Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pretoria Welcomes Sanctions Move EC Decision to Lift Sanctions May Help Economy, but Is Seen as a Setback for the ANC

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pretoria Welcomes Sanctions Move EC Decision to Lift Sanctions May Help Economy, but Is Seen as a Setback for the ANC

Article excerpt

THE 12-nation European Community's decision to lift trade sanctions on South Africa could boost the nation's ailing economy and create new political space for President Frederik de Klerk.

"It is an important symbolic move which will yield fruit in the long term," says Rudolph Gouws, chief economist of Rand Merchant Bank.

The EC decision on April 8 to lift trade embargoes on South African iron, steel, and Krugerrands came on the eve of a trade-boosting visit by Mr. de Klerk to Britain, Ireland, and Denmark next week. It is the most important international move yet to roll back economic sanctions imposed on South Africa in a bid to force an end to apartheid, Western diplomats said.

The country was also given a boost by the International Olympic Committee's announcement Monday that South Africa's presence at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona was "virtually certain" if apartheid laws were scrapped before the IOC meets in Switzerland, in July.

The first breakthrough on sanctions came last September when President Bush, following a meeting with De Klerk, said the process of political change in South Africa was "irreversible."

African National Congress Deputy President Nelson Mandela has balked at that description. The EC acted despite an ANC ultimatum two weeks ago that it would suspend further talks with the government unless Pretoria moved to end the violence in South Africa by May 9.

Officials say the EC move will help De Klerk pave the way for a renewal of trade with Europe and should encourage Japan and the United States to do the same.

South Africa's export volumes have doubled since 1983, despite the sanctions. And exports to the rest of Africa soared to $2.1 billion last year.

"Once South Africa is perceived as the conduit for trade with Africa, the trend toward disinvestment will be rapidly reversed," says Mr. Gouws. US Congress demands

The EC decision, which came before conditions laid down by the US Congress for the lifting of sanctions have been met, is a victory for De Klerk, who began a program of reform to end white minority rule 15 months ago.

But it was a setback for the ANC, which urged that sanctions not be eased until black South Africans have been politically empowered. The ANC and most anti-apartheid groups criticized the move, particularly because it preceded the repeal of remaining apartheid laws set for June.

But Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, joined the South African business community in welcoming the EC decision.

The ANC's position on sanctions is showing signs of ambivalence, as the organization simultaneously calls for foreign investment to avert an economic crisis and chides the international community for lifting sanctions. Behind the scenes, it has begun preparing its rank and file to accept the lifting of sanctions. …

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