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Letting Time Run Out: The Shape of Engagement in the Reagan Era
There is enormous wisdom in this land, and one prays it will be granted the necessary time to manifest itself. . . The machine gun will guarantee reasonable time, I think. When you return to America assure your people that Afrikaners will use their machine guns if forced to do so.... [We can] buy time, probably through the remainder of this century. But with every moment gained, more wisdom is gained too. And the day will come when the bright lads from Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom will lead the way in conciliation.
Our Zulu and Xhosa—they're the most patient, wonderful people on this earth. . . I think they can wait, intelligently, till the sick white man sorts things out. — Mrs. Laura Saltwood, in JAMES MICHENER, The Covenant
What the supporters of apartheid expected was acceptance of the status quo, docility and subservience. Instead they are finding persons who refuse to accept racial injustice, and who are ready to face the challenges of the moment. . . . Those in power have made the fundamental mistake of all totalitarian regimes that depend not on the loyalty of the people but on the power of the gun: they have not reckoned with the determination of a people to be free.
.. Our struggle is not only against the white government and its plans, but also against those in the black community who through their collaboration give credibility to those plans. . . . [South Africa's] future is not safe in the hands of persons, white or black, who despise democracy and trample on the rights of the people. . For the sake of our country and our children, therefore, whether you be white or black, resist those persons, whether they be white or black. — ALLAN BOESAK, at the launching of the United Democratic Front, August 1983
Note: This text comes from optical character recognition of the printed book, and may contain typographical errors. Corrections are welcome, and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org..
MRS. LAURA SALTWOOD, Michener's fictional English South African liberal, has been banned by the South African government after a 1979 speech advocating that Africans should learn English, not Afrikaans, so that they can read "the greatest body of learning and literature in the world." Saltwood's offense is improbable for a banned person. And so are the opinions she expounds to her distant American cousin, Philip, the visiting geologist. Her words would fit more appropriately in the mouth of
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a South Africa Foundation executive, or of Chester Crocker, who was already sketching out the "constructive engagement" policies he would oversee as President Ronald Reagan's assistant secretary of state for Africa.
Michener's mammoth book, published in 1980, incorporated wholesale the prevailing historical myths characterizing South Africa's racial groups. His saga gives the leading role to the Afrikaners, portrayed as intolerant and racist but who appear far more vivid as individuals than his black characters or even the English. South African history is an epic of warring tribes, the problem the prejudice of the more backward Afrikaners. But there is still hope. "The Afrikaner politicians I've met are at least as prudent as the American politicians I know," concludes Philip Saltwood, "I'm going to put my faith in them."'
Under President Reagan, the United States did place its faith in South Africa's political leaders, relying both on their guns and their "wisdom." Reassuring Pretoria that the two powers shared a common interest in a Soviet-Cuban-free "stability" in the subcontinent, Washington argued that long-term security also required movement toward "power sharing" at home and an international settlement in Namibia. With an activist diplomacy of "constructive engagement," the United States might persuade South Africa and pressure its African opponents into a settlement.
Other Western countries, more skeptical about "solutions," were nevertheless willing to let Washington take the initiative. No major power took active steps to disengage from Pretoria. By 1984, it was clear that Western policies had again helped buy time for the South African state. South Africa's neighbors, meanwhile, the victims of intensified attack, had lost time for desperately needed development. Steps toward detente on Pretoria's part in 1984 proved tentative at best. Namibia was no closer to freedom. In South Africa the reform process had produced a new constitution excluding Africans, which the overwhelming majority of blacks saw as entrenchment of a slightly modernized apartheid.
By late 1984 black townships were in sustained rebellion. The United Democratic Front, organized to oppose the new constitution, became the most widely based mass-protest organization in South African history under the adamantly nonracial slogan "Apartheid Divides, UDF Unites." Virtually every sector of the black community and a significant minority among whites joined in denouncing the Pretoria regime as unreformable. Demonstrators around the country demanded the release of imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
The fire raging in South Africa ignited an unprecedented response abroad. Daily demonstrations by the Free South Africa Movement at the South African embassy in Washington expressed outrage at U.S. complicity as well as South African repression. The drumbeat of publicity sapped
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the confidence of foreign bankers and businessmen, who feared both continued instability and critics at home. Several Western countries banned new investments in South Africa. Even President Reagan was forced to accept limited sanctions to head off stronger action. For the first time, Western ties with South Africa were on the agenda of mainstream political debate.
Nevertheless, Western official actions against Pretoria were still marginal. Washington was debating giving aid to South Africa's client in Angola, while Bonn and London reiterated their opposition to economic sanctions. Although wisdom might be in short supply in Pretoria, the machine gun was still buying time. The West was not yet fully convinced that time had run out.
From Lancaster House to Constructive Engagement
As the new decade began, one model that policymakers could turn to was Zimbabwe, where the white minority lost political dominance while retaining most other privileges. Zimbabwe's independence in April 1980, however, provided material for many different lessons.
Blacks in Zimbabwe rejoiced. The more pragmatic of Rhodesian whites decided to adjust to being Zimbabwean. But many emigrated south to the land of apartheid, including over a thousand soldiers who joined the South African military or worked in the growing field of "private" security. Ominously, although little noticed, the Rhodesian-created Mozambique National Resistance was transferred intact to South African control, with the approval of British intelligence officers in the transitional administration.'
In South Africa, too, blacks celebrated, while the white public and government officials revealed their consternation. The strategy of armed liberation struggle had been verified in a country far closer to the hearts of South African whites than the former Portuguese colonies. Mugabe's victory smashed the expectation that "moderate" Africans chosen by whites could win a free election against guerrilla victors, despite South African subsidies and the sympathy of an interim administration. Pretoria withdrew its remaining troops rather than foster a last-minute coup by the still-intact Rhodesian army. But the mood was bitter. The South African military prepared for aggressive "preventive retaliation" against possible guerrilla threats. Over the next five years, virtually all of South Africa's
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neighbors would come under direct or indirect attack, with the heaviest blows raining on Mozambique and Angola.
In Western official circles, the primary reaction to the Zimbabwe outcome was self- congratulation. The guerrilla war and the prolonged international legal crisis over Rhodesia were over. In the end a classic British decolonization scenario had been played out. With vigorous diplomacy, the West had provided the framework for a settlement, pressuring black guerrilla movements to compromise and reassuring whites that their essential interests could be preserved.
Britain was now off the hook, relieved of its residual colonial responsibility. But for the West as a whole there remained a larger unresolved issue. If violence comparable to that in Rhodesia should engulf the South African heartland, the results would be unpredictable, greater international involvement inescapable. The United States, with its assumed global responsibility and history of racial conflict, was particularly concerned. "The formulation of new approaches to the problem is urgent," said an influential U.S. report in early 1981, adding that violence could intensify and spread. "Time is running out," it warned.'
Time Running Out was the most prominent result of liberal establishment efforts to find an appropriate U.S. response. The Study Commission on U.S. Policy toward Southern Africa, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and chaired by Ford Foundation head Franklin Thomas, had begun its work in early 1979 with a budget of over $2 million. As the Rhodesian drama moved to its climax, the comissioners undertook an elaborate process of study and consultation on the crisis in South Africa.
In spite of the urgency of the title, the report's conclusions two years later went only marginally beyond the policies of the early Kennedy or early Carter periods. Moreover, just as Waldemar Nielsen's African Battle-line of 1965, Time Running Out came when Washington opinion was moving in the opposite direction, against expanding symbolic disengagement from white rule. Its conclusions were destined to serve less as a guide to government policy than as a marker of the leftward limits of respectable opinion.
Strikingly, the commissioners made no recommendations on Namibia or on South Africa's role in attacking Angola and backing Unita guerrillas there. Avoiding this controversial topic, they proposed the general regional goal of aiding economic development in black states. On South Africa, the commissioners concluded that white-minority rule was doomed and affirmed the need for "genuine power sharing." They expressed their preference for a process that would achieve this goal with a minimum of violence. Allying the United States with such constructive change could
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minimize growth of communist influence and the prospect of all-out civil war, they argued.
The commissioners rejected sanctions such as trade embargoes or divestment, while acknowledging that they eventually might be needed. Instead they recommended far more limited actions. The U.S. government should broaden export restrictions on arms and nuclear ties, continue strong public condemnation of apartheid, expand contact with blacks and aid for black organizations within South Africa, and prepare for possible cutoffs of minerals from the area. United States firms should refrain voluntarily from new investment and abide by the Sullivan principles.
Even such measures as voluntary restrictions on new investment were seen as daring, in the context of mainstream opinion among U.S. leaders. Public opinion might have been willing to go further, polls indicated. But a survey among members of the elite Council on Foreign Relations showed no significant support "for any action that might bring effective sanctions in any form against South Africa for the purpose of changing its domestic racial order."4
As the commissioners recognized, the military threat facing South Africa was far from that which had defeated Ian Smith. To be sure, new student demonstrations and strikes marked the most intense resistance activity since 1977. The African National Congress carried out its most dramatic sabotage attack to date, inflicting some $8 million damage at the SASOL coal-to-oil plant. In Namibia, South Africa had failed to eliminate SWAPO's guerrilla capacity, in spite of repeated claims to have destroyed their base camps in Angola. But there was no imminent challenge to South African control. Time had not yet run out.
As the conflict escalated during the Reagan years, there was a continued evolution of views among those in the foreign-policy establishment concerned with Africa. Concern about the perceived U.S. alliance with South Africa and apprehension that South African aggression might lead to deeper Soviet involvement grew. Increasingly, it was suggested that the United States should recognize the growing prestige of the African National Congress. In the U.S. public and in Congress, anti-apartheid sentiment gained new ground, responding to events in southern Africa and to blatant bias in administration policies.
In Reagan's Washington, however, such voices were excluded from the internal policy debate. The "regionalists," the human rights advocates, the moderates advising recognition of the limits of U.S. power, lost the fragile beachhead they had held during the Carter administration. Instead, the right wing contended with the even further right wing for influence in the halls of executive power, while radical, liberal, and even centrist forces
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could only build counterweights and check the tilt from the outside. The Reaganauts were riding a rising wave to the right, their only question how far and how recklessly to ride it.
Most accounts of Reagan-era Africa policy have focused on the ideas of Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker. As important and indicative as Crocker has been, this emphasis is misleading. In previous administrations, the Africa Bureau generally held a perspective more liberal and more sympathetic to African interests than other power centers within the government. Although its political spectrum was shifted considerably to the right, the Reagan administration was no exception to this general rule—its ideological center of gravity has been to Crocker's right.
Reagan himself provided the best characterization of his own regime when he joked in mid-1981, "Sometimes my right hand doesn't know what my far right hand is doing."' The Africa Bureau's Realpolitik evolved within the context of more extreme views. The right hand accommodated itself to the far right, seeking to achieve what was realistic in the goals they shared.
The heart of the extremist approach was a virtually exclusive emphasis on the need to combat revolution and Soviet expansion, combined with lack of embarrassment at alignment with South Africa. The settlement in Zimbabwe was seen as a victory for "Marxist terrorists," in spite of Mugabe's postindependence moderation and cool relationship with the Soviet Union. The United States should back efforts to roll back guerrilla victories and install pro-Western governments in Mozambique and especially in Angola, a special target because of Cuban troops there and the memory of U.S. defeat.
President Reagan's instinctive sympathies lay with this globalist ideology he had preached for years. "All he knows about southern Africa," one of his own officials privately commented, "is that he is on the side of the whites."' He might have added, without fear of contradiction, "and against the Cubans." The hard-line perspective, benefiting from its correspondence to the president's world view, had significant support within the Republican Party. Lobbyists for South Africa, such as Donald de Kieffer and John Sears, were well connected in the Reagan camp. Senator Jesse Helms was only the most prominent of its advocates among Senate Republicans.
Within the administration, "neo-conservative" Jeane Kirkpatrick at the U.S. mission to the UN preached opposition to the Soviet Union and Third World revolution as fervently as any pure-bred rightist. William Casey at the CIA itched to boost covert operations, such as aid to UNITA. Richard Allen at the National Security Council and his successor, William Clark, were both counted among the cold war "ideologues." Secretary of State
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Alexander Haig, although considered a pragmatist on some issues, was enthusiastic for the anti-Cuban crusade and little bothered by association with South Africa.
Until the arrival of George Shultz as secretary of state in mid-1982, and Clark's replacement by Robert McFarlane the following year, more pragmatic right-wing views were practically confined to the Africa Bureau. Sharing the objectives of global counterrevolution, these pragmatist practitioners of Realpolitik argued that the United States had to take account of limits posed by real conditions in southern Africa. In contrast with Central American policy, where "maximalists" aiming at overthrowing the Nicaraguan government generally prevailed, the Africa Bureau pragmatists managed to win administration tolerance for their more finely tuned southern African policy. But they kept an anxious watch over their right shoulder.
Crocker, the strategy's chief spokesman, had directed African Studies at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies from 1976 to 1981. He had written prolifically about U.S. foreign policy in Africa, offering what he billed as a hardheaded alternative to the "romantic illusion" of Carter "regionalist" policies.' United States policy, he argued, should take account of both the Soviet threat and local realities, and "raise the price of Soviet involvement in both regional and global terms."
Although he had supported Smith's internal settlement and criticized the liberal realists who had persisted with negotiations, Crocker was willing to see hope in Zimbabwe. Not only were the victors committed to "moderation," but the dominant ZANU had no debts to the Soviet Union, which had backed the rival ZAPU. Perhaps the West could take advantage of the new situation.
The British success, moreover, might provide a model for Namibia. Britain had taken a dominant role as mediator, using its acknowledged bias against the guerrillas as leverage on both sides.' The British pressured the Patriotic Front by threatening to accept a settlement excluding them, and encouraged South Africa and Rhodesian whites to make concessions by supporting them on particular issues. A conservative U.S. administration with a sufficiently active diplomacy might play a similar role in defusing the festering war on the Namibia-Angola front. The United States could deliver an independent Namibia to Africa, while reassuring South Africa that it could retain its regional influence. As a special bonus for both South Africa and the United States, Angola could be induced to send the Cubans home. Southern Africa could again become a "Soviet-free" zone.
The focus on getting the Cubans out of Angola is in part explained by Crocker's need to appease the ideological cold warriors. After all, Senator Jesse Helms held up his appointment until August 1981, bombarding him
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with questions testing his willingness to sell out the anticommunist cause. Protecting himself against Helms and keeping the support of the president required repeated reaffirmations of anticommunist commitment.
But the tilt to South Africa in the Crocker strategy was not merely an internal Washington ploy. It also expressed the instinctive sympathies and underlying strategic assumptions of the so-called "moderates" themselves. Although Crocker was touted as an Africanist scholar, one can search his writings in vain for either sympathy with or detailed knowledge of any part of the continent save white South Africa.
Crocker shared the view—common to right and far right—that the Cubans and the Soviets were the "destabilizing" factors in the subcontinent. The instability following the Portuguese coup in 1974 had led to increased non-African involvement, he commented in a 1979 article, simultaneously noting "a broad decline in European willingness to support African stability."9 Western European involvement, including Portuguese colonialism, apparently did not count as "outside" involvement. Africans might see gains in the end of colonialism. Crocker, in contrast, revealingly remarked in November 1982 that the major purpose of constructive engagement was "to reverse the decline in security and stability of southern Africa which has been under way now since the early and mid-1970s.""
The slogan "constructive engagement" had already entered the South African debate in reference to the role of foreign investment. Merle Lipton, of Britain's Chatham House, had argued in 1976 that industrialization was improving the situation of South African blacks, and that specific reforms by foreign companies could accelerate the process. Cracker's version put the emphasis on political action, explicitly putting his faith in the verligte politicians. United States political scientist Samuel Huntington, infamous for his diagnosis of an "excess of democracy" in Western societies, put the thesis to the South African Political Science Association in 1981, citing South Africa's need for skillful and authoritarian leadership to implement reform and avoid revolution. Effective repression, he noted, might contribute to the "relatively happy outcome" of a "quadri-racial polity" in which each ethnic group had a share of power, without the drastic consequences of a nonracial franchise."
On South Africa, Crocker argued, the United States should encourage "white-led change." The South African government, controlled by Afrikaner reformers, deserved encouragement and reassurance. It needed protection from the threat of violence and Soviet intervention, so it could make changes without fear of losing control. If the United States made it clear it shared those goals, Crocker argued repeatedly, then South Africa's rulers could be persuaded to make the concessions—on Namibia and on internal reform—that would enhance their own long-term stability and
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win greater international acceptability. The militarily inferior Africans would just have to wait, be ready to make concessions when necessary, and recognize that the U.S. diplomatic initiative was "the only game in town:'
Crocker took the diplomatic task seriously, aided after April 1982 by his deputy, Frank Wisner, who, unlike Crocker, won respect from African diplomats for his low-key professional stance. But not even the most persistent diplomacy could counter the flawed assumption that stability could come from tilting to Pretoria. South Africa's position was fundamentally different from that of white Rhodesia.
The settlement in Zimbabwe, the advocates of "constructive engagement" seemed to forget, came only after the Smith regime was decisively weakened by international sanctions and guerrilla war. Sanctions imposed to date on South Africa were far weaker than those inconsistently enforced against Rhodesia. And while guerrilla war persisted in Namibia and was beginning in South Africa, it was not yet a serious drain on South African resources. Without changes in these basic factors, no new "settlements" were on the horizon.
The advocates of constructive engagement might urge moderation on South Africa's rulers. But their own strategic decision in favor of closer ties, together with the administration's overall stance further to the right, sent a clear signal that there would be no penalty for intransigence. Washington bolstered Pretoria's capacity to delay at home and intervene abroad, emboldening the hawks and postponing the day of reckoning.
Tilting to Pretoria
Only days after President Reagan's inauguration, the South African regime launched its largest raid to date on Mozambique, killing twelve people in the capital city. The raid, following a speech by Secretary of State Haig condemning "rampant international terrorism," was justified as an attack on "terrorist bases" of the banned African National Congress. Africans throughout the continent saw the action as a dramatic symbol of the new Washington team's support for the apartheid regime, an impression that was to be repeatedly confirmed.
"Let this be the new beginning of mutual trust and confidence between the United States and South Africa, old friends, like Minister Botha, who are getting together again." The specific reference, from Under Secretary of State William Clark's toast to Foreign Minister Pik Botha in May 1981,
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was to Botha's experience as Ambassador to Washington (1975-1977). But the theme of mutual confidence pointed to the future. South Africa's leaders, Crocker had written in a "Scope Paper" for the May meetings in Washington, "are deeply suspicious of us, of our will, from the 1975-76 experience and the Carter period."'
In Crocker's view, the first step was to convince South Africa that the United States shared the same regional objectives. The "top U.S. priority," Crocker told the South Africans in April in Pretoria, "is to stop Soviet encroachment in Africa." According to the May "Scope Paper," the new relationship with South Africa "should be based upon our shared hopes for the future prosperity, security and stability of southern Africa, constructive internal change within South Africa and our shared perception of the role of the Soviet Union and its surrogates in thwarting those goals."
Crocker advised the secretary of state to tell the South Africans, "We cannot afford to give you a blank check regionally." Perhaps the check was not entirely blank. But Pretoria could count not only on shared perceptions of the Soviet threat and Washington's desire to reestablish "confidence." There was also the unspoken awareness that beyond Crocker, who had still not been confirmed in office, were forces even more sympathetic to South Africa. This left room for quite a substantial overdraft. Small- print reminders that it would be nice to reach a settlement in Namibia could be postponed for later payment.
Pretoria's "total strategy" had, by early 1981, suffered setbacks at the regional level. The key to the strategy in 1978 and 1979 had been building a "constellation of states" under South African leadership, making it possible to rely primarily on economic and political influence rather than direct military power. But this depended on a favorable political outcome in Zimbabwe, an expectation punctured by Mugabe's landslide election victory. Two months later the official launching of the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) of independent African states put finis to the idea of a formal Pretoria-centered constellation.
As the Botha regime again intensified military intervention against its neighbors, the signals from Washington shone brightly green. The attack on Mozambique in January did not result in a rebuke from Washington to South Africa. Instead Pretoria could watch as U.S.-Mozambican relations deteriorated. In March the Mozambique government expelled several U.S. diplomats, charging they had been part of a CIA intelligence network that had targeted the government as well as South African exiles. Washington retaliated by cutting off food assistance.
Mozambique's action came only one day after President Reagan had strongly endorsed friendship with South Africa on nationwide TV. In
Letting Time Run Out 315
response to a question from Walter Cronkite, the president rhetorically declaimed, "Can we abandon a country that has stood by us in every war we've ever fought, a country that is strategically essential to the free world?" Praising the remark, the South African Broadcasting Corporation noted that the U.S. president had "disposed of the ambiguity and the veiled hostility which in recent years have characterized Washington's approach to this country.'
Two weeks later, five high-ranking military officers visited the United States at the invitation of a private far-right organization, the American Security Council. They met with National Security Council and Defense Department officials as well as with UN Ambassador Kirkpatrick. The State Department was reportedly taken by surprise.
Such incidents in early 1981 might be taken simply as signals of incoherence. Assistant Secretary of State Crocker was still unconfirmed, a policy review on southern Africa was begun but not completed, and the stance toward Angola was being contended from all sides. But South African actions soon provided a litmus test for the new administration.
In 1981, the pace of military action in the "operational zone" of southern Angola intensified, culminating in mid-August in the largest penetration of Angolan territory since 1976. "Operation Protea," with a force of eleven thousand men, went beyond the periodic raids of previous years to occupy much of Cunene province.
Official U.S. reaction, billed as "evenhanded," echoed South Africa's justifications for its action. Deploring "escalation of violence in southern Africa regardless of its source," Secretary of State Alexander Haig reminded a press conference of the threat of Cuban forces, Soviet advisers, and Soviet arms. These arms, he added, "have been used to refurbish SWAPO elements that move back and forth freely across that frontier and inflict bloodshed and terrorism upon the innocent noncombatant inhabitants of Namibia."14
The following week the United States, breaking with its European allies, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the South African invasion, opposing even the verbal condemnation approved on a similar occasion in 1980. Crocker, in a major policy speech two days before the UN veto, said the United States "should sustain those who would resist the siren call of violence and the blandishments of Moscow and its clients."'
Implying that the South African action should be seen as defensive, he blamed the Warsaw Pact for supporting guerrillas in Namibia and South Africa and noted that South Africa "has clearly signalled its determination to resist guerrilla encroachments and strike at countries giving sanctuary." Pretoria could clearly read the implied license in the parallels to U.S.
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rhetoric on Central America. Even moderates in the United States had accepted the line that the Cuban presence in Angola since 1975 was an "adventure" rather than a response to U.S. and South African actions. It was easy, therefore, to portray further South African actions as defensive.
Crocker's Realpolitik approach regarded limited South African concessions as a rational strategy to ensure greater stability. So advising Pretoria, U.S. policymakers also sought to decrease the cost of making concessions by promising concomitant gains: closer U.S. ties and ouster of "Soviet surrogates." The catch was that the closer ties were proffered in advance. And the prospect that the Soviet-Cuban presence in Angola could be removed by Washington's negotiating strategy was remote. Therefore, the cost for South Africa of not making concessions and of escalating its military response was reduced. United States pressure for "internal reform" receded into near invisibility. On the Namibian question, which dominated the diplomatic picture, the United States could not deliver a Cuban disappearance and a SWAPO sufficiently emasculated to cajole Pretoria into a settlement.
Most importantly, raising the costs for South African intransigence—using pressures to make the continued stalemate or escalation less attractive—was ruled out in advance. This option was excluded not only by the premise that South Africa as the dominant regional power must be placated, but also because it might conflict with the priority goal of attacking the Cuban presence. Even if the State Department were willing to compromise, Reagan's ideological supporters would certainly object. Whatever South Africa's leaders did, they could be confident that Washington would not impose penalties.
Crocker might have thought he could sell Luanda on the idea of linking Cuban troop withdrawal and Namibian independence, holding out the carrots of peace and of improved economic ties, while finding a wording the Angolans could accept. At a simple empirical level, linkage was obvious and accepted by all parties. Angola and Cuba had long taken the position that the troops would leave once the threat from South Africa was removed.
But the meaning of linkage depended entirely on context and timing. To accept a formal linkage between the two issues was to put Namibian independence—a cause with virtually universal international and legal legitimacy—on the same level with Angola's sovereign decisions on self-defense against South Africa. For African and most international opinion, the Cuban presence—as defense against South Africa— was at least as legitimate as that of U.S. troops in western Europe. The "sphere of influ-
Letting Time Run Out 317
ence" concepts of Washington or Pretoria, a "Monroe doctrine" for southern Africa, could not be conceded legitimacy.
Such issues might be finessed by diplomatic wording. But the United States repeatedly reinforced Angolan doubts on the central issue of security. If, in fact, Cuban troops were to be withdrawn while South Africa still occupied Namibia and maintained its support to UNITA guerrilla actions, what assurance could Luanda have that its enemies would not try to move in for the kill? This question would remain even if direct South African attacks on Angola should be suspended. Angolan acceptance, therefore, depended on confidence that South Africa was ready to accept an independent Namibia not under its military influence or that the United States would compel South Africa to accept such an arrangement.
In June 1981, Under Secretary of State Clark pledged to the South Africans that the United States would ensure that Cuban troops left Angola, so that South Africa might feel secure enough to accept a Namibia settlement. Instead of pressuring South Africa to leave Namibia so the Cubans could leave Angola, the United States stressed the reverse sequence, giving South Africa a ready-made excuse for delay.
The United States also disqualified itself as a credible mediator by favoring UNITA. Although this fell short of the full-scale support the far right demanded, it sufficed to raise suspicions in Luanda that Washington, as well as Pretoria, sought the downfall of the Angolan government.
Candidate Reagan had said he would provide UNITA with weapons, "to free themselves from the rule of an outside power, which is the Cubans and East Germans." But in 1981, the administration failed to repeal the Clark amendment, in spite of a sixty-six to twenty- nine repeal vote in the Senate. The measure was blocked by strong opposition within the Democratic-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee, and lobbying by U.S. companies as well as Africa-related groups in Washington.
One major caution was the fact that U.S. companies, including the giant Gulf Oil Corporation, also had investments in Angola. These companies, regarding the Angolan government as a trustworthy "businesslike" partner, were skeptical about efforts at destabilization. With good working relationships in Angola, they could hardly be expected to sacrifice profits to satisfy right-wing ideologues in the White House or Senate.
Even some voices close to the South African security establishment warned against going too far in Angola. Dr. Mike Hough, director of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Pretoria, noted that aid to UNITA would increase Soviet and Cuban involvement. Support "massive" enough to bring Savimbi to power, he added, would mean the United States would "have to prop him up as they did the government in South Vietnam."'
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Crocker's diplomatic strategy also imposed some caution. If U.S. intervention grew too blatant, it could further antagonize African countries and upset European allies with investments in Angola. The Soviet Union might well match the new aid. And if Luanda felt Washington would stop short of nothing but its overthrow, negotiations would be beside the point. Still, Crocker endorsed political support for UNITA, and tried to use the threat of escalation to pressure Luanda.
Savimbi arrived in Washington for a visit in December 1981. The same month, Crocker met Angolan Foreign Minister Paulo Jorge in Paris, lecturing him on the need to bring Savimbi into his government, and dismissing Angolan concerns about defense against South Africa.' Suspicions repeatedly surfaced that the United States was violating the spirit if not the letter of the Clark amendment, through CIA encouragement of UNITA backers such as Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Zaire. In January 1982 Savimbi told journalists in Morocco, "A great country like the U.S. has other channels. . . . The Clark Amendment means nothing.""
The Washington tilt to Pretoria was not only visible on the Namibia-Angola front. Observers noted resumption of previous staffing levels for military attaches, attendance by two South African military officers at a U.S. Coast Guard air and sea rescue mission, and visas issued for October visits for two South African Police generals. These measures, commented a State Department official in November 1981, were altering the "intangible atmosphere" of bilateral relations with South Africa. The critics were wrong in seeing such moves as "tangible carrots," he added."
More substantial carrots were on the way, however, with a series of decisions in late 1981 and 1982. First the tap opened wider for strategic exports, with small exceptions such as airport security equipment. Revised export regulations in 1982 lifted the ban on sale of nonmilitary items to the South African military and police. Licenses were issued for export of two powerful computers to the government's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
So loose were the controls that they were, ironically, used as cover for diversion of equipment to the Soviet Union. Two shipments of components for a Digital Vax 11/782 system were intercepted by U.S. customs officials in Sweden and West Germany in November 1983. Routinely approved for export to South Africa, the computer became a "serious security concern" when discovered en route to the Soviet Union.'
In general, security-related trade with South Africa increased significantly. Trade in computers, for example, was running at more than twice the $78 million annual average of the three years after the Carter administration imposed its 1977 controls. Commerce Department license ap-
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provals for security-related exports totalled $547 million in 1981, almost as much as the $577 million for the three previous years combined. In 1982, with all but the most sensitive items excluded from licensing requirements, approvals under license amounted to $585 million. Sales under separate munitions-list regulations also rose sharply.'
Equally welcome in Pretoria were U.S. efforts to assuage South Africa's growing economic woes. Gold fell from from an average of some $613 an ounce in 1980 to $460 an ounce in 1981 and $350 an ounce in mid-1982. The balance of payments on current account dipped to a R4 billion deficit in 1981, forcing an accelerated turn to international capital markets. By mid-1982 financial analysts were speculating that Pretoria would again turn to special IMF credits. In November the IMF approved a special $1.1 billion credit facility. The Congressional Black Caucus had appealed to the Reagan administration to vote against the loan. But the United States enthusiastically endorsed the South African application, deciding the issue with the U.S. 20 percent share of the vote. The allocation was comparable to the increase in South Africa's military expenditures from 1980 to 1982.23
The IMF loan was accompanied by a sharp rise in U.S. bank lending. In the eighteen months from January 1981 through June 1982, U.S. bank loans outstanding to South Africa increased by some 246 percent. The total reached $3.7 billion in 1982, $4.6 billion in 1983. Over the same period, U.S. direct investment declined slightly, from $2.6 billion to $2.3 billion, reflecting the generally difficult circumstances of the South African economy." The inflow of loan capital, however, was a sign that South Africa could count on its Western economic backers in time of need.
Midway through Reagan's first term, the primary effect of constructive engagement had been to encourage South Africa in its more aggressive regional policy. By 1983, however, it became harder to postpone counting costs. In Pretoria's national-security establishment, some argued that it would be better to accept objectives more limited than the overthrow or constant destabilization of hostile regimes, to explore a modus vivendi that might cut war costs and win international credit for moderation.
In Washington there was increasing criticism of constructive engagement from Congress and others. Even among the policy's supporters there was a recognition that the tilt might have gone too far, undercutting the spirit of compromise it was supposed to foster. Not least important, Western European governments were increasingly concerned at the damage done to their interests by the escalating warfare. The United States might be conceded the diplomatic initiative, but Europe had even more at stake in the region than Washington—not only in South Africa, but also in the countries that were its targets.
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Variations on Engagement
In few capitals was there so strong a tendency as in Washington to subsume the conflict into a global confrontation with the Soviet Union, or to assume that outside mediation could produce a settlement. But almost everywhere there was a concern about the stance to take as the conflict grew more intense. Many variations of engagement or disengagement were debated in foreign ministries, in corporate boardrooms, and in public forums. The range of views was wide, but the call to disengagement from South Africa gained ground only in a few small Western countries, and to some extent in France. Bonn and London contemplated no reduction in ties with South Africa, but they did caution Washington against tilting too far in regional negotiations.
For Pretoria, at the threshold of the 1980s, the traditional connections to the United States and Western Europe were still the principal lifelines of external support. In the United Nations, Asia and Latin America, as well as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, regularly lined up with African calls for sanctions against South Africa. While Pretoria still obtained oil from the Arab/Persian Gulf, the transactions were well concealed by a panoply of middlemen. Earlier attempts to build military links with right-wing Latin American regimes had faded from prominence with Brazil's efforts to woo African markets and the decline of the military in Argentina. In 1980 Taiwan signed a contract to purchase uranium and sell arms to South Africa, and indeed South Africa was reported to have contacts throughout the world's shadowy arms-trade network. But such ties only rarely became public knowledge, much less the subject of open debate.
With Israel and Japan, each in its own way part of the extended Western world, the scale of relations with South Africa was significant. Yet there was little domestic debate about the South African connection in either country. The shape of engagement fitted national priorities, and there were no substantial internal lobbies to import the international anti-apartheid debate.
Israel was persistently denounced for its South African ties, but for the most part the critiques came from its Arab opponents and were easily dismissed by Israeli opinion. In the United States, supporters of Israel often denied the links existed, but in Tel Aviv the attitude was more matter-of-fact. Policymakers saw Pretoria facing similar isolation in its own region and in the United Nations, similar problems of protecting an ethnically defined national identity and developing a regional counterinsurgency strategy. Exchanges of visits by military leaders, contracts for military and
Letting Time Run Out 321
technical personnel, delegations from South African homelands in search of aid or investment excited little critique. Israeli officials explained that their country could not afford to ostracize South Africa.'
Japan, for its part, avoided virtually any international critique by confining its economic links to trade. Tokyo withheld full diplomatic relations, officially barred direct investment, and channeled sales through South African-owned distributors. Still, Japan consistently maintained a position among South Africa's top four trading partners, placing ahead of fifth-place France and in some years surpassing Germany and Britain to rank behind the United States. South African authorities, who granted Japanese businessmen "Honorary White" status, felt confident their policies would not become an issue in Tokyo.26
Apartheid was an issue in Western Europe, more important to Pretoria's economy than either Japan or the United States. Although the United States consistently ranked first among South Africa's trade partners, Germany closely rivaled and occasionally surpassed it as a supplier. Trade with Western Europe as a whole -was almost triple that with the United States. While there seemed little danger that major powers would agree to comprehensive sanctions, the anti-apartheid pressures were unrelenting. The campaigners had support in several governments. The members of the European Economic Community (EEC) were under pressure from their partners in the Third World, and Britain had to reckon with the Commonwealth.
In the Nordic countries and in the Netherlands, support for southern African liberation was well institutionalized by the 1980s, and remained so whether or not socialist parties were in power. The policy encompassed economic aid to the Frontline States, particularly Angola, Mozambique, and Tanzania, as well as financial support for both the ANC and SWAPO. Within the EEC, Denmark and the Netherlands could be counted on to argue for strong criticism of South Africa. In spite of well-organized efforts by anti- apartheid groups, however, policymakers balked at more substantive economic disengagement, often taking refuge in the unwillingness of larger powers to act.
In 1979 Sweden pioneered a legislative freeze on new investment in South Africa and Namibia. Companies already present were allowed "replacement investment," however, and critics continued to demand a more complete ban on Swedish investment. Advocates of the oil embargo against South Africa revealed the prominent involvement of Dutch oil dealer John Deuss and of Norwegian ships in the secret trade, but found it difficult to win decisive action from government officials.'
If disengagement proved difficult for Stockholm or the Hague, the option barely made it into the debate in Bonn. There was a growing discus-
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sion on South Africa in the German Federal Republic. But most voices were in tune with the conservative tone of constructive engagement, even before the turn to the right when Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl took over in October 1982.
According to verligte Afrikaner political scientist Deon Geldenhuys, the German discussion on South Africa's future featured a more extensive exploration of alternatives than in any other Western country." And indeed the speculation seemed to parallel that in white South Africa itself. Klaus von der Ropp, who wrote regularly for the mainstream Aussenpolitik on southern African issues, opined that the only fair and reasonable solution would be partition between white and black. And an influential 1978 study by Theodor Hanf and others presented research on white and black opinion to bolster their advocacy of peaceful change toward a "consociational democracy."'
Such options of "separate but equal" rights for black and white had proliferated in the 1970s among English-speaking whites and verligte Afrikaners, who hoped to woo conservative Africans such as Chief Gatsha Buthelezi with prospects of "power sharing." Hanf is study, ruling out in advance strategies of violence or of outside sanctions, postulated that peaceful change would have to be limited to that possible within the white political system. Although they found that blacks overwhelmingly supported a nonracial system with equal rights for all, they concluded that many would be willing to accept as second best a racially divided federal system with disproportionate power for whites.
In 1981 the Social Democratic Friedrich Ebert Foundation sponsored a study symposium on southern Africa. Like Time Running Out, the report concluded that violence had become inevitable but that an evolutionary process could avoid a wholesale civil war. The West accordingly should promote political stability by stepping up pressure for equal participation by all South Africans. Rejecting economic sanctions that could damage the South African economy, the report nevertheless warned that a "credible policy of constructive engagement" must reserve the sanctions threat. In the meantime, they suggested, the code of conduct for European companies should be enforced more strictly, South Africa's neighbors should receive economic assistance, and government support for economic ties with South Africa could be limited."
None of the suggested measures, such as stopping state guarantees for trade with South Africa or blocking German loans to the South African government, was implemented. Even when the German Anti-Apartheid Movement presented evidence in mid-1981 of export of two minesweepers to the South African navy, government officials claimed that the vessels were approved for use in civilian research.' German direct investment in
Letting Time Run Out 323
South Africa grew from DM678 million in 1980 to DM1.059 million in 1983. State guarantees for exports to South Africa rose from DM3.8 billion in 1978 to DM6 billion in 1984.32 West German banks participated in loans to South Africa totaling at least $900 million from 1979 to mid-1982, and $1,235 million from mid-1982 through 1984, including several large bond issues for the South African government.
The Kohl coalition spanned a variety of views on southern Africa. Coalition partner Franz-Joseph Strauss of Bavaria had long regarded South Africa as a vital Western ally against the Soviet Union and backed efforts to overthrow the Marxist regimes in Angola and Mozambique. Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who had broken with Schmidt to lead his Free Democrats into the new administration, still encouraged regional dTtente and reform in South Africa, along with independence for Namibia.
On Namibia, Germany's long-standing links, including ties with the twenty thousand Namibian whites of German origin, led to concern that a settlement not be blocked by what Bonn regarded as the extraneous issue of Cuban troops in Angola. German churches contributed to SWAPO through the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, and with some success Bonn encouraged contacts between SWAPO and the ethnic German community. But an open attack on Washington's negotiating strategy was as unlikely as was German willingness to threaten Pretoria with serious economic sanctions.
In France, where Socialist Francois Mitterrand took office in May 1981, the expectation of a more resolute anti-apartheid stance was only partially fulfilled. After the election, the ANC was allowed to open offices in Paris. Mitterrand broke with Washington to vote for a September 1981 Security Council resolution demanding withdrawal of South African troops from Angola, and hosted Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos in Paris. An economic cooperation agreement was signed with Mozambique in December. Paris was taking a clear public stand with the targets of Pretoria's destabilization.
Still, France continued trade and investment links with South Africa. Mitterrand's government decided that it had to honor previous contracts to complete the Koeberg nuclear plant. Paris heightened diplomatic critique of South Africa, but Africa policy focused far more on the Francophone states. Africa accounted for almost 10 percent of French foreign trade, but South Africa less than 1 percent. Southern Africa was an issue of distinctly secondary importance for French public opinion, whether on the left or the right. No public outcry met Paris's failure to take stronger action.33
By the 1980s, Britain's prominence in southern Africa was much reduced. As a trading partner with South Africa, London regularly ranked behind the United States, often behind Germany, and sometimes even
324 KING SOLOMON'S MINES REVISITED
behind Japan. Relief at the end of the Rhodesian crisis left policymakers with little zeal for new ventures in African crisis management. Still, more than any other Western country, Britain was inescapably entangled in the ongoing crisis. The southern African region accounted for almost 3 percent of Britain's total trade, a higher proportion than for any other Western country. British banks ranked first in participation in loans to South Africa, with involvement in at least $3 billion of credits from 1979 through 1984.34
British investors still held the largest single foreign stake in South Africa, estimated at almost 40 percent of the total. This was roughly one-tenth of all British overseas investment and provided perhaps 16 percent of total profits.' British-owned banks Standard and Barclays still led the field in commercial banking in South Africa. BP and Shell shared the oil business with American and French companies and with South African state enterprises.
London housed an active lobby against support of the apartheid regime, including well- staffed offices of the ANC and SWAPO, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the International Defence and Aid Fund, and support organizations for Angola and Mozambique. These groups worked in coordination with an international anti-apartheid network of activist groups, with support from churches, the UN, and friendly governments. They had good contacts within the Labour and Liberal parties, and in the new Social Democratic Party. But the economic stakes were high enough to be virtually unchallengeable even under a Labour government. Under Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives, Britain represented an even stronger bulwark against international sanctions.
Labour Party conferences had repeatedly called for sanctions against South Africa, including a ban on new investment and a stop to uranium purchases from Namibia.' In 1981 a Fabian Society study group, representing moderate opinion within the Labour Party, warned of the rising political price of support for South African racism and concluded that Britain should be "prepared to participate in an international programme of sanctions against South Africa."' In the meantime London should phase out government support for South African trade, give more teeth to the Code of Conduct for British companies, support the Frontline States, and consider legislation against recruitment of mercenaries.
Having lost office in 1979, Labour was not put to the test of implementing such suggestions, which had long been more congenial to party activists than to serving government ministers. Within the Thatcher administration, the pressure from Conservative Party back-benchers was in the opposite direction. The anti-apartheid lobby might stir public debate, but
Letting Time Run Out 325
Pretoria's friends had more substantial influence, not least within the business community and Conservative social circles.
The South Africa Foundation welcomed the friendlier atmosphere since Thatcher's election and continued to preach its message of incremental reform through economic growth. The United Kingdom-South Africa Trade Association repeated the same argument, while denying that its efforts to encourage trade had political implications and recruiting ex- ambassador to South Africa Sir David Scott as one of its vice-presidents.38
In February 1981 Undersecretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Richard Luce reaffirmed the government's view that "neither independence for Namibia nor the creation of a just society in South Africa would be advanced by measures which are designed to drive South Africa into isolation.' On some issues, however, even the Conservatives felt obliged to maintain a symbolic distance from South Africa and a critical stance toward Pretoria's escalation of regional warfare.
The Commonwealth factor, diminished though it might be, was still a consideration. The Gleneagles agreement of 1977 bound London to discourage sports contacts with South Africa. In Commonwealth meetings not only African states, but also the "white Dominions" of Australia and Canada, kept up a steady anti-apartheid critique.
In the late 1970s conservative Australian leader Malcolm Fraser had maintained the anti- apartheid stance of his Labour predecessor, Gough Whitlam, and in 1981 denied landing rights to a South African rugby team on the way to New Zealand. New Zealand's conservative premier, Robert Muldoon, permitted the tour, only to face unprecedented demonstrations resulting in over one thousand arrests and a bitterly divided nation. Labour leader David Lange, who succeeded Muldoon in 1984, joined Australia in seeking a more Third World-oriented foreign policy.'
In Canada, the Trudeau administration had announced a cut in all government support for trade with South Africa in 1977. Anti-apartheid critics pointed out that the inconsistently implemented policy had little effect in slowing increased economic ties with Pretoria. But the nominal policy of disengagement, which survived Trudeau's time in office, did express an official effort to distance Canada from the apartheid regime. Private Canadian groups were active in support of the ANC, SWAPO, and the Frontline States, sometimes with indirect government assistance, while the government pledged to support SADCC economic projects.'
The actions in Canberra and Ottawa fell significantly short of those taken by the Scandinavian countries, but they were a reminder for Britain's conservatives that the impulse to isolate Pretoria was not confined to Africa. Another more substantive caution was provided by British interests
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in the countries under attack by Pretoria. Britain sought to increase trade with Angola and Mozambique, and remained a leading economic partner for Zambia and Malawi. Zimbabwe was of even greater importance. British troops stayed on as advisors and trainers with the postindependence Zimbabwe army. And yet Zimbabwe, as the land-locked hub of SADCC's plans for improved regional transportation, was vitally endangered by South Africa's campaign against Mozambique. The oil pipeline from Beira and rail connections to both Beira and Maputo were repeated targets. To take action against South Africa might be bad for British business, but so were the unrestrained ventures of Pretoria's hawks.
Like other members of the Contact Group on Namibia—Germany, France, and Canada —Britain rejected the Washington-Pretoria emphasis on linking a settlement to the Cuban troop issue. Indeed, no other Western country had joined in Washington's fanatic refusal to recognize the People's Republic of Angola after the MPLA victory in 1976. Noting that Western businesses, including U.S. oil companies, were welcome in Mozambique and Angola, European policymakers were inclined to regard Washington's anti-Cuban polemics as an unfortunate obstacle to realistic regional accommodation.
Even in Portugal, for which ex-colonial retornados and over half a million Portuguese resident in South Africa formed a fertile political base for counterrevolution, nostalgia was matched by realism and desire for good relations with the ex-colonies. President Ramalho Eanes in particular sought to rebuild relations with Luanda and Maputo. Although economic ties had dwindled after independence, the bonds of language and experience provided prospects for a renewed Portuguese role. Pretoria's proteges in Angola and Mozambique found contacts and support within the shifting government coalitions in Lisbon, but even many conservatives saw Portugal's interest as promoting detente rather than destabilization. Portuguese diplomats encouraged Washington to explore compromises with Luanda and Maputo.'
Diplomacy could make strides only if Washington and Pretoria could accept a number of minimum conditions: the postcolonial regimes in Luanda and Maputo would stay in power, maintaining good relations with Eastern as well as Western countries; Namibia would become independent under democratic arrangements that would inevitably install a SWAPO government; and African countries would continue moral and diplomatic, if not necessarily military, support for South African liberation forces.
For the far right in the two capitals, such conditions were out of the question. For the right, the conditions were at least negotiable, if they could buy time for Pretoria and postpone a wider conflict.
Letting Time Run Out 327
The Halting Detente Track
In 1981 the tilt toward South Africa quickly became the dominant feature of Reagan administration policy. In the supposedly "evenhanded" approach, the "other hand" stretched out to Pretoria's opponents was at best hesitant. There was little effort at a serious dialogue with Angola or Mozambique, and a virtual boycott of contacts with the ANC and SWAPO.
Washington initially tried to woo the newly independent Zimbabwe, approving Carter plans for boosting bilateral aid. But parlaying the Harare connection into an asset for Washington's regional strategy proved elusive. Regardless of its tensions with the Soviet Union, Harare was not to be recruited to a crusade against Cuban troops in Angola or other efforts to "reassure Pretoria." Meanwhile, South African attacks on Mozambique directly imperiled Zimbabwe. South Africa supplied arms to exploit discontent among ex- guerrillas of Nkomo's ZAPU in Matabeleland, and delayed rail shipments to Harare. Such actions fell short of those against Angola, Mozambique, or even Lesotho, but the threat of escalation was unmistakable. United States development aid was hardly adequate compensation for an overall U.S. policy that encouraged South African aggression.
Gradually, however, the regional negotiation track gained momentum. In 1982 and 1983 the balance in Washington shifted toward compromise. Professional diplomat Wisner joined the Crocker team in April 1982. George Shultz took over from Alexander Haig as secretary of state in June. And National Security Advisor William Clark, Reagan's far-right watchdog, was replaced by his "realist" deputy, Robert McFarlane, in October 1983. Outside the administration, anti-apartheid groups and Africa sympathizers in the House of Representatives mounted a steady challenge to Reagan's South Africa tilt. The November 1982 election brought a large Democratic majority and a more critical mood to the House of Representatives. Hearings exposed the loosening of export controls and questioned U.S. complicity in South African destabilization. The divestment movement continued a steady advance over the 1982-1984 period. With states and cities such as Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington, New York, and Boston joining the drive, public funds being withdrawn from companies involved in South Africa approached the $1 billion mark.
The 1982 IMF loan to South Africa led to an extended legislative battle over the U.S. contribution to the Fund's capital. A compromise resolution, passed in November 1983, mandated that the United States "actively
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oppose any facility involving use of Fund credit by any country which practices apartheid." In the same session, amendments to the Export Administration Act imposing penalties on South Africa first passed the House of Representatives. The measures had little chance of gaining Senate approval, but they kept the issue alive throughout 1984.
Pretoria, gauging reaction in the United States, increasingly had to weigh not only the sympathetic administration, but the prospect that Congress and the public might take action on their own. The administration remained apparently impermeable to criticism from the center and left, but its flexibility in granting new carrots was hampered by the prospect of congressional reaction.
In June 1983 Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger restated the themes of constructive engagement in a major speech. Some observers attached great importance to the stronger language he used to condemn apartheid, and to his avoidance of words such as "pro-Soviet" and "linkage."43 It was not a red light for Pretoria, but the subtle shift at least indicated a yellow caution light.
By the time of Eagleburger's speech, moreover, Pretoria as well as Washington was having to ask some hard questions about the results of the destabilization policy. The far right in both capitals might want to pursue the maximum objectives of "rollback" or permanent destabilization of neighboring states, but there were also those who had to add up the price tag.
In 1982 there had been no sign of restraint—a new June attack on Angola came just as U.S. roving ambassador Vernon Walters was in Luanda reassuring the Angolans that there would be no escalation. In December the South African Defense Force launched an attack on Maseru, Lesotho, killing forty-two people. Simultaneously, commandoes targeted the oil depot in Beira, Mozambique, which stored supplies vital to Zimbabwe. In 1983 the military pressure mounted, with steady escalation of supplies to the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR) in Mozambique and continued occupation of southern Angola. The Mozambican rebels, under command of South African officers, spread destruction through the vulnerable Mozambican countryside. Better equipped than the defending government troops, they targeted schools, clinics, civilian transport, and local government officials.
In August 1982 Mozambique's government put the country on a war footing and launched a diplomatic offensive to mobilize Western pressure on South Africa. Maputo aimed at convincing key leaders in the West that Mozambique was not, and indeed never had been, a Soviet satellite, and that the blame for escalating conflict in the region, endangering Western investments as well as prospects for development, lay with South Africa.
Letting Time Run Out 329
Crocker had long argued that the United States and South Africa could live with FRELIMO in Mozambique, given the independent role the Maputo leadership had played in the Zimbabwe settlement and the low-key character of the Soviet military presence. United States diplomacy only began to reflect this view, however, after a meeting between Secretary of State Shultz and Mozambican Foreign Minister Joaquim Chissano in October 1982. A State Department statement in January 1983 acknowledging South African sponsorship of the MNR was another signal taken seriously in Maputo, leading to further talks between the two countries.
Mozambique also sought to influence Washington and Pretoria by appealing to Western Europe. On a European tour in October 1983 President Samora Machel won a sympathetic hearing from key leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterrand, as well as officials in Lisbon. South African Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha, visiting European capitals in the wake of the Machel trip, was told repeatedly that South African attacks were damaging Western interests in the area.
This added to the questioning among South Africa's leaders. They clearly had the military capacity to create ever-increasing chaos and destruction—but at what cost, and to what end?
The advocates of a total strategy had to consider, first of all, South Africa's increasing economic weakness. In the second half of 1982 the gold price recovered, rising from a low of $300/ounce briefly to top $500/ ounce in January 1983. Still, the real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 1 percent in 1982. Then the gold price began another steep dive, plunging almost to $400 by the end of February, and below the $400 mark by the end of the year. Real GDP declined 3 percent in 1983. Other indicators of economic strength showed similarly disturbing trends. The Rand exchange rate against the dollar, which had hit $1.35 in mid-1980, was down to $0.85 by mid-1982. A brief recovery was then followed by a steady decline in 1983 and 1984, to under $0.60 by mid-1984. With the added problems of drought, rising interest rates, and inflation, South Africa faced its most serious economic crisis in fifty years.
Consequently, the costs of war loomed larger. On the western front, in Namibia and Angola, military and other subsidies cost more than $1 billion a year. Still, the prospect of overthrowing Luanda was blocked. The Angolan army was reinforced in 1983 with new Soviet aid and strengthened by internal reorganization. The costs to Pretoria in December 1983 of its latest Angolan invasion were unexpectedly high, in men and material, as the Angolans effectively used equipment including helicopter gunships and MIG fighters. The Soviet Union delivered an unprecedented direct and explicit warning to Pretoria that it would aid in countering any new South African escalation. It was clear the cost would continue to rise.
330 KING SOLOMON'S MINES REVISITED
In the east, the cost was less direct expenditure than lost economic opportunities. Boycotting Maputo port bludgeoned the Mozambican government, but it also made transportation more expensive for South African businessmen. Chaos and bankruptcy in Mozambique removed a potential market. Squeezing Zimbabwe's transport outlets prejudiced the subsidiaries of South African companies there.
Since 1982 FRELIMO had improved its military capacity by reorganizing in smaller guerrilla-style units. But Pretoria was able to continue its escalation by increasing infiltration and supplies to the MNR. The South Africans' greater liability was the MNR's character as a mercenary organization. It might cause chaos and even sap confidence in the Mozambican government, but it had no political program or credible leadership. Its most prominent spokespersons were former Portuguese settlers. In military terms, it perhaps could be installed in power. But then South Africa would have to provide support, and the military odds would change dramatically as South Africa's clients lost the advantage of the offensive in a guerrilla war.
By mid-1983 a balance sheet for the hard-line military option showed a mixed picture. The toll of destruction was enormous, particularly in southern Angola and in Mozambique. Drought added to the devastation in Mozambique, while the continuing MNR campaign targeted and largely crippled relief efforts. Both Angola and Mozambique had been forced virtually to suspend development plans while struggling for survival. Confidence in a socialist future, and even in the governments' capacity to provide basic security and subsistence, was ebbing.
But without the capacity to install its clients in power, Pretoria's success in curbing SWAPO or the ANC was problematic. SWAPO camps in Angola might be raided, but its low- level guerrilla warfare in Namibia seemed unimpaired. Politically, the movement continued to erode South Africa's efforts to build an "internal" political alternative. Pretoria might buy time to boost its proteges, but time could not substitute for political credibility. As for the ANC, its sabotage attacks were winning visibility and expanding its support among blacks. The widespread geographic dispersion of targets —from the Koeberg nuclear plant in Cape Town to air force headquarters in Pretoria —implicitly refuted the image of guerrilla cross-border raids. Some guerrilla cadres might be captured inside South Africa, or killed in attacks on Maputo or Maseru. But these dramatic incidents not only failed to block escalated ANC sabotage. They also helped to build the guerrillas' prestige among black South Africans. Whites might be persuaded by the external threat hypothesis, but the propaganda attempt backfired among blacks. Even some prominent white government sup-
Letting Time Run Out 331
porters began to say that someday it would be necessary to talk to the ANC.
In February 1984 limited moves toward detente led to a U.S.-brokered agreement for South African troop withdrawal and restrictions on SWAPO guerrillas in southern Angola. In March Mozambique and South Africa signed the Nkomati Accord, which bound the two states to forbid any violent acts against each other from their territories. Although Maputo pledged its continued "moral, political and diplomatic" support for the African National Congress, South African officials as well as the majority of international observers characterized the agreement as a sign of a new Pax Pretoriana. But the term was misleading, not only because it exaggerated the imminence of peace, but also because it ignored the concessions South Africa would be making if it implemented the security treaty and also lifted its economic sanctions against Mozambique.
Given the military and economic odds they faced, even before the escalation of 1981-83, the Mozambican leadership saw South Africa's agreement to sign the Nkomati Accord as a victory. In spite of overwhelming material predominance, Pretoria had failed to install a political alternative. Neither South Africa nor the United States had been able to impose a break in Mozambique's ties with the Soviet Union. Maputo would continue moral and diplomatic support to the ANC. Granted, limits would be imposed on possible ANC use of Mozambican territory to support their guerrilla operations in South Africa. But, reasoned FRELIMO, that would be a relatively minor tactical retreat for the ANC, with its strong base of support inside South Africa. Moreover, it would be reaffirming the long-held Mozambican position that it was simply not possible for adjacent states to offer the rear-base support for guerrilla warfare in South Africa that the Mozambican and Zimbabwean movements had enjoyed.
Mozambique, in implementing the treaty, restricted the ANC to a small diplomatic office in Maputo; several hundred ANC members left the country. But probably more significant for Pretoria was the widespread perception of the pact as a victory for South Africa. Most of the Frontline States, as well as the ANC, shared this view that it was Mozambique that had conceded most; Maputo found it hard to bridge the gap of understanding. The perception of Nkomati as a victory for South Africa was itself an important political fact, more significant for Pretoria than the additional transit difficulties caused for guerrillas of the ANC. For Prime Minister Botha, Nkomati bought diplomatic credit and the award of a European trip. South Africa basked in its image as a peacemaker, while the Reagan administration cited the new trend as a victory for constructive engagement.
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The gain was short-lived, however. The focus shifted to the rising internal revolt in South Africa, impossible to blame on guerrilla infiltration. And it quickly became clear that Portuguese exiles were continuing to back the MNR, and that material support was coming through South Africa, as well as Malawi and the Comoro Islands. The security situation improved in some areas of Mozambique, enabling new relief supplies to reach the drought-ridden and war-battered countryside. But in other areas of the country, including Maputo province directly adjoining South Africa, MNR attacks on civilians escalated.
Documents captured by Zimbabwean and Mozambican troops when they took the MNR central base in August 1985 showed that South African military-intelligence officers had actively violated the Nkomati Accord by continuing arms supplies, with the approval of their superiors. The evidence revealed disagreements among South Africa's leaders on implementing the agreement. But it was clear that the advocates of diplomacy were either unwilling or unable to stop the parallel military track targeting Maputo.
President Samora Machel of Mozambique visited Washington in September 1985, carrying the proof of Pretoria's duplicity. The visit won Reagan's reaffirmation of dTtente, against far-right critics who called for support of the MNR as anti-Communist freedom fighters. But the United States, it seemed, was unwilling to mobilize more coercive pressures on South Africa to implement the treaty.
Across the continent, the bloom of detente was even more faded. South Africa had taken more than a year for the troop withdrawal scheduled for March 1984. Moves toward explicit U.S. support to UNITA had heartened the hawks in Pretoria and derailed talks with Luanda. Pretoria had released SWAPO leader Toivo ja Toivo, but was not ready to end the well-practiced dance of delay over Namibia. Since Washington itself was reluctant to compromise on its anti-Cuban and pro-UNITA stand, South Africa could hardly expect condemnation for its failure to make similar compromises.
By 1985, accordingly, the regional situation had reached a new stalemate. Detente had halted far short of independence for Namibia. There had been a retreat from the high point of South African aggression, but that change was only in small part due to Washington's diplomacy. Moreover, it was a precarious and limited accomplishment. Inside South Africa, an unprecedented escalation of internal strife was making a mockery of the claim that constructive engagement was promoting reform. The temporary setback to guerrilla action imposed by slower infiltration through Mozambique gave way to public demonstration of the thesis argued, with variations, by both Mozambican and ANC leaders: the primary base of opposi-
Letting Time Run Out 333
tion to the South African regime lay within the country. Popular resistance, multifaceted and persistent, nonviolent and violent, aroused an extraordinary response from sympathizers overseas. It also showed signs of shaking the confidence of Western business and political leaders in the apartheid regime.
Which Side Are You On?
By 1981 Prime Minister Botha's reform agenda was taking shape in new legislation. Reports by the Wiehahn Commission on African workers, presented in 1979, had led to legislation authorizing African union membership. Africans with urban-residence rights were allowed to hold ninety-nine-year leases on homes in black townships. The all-white Senate had been replaced by a "President's Council" including Coloured and Indian appointees, which was considering plans for a new constitution. Sympathetic observers overseas noted signs of "movement," and the verkrampte (far right) wing of the National Party conjured up visions of a slippery slide from piecemeal reform to complete black domination.
In early 1982 Botha, under strong pressure from businessmen, moved to expel the verkramptes, led by Andries Treurnicht. Freed of the intransigent MPs who joined with Treurnicht to form the Conservative Party, Botha presented his constitutional proposals in May 1982. The changes, however, were seen by blacks less as concessions than as part of a strategy to entrench their subordination.
The rising black trade-union movement, for example, was making use of the leeway provided by the new labor legislation. But it was also facing harassment leading it to identify the "state" as a central obstacle to real progress. In 1980, a strike by municipal workers in Johannesburg was broken by traditional means, when some ten thousand workers were fired and deported to the homelands. Labor leaders were repeatedly detained or banned, and a number killed. In February 1982, Dr. Neil Aggett, a white organizer for the nonracial Food and Canning Workers Union, died in police detention. His funeral brought over fifteen thousand black workers to the streets of Johannesburg in protest.
The purported reform of the pass laws, which lessened restrictions for Africans with urban-residence rights, was even more fatally flawed. Pass-law arrests doubled between 1981 and 1983, and fines were raised for employers hiring illegal workers. But the culminating insult to rising African aspirations was the new constitution, approved by white voters in a
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November 1983 referendum. It provided for three separate parliamentary chambers, for whites, Coloureds, and Indians, with a white majority and a white veto on matters of "common interest," as well as a new executive presidency with increased powers. The government decided against holding referenda among Coloureds and Indians, as it quickly became apparent that they were overwhelmingly opposed. Most significantly, the arrangements excluded any national role for Africans, who were advised to seek their rights in the homelands and in new black township councils.
The United Democratic Front, a broad coalition of hundreds of groups of all races, came together in 1983 to oppose the new constitution. With the active participation of Indian and Coloured, as well as African leaders and a growing number of whites, the new body campaigned for a boycott of the Indian and Coloured elections and for a nonracial vision of the future South Africa. Black-consciousness groups and trade unions too, while not all willing to join the new coalition, were equally vehement in rejecting the government's plans.
There were candidates willing to contest the August 1984 polls, although most said they entered only to make further changes. More than four-fifths of the potential voters, however, heeded the boycott call, and in some urban districts the turnout was less than 5 percent. Detaining many UDF leaders just before the vote, Pretoria claimed a mandate for the new system despite the low turnout. On September 14, P. W. Botha was sworn in as president. Pretoria's Angolan protTgT Jonas Savimbi was the most prominent African leader in attendance.
As Botha took office, police were battling protesters in black townships, opening a new round of conflict that would rage unabated throughout the next year and into 1986. The townships were explosive, and not only because the new political order further ratified their exclusion from power. The economic crisis was squeezing black purchasing power relentlessly, while the government's black urban officials, often elected by as few as 1 percent of eligible voters, did little but collect their salaries and raise township rents. Sporadic boycotts against apartheid education involved tens of thousands of students. Rent strikes, bus boycotts, worker actions, and continued guerrilla attacks by the ANC had all contributed to an intensified climate of defiance.
The rapid growth of the UDF was an indicator of an even broader proliferation of organizations embodying black confidence and militance. And although the UDF confined its action to nonviolent agitation, there was no doubt that large numbers of blacks, adults as well as youth, believed it legitimate to meet the violence of the state in kind. The ANC gained increased legitimacy, and demonstrators chanted calls for the exiled leaders to bring them arms. The ANC, for its part, told its followers that the
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guerrilla cadres and arms infiltrated at high price into the country could only do part of the job. The people themselves, the ANC 1985 New Year's message stressed, would have to "make South Africa ungovernable," making the townships, in the first place, "no-go zones" for the South African security forces and their collaborators.
Over the next year, before Pretoria banned TV cameras from the townships, the pictures of police and soldiers shooting African youths left a powerful impression throughout the world. Funerals attended by tens of thousands served as new occasions for confrontation with authority when police tried to disperse mourners. A mid-1985 state of emergency over much of the country, thousands of detentions, the removal by arrest or sometimes death of a whole stratum of black leadership—all failed to restore order. And while the regime still maintained the undisputed military upper hand, the toll was not as unequal as in 1960 or 1976. As many as one-third of the deaths, it was estimated, were black police or others suspected of collaboration.
The world's view of events was also affected by the powerful media presence of government critics. The UDF 's Allan Boesak, who also served as head of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, eloquently addressed overseas audiences in tones reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr. Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela, openly defied her banning order, commanding international attention from press and politicians. Recently unbanned Beyers Naude, head of the South African Council of Churches, spoke with dignity and urgency of his white compatriots' failure to understand the depth of the crisis, gaining credibility from his own elite Afrikaner background. Naude's predecessor, Bishop Desmond Tutu, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1984, using the platform it won him to call incessantly for outside pressure to end apartheid.
A decisive moment in the response came in November 1984, when Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, Dr. Mary Berry of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and D.C. congressional representative Walter Fauntroy sat in at the South African Embassy in Washington. Their arrest marked the beginning of daily demonstrations at the embassy by the Free South Africa Movement. The symbolic action, with arrests day after day for an entire year, sparked and sustained an upsurge of anti-apartheid opinion and demonstrations in dozens of cities and universities around the country. The black-led demonstrations symbolized the commitment of U.S. black leadership to have a role in U.S. policy toward South Africa. And the racial and political diversity of the demonstrators symbolized rejection of racial division and injustice, a call to the U.S. public to reaffirm opposition to racial oppression whether at home or abroad. The constructive engage-
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ment policy of the recently reelected Reagan administration was pilloried as an unholy alliance with racism.
Elsewhere in the West the reaction did not resonate so closely with internal issues of race and national identity. But everywhere governments were called on to take a stand. The combination of pious condemnation of apartheid with business as usual was denounced as hypocritical. Yet the questions remained: what to do, whose opinions in South Africa to take seriously? In Pretoria the Botha regime seemed unable to chart a consistent course, alternating between timid steps at reform and belligerent determination to keep control and repress dissent at all costs. Leaders in the business community openly voiced their unease, and joined foreign investors in calling for an end to discrimination and for negotiations "with acknowledged black leaders about power sharing."" Some ventured to meet for discussions with exiled leaders of the African National Congress, as did leaders of the Progressive Federal Party. The catch-22, however, was how to bring the government to serious negotiations that, if successful, would undermine the basis of its claim to power.
At this time of crisis, as in 1960 and 1976, business criticism of apartheid rigidity was heightened. Arguably the dissent was far more serious this time, as more and more business leaders concluded that only substantive black political participation could halt the descent into chaos and create the possibility for South African capitalism to outlive the structures of white racial dominance. But even while preparing for this contingency, they were fearful of the radical potential of a nonracial society. As means of pressure they rejected not only the ANC's recourse to arms against the apartheid state, but also the demand for sanctions. In the end it seemed they still counted on a miraculous advent of wisdom in Pretoria, and some compromise solution by which they could have their cake and eat it too.
The dominant view among both business and government in the West reflected closely that of the South African business community. As it became more and more difficult to argue that reform actually was happening, increasing weight was given to the claim that sanctions should be rejected because they would harm blacks in South Africa and in the neighboring states. The credibility of the plea suffered somewhat since one of its most vehement advocates was the South African government itself, but was bolstered by quoting South African homeland leaders such as Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, by citing polls showing black-worker reluctance to lose jobs with foreign companies, and by noting the close economic links that South Africa's neighbors still maintained with Pretoria.
On the other hand, the consensus of credible black leadership in favor of sanctions became clearer and clearer. Defying possible legal penalties, leaders such as Bishop Tutu and Allan Boesak pled with the international
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community to take economic action. Not only the UDF but also the South African Council of Churches and the newly formed Council of South African Trade Unions called openly for economic sanctions. The Frontline States, meeting in Mozambique in September 1985, reiterated their longstanding position that the inability of economically weak neighbors to punish Pretoria economically should not be used as an excuse by Western countries. Citing over $10 billion in damages from South African aggression in the past five years, they echoed South African blacks in noting that the suffering caused by delay in ending apartheid would be an even heavier burden than the effects of sanctions. And, whether reflecting shifts in opinion or methodological differences with earlier polls, researchers reported overwhelming support among South Africa blacks for economic pressures to end apartheid.*
The long-term impact on Western opinion of the violence, demonstrations, and arguments of 1985 would not be clear for years to come, but it was already apparent by year's end that the sanctions debate had entered a new phase. Divestment actions by U.S. state and local governments had mandated almost $4.5 billion to be withdrawn from companies involved in South Africa, including some $2.6 billion with the concurrence of the Democratic-controlled legislature and Republican governor of New Jersey. A wave of student demonstrations leading to hundreds of arrests increased the pressure on universities. Columbia University finally yielded to student demands in the fall, and almost thirty universities opted for divestment during the year. Early in the year Dutch banks banned the sale of Krugerrands, and a ban on the gold coin was a key demand of Free South Africa Movement demonstrators around the United States.
The most substantive escalation in economic pressure came in August 1985 when major international banks, led by Chase Manhattan and other U.S. banks, refused to roll over short-term loans to the private sector in South Africa, representing almost two-thirds of South Africa's foreign debt of over $20 billion. As the exchange rate of the rand dropped precipitously, Pretoria declared a moratorium on debt repayment into 1986. Bankers denied that political considerations had caused the move, but it came shortly after a speech by President Botha that failed to satisfy demands for change, and political reform dominated the agenda as Swiss banker Fritz Leutwiler attempted to negotiate a settlement. The panic had started with banks in New York, where the City Council had already prohibited city
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dealings with banks making loans to the South African government. And there was no doubt that fear of new domestic repercussions was a factor in the bankers' minds.
Actions from Western governments, more openly political and less easily reversed than those by private bankers, were hotly contested. Scandinavian countries were seriously considering embargoes on all economic ties with South Africa. After the Botha government imposed a state of emergency in July 1985, France recalled its ambassador, announced a ban on new investment in South Africa, and introduced a UN Security Council resolution calling for similar voluntary action by other countries. The resolution passed thirteen to zero, with Britain and the United States abstaining. The member nations of the European Economic Community agreed to recall their ambassadors temporarily, and talked of strengthening the code of conduct for investors. With Bonn and London leading the opposition, sentiment was firmly against much stronger action, although the foreign ministers did agree in September to maintain bans on oil and arms exports, and to withdraw their military attaches from Pretoria.
When the Commonwealth summit met in October; Britain was again the principal obstacle to action, as African states and India argued for comprehensive and mandatory sanctions. A compromise agreement finally included a ban on Krugerrand imports and an end to government loans or financing of trade missions to South Africa. The leaders of the forty-nine-member group threatened stronger action if South Africa did not begin to dismantle apartheid within six months.
In the United States, the sustained controversy echoed in the halls of Congress as well as on the streets. The Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985 proposed to bar new U.S. investment in South Africa, loans and computer sales to the South African government, and the import of Krugerrands. In June the bill won overwhelming approval in the House of Representatives, with one-third of the Republicans joining Democrats in the 295 to 127 vote. After compromising with the Republican-controlled Senate to defer the ban on new investment for possible action a year later, the House passed a revised version by 380 to 48. In September, in a final concession to head off Senate approval and a predicted congressional override of his veto, the president issued an executive order with his version of the compromise measures.
Reagan's dramatic shift to sanctions, however limited, was a measure of the political impact of public anti-apartheid sentiment. As a signal to Pretoria, however, it was decidedly ambiguous. The conceded ban on Krugerrands and new loans to the government acknowledged a situation that had largely been achieved by protesters already. Restrictions on computer and nuclear-related exports provided the possibility, if tightly en-
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forced, for rescinding most of the exceptions opened up during Reagan's first term. But the executive order, subject to discretionary reversal by the president, omitted the threat of future sanctions in the case of South African intransigence.
Even the strongest version of the congressional sanctions fell far short of comprehensive measures intended to have a real impact on weakening the apartheid state. They were understood by their sponsors as a first step, a signal that could have an impact only if seen as a portent of stronger actions to come. The president's action instead indicated that Pretoria could regard these measures as the maximum to expect. In November, the message was reinforced when the United States and Britain vetoed mandatory UN sanctions against South Africa on the Namibian question. The package of "mandatory selective sanctions," on which France abstained and all other Council members voted in favor, included an oil embargo, a ban on new investment, and other trade restrictions.
Perhaps the most significant encouraging signal to counter the chorus of condemnation for Pretoria came, ironically, from the U.S. congress as well as the Reagan administration. Even as the Anti-Apartheid Act was making its tortuous and ultimately inconclusive way through the legislative process, the tide of sentiment was rising for support of South African military operations in Angola. Aided in large part by ignorance of the regional context, but even more by a deliberate propaganda campaign to change the terms of debate, the far right launched an all-out crusade for support of anticommunist "freedom fighters" in Angola and Mozambique.
The crusade gained little momentum in the case of Mozambique, although restrictions were placed on aid to Machel's government. Unlike Angola, Mozambique had neither the legacy of direct U.S. intervention nor the conspicuous presence of Cuban troops. And Mozambique's diplomatic offensive had convinced key U.S. policymakers that the South African-backed MNR was no credible alternative.
On Angola, the far right found more backing for their effort to present the conflict as a cold-war battle unrelated to South Africa. Even in May, when South African commandoes were surprised in the act of sabotaging oil-storage tanks at Gulf Oil installations in Cabinda, carrying UNITA leaflets claiming credit for the attack, neither the South African connection nor UNITA's willingness to endanger U.S. lives and property aroused outrage in Washington. The U.S. reaction was muted, while only days later President Reagan sent a message of support to a UNITA-hosted international gathering of anticommunist "contras," organized by New York Republican millionaire Lewis Lehrman.
Even more helpful for the hawks in Pretoria's State Security Council, because less predictable, were subsequent events in Congress. The Ango-
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Ian attack seemed to play little role in the debate on apartheid, and in June the Senate voted to repeal the Clark amendment, which had banned U.S. intervention in Angola. The margin was sixty-three to thirty-four, with seventeen Democrats joining the Republican majority.
Both the President and the Senate were signaling support for South Africa's surrogate in Angola instead of moving toward stronger condemnation of South African regional aggression. The day after the Senate action, in a parallel tilt, the House caved in to Reagan's campaign for support to the contra insurgency in Nicaragua. In July the House also repealed the Clark amendment by a vote of 236 to 185, on the same day the Senate passed its weaker version of the Anti-Apartheid Act.
The simultaneous actions could only confirm African impressions that U.S. southern Africa policy, even when not consistently indifferent or hostile to African liberation, remained hopelessly confused by contradictory objectives. In Pretoria it made sense to conclude that when push came to shove, the old cold-war verities would take priority over new antiapartheid rhetoric.
In the last half of 1985, in addition to imposing an internal state of emergency, Pretoria again stepped up its attacks on neighboring countries. South African Defense Force chief Constand Viljoen, justifying a raid on Botswana only days after the Senate's repeal of the Clark amendment, said the action was necessary to counter terrorist actions by the banned African National Congress. Moreover, he added, the possibility of an international outcry had been "very carefully debated and thought out."
The U.S. government responded by withdrawing Ambassador Herman Nickel from Pretoria for consultations, a significant diplomatic move. But there was no sign that the Reagan administration would concede "punitive sanctions" for South African aggression. In three separate votes in late June, the United Nations Security Council condemned the Cabinda and Botswana attacks and denounced unilateral South African installation of an interim government in Namibia. But Western pressure ensured that no new sanctions were adopted.
The Botswana attack was followed by resumed South African aggression throughout the region. In December South Africa killed nine people in a midnight raid on the Lesotho capital, and launched an economic blockade that provoked a coup against Lesotho leader Jonathan. In southern Angola, South African troops moved in force to protect the headquarters of UNITA's Jonas Savimbi against an Angolan government assault.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the political momentum built for direct U.S. support, military or "humanitarian," for UNITA. Congressional skeptics might point out the profitable U.S. economic ties with oil-producing Angola, or warn against the dangers of being identified with South Africa.
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The Africa Bureau might warn against going too far and totally upsetting the prospect for continued negotiations. But it seemed that nominal antiapartheid sentiment was, for many American policymakers, still consistent with a regional alliance with Pretoria against a presumed communist onslaught. The gap with African opinion loomed just as large as it had in the 1960s or the 1970s.
In September 1985 a group of over one hundred South African theologians and other Christians, of all races, issued the "Kairos Document," a theological comment on the political crisis in South Africa. Rejecting both the apartheid ideology and the "church theology" of hoping for reconciliation and reform from above, they called for full participation in the struggle for liberation and for removal of the tyrannical state. They characterized the minority Pretoria regime as "unreformable," "by definition hostile to the common good," the enemy of the people and of God."
In contrast, the economic and political leaders of the Western world still found themselves in the position of the apocryphal English-speaking South African businessman who, it was said, talked Progressive, voted for the "moderate" segregation of the United Party—and, concealing the thought perhaps even from himself, thanked God for the National Party.
King Solomon's Mines Revisited:
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