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South Africa: the link between dignity and progress

FOR a country to live with itself and the world, it must adhere to the principle of the dignity of the individual -- upholding basic standards of decency, civil justice, and honesty. If South Africa does this, there would be a return to stability and growth. And the United States could engage in effective diplomacy with that troubled nation -- in part, along with other Western naons, helping to neutralize the Soviet Union's influence in southern Africa.

Most South Africans, blacks and whites, should not resent a form of government based on the law of dignity for the human being. A federated form of government, which is being talked about in Pretoria as one possibility, could well benefit all the peoples of South Africa. Such a governmental form could take the shape of a structured framework in which constituted political communities would individually surrender their sovereignty to a central power while retaining limited residuary powers. Such a structure necessitates a provision for the development of individual talents regardless of a person's color; only that type of colorblind neutrality can truly ensure the preservation of human rights.

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The need to reduce Soviet influence in southern Africa grows daily. At present, four nations within that region make up a territory 2 times the area of the Republic of South Africa. Nor should it be forgotten that the 33 million nationals of these states slightly outnumber thepeople of South Africa. Of the four nations, avowed Marxists are in leadership posts in Angola, Zimbabwe, andMozambique. The fourth nation, Zambia, a one-party socialistic state, stronglysupports the three others. Zambia's capital, Lusaka, is the headquarters of the African National Congress. The ANC, widely known for its close ties with communists, advocates violence while practicing terrorism.

Each of these four self-proclaimed nonaligned countries receives Soviet advisers and military assistance in varying degrees. Recent past Soviet assistance in sub-Saharan Africa has been overwhelmingly military. The reverse pattern has been true for the United States; assistance has been essentially economic. By design, Soviet surrogates are emphasizing the use of threat and possible violence. The West stresses diplomacy and economic assistance.

Nevertheless, while these countries accept Western economic assistance, the rhetoric of their leaders remains essentially the same. Thus, their peoples assume that Marxist leaders are responsible for whatever improvement may come about in their material well-being.

Within much of sub-Saharan Africa, the removal of South African apartheid would bring forth an interdependency that would set in motion a new burst of growth. Existing commerce will call forth economic development that can be realized in the way of new businesses, agricultural know-how, and rural betterment. Greater prosperity, and movement to a more stabilized economy for sub-Saharan Africa, can be a reality.

The upshot of such progress could well be better US relations vis-`a-vis all of southern Africa. Such a development in South Africa could open many doors through which Western leaders and diplomats could pass to conduct constructive dialogue. It would strike hard at the credibility of the Soviets, thus making it more difficult for them to sell their design of, first, violence, then control.

Most Western and neutral countries in the international community seek to preserve the dignity of the human being and self-determination for their peoples. These peoples and all South Africans would then be united by means of social equality.

My experience in southern Africa suggests that credible South African diplomacy can move itself and southern Africa toward a better way of life for its people -- regional security, economic development, and peaceful change.

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Robert H. Phinny served as US ambassador to the Kingdom of Swaziland from 1982 to 1984.

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