Courtesy Reuters

Revolution in the Making: Black Politics in South Africa

For a quarter-century, the goals of American policy toward South Africa have remained remarkably consistent, but that consistency has served to mask sharply contrasting perceptions of the nature and direction of change in that country's racial policies. U.S. policymakers-including those of the Reagan Administration-have deplored official South African racism, affirmed the American belief in government by the consent of the governed, predicted fundamental change, and prayed that it would come peacefully. But beyond such broad outlines, American analysts have differed sharply in their specific judgments regarding the effectiveness of white-led change in South Africa, and the importance of black opposition to white rule.

The disagreements that underlie U.S. policy are sure to become more evident as the racial conflict within South Africa intensifies. And nowhere are the questions of U.S. goals and tactics likely to be posed more acutely than in U.S. policy toward the outlawed African National Congress-the oldest and most popular South African opposition movement, now enjoying a broad-based resurgence of support for its program of resistance to the white South African government. The umbrella organ of African nationalism in South Africa since 1912,1 the ANC was officially banned in 1960, and has been engaged in "armed struggle" against the regime for over two decades. Although nearly all of its military support comes from communist sources, the ANC has become a well-organized liberation movement with wide-ranging international connections. During recent years, moreover, its sabotage and guerrilla attacks have become more frequent and sophisticated.

The ANC has been experiencing an extraordinarily open and country-wide resurgence within South Africa. The movement's best-known leader, Nelson Mandela, who has served nearly 20 years of a life sentence for planning sabotage, easily ranks as the most widely admired African in the country. African support for the ANC is nationwide, cutting across tribal or ethnic groups, classes, regions, age, and education. Its broad aims, if not its tactics, undoubtedly command the support of the overwhelming majority of Coloureds and Indians and a small minority

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