persons in the townships in South Africa against those they regard as collaborators with the regime. No country in the region has ever condoned the practice nor has any South African liberation movement. We have condemned it forth-rightly from every public platform. We are a peace-loving people who are appalled by the brutality that is a fact of daily life in South Africa, brutality that is unleashed first and foremost by the regime.

We in the region regard that vote in Congress as an attempt to blackmail us into supporting apartheid, since it concerns a practice over which we have no control whatsoever. The so-called necklacing practiced in the South African townships certainly did not come from us and has never been experienced in any of the other liberation wars in southern Africa. To suggest that we condone it is a mere excuse for the United States to continue supporting apartheid instead of assisting the forces of freedom and justice.


What are the vital interests of the United States in our region? More than half of the United States’ purchases of a dozen minerals considered strategic or critical are imported from South Africa. Most of the strategic minerals, however, can be purchased elsewhere in the region. For example, although South Africa accounts for about one third of the world’s production of chrome ore, my country contains most of the known deposits of high-grade chrome ore. Zambia, Zaïre and Botswana are also alternative sources of some strategic minerals.

The United States is tied to the South African economy by as many as 200 U.S.-based multinational companies, which have direct investments estimated at billions of dollars. The pressure of the anti-apartheid protest has forced several companies to divest their shareholdings in South Africa. It must also be noted that these corporations’ investments in black Africa north of the Limpopo River and south of the Sahara are much larger than those in South Africa.

Another common excuse for the maintenance of U.S. relations with apartheid South Africa is the protection of the Cape sea route. This is an old excuse for policies of aggression in our region. The British government used it as the main justification for proposing to sell arms to South Africa in 1971. But it is common knowledge that modern air transport has made the Cape sea route irrelevant as a strategic point. The U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa, which published its report in January, concluded that “the active collaboration of the South African government, whatever its ideology, is not an important factor in protecting the Cape sea route.”

These then are the cosmetic issues for which there are alternatives and solutions. The Advisory Committee report goes on to say: “A greater source of danger to the West is the growth of Soviet influence in the region, promoted by white intransigence in South Africa, growing political instability, rising levels of racial violence, and armed conflict.”

Political and material support of desperate bandit groups, dissidents and self-seeking, discredited individuals by a superpower like the United States is a prescription for chaos and instability in the international political system. Calling such a hodgepodge of individuals “freedom-fighters” does not make them any such thing. The bandit groups that gathered in Washington in August 1986 have no such credentials.

Financial and material aid, and food, should not be used as levers in the conduct of the foreign policy of a superpower. The far right in the U.S. Congress focuses much attention annually on the foreign aid bill in order to deny financial resources to those states which seek to pursue an independent policy.

In Zimbabwe we have totally rejected any aid or investment from any quarter that seeks to change, influence or modify the policies that we have enunciated, based on our perception of Zimbabwe’s national interests. For us, this is a matter of principle. Although we have been blacklisted and denied financial aid by President Reagan’s Administration, we have stuck to our principles and strongly defended our sovereign right to define our own policies, and articulate them in any forum.

We will neither amend our policies nor change our behavior in order to please others, even if they are superpowers. My party is one of the few liberation movements in the world that fought a major war of national liberation, involving thousands of troops, without the support of a superpower. The sovereignty and independence we have now attained are so dear to us that no number of pieces of silver can ever buy them from us.

For me this campaign of the right goes over familiar ground. During our war of liberation I was accused of leading surrogate Russian forces, when in fact the Russian government adamantly refused to give us a single gun or ruble, and in 1978 they even refused me permission to pass through the Moscow airport in transit. The ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress of South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia are fighting for the same freedom and independence that we fought for.

We have been encouraged to see the U.S. State Department seeking to improve its relations with Mozambique. In his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa on June 24, 1987, Assistant Secretary Crocker said “no country in southern Africa has worked more consistently than Mozambique with the U.S.A. to further the cause of peace and stability in southern Africa.” He praised Mozambique’s human rights record, and the strenuous efforts which we know are being made to revitalize the economy and strengthen institutional development.

The Reagan Administration now apparently regards the fate of Mozambique as a critical issue for southern Africa and for U.S. interests in the region. It is giving Mozambique $75 million in humanitarian aid and $10 million in economic aid. Mr. Crocker approvingly cited British training for Mozambican army personnel and new British economic assistance, and noted that Britain and the United States have recently assigned resident military attachés to Maputo. This should be a good signal to Pretoria. He also pointed out that all of Mozambique’s neighbors, with the exception of South Africa, support the government “against the insurgents and would regard official contact with them by Western governments as a hostile act implying endorsement of South African destabilization efforts.”

In spite of the expressed support of the American and British governments for the Mozambican government, we were surprised that so little aid was granted to Mozambique, and that Angola was excluded from the list of those SADCC countries to be aided in the current year. As I have argued, these governments are the main targets of South Africa’s destabilization policies in the region. They are the legitimate governments of their respective states. They are greatly in need of political and material support. Denying them much needed resources means direct support for South Africa and destabilization.

We take note of the Reagan Administration’s commitment to operate within our regional consensus. But we remain concerned that the main objective of the Administration’s policy planners is not to stem Pretoria’s regional aggression; rather, their main fear is that the people of the region may turn toward communism and the Soviet Union. We are cognizant of the fact that both superpowers are searching for friendly port and/or military facilities in the region, trying to expand their political and economic influence and to deny that influence to the other.

But it should be noted that, in keeping with our philosophy of genuine nonalignment and true independence, no country in the region has permitted military or naval base facilities to either superpower, although Britain has provided military training to the Mozambican government and sent a military vessel to call at the port of Maputo last year. Britain also provides military training to the Zimbabwean army, and has done so since our independence in 1980. A British Special Air Service unit was sent to Botswana for a training exercise in 1986.

The socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Asia are willing to give us weapons to defend ourselves against apartheid’s onslaught. And when they do so there are those who question our nonalignment. This is mischievous and inaccurate. None of us fought for our independence to become the proxy of anyone else. Nor are we. The vast bulk of our trade is with Western countries, and they also provide most of our development aid, but this does not make us a proxy of the West any more than arms from the socialist countries make us their proxy. If it were not for apartheid’s destabilization of our region, we probably would not need these arms.

Those who judge Africa in terms of East and West do us a grave disservice and they display deep ignorance. Those who see South Africa only in the context of “the whites” and “the blacks” display equal ignorance. We are not opposed to the whites in South Africa; neither are the liberation movements, as they have often stated. It is the policies of apartheid that we oppose and will continue to oppose with all the moral, political and diplomatic power available to us, in support of the oppressed people of South Africa.

We would like to take seriously the words of Secretary of State George Shultz, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year: “We want a democratic and prosperous South Africa, where all races participate politically and economically, at the center of a peaceful and rapidly developing southern African region.”

These words must now be matched by deeds, and existing relations expanded to create mutual trust. This will not be achieved through loaded Senate votes making these relations conditional, but by taking concrete steps to remove the source of violence in our region. Only when we have achieved this will the region be able to achieve its vast economic potential. The interests of the United States in peaceful development are eloquently presented in the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee report:

As a nation with long-term interests in southern Africa and a fundamental commitment to the promotion of justice and democratic values, the United States cannot stand aside as a human tragedy of potentially immense proportions threatens to unfold in South Africa. The stakes are too high. At risk are the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of South Africans, black and white, the future political and economic viability of the entire southern third of the African continent, and history’s judgment of the United States.

Against this background it is necessary for the U.S. Administration to condemn by concrete actions those enforcing the apartheid system and to support, again concretely, those struggling for freedom and justice. The U.S. Congress did pass last year, over the Administration’s veto, a package of limited sanctions. But the United States should give political, moral and material assistance to the majority who will sooner or later take their “rightful place in the governance of the country,” and whose relations with the United States will be “strongly influenced by the links that are established during the period of the struggle.”

The time has passed for engaging in dialogue with only the apartheid regime; the policy of “constructive engagement” is dead and has been committed to history. U.S. policymakers and leaders of other nations deeply involved in South Africa should encourage dialogue among all parties and promote compromise. I would add that African leaders from the region have played a positive role in this regard and will continue to do so. We have provided venues for informal meetings to encourage familiarization and communication that can lead to a better understanding between individuals on both sides of the problem. There is a vast barrier of culture and scarce or false information (the latter deliberately created) that must now be bridged. We emphasize the importance of these informal discussions, such as those held recently in Senegal and elsewhere. It is urgent to convince Mr. Botha that it is in his interest to negotiate sooner rather than later. He and his colleagues must be persuaded of the need for a new political system, and that apartheid cannot be “reformed.” He must be persuaded at the outset to extend basic human, legal and judicial rights to all citizens of the country, and to reintegrate the “homelands” into one country, to release political detainees and to lift the bans on individuals and political organizations.


When it comes time for negotiating, Mr. Botha must have (as Rhodesia’s Ian Smith had) a powerful force standing over him to guarantee good faith in enforcing the decisions, because South Africa has amply proved its unwillingness to keep its word in international negotiations. It concluded its nonaggression Lusaka Accord with Angola and its Nkomati Accord with Mozambique in early 1984, but the report of the Commonwealth’s “Eminent Persons Group,” Mission to South Africa, confirms that “South Africa violated both these Accords from the very outset, giving the region further proof that it could not be trusted to honor even solemn Treaty obligations.”

An atmosphere conducive to negotiation can be achieved with a combination of internal and external pressures that increase the cost of maintaining apartheid. Even the State Department’s advisory report agrees that multilateral sanctions will have an effect in terms of signaling the termination of economic growth and political stability until apartheid is ended.

The Anti-Apartheid Act passed by the U.S. Congress a year ago was just such a signal. It banned the importation of South African coal, uranium, iron and steel, agricultural produce, textiles and krugerrands, and prohibited new U.S. loans, investments, credits and the sale of computer technology to the South African government and its agencies. It also terminated landing rights for South African Airways. Unfortunately, the thrust of the Anti-Apartheid Act has been blunted and watered down by the Pressler Amendment to the 1987 Appropriations Bill. As noted, the effect of this amendment is to deny financial resources to selected Frontline States, thereby making it difficult for them to participate in the sanctions program against South Africa.

Despite its pleading to the contrary, the United States has considerable leverage which has never been used, and sanctions are only part of this. It is the superpower to whom South Africa looks as an ally; it is a major trading partner and a member of many international organizations. There are material pressures which have never been used, or in some cases not enforced, in political, economic, cultural and military areas. It is true that only 200 U.S. corporations have, or had, direct investments in South Africa but these corporations wield considerable influence in Washington. If they are serious in their attempts to divest and distance themselves from apartheid, they must also use their political clout at home to bring apartheid to an end as quickly as possible.

The Commonwealth has been active in the international campaign to end apartheid, both in imposing its own limited sanctions and earlier leading the way in promulgating the international arms embargo.

Sanctions relating to military, economic, cultural and sporting activities isolate the regime; they are one method of raising the cost of apartheid both economically and psychologically. South Africa has been taking serious steps for a decade to prepare for this eventuality and to minimize the effect on the economy and the military machine. However, that is no reason to exclude sanctions from the list of pressure points, nor is the excuse that sanctions will destroy the economy.

The opponents of sanctions say, in the first place, that such measures will hurt the blacks in South Africa the most. This is a spurious argument. In South Africa, the black response has been clear and categorical: if sanctions will play a part in terminating the suffering, they must be imposed. The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, has put this point most eloquently:

For goodness sake, let people not use us as an alibi for not doing the things they know they ought to. We are suffering now, and this kind of suffering seems to be going on and on and on. If additional suffering is going to put a terminus to our suffering then we will accept it.

A second argument is that sanctions against South Africa will hurt the neighboring majority-ruled states. But we are already suffering, as I have clearly illustrated earlier, and if additional suffering is necessary, we are also ready to pay the price. For several months the Frontline States consulted each other on whether to impose the Commonwealth package of sanctions, which was agreed upon at the Bahamas summit. It became clear that some Frontline States are not able to impose sanctions because their economies are tied into the South African economy like Siamese twins. This is true of those countries in the South African Customs Union as well as others. But although unable to do so themselves they urge those who can—especially the big powers—to adopt sanctions.

A third excuse used to argue against sanctions is that they do not work, the case of Rhodesia being cited as an example. But no single government, not even South Africa, could give formal recognition to the Rhodesian regime as long as it remained the target of comprehensive U.N.-sponsored mandatory economic sanctions. They worked in limited, but important and costly ways. Rhodesia was forced to sell its products at below-market prices and buy its imports at a premium.


The time for easy and comfortable choices in South Africa has run out.

This is the conclusion of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa, and it is a conclusion that we, the inhabitants of southern Africa, heartily agree with. We now expect those who wield power in the United States to understand the magnitude of this conclusion and seize the opportunity to retrieve their moral credibility by actively seeking a solution that can bring peace and justice to our region and allow us to invest our resources in the development of our people instead of defense. This should be the priority of U.S. policy toward the region.

The U.S. Administration should accept the value of sanctions as a means of raising the cost of maintaining apartheid, and should persuade its allies to adopt them. The United States should broaden its contacts with South Africans of all races and political persuasions in an effort to bridge the credibility gap widened by previous policies. This assumption of a more open, less rigid position applies also to its political and economic influence elsewhere in the region, which can be enhanced considerably by increasing assistance to the SADCC member countries and ending aid to UNITA bandits in Angola.

The United States and its allies have the capacity to play the role of power brokers in initiating negotiations toward a just, equitable society in South Africa and the participation of all its citizens in the democratic process. This is a process which we in southern Africa understand very clearly, for precedents abound within our region.

We in Zimbabwe saw how our armed struggle and our political mobilization, coupled with sanctions and other international pressure on Ian Smith, brought him to the bargaining table and ended the intransigent position of no majority rule “in a thousand years.” There is now the example of Zimbabwe’s reconciliation, our nonracial society and our agro-industrial economic base by which to judge the future of a black-ruled South Africa.

Zimbabwe is also an example by which to judge the enforcement of a cease-fire; one in South Africa could end the spiral of violence that has sucked the children of the townships into its vortex. When the cease-fire was declared in Zimbabwe the guns were laid down, and despite provocations from our adversaries, our people did not pick them up again but went to the polls in peace and cast their ballots and chose their government. Our circumstances in the region are not easy, and we have made mistakes as well as achieved successes, but I think people will agree that our transformation from a state of war to a country in which people of all races participate fully offers some hope for the future of our misguided and restive neighbor.

It goes without saying that in South Africa such negotiations cannot take place from prison cells, and therefore political prisoners and detainees must be released and bans on individuals, organizations and political parties lifted, so the representatives of the people can take their places at the bargaining table. The alternatives, in the words of Mr. Botha’s predecessor, the late Mr. John Vorster, more than a decade ago, “are too ghastly to contemplate.” Civil war is already upon us. The Commonwealth’s Eminent Persons Group presented the reality clearly to the international community in their report, published more than a year ago:

The blacks have had enough of apartheid. They have confidence not merely in the justice of their cause, but in the inevitability of their victory. The strength of black convictions is now matched by a readiness to die for those convictions. They will, therefore, sustain their struggle, whatever the cost.

Time has run out. Serious choices must be made now. Just as the leaders of the United States over a century ago chose to try to overcome their house divided and use the strength of freedom, equality and human dignity to build a powerful nation, we must make the choices necessary to assist South Africa in shortening this difficult period in its history and getting on the road to prosperity and peace. We must do this, not only in the interest of regional peace and security, but in the interest of global peace and stability, giving due and careful consideration to the future of our small planet.

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