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Botha's move

THE continued evidence of deterioration in South Africa's economic and social climate makes it ever more urgent that President P. W. Botha swiftly move for major social reforms. Winnie Mandela, wife of the jailed black leader Nelson Mandela, spoke of ``vengeance'' when addressing the crowd at a funeral for 12 blacks killed by police. Such comments feed the fears of whites and increase resistance of some toward sharing power with blacks.

Poverty, long viewed as restricted to blacks and people of mixed race, has transgressed South Africa's rigid color barrier. Attention is beginning to focus on the existence of a new group of people affected by the declining economy: whites who have become indigent. The existence of relatively modest but rising numbers of poor whites pushes the South African government toward taking actions to revive the economy.

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Convincing the world's business community that South Africa is a sufficiently stable economy for investment is a prerequisite for revitalization. That, in turn, requires major societal change -- abolishing apartheid and sharing power with blacks.

Toward that end, a column on the page opposite recommends three feasible proposals that President Botha should swiftly present to Parliament: calling a constitutional convention, sharing power with blacks, ending apartheid. He should take heed.

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