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US business warned against new investments in S. Africa

A major new study of United States and South African relations recommends against new American investment in this white-ruled republic, and urges larger US stockpiles of strategic minerals in order to ease America's dependence on the southern African region.

Those are two of the more controversial suggestions in a 517-page report entitled "South Africa: Time Running Out," by the Southern Africa -- a private group whose research was underwritten by the Rockefeller Foundation. The commission was chaired by Franklin A. Thomas, president of the Ford Foundation, and included 10 other American education, business, and labor leadrers.

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Although the body has no formal relationship with the US government, its findings will undoubtedly influence the ongoing debate about America's thorny relationship with South Africa, which is the last country on earth where racial discrimination is official government policy.

Despite near-universal condemnation of South Africa's system of apartheid (racial separation), American companies have a $2 billion investment in South Africa. Moreover, the United States imports a number of vital minerals from South Africa -- including chrome, manganese, platinum, and vanadium -- for which there are few known substitutes and meager US reserves.

The group found that American policy towards South Africa should have five underlying objectives. These are:

* To make clear the fundamental and continuing opposition of the US government and people to the system of apartheid, with particular emphasis on the exclusion of blacks from an effective share in political power.

* To promote genuine political power sharing in South Africa with a minimum of violence by systematically exerting influence on the South African government.

* To support organizations inside South Africa working for change, assist the development of black leadership, and promote black welfare.

* To assist the economic development of the other states in southern Africa, including the reduction of the imbalance in their economic relations with South Africa.

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* To reduce the impact of stoppages of imports of key minerals from South Africa.

In support of these objectives, the commission outlines a number of actions that can be taken by the US government, American corporations, and private groups and individuals.

Significantly, the commission rejects "disinvestment" -- the total disengagement of US business from South Africa. However, it does recommend other moves that are bound to prove controversial.

The group has called for a moratorium on new US investments in South Africa, and a halt to expansion of American-owned business already here. Further, the study recommends stepped-up efforts by American corporations here to comply with the so-called Sullivan Principles regarding nondiscrimination in the workplace, and urges development of a standard against which companies can gauge their expenditures for "social development."

The panel also has a number of other suggestions, ranging from the placement of more blacks on the US diplomatic staff here to a widening of the current embargo on nuclear fuels and technology to South Af rica.

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