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 of whites.

Washington has typically been decades late in understanding black South African opposition movements, and U.S. policy toward the ANC is no exception. The Reagan Administration's most important statement on policy toward South Africa does not mention the ANC. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Lawrence S. Eagleburger said on June 23, 1983, that the policy of "constructive engagement" supports those "who are committed to peaceful change away from apartheid." America sees regional stability primarily as a problem of relations between states rather than as a problem rooted within South Africa and spilling over borders. The Administration, therefore, does not regard ANC guerrillas as "freedom fighters," its characterization of the "contras" fighting the Nicaraguan regime. Nor does it appear that Washington regards the ANC as a "legitimate political force," its characterization of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement in Angola. On the other hand, the Administration does not share the simplistic South African view that the ANC is a Soviet surrogate-a characterization adopted in November 1982 by Senator Jeremiah Denton's Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism.2 Administration spokesmen see the ANC as "basically an African nationalist organization."

"There is a crisis in southern Africa," Mr. Eagleburger said, and the United States is "uniquely situated to speak to all sides in the conflict." Yet the Administration does not speak to the ANC, and it has not even taken a clear position toward the South African government's campaign to destroy the ANC both through increased repression inside South Africa and by a growing series of military actions against ANC centers in neighboring countries. The Administration sees no alternative to change controlled by the white government, fearing that any policy of pressure may lead to revolutionary chaos open to Soviet exploitation. In effect, then, "constructive engagement" means reliance on white initiatives, even though this has the effect, in the eyes of the country's black majority, of aligning the United States with white rule.

Administration spokesmen have also judged South Africa's new constitution, overwhelmingly endorsed by white voters on November 2, 1983, to be "a step in the right direction." Under it, Parliament will be reconstructed to include Coloureds and Indians for the first time, but in racially separate chambers. Despite those token changes, however, the new arrangement still excludes any participation by South Africa's African majority-a fact which can only increase racial polarization and is likely to intensify, rather than avert, racial conflict. Nor does the white government give any sign of reversing its other policies: stricter controls over African access to urban areas, large-scale movements of "surplus" Africans, and pursuit of "homeland independence" entailing loss of South African citizenship for certain African groups.

Is current American policy most likely to contribute to peaceful change? Or is not the likely outcome just the kind of violent confrontation American policy seeks to avoid, in a situation where the direction of white South African policy is not changing and the ruling whites refuse to negotiate with the ANC and similar groups?

This article focuses on the issues posed by the importance of the ANC. It examines, first, the successive stages in the history of that organization, to what degree it is committed to violence, and its connections to the Soviet Union and other outside countries. The conclusion which emerges is that the United States should alter its posture toward the ANC, not only as a matter of principle but as a matter of U.S. national interest. In the years to come, no American policy can ensure a peaceful transition to a South Africa in which all citizens participate in the political process. But only by dealing with all sides-specifically including what is by far the most important African nationalist movement-can the United States do all that lies within its power to bring about that essential humane and geopolitical goal.


African professionals formed the ANC in 1912.3 Its roots sprang from the Cape Colony's nonracial, though qualified, franchise for blacks in the mid-nineteenth century and in missionary education for Africans before that. Early ANC leaders found inspiration in the United States, and many of them, including the movement's first president, John Dube, and its principal founder, Pixley Seme, received their education at American schools and universities.

For almost four decades, the ANC and its predominantly middle-class leaders responded to South Africa's segregationist and exploitative policies by organizing deputations, petitions, and public meetings. Then, in the watershed election of 1948, the National Party came to power in South Africa, and embarked upon its systematic "apartheid" policy of expanding customary segregation and giving it statutory form. Apartheid affected Coloureds and Indians as well as Africans and aimed at removing all liberal vestiges of their participation in the central political process.

Under the influence of an energetic new Youth League that included such future leaders as Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, the ANC responded sharply to the new Nationalist program, and in 1949 adopted a new program of mass action: illegal but nonviolent boycotts, strikes, and civil disobedience. This led to the 1952 Defiance Campaign, planned jointly with Indians. The political involvement of many thousands was intensified when some 8,500 Africans and their allies went to jail.

In the face of mounting government repression, ANC leaders reassessed in 1950 the need for non-African allies. They welcomed the formation of a multiracial congress alliance headed by the ANC and including congresses representing Indians, Coloureds and whites.

In forming that alliance, ANC leaders wrestled with the issue of their relationship to the small Communist Party of South Africa, which had by then been outlawed. Formed by whites in 1921, the Communist Party was the oldest Marxist-Leninist party on the continent. It rapidly became Africanized in the mid-twenties, and some of its leading Africans also joined the ANC. The visibility of whites and Indians in the Communist Party's leadership sparked African hostility during that period-it remains an important source of friction today-and youthful nationalist leaders such as Tambo and Mandela initially opposed cooperation both with communists and non-Africans. Anxious about unity, however, distinguished leaders of the older generation defended the record of African communists as one of loyal service to the ANC, and a small number of African communists began to play important roles in the ANC in the 1940s, although they did not, as the government claimed, dominate or control it.

In 1955 the congress alliance issued its Freedom Charter, a document that remains central as a definition of the aims of the ANC. We shall return to the ideological characteristics of this Charter. But its most important feature was its categorical declaration that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white."

This formulation was at the center of bitter disputes. Some ANC Youth Leaguers, who lacked the experience of close cooperation with whites and Indians, had remained in the ANC as an "Africanist" faction. They were finally to split in 1959, forming the Pan Africanist Congress under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe. While sharing the ANC's nonracial aims, the PAC rejected the Freedom Charter and insisted with mystical overtones that Africans were the indigenous owners of the soil. They also charged whites with manipulating events and pressing for premature action that harmed rank-and-file Africans. Today the Organization of African Unity (OAU) recognizes both the PAC and the ANC, but internecine disputes have largely crippled the PAC. Yet the PAC's Africanist appeal is potentially a powerful one.

The ANC has functioned throughout its history as an omnibus national movement. During the 1950s it operated on the fringes of illegality and faced innumerable problems of organization. Formal membership, therefore, was never a valid measure of its political significance. The ANC had strongholds in eastern Cape Province and on the Witwatersrand and both rural and urban pockets of support in most parts of the country. Repeatedly, it held rallies that attracted thousands and conducted popular, if often abortive, campaigns.

The 1950s were a time of sporadic and turbulent protest by Africans, much of it spontaneous. The decade ended in a watershed for African politics at Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg, on March 21, 1960. A line of jittery police opened fire on a peaceful crowd of anti-pass demonstrators organized by the PAC. Sixty-seven Africans were shot dead, the great majority hit in the back as they ran; 186 were wounded, including 40 women and eight children. Both the ANC and the PAC were outlawed and went underground. Many of the leaders were arrested, and thousands were detained under emergency regulations.


As a legal organization, the ANC was ill-prepared to embark on a militant campaign. Its leaders, who had come of age in a relatively open political system, were even less prepared for clandestine activity. In prison and underground, ANC leaders inevitably found themselves dealing with popular demands for violent action, which they had to balance against their own concern that such action would leave deep bitterness and could be counterproductive.

In December 1961, Chief Albert Lutuli, president of the ANC, was allowed to travel to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of African patience during the 50 years of the ANC's legal existence. He read aloud President John F. Kennedy's congratulations on his record of "peaceful means" and repeated ANC calls for sanctions and external pressure.

A week later, on the day South African whites celebrate the defeat of the Zulus in 1828, the ANC's newly formed military wing, "Umkhonto we Sizwe" (Spear of the Nation), exploded home-made bombs at symbolic targets at times when no one would be injured. To protect rank-and-file members as well as Lutuli, efforts had been made to keep Umkhonto separate from the ANC. But in Oslo Lutuli ratified the ANC's historic turn when he spoke of the legitimacy of "armed force provoked by the adamancy of white rule." White and Indian communists participated in forming Umkhonto despite objections within their party to the feasibility of violence. The developing ANC-Communist Party alliance was given organizational expression in 1969 in the establishment of a Revolutionary Council with authority to direct Umkhonto and the armed struggle. The Council's vice-chairman under Tambo was Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, chairman of the Communist Party.

During the next decade, South Africa became a powerful police state, using detention and torture but also winning some black collaboration. The police smashed underground cells and demoralized the radical opposition. The unearthing of Umkhonto's headquarters in mid-1963 was followed by the sentencing to life imprisonment of Mandela and other major leaders. Tambo, who had been sent abroad, was cut off and had to add long-range military preparation to his diplomatic and propagandistic functions.

By the end of the 1960s, the ANC seemed to be little more than a shadowy presence in South Africa. At a conference in Tanzania in 1969, it emphasized the primacy of African "national consciousness" but also invited whites, Indians, and Coloureds to join. Meanwhile, in reaction to the political lull and passivity, South Africa saw the stirrings of what came to be called the Black Consciousness movement. Defining "black" to denote the status of racial oppression rather than color, a new generation of outspoken African, Coloured, and Indian students exerted a pervasive national influence for "psychological liberation" through their writings, meetings, and symbols of defiance. Steve Biko was to become the movement's internationally known spokesman before his brutal death at the hands of the security police in late 1977.

African workers also displayed a new sense of power in the 1970s. Nearly 100,000 workers in the Durban area went on strike in early 1973 with almost no visible leadership. The collapse of the Portuguese government and, in 1975, the coming to power of revolutionary governments in Mozambique and Angola heightened black expectations inside the Republic.

A new era in black protest was signaled on June 16, 1976, in Johannesburg's Soweto. A student demonstration against instruction in the Afrikaans language was met by guns and turned into an uprising. According to official statistics, 575 people died in the shooting and rioting that followed, 134 of them under the age of 18. Other estimates were much higher. Demonstrations, arson, and violence (mainly by the police) spread to many parts of the country. What made "Soweto" a watershed was the qualitatively new level of defiance and fearlessness among black youth. It also resulted in the first substantial exodus of blacks for guerrilla training. Most of them moved through Swaziland and gravitated to the ANC in Tanzania.

On October 19, 1977, the government cracked down, banning all the major Black Consciousness organizations. It also detained African leaders known for their moderation, together with a few of their white allies. In the face of the government's repressive capacities, it had become clear that the kind of spontaneous, loosely organized protest represented by Sharpeville and Soweto could not be effective.


The six years since the 1977 crackdown have witnessed a revival in above-ground black politics and the burgeoning of black unions. These legal activities, at one end of the action spectrum, have been accompanied by a resurgence of the ANC at the other end, pursuing a long-term strategy of "armed struggle" coordinated with mass political pressures such as demonstrations, boycotts and strikes. In effect, the opposition is pursuing two tracks, although there are already signs that the two could become linked at some point.

For its part, the ANC has expanded its structures within South Africa and set up camps in neighboring countries to train guerrillas, as well as establishing infiltration routes for their entry into South Africa. The aim of this violent component in the ANC strategy has been to conduct sabotage and small-scale guerrilla attacks against symbols of government oppression. And, in response, the government has conducted a systematic campaign against the ANC, including the open use of South African forces to attack alleged ANC centers in neighboring countries. The government is also suspected of responsibility for the assassinations of prominent ANC personalities both inside and outside South Africa.

The ANC's armed efforts for over 20 years have often been amateurish and abortive; they have also been marked by restraint. Its leaders acknowledge that its sabotage and small-scale guerrilla attacks have essentially been exercises in "armed propaganda." ANC guerrillas have attacked such targets as police stations, offices of government departments and officially sponsored black councils, and such symbolic targets of strategic significance as railway lines, oil depots, and electricity substations. The ANC has also taken responsibility for a small number of attacks on African policemen and the assassination of a few informers and state witnesses, actions obviously designed to deter such collaboration. But it has rejected the terrorism of indiscriminate killing and the assassination of white leaders, kidnapping, and other measures used by extremist groups elsewhere.

Thus, at least until May 1983, the number of lives lost in ANC actions was very small. In January 1983 this writer was given, by a Defense Force official, a memorandum summarizing casualties over the previous five years in the Republic, Transkei, Ciskei, and Venda. In incidents attributed to the ANC but not in every case confirmed, 22 people died, four of them white.4

Not until mid-1980 did ANC attacks appear seriously to worry the regime. At that time the ANC carried out its first major sabotage of strategically crucial facilities. Infiltrators cut through security fences and sabotaged three SASOL oil-from-coal plants 75 miles apart; no one was hurt.

On January 31, 1981, South African commandos made their first open crossing of the Mozambique border, destroying three ANC houses in Matola and killing 12 men (described as refugees by the ANC). They cut the ears off some.

After a lull of nearly two years in large-scale actions, in December 1982 helicopter-borne South African soldiers descended on Maseru, the capital of independent Lesotho, in a midnight raid. With cold-blooded deliberateness and with flares, bazookas, and machine guns, they sought out South Africans who they believed to be ANC activists in scattered houses and apartments. The invaders killed 42 people, including five women and two children. Some of the victims may have had military training; apparently most of them were refugees and visitors. Because of outdated intelligence, 12 Lesotho citizens were killed.

The ANC retaliated ten days later. In a salute to those killed in Maseru, four bombs in a staggered series over a period of 12 hours damaged the tightly guarded Koeberg nuclear power station under construction near Cape Town. Again no one was hurt.

Still stunned and infuriated by the Maseru raid, the ANC struck again on May 20, 1983, reaching a new level of violence and dramatic effect. A car bomb was exploded outside a military headquarters in downtown Pretoria at rush hour, killing 19 and injuring more than 200, including blacks. In targeting military personnel, the attack marked a shift in tactical emphasis. Three days later, South African planes attacked Matola in Mozambique, claiming 64 deaths, 41 of them ANC members. Although ANC members had occupied houses in Matola, the government of Mozambique asserted that they had left, and that the casualties were all civilian citizens of Mozambique-setting the total at six, including two children.

The South African external attacks have been part of a campaign to destabilize its neighbors and put pressure behind South African demands that those neighbors deny facilities of any kind to the ANC. The vulnerable black states near the Republic now deny that there are any ANC military facilities in their territory. But this does not satisfy the South Africans. On October 17, 1983, they returned to the attack, bombing offices in downtown Maputo in Mozambique allegedly used by the ANC for planning military operations but described by local residents as a propaganda center only.

Since the Pretoria attack, ANC leaders have engaged in an extended reexamination of their strategy, including problems of infiltration. The creation of a cordon sanitaire of black states can be expected to give greater impetus to ANC guerrilla training within the Republic's townships and depressed rural areas. Acknowledging "the reality" that countries bordering South Africa cannot provide bases, Oliver Tambo claimed in July 1983 that ANC guerrillas were being trained inside South Africa and that a political base had been created there. Yet the day appears many years away when the ANC underground, however linked to above-ground organizations, can seriously threaten the regime.

While the Pretoria bombing was a shock in some black quarters, the ANC's guerrilla actions also have a strong popular appeal, especially to angry and impatient young blacks, even as ANC activists and guerrillas are apprehended, jailed, sometimes tortured, killed in shootouts, and in a few cases hanged. Men whom whites regard as "terrorists" are acclaimed by blacks as "heroes and martyrs," says Bishop Desmond Tutu, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. For its part, the government remains implacable: one high Defense official has told the writer that the problem posed by the ANC can be dealt with by killing every one of its members.

At the same time, white Defense leaders have often described the conflict as 80 percent political and only 20 percent military. And the ANC's resurgence can best be seen less in the scale of its clandestine activity than in the growth and openness of its popular support. Observing this in South Africa, one must remind oneself that the ANC has been outlawed for 23 years; its leaders, jailed, banned, or in exile; and anyone believed by the government to be furthering its aims, subject to prosecution for treason.

A new crackdown is always in the cards-or, more likely, less conspicuous and tailor-made restrictions. But for the time being, open protest has become revitalized, catalyzed in 1983 by the debate over the government's new constitution and by new legislative controls, seen by most blacks as a further entrenchment of white supremacy. Although outdoor meetings have been outlawed since 1976, 15,000 to 20,000 people at a time (attendance is now being controlled) have attended funerals of prominent ANC personalities. There, at meetings indoors, and at trials, supporters display ANC flags and colors of black, green, and gold. They show ANC slogans, give black power salutes, and sing freedom songs. Church bells tolled throughout Soweto, the sprawling black area near Johannesburg, in the early hours of June 9, 1983, when three ANC guerrillas were hanged.

The best organized display of support for the ANC in almost a quarter-century occurred on August 20-21, 1983, near Cape Town. The defiant reading of a message of greetings and solidarity from Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders in prison produced a standing ovation. It was the high point of a mass meeting of over 12,000 people, calling for the national launching of a United Democratic Front.

The UDF is now in being. Built up regionally since January, it is a locally based front-not an organization with individual members-of over 400 community, labor, religious, youth, and other organizations representing all races. Many of the organizations focus on local grievances. In the its multiracialism, the UDF resembles the congress alliance of the 1950s but differs organizationally since the alliance was comprised only of national organizations. The UDF will be more difficult to decapitate. The membership of its affiliated groups is estimated to range from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000.

Seeking to encompass the widest possible opposition to the government's unfolding policy, the UDF has carefully avoided making adherence to the Freedom Charter a condition of membership. But its three presidents are veteran ANC activists: Oscar Mpetha, Archie Gumede, and Albertina Sisulu, the wife of Walter Sisulu, the ANC's imprisoned secretary-general. Its list of "patrons" includes Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, and other prominent leaders or associates of the ANC.

Linked with them, however, are patrons and key officers who have not been identified with the ANC or were once prominent in the Black Consciousness movement. Among the former are Dr. Allan Boesak, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches; Reverend Beyers Naude, the still-banned Afrikaans leader of the banned Christian Institute; and Andrew Boraine, the once-detained former president of the English-speaking National Union of South African Students, whose father is a leading member of the Progressive Federal Party. Among Black Consciousness personalities are Reverend Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, the formerly detained secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, Aubrey Mokoena, Popo Molefe, and Mosiuoa Lekota.

As reflected in the UDF, the ANC's appeal is not difficult to see. As a national movement rather than a party, it symbolizes the historic struggle for equality. While other movements and organizations have risen and fallen, it has endured. In exile, the ANC has built organizational strength and won international legitimacy. In appealing for unity, it has been nondoctrinaire, with room for Christians, liberal pragmatists, communists, and members from all classes. As above-ground forces within South Africa have been harassed and their leaders repressed, as the PAC outside has waned, the ANC has inherited support almost by default. Leaders who have left South Africa and joined the ANC have represented diverse backgrounds and orientations: Barney Pityana, a close associate of Steve Biko, and Tenjiwe Mtintso from Black Consciousness; Thozamile Botha, the charismatic Port Elizabeth leader; and Paramount Chief Sabata Dalindyebo, the main opponent of Kaiser Matanzima in nominally independent Transkei.

It is impossible to know how many of those within South Africa who identify with the ANC's aims are disposed to take part in some kind of revolutionary activity. Not uncommonly, Africans who appear conservative or bourgeois will exclaim: "We are all ANC; the ANC is in the hearts of the people." Some of this support may be symbolic, a diffused manifestation of frustration and opposition to continued and often ruthless control by a white minority years after blacks elsewhere in the region (except Namibia) have achieved independence. On the other hand, much of the ANC's support is dedicated and intense.


The ANC is of course far from being the only organization in opposition to the South African government. In the parliamentary arena, the white Progressive Federal Party carries on its minority role of constant critic, led by Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert and Helen Suzman, and supported by many important business and mining leaders such as Harry Oppenheimer. Many PFP members, however, did not follow the party line of opposing the constitution proposals in the November 2 referendum.

Outside the parliamentary arena, the South African Council of Churches and the increasing number of black labor unions are active. And Bishop Desmond Tutu-described by Joseph Lelyveld of The New York Times in 1982 as "probably the most widely accepted black leader in South Africa today"-has great impact and influence both as an individual and as a church leader. Other organizations appealing to blacks include AZAPO (the Azanian People's Organization), the Black Consciousness successor to the groups banned in 1977, and Inkatha, the Zulu-based national movement led by Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland. Other homeland leaders have built local political parties, but neither they nor AZAPO and the underground PAC are serious rivals of the ANC.

Inkatha is thus seen by many outside observers as the only real competitor for widespread black support. Unlike the ANC, it is a legal organization and Buthelezi is able to travel widely outside South Africa. Inkatha poses a difficult problem for the ANC both at home and abroad. Although Black Consciousness spokesmen have treated Buthelezi with contempt because of his homeland role, the ANC during the 1970s maintained informal and fraternal relations. They considered it important that the strategically situated KwaZulu have a sympathetic leader who would refuse independence, as Buthelezi has. Furthermore, Inkatha, whose uniforms and colors resemble those of the ANC, was regarded as a potentially important mass organization that might eventually mesh with the ANC.

Black hostility to Buthelezi within South Africa has intensified, however. And after he was seen as antagonistic to school boycotts and other popular campaigns in 1980, Tambo and other ANC officials attacked him publicly. Buthelezi has, in turn, responded to such criticism with increasingly bitter rhetoric. A resolution of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly in April 1983 declared that the ANC had become "opponents of the black people." Senior ANC leaders continued to hope for reconciliation, but their number has now dwindled. Those who have appreciated Buthelezi's potential role are concerned that he has a hidden agenda of displacing Mandela and the ANC.

Buthelezi's hypersensitivity has limited his ability to act as a unifying force. He has talked of workers' and consumers' power but made little progress in organizing it. Inkatha has also failed to sponsor protest campaigns that would attract youthful or militant support. Claims regarding its membership, most of it Zulu, are open to question; and, because of pressure to join, loyalty may be limited. As late as October 1982, Buthelezi was saying that Inkatha had about 360,000 members; by January 1983 his claim was 750,000.

In that month, Buthelezi's leadership suffered a humiliating blow. In a political breakthrough for the government, the middle class leaders of the Coloured Labour Party decided to participate in the proposed constitutional scheme. The party had been Buthelezi's most important ally in the South African Black Alliance, a loose coalition centered on Inkatha. Still more damaging has been the decision of the broad-based United Democratic Front to exclude Inkatha from affiliation.

Nevertheless, as a politically astute Zulu leader who makes African nationalist appeals, Buthelezi will continue to be a consequential personality. He has calculated that as pressures mount for radical change, whites will be compelled to turn to him as the most acceptable black leader. He opposes armed struggle (while threatening to undertake it), is prepared to compromise on one man one vote, endorses free enterprise, and promises reform and stability within South Africa's capitalist system. For a time, he was developing links to the National Party, but during the referendum campaign on the constitutional proposal he allied himself to the official white opposition, the Progressive Federal Party. As protest is mobilized, Buthelezi's warning that the alignment of black political groups with the ANC will trigger a "black civil war" may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The relative appeal of the ANC and other black groups cannot be evaluated with any precision. An official government commission on security laws reported in February 1982 that ANC support was confined to a "very small minority." On the other hand, military spokesmen say that ANC guerrillas are "everywhere." Other officials accuse popular organizations, for example, the South African Council of Churches and some black labor unions, of doing the work of the ANC. Africans of undoubted credibility make estimates of popular feeling that should be given weight. Bishop Tutu, for example, has placed Mandela at the top of his list of "our real leaders."

Joseph Lelyveld described popular black reaction to the ANC's May 1983 Pretoria bombing as jubilant despite the fact that blacks were among the victims. Support for the ANC, he observed, had apparently been bolstered. In Durban, supposedly the power base of Buthelezi, Lelyveld wrote, "there was a perceptible shift of sentiment among black youths in favor of the underground." ANC expectations are probably correct that an "intensification" of the guerrilla struggle will result in such shifts on a wider scale.

For judgments that are presumably more scientific, one may turn to opinion polls. A 1977 West German study found Buthelezi the most widely admired political personality in parts of Natal and the Transvaal. In 1981, Professor Lawrence Schlemmer, South Africa's leading researcher in this field, conducted a survey of African opinion for a commission initiated by Buthelezi. It dealt with Natal, where Zulus predominate, and the Transvaal, but not the eastern Cape, historically an ANC stronghold. A majority of Africans in Natal supported Inkatha, Schlemmer found, but the ANC had made considerable advances in the province since 1976. When asked how people would act if the ANC came secretly to ask for help, nearly half of the respondents in Natal, including rural people, expected that "most" or "many" would help.

The survey confirmed the extent of open support for the ANC. "Popular recognition of the ANC leadership," said Schlemmer, "has climbed very rapidly since 1977 and may still be rising." On the Witwatersrand, "the ANC emerges in the dominant position on the first spontaneous mention." This was true among all subgroups, although support dropped off among skilled manual workers. Schlemmer also found much potential for violence in the "considerable hard core militancy" of skilled and semi-skilled manual workers and some rural subsistence people. Among African degree holders on the Witwatersrand, an extraordinary 70 percent believed that "only violence" could bring about basic change.

Precise percentages should be treated with suspicion, but polls give a rough picture of political relationships. A detailed poll for the Johannesburg Star, shortly after the Buthelezi Commission survey, asked Africans in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town how they would vote in a parliamentary election among candidates from the ANC, Inkatha, AZAPO and the PAC. The ANC emerged first in each city including Durban, in all the main African language groups including Zulu, in all age groups (although Inkatha was close among those over 40), and in all occupational groups except among the unskilled, where it was roughly equal with Inkatha. The more skilled or professional and the younger tended to be pro-ANC. The three leaders most liked were Mandela, 76 percent; Dr. Ntatho Motlana (the Soweto leader who opposes government-sponsored black councils), 58 percent; and Buthelezi, 39 percent, with Mandela and Motlana outranking Buthelezi even in Durban. Buthelezi's low standing among educated Africans was evident three years earlier in a survey designed by Schlemmer of men in Soweto over 16 whose education was mid-high school or above. Asked who people like themselves saw as "their real leaders," only five percent gave Buthelezi's name.


Whatever their longstanding tactical differences, all African leaders without exception appear to be united on the issue of the government's constitutional proposals. Indeed, the ANC's 30-year-old call for a national convention has been revived by a group of government-recognized black leaders, including both Buthelezi and Matanzima, who are calling for a "nonracial democratic society." Their South African Federal Union includes leaders of semi-autonomous and independent homelands, urban councils, and business organizations.

Leaders such as these are constrained by vested interests and temperament from joining a radical struggle. Both internal and external pressures are also strong on homeland leaders to cooperate with the South African military, as several are now doing, to resist insurgency. Some homeland leaders do have popular support. Unlike the dictatorial and corrupt leadership of Transkei, Ciskei, and Venda, Dr. Cedric Phatudi of Lebowa, for example, commands a good deal of local respect. An elderly gentleman genuinely committed to the creation of a federal system that would be nonracial, he has little to say about programs for the redistribution of wealth and is averse to mass protest.

Black politics appears to be in disarray, although the extent of that disarray can be exaggerated. More fundamental than questions about armed struggle and boycott are deeply rooted differences about the role of whites. Thus AZAPO is strongly opposed to the ANC's Freedom Charter. One of its spokesmen, Saths Cooper, who recently completed a six-year term in prison, has even criticized Mandela as an "accommodationist" for dealing with prison officials.

Disagreements also reveal, however, a vitality in debate that augurs well for the future of democracy in South Africa. At the same time, antagonists display encouraging efforts to accommodate divergent views. Acting in a conciliatory spirit, AZAPO was instrumental in organizing a National Forum on June 11-12, 1983, which brought together representatives of nearly 200 black organizations, excluding those involved in government-sponsored institutions. The organizers discouraged any criticism of the Freedom Charter, but, on the assumption that the Charter was "dated," a "Manifesto of the Azanian People" was produced. Unlike earlier expressions of Black Consciousness, the Manifesto was reconcilable with the Charter-both are loosely socialist-but the ANC's National Executive Committee reacted by warning against those who diverted the people from the goals "enshrined" in the Freedom Charter. Responding to recent efforts to fuse Black Consciousness and class consciousness, the Manifesto identified the enemy as "racial capitalism."

The National Forum is not an organization, but rather a committee planning a second convocation for April 1984. In the meantime, the formation of the UDF may have eclipsed it and may discourage future involvement in the National Forum. Ideological differences will not easily be submerged. Nevertheless, influential leaders are impatient with such differences and recognize that there is room in the liberation struggle for many different approaches.

Meanwhile, an important influence for unity is exerted by prominent personalities with credibility in both the "Charterist" and Black Consciousness camps. Three were on the National Forum organizing committee: Dr. Boesak, Bishop Tutu, and Dr. Manas Buthelezi, the Lutheran bishop who was recently elected president of the South African Council of Churches and who has been compared with Martin Luther King. There are other important personalities who can also serve as links and mediators.

That alignments are blurred and overlapping can be seen in the relation of the two leading federations of black trade unions to each other, to the National Forum and the UDF, and indirectly to the ANC. The four-year-old Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU), with over 106,000 signed-up members, has earned a reputation for professionalism and avoidance of politically provocative actions. It accepts that workers should be "part of the wider popular struggle" but criticizes the ANC for tending "to encourage undirected opportunistic political activity." Its long-run strategy is discussed in Section X below. Because it sees the struggle as one more of class than of race, its gravitation is toward the UDF. Constituent unions have expressed sympathy for the UDF, but FOSATU has not affiliated with it.

The rival Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA), a three-year-old federation with an estimated membership of over 100,000, opposed the inclusion of whites in FOSATU's leadership although it has no problem itself in using white assistance. Its constitution calls for "a nonracial democratic society based on black leadership." In ongoing unity talks with FOSATU and strong unaffiliated unions, CUSA has argued for a framework that is worker-controlled, that is, black-controlled. Its leaders point to the ANC model: a nonracial membership whose national executive committee is all-African. Because of the priority it has given to opposing the government's constitutional proposals, CUSA participated in the National Forum and, despite criticism, has become affiliated with the UDF.


What of the ideological position of the ANC? The official South African position is that the ANC is controlled by Moscow through white communists, notably Joe Slovo. Supporting this allegation is the acknowledged presence of some African communists in the ANC structure.

The ANC's key document is still the Freedom Charter of 1955. Based on notions of natural rights liberalism, it is not a Marxist document; it envisages a mildly socialist but not anti-capitalist bourgeois democracy. In the Charter, the ANC endorsed the nationalization of mineral wealth, banks, and "monopoly industry" or, as critics said, state capitalism. In exile, the ANC's rhetoric has become more radical, but no program of future policies has been enunciated that supplants the Freedom Charter.

Mandela acknowledged in 1964 that he, like many other African leaders, was a socialist who had been influenced by Marxism. But he was not a Marxist, he said, nor had he ever joined the Communist Party. He disagreed with Marxists regarding the West's parliamentary system and admired the British Parliament as "the most democratic institution in the world." He also admired the U.S. Congress, the doctrine of separation of powers, and the American judiciary. Almost two decades later, Thabo Mbeki, an ANC spokesman whose father is serving a life sentence with Mandela, wrote in The New York Times on July 18, 1983, that the ANC had striven since 1912 "for a South Africa governed according to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The nonracialism of the ANC is appealing to progressive-minded whites. And the nonracial stress on Africans as workers appeals to radical whites. The issue of reconciling African nationalism and class struggle, which produced ideological tensions historically within the Communist Party, has not seriously troubled the ANC. With the growing importance of industrial workers in South Africa and perhaps because the importance of members with working class backgrounds has grown, ANC rhetoric has come to assume that the appeals of class and nationalism are complementary.

Although non-Africans were admitted to the ANC in 1969, the National Executive Committee remains an all-African body.5 Internal complaints about the role of non-Africans, similar to those made by the "Africanists" who formed the PAC, resulted in the expulsion of eight veteran ANC members in the early 1970s. Whether or not such sentiments are important within the ANC today is difficult to assess. In any event, the preeminence of Africans in directing the struggle was underlined in May 1983 when the 1969 Revolutionary Council (designed to direct the armed struggle) was abolished. Decision-making, said ANC spokesmen, would be tightened and centralized in the National Executive Committee.

As for personal connections, there are indeed a few interlocking memberships between the ANC and the Communist Party. Moses Mabhida, general secretary of the Communist Party, and Stephen Diamini, also a communist and president of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, are both members of the ANC's National Executive Committee. Whether or not an ANC member is also a clandestine member of the Communist Party appears to be of no great interest to nationalist leaders who are preoccupied with immediate tasks.

In any event, ideological inclinations vary among ANC members generally. An uneasy balance exists between those whose primary goals are political and those who believe liberation can come only with socialist reconstruction. At this stage, doctrinal differences within the ANC can easily be overstated and their importance exaggerated. The ingredients are present, however, for a vigorous debate if or when a democratic system comes into being. Both the ANC and the Communist Party recognize that the organizations are separate and independent from each other, that the ANC is the leader of the alliance, and that Communists who are members of the ANC are obliged to be loyal to it. The burden is on critics to demonstrate that practice contradicts understandings on which everyone agrees. Influence within the relationship is difficult to estimate, but it is undoubtedly reciprocal. To assume that in any collaboration between African nationalists such as Tambo and Communists the latter will inevitably dominate is to underestimate the experience and sophistication of nationalist leaders.


As in its umbrella reach within South Africa, the ANC outside has engaged in a nondoctrinaire and nonaligned search for aid from every source. When Mandela left the country secretly for six months in 1962, he sought out the full spectrum of African leaders, beginning with Emperor Haile Selassie, and the leaders of both the Labour and Liberal parties in London. The aid of Sweden was crucial in keeping the external mission afloat in the late 1960s. Since then, the ANC has received substantial aid from the Soviet Union (mainly in kind rather than in cash). Responding to a persistent question about Soviet influence, Oliver Tambo said in 1982:

The Soviet Union has no influence on the ANC any more than Canada has. What has really happened is that we found ourselves, decades ago, fighting against racism-and relatively weak. We went in search of friends, to Canada, the United States, Europe, India, and elsewhere. Some received us well, some were lukewarm, some turned us down. The Soviet Union gave support. So did other countries-Sweden, for example. Sweden gave us assistance without strings except that no funds may be used to buy guns. The Soviet Union does not have to say that because it gives us the guns. The supposed stigma of getting assistance from the Soviet Union has no meaning whatever in southern Africa. There would be no independence for anyone without those weapons. That's what ordinary people think. Where would we be without that assistance? Could we go to Washington?

Today the ANC receives some 90 percent of its military support from communist sources (that is, from the Soviet bloc). However, these sources probably supply less than the Reagan Administration's estimate of 60 percent of overall support. Although early aid from China dried up after the Sino-Soviet split, the ANC maintained contact, and following Tambo's most recent visit to Beijing in May 1983, China has given some financial aid and has promised to supply arms.

Both the Organization of African Unity (in 1963) and the United Nations General Assembly (in 1973) recognize the ANC and the PAC as national liberation movements. ANC spokesmen make a point of saying that arms from the Soviet Union come to the ANC through members of the OAU in accordance with its resolutions and those of the United Nations that call on member states to provide material aid. Military training takes place mainly in Africa.6

U.N. recognition of the ANC and the PAC gives them the kind of official standing from which much follows. Both have observer status and can take part in debates in the General Assembly, the Security Council, and specialized agencies on matters of direct concern to them. The General Assembly contributes annually to the cost of the ANC's New York office ($107,696 in 1982-1983). The total amount of non-military aid from U.N. specialized agencies is unusually difficult to ascertain because most of it goes to individuals rather than to the ANC as an organization.7

ANC-sponsored students have an edge over other South African refugees in the selection process of the United Nations Educational and Training Program for Southern Africa. The United Nations Development Program has supported the ANC's Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania (named after the first ANC guerrilla to be hanged, in 1979). The ANC is concerned about academic and professional training to fulfill future needs in South Africa. Small numbers of ANC members have received such training in both communist and non-communist countries, including Cuba (about 100 in 1980), Nigeria, and the United States. Tambo has expressed support for educational programs that bring black South Africans to the United States so long as the programs have some contact with the ANC and its beneficiaries do not alienate themselves from the liberation struggle.

In its quest for international legitimacy, the ANC has established a presence in some 33 countries around the world. ANC officials have often met with prime ministers and other high officials. In 1978 Tambo and three other leaders of southern African movements were received by Pope John Paul II. Frequent occasions for public recognition arise when Nelson Mandela is given awards. For example, on July 24, 1983, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Simon Bolivar, Tambo and heads of state attended a ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela for the joint award to Mandela and King Juan Carlos of Spain of a prize named for the Latin American liberator.

There has been built up a complex pattern of aid and recognition from governments, political parties, and religious, trade union, student and other private bodies.8 ANC leaders stress the variety and extent of such help for health, educational, and humanitarian projects and its expansion in recent years, especially in western countries.

Governments on the African continent extending some form of aid include Nigeria and Algeria (each has recently granted $1,000,000), Egypt, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. Tambo recently visited Saudi Arabia, which is also providing aid. Western governmental donors include Sweden, where ANC representatives meet annually with officials ($4,210,000 in 1982); Norway ($1,650,000); Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Finland ($236,000), and (in the past) Canada.

The ANC's network of fraternal relations extends to democratic socialist as well as communist parties. The Socialist International recognizes the ANC and has given it observer status. The West German Social Democratic Party supports a foundation that provides aid. In Italy, for example, virtually all political parties have donated non-military goods for a "Ship of Solidarity," due to arrive in Dar es Salaam in December 1983, destined for the ANC and the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).

In addition to aid from the Social Democratic Party, the Otto Benecke Stiftung, a government-funded foundation administered by West German students, contributes about $400,000 annually to maintain 120 of some 900 students at the ANC's college in Tanzania. West German officials have also met with ANC representatives, describing the meetings as a "critical dialogue" that is a form of pressure on South Africa.


Not until 1959, the year before Sharpeville, did an American ambassador meet with an ANC leader. Philip Crowe, although concerned with the maintenance of "correct relations with an ally in the cold war," met Chief Albert Lutuli and found him "a moderate man." Not until the Kennedy Administration did U.S. anti-apartheid rhetoric include praise for black leaders, and not until the fourth of July, 1963, did the American Embassy invite a black guest to its annual reception.9 During the Johnson Administration, Embassy officials attended political trials and spoke privately to South African authorities in mid-1964 about the repercussions of a possible death sentence for Mandela and others on trial. The potential political importance of South Africa in the United States was evident in 1966 when Senator Robert Kennedy made an emotion-filled visit to the Republic, including a call on the rusticated Lutuli.

President Nixon tilted U.S. policy toward white South Africa. His Administration's signals of reassurance to the white regime included relaxation of existing restrictions on U.S. military sales, and private meetings in Washington between U.S. and South African military officials. Incredible as it may seem, his ambassador, John Hurd, went pheasant hunting with government leaders on Robben Island, where ANC and other political prisoners were serving life sentences.

During the Carter Administration, ANC contact with Ambassador Andrew Young and other officials in New York became "easy-going," as ANC leaders put it, but there was no "critical dialogue" between the ANC and the State Department. Within South Africa, the wide-ranging contact of the American ambassador with black opposition leaders was unprecedented.

Because of this "rhetoric of disapproval," South African blacks "by and large, held the U.S. in high regard" during the Carter period, Bishop Tutu wrote in 1982. But they were "aghast" when the Reagan Administration "sided with the status quo." Arguments against sanctions to help blacks in South Africa lost all credibility, said Tutu, when sanctions were used to help whites in Poland. "As my own personal little protest at the actions of the Reagan administration," he concluded, "I no longer attend U.S. Embassy functions nor do I see Reagan administration people."10

President Reagan's State Department, even at the junior level, has had no communication with the ANC. The ANC's representative has not set foot inside the U.S. mission to the United Nations since January 1981, and his formal request for a meeting with Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick has gone unacknowledged. On the other hand, the President met with Chief Buthelezi in a small group before a mass prayer breakfast in January 1983 and spoke of his admiration for him. Buthelezi had also met Presidents Nixon and Carter. The Reagan Administration has wisely avoided, however, responding to Buthelezi's standing invitation for an "overt alliance" between the United States and Inkatha, initially made in 1980.

The ANC issues harsh words in criticism of U.S. foreign policy generally. But ANC leaders do not have a doctrinaire belief that a change in U.S. administrations is inconsequential. Indeed, the optimism they sometimes express regarding future U.S. policy toward South Africa is remarkable. ANC leaders show a keen interest in the vagaries of U.S. politics and in gaining the sympathetic understanding of the broad American center. On June 12, 1981, the ANC achieved a breakthrough in American recognition of its importance when Tambo was invited to a dinner discussion with representatives of General Motors, Ford, and four other major U.S. investors directly involved in South Africa. Tambo and his aides have met with leading members of Congress and recall appreciatively the spirit of a meeting with Nancy Kassebaum, Republican chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on Africa.

Senator Jeremiah Denton's subcommittee, on the other hand, has declared its intention to investigate the U.S. "support apparatus" for the ANC, SWAPO, "and other terrorist organizations which act internationally in opposition to U.S. security interests, and to explore means of curtailing such support." The "support apparatus" is undefined. Presumably it refers to the wide and growing array of church, black, labor, student, and other groups that make up the American anti-apartheid movement. Its organization began in 1952, when sympathy for the Defiance Campaign led to the formation of the American Committee on Africa, led by George Houser, a minister and early civil rights activist. As a partisan in the South African liberation struggle, endorsing both the ANC and the PAC, it sponsored Tambo's first trip to the United States in 1960.

None of the ANC's American supporters is involved in its military activities, but financial and other assistance is given to ANC members and health, educational, and refugee programs. The pacifist American Friends' Service Committee has contributed books to the ANC's college in Tanzania. The ANC's supporters, the influential black lobby TransAfrica, and universities around the country provide a platform to ANC speakers.


Scenarios of the future can only be speculated upon, but it is difficult to envisage any in which the ANC will not have a central role. It is also impossible to see how violence can be ended so long as the regime is dug in and refuses to negotiate. From the American Revolution to Zimbabwe, the struggle for self-determination has often been accompanied by violence.

That negotiation with representative black leaders cannot be avoided is a principle endorsed by many white South African opinion-makers. Only occasionally, however, do they confront the reality of the political movement symbolized by the ANC. Such recognition was expressed on January 9, 1981, in a quickly deflated trial balloon in Beeld, the most influential Afrikaans newspaper and the Transvaal mouthpiece of the prime minister. Ton Vosloo, the editor, compared the ANC's "black nationalism" and support for it with the Afrikaner nationalism of the National Party. After identifying some non-negotiable conditions, he concluded, "The day will yet arrive when a South African government will sit down at the negotiating table with the ANC."

Bishop Tutu, who has met with ANC leaders while abroad but is not authorized to speak for them, volunteered in mid-1983 to act as a go-between in arranging negotiations. He had "little doubt," he said, "that the ANC would stop the armed struggle if it heard the government wanted seriously to negotiate dismantling apartheid." One condition would be that "our leaders in prison and exile" be participants in negotiation. There are undoubtedly additional prerequisites the ANC would insist upon before agreeing to a cease fire. Given the current imbalance of white and black coercive power, the scenario is fanciful. Nevertheless, it seems important to note the issues that appear negotiable and those that do not. There is an encouraging possibility of some common ground with such men as Vosloo.

The ANC's primary aims-that South Africa should be nonracial, unfragmented, and governed according to a system of majority rule based upon universal suffrage-are not negotiable. Nor can the ANC be expected to accept any entrenchment of white economic privilege or rights to land. But if one accepts the positions of senior leaders at face value, the ANC would accept a bill of rights that guaranteed rights essential to a free political process. Since it has not arrived at any position regarding political institutions and procedures for the protection of minority rights, it is not committed to a "winner take all" system. Open to negotiation would be a federal system ("unitary" is often used loosely to mean an undivided country, not a unitary form of government), a bicameral legislature, electoral procedures, and judicial review.

Economic policy remains to be worked out, although the aim of a redistribution of wealth is essential. The ANC's orientation is toward an economy that is socialist, but pragmatic about free enterprise. On the question of attendance at the negotiating table, the ANC expects that other black groups who share historic aims would be included. Furthermore, no prescribed timetable exists for movement toward the goals set forth above.

Although ANC leaders still envisage some form of national convention, their expectation is that this could happen only after the liberation movement had transformed the climate for foreign business and imposed unacceptable costs on the whites. A persistent hope is that violence could be minimal if the wheels of the political system and the economy are stopped from turning. The vision is an old one: that masses of workers on whom the economy depends can bring down the regime. Over 30 years ago, the plan of the Defiance Campaign envisaged sustained and spreading strikes. Hoping for peaceful change, Buthelezi talks of grass-roots organization leading to a "groundswell" of numbers that will confront and overwhelm the oppressor. Thus, there is a romantic dimension to his realism. It also can justify postponement of interim action such as boycotts or civil disobedience while bolstering popular faith in eventual victory.

Another long-range strategy is that of the Federation of South African Trade Unions. In a careful mid-1982 statement, it praised the ANC as "a great populist liberation movement" of the 1950s but argued that changes-concentration of capital and the rise of a large industrial proletariat-have created conditions for a self-conscious workers' struggle. The important long-range task, therefore, is to build "non-racial, national, industrial unions, based on shop-floor strength." Prudently, FOSATU does not elaborate on how its strategy will mesh with popular movements or the nature of the political transition to a "society controlled by workers." But it foresees "bitter struggles" ahead. In commenting on the argument that only black workers and not armed struggle can win, Tambo has conceded that "the workers are potentially decisive" but insists that this is so only if accompanied by "the armed component."11

Just what combination of legal, extra-legal, and illegal pressures will create a crisis for white power is unclear. The ANC talks of preparing the ground politically for the eventual involvement of masses of people in military action. This longer-range strategy envisages armed insurrection for the seizure of political power. How the rhetoric of "a war fought by the entire people" can be translated into reality in South Africa is conjectural. Presumably many would participate by using simple forms of sabotage. Discipline and control would be obvious problems. Already there are defendants in security trials who are untrained revolutionaries with no ANC connections.

Popular pressures to hit "the Boer" appear to be mounting. The racial dimensions of the struggle are recognized by the ANC's 14-year-old basic document on strategy and tactics. It gives primacy to African "national consciousness" in the face of a growing "all White solidarity" and foresees a "confrontation on the lines of color-at least in the early stages of the conflict." Yet there are strong constraints against indiscriminate killing of whites. Counteracting the "terrorist" image and comparison to the Palestine Liberation Organization propagated by the government is important for the ANC's standing in many Western countries. In 1980 the ANC became the first liberation movement to sign the protocol extending the Geneva Convention to wars of national liberation.

The most important constraint is the ANC's policy on racial cooperation. It places a high priority on facilitating the growth of white groups within South Africa that support its aims and would be prepared to cooperate with it. The ANC is genuinely anxious, in short, not to exacerbate racial bitterness, thus jeopardizing the goal of a nonracial society.


The Reagan Administration's "constructive engagement" with South Africa carries grave risks for the national interest of the United States. South Africa is continuing in the direction it has been going for over 35 years. Despite the enlargement of privileges for some urban Africans, Coloureds, and Indians, white supremacy is now more entrenched than ever. Having been institutionalized, it is about to be constitutionalized. To discern a "hidden agenda" for basic change, as does the Reagan Administration, is to engage in the wishful thinking that has characterized U.S. policy for far too long.

One should not underestimate the capacity of the white rulers to take initiatives that win black collaboration. But they cannot defuse popular demands for a universal franchise and majority rule. Nor does South African experience support any expectation that the government can succeed with repression and crackdowns in preventing black leadership from being replenished and rising again.

Leaders of the so-called homelands and nominally independent states and a small number of African businessmen and other middle-class blacks, opposing violence and communism, will attempt to gain popular credibility. But in competing for support, they are no match for more determined opponents of white supremacy, especially when these are being joined by most of the younger and better educated blacks. Nor can one expect that Chief Buthelezi's post-referendum invitation to the "external mission" of the ANC and the PAC for a "marriage of convenience," implied to be under his leadership, will amount to any more than rhetoric for white and external consumption.

The popular black opposition, manifested most recently in the United Democratic Front, will continue to organize at the community and workplace level. Campaigning on local grievances, local groups will strengthen the base of a regional and national coalition that identifies with ANC aims and leaders. Some important black leaders will continue to oppose the tactical cooperation with whites endorsed by the ANC, but pressures for closer unity will grow. Black trade unions generally will avoid political confrontation while building their strength but in time will become significant partners of popular movements. Mass political and labor protest will exert greater pressure on the regime than will armed attacks by the ANC, but these attacks will enhance confidence and the popular standing of the ANC.

The longer the struggle takes, the more will violence spread and become bloodier on both sides. Despite the ANC's nonracialism, white-black polarization is almost bound to become more bitter. Needing larger amounts of military aid, the ANC will become more reliant on communist sources, although it will also look for such aid elsewhere.

If the perceived U.S. alignment with the white minority continues, the disastrous consequence would follow of being on the losing side of a conflict in which the Soviet Union is seen by most blacks as on the side of liberation. The United States would be repeating the mistake it has made elsewhere in the world in supporting reactionary and dictatorial regimes. Compounding the mistake would be the unique racial dimensions of the conflict and the passions it would evoke in the United States and elsewhere.

Revolution is in the making in South Africa, and violence will be a part of it. In the case of South Africa, black leaders will continue to calculate that mass pressures, including strikes and boycotts, will be more efficacious than violence. Minimizing violence should also be an important goal for the United States. To this end, it should contribute to pressures on South Africa for genuine negotiation, although one can hardly envisage this except under domestic and external pressures that are overwhelming.

In pressing South Africa to change direction, the United States cannot be ambiguous on a step that symbolizes such a change: the universal franchise. As recognition of an equal stake in society, it has been endorsed by nearly every black leader in South Africa since the end of World War II. It is crucial to any settlement.12

So is the role of the ANC. The United States can hardly stigmatize the ANC for its failure to eschew violence so long as the American alternative is unilateral change by a minority government based upon institutionalized violence. Fruitful negotiation cannot be limited, as the Reagan Administration would have it, to those who are "committed to peaceful change."

It follows that the United States should maintain contact not only with black groups tolerated by the government but also with the ANC. It should recognize the ANC as a legitimate political force whose guerrillas are freedom fighters entitled to treatment as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. The United States should also expand programs of education and humanitarian assistance to black South Africans, and these should include members of the ANC. As part of an effort to disengage itself from the South African embrace, the United States should also make clear that it will not come to the aid of the South African regime even if the black opposition has some communist support.

The imponderables in the South African situation are too many for long-range prediction. Yet one can say with confidence that the United States is now proceeding down a blind alley. Nor is light likely to be seen in any "internal settlement" detour comparable to that led by Bishop Muzorewa in Zimbabwe. Future stability and growth depend upon the emergence of a government that has popular legitimacy. If the leadership of that government has the qualities of individuals like Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, the late Steve Biko, Desmond Tutu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela, the United States will see in power leaders with the independence it hopes for.

1 The term "African" is used in this essay to mean black Africans. The term "black" is used here (as it is often used within South Africa itself) to refer to Africans, Indians, and mixed-blood "Coloureds."

2 Soviet, East German and Cuban Involvement in Fomenting Terrorism in Southern Africa, report prepared for the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, U.S. Senate, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., Washington: GPO, 1982.

3 Some passages on historical background appearing here are taken from the author's chapter on the ANC in South Africa in Southern Africa: The Intensifying Vortex of Violence, ed. Thomas Callaghy, New York: Praeger, 1983. See also Thomas Karis and Gwendolen M. Carter, eds., From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964, Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1974-77, 4 volumes.

4 Press reports have indicated a larger number of casualties in incidents relating to resistance, but not necessarily involving the ANC or the PAC. During the five years ending February 1982, there were reports of about 51 deaths, fewer than half of them white policemen or soldiers, and 113 injured. Some observers estimate that four or five times as many incidents of sabotage and clashes with government forces have occurred but have not been allowed to appear in the press.

5 South African security experts who deal with the ANC are becoming better informed and more sophisticated. Yet a chart with data on the ANC National Executive Committee which South African officials supplied to Senator Denton's Subcommittee contained many inaccuracies. It listed five persons who were not members, including a white, an Indian, and a Coloured, listed one person under two names, and omitted four longtime members. Several members were identified as communists who are not publicly known as such. Presumably state witnesses or informers, who are often unreliable, have alleged that those persons are clandestine communists.

6 Most ANC recruits are trained in Angola under ANC instructors who have been trained in the Soviet Union or East Germany. Training has taken place at various times not only in the Soviet Union and East Germany but also in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco. In mid-1978 the South African security police believed that about 4,000 Africans had left after the Soweto uprising and that about three-fourths went into ANC camps. Recent estimates vary widely: an official government commission in 1980-81, 1,400 trained fighters; the London Financial Times, 5,000 "under arms"; the South African Defense Force according to a press report, 7,000; and a South African academic expert, 7,000 trained and another 7,000 in training. The ANC will not confirm or deny such reports.

7 In some cases, however, the ANC serves as the "operational partner" of a specialized agency. In Angola, for example, there are about 6,200 South African refugees, nearly half of whom are of school age. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees considers them to be under the aegis of the ANC. Having earned a reputation for efficiency, the ANC is now acting for the High Commission in developing an agricultural settlement-not a military training camp-on a farm of almost 15,000 acres donated by the Angolan government. At present, it houses only a small number of refugees. The aim is for the farm to attain self-sufficiency as has the ANC's farm in Zambia, which provides agricultural training and also produce for both ANC people and the local market. The High Commission's aid was phased out there in 1983.

8 Once a candidate for ordination in the Anglican (Episcopal) Church, Tambo has appealed for help from "the world Christian community." The World Council of Churches' program to "combat racism" has given modest grants for years (in 1983, $70,000). Immediately after the bombing of the ANC's office in London in 1982, the British Council of Churches offered alternative facilities. The United Church of Canada and Catholic aid agencies are among other religious supporters.

9 The American Embassy had also avoided extending travel invitations to black leaders whose passport applications might be turned down. In contrast, the Soviet Union and China invited ANC leaders in the early 1950s to attend conferences and make tours, which they did without passports. The Soviet consulate in South Africa was closed in 1956, presumably for serving drinks to blacks.

11 In interrogating trade union leaders and in trials, the police and prosecutors have attempted, thus far without success, to link certain unions to the ANC by alleging ties to the ANC's ally, the South African Congress of Trade Unions. Union leaders, denying the allegations, have argued that it is unrealistic to believe that a clandestine organization can function among workers.

12 From the Union's formation in 1910 until 1936, Africans had been able to vote on the common roll in Cape Province, although only for white members of Parliament. They were then transferred to a separate roll. In 1960 even this remnant of the franchise was eliminated.

Vice President Walter Mondale was briefed to avoid the term "majority rule" and to use "full political participation" when he met Prime Minister John Vorster in 1977. But afterwards, in a press conference, he explained that "full political participation" meant one man/one vote. Shortly after President Reagan's inauguration in 1981, Harry Oppenheimer, South Africa's preeminent capitalist and a longstanding advocate of a qualified franchise, declared that power-sharing must mean "one man, one vote" and that "substantial steps" must be taken toward it within the next five years "to avoid a revolution in South Africa." Later in the year, Edward Heath, the former Conservative prime minister of Britain, said in Johannesburg, "No formula for a constitution will successfully defuse the growing forces of unrest if it does not provide for a universal franchise at the national level." Robert McNamara endorsed Heath's position in Johannesburg in 1982. In contrast, Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker has criticized the Carter Administration for having been "preoccupied with the goal of obtaining 'full political participation.'" The words were avoided by Lawrence Eagleburger in his mid-1983 statement when he predicted that black South Africans would "gain fuller participation" in society and politics.



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  • Thomas G. Karis is Executive Officer of the Doctoral Program in Political Science at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. He has traveled frequently to southern Africa, and was a foreign service officer in the American Embassy in Pretoria in the late 1950s. He is the editor, with Gwendolyn Carter, of the four-volume work, From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964.
  • More By Thomas G. Karis