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What must accompany sanctions against South Africa

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AFTER sanctions, what? Congress has now passed a modest package of sanctions against South Africa. And it may yet override President Reagan's expected veto.

Sanctions make moral and practical sense, in our view. But they are unlikely on their own to bring about the goals they seek: an end to harsh government repression, dismantling of the apartheid system, and a prompt transition to majority rule.

We propose four strategies to accompany whatever sanctions the United States and other countries may apply. All have the potential to effect significant change.

Support the aspirations of the powerless.

South Africa will be neither a just nor a stable society until all its inhabitants are granted citizenship and all its adult citizens are given the right to vote. The current government is clearly unwilling to make the minimum reforms required. Outside efforts to ``reason with the powerful'' are therefore doomed unless complemented by efforts to encourage empowering those denied a voice in national politics.

An empowerment strategy should include highly visible, official US support for those Africans imprisoned for advocating basic political rights for all South Africans.

The American ambassador should visit Pollsmoor Prison and ask to speak with Nelson Mandela. If authorities turn him down -- as seems likely -- the ambassador should return on a weekly basis with the same request.

US officials should visit other sites where less well-known political prisoners are held, attend the trials of these prisoners, and sponsor in absentia awards to some of them. High-ranking officials of the American and other embassies should attend some of the important funerals in the black townships. Such funerals are now highly significant political events.

These actions could be discounted as ``merely'' symbolic. But symbolic acts, at crunch points in history, have a way of becoming substantive deeds as well.

American corporations in South Africa should set up legal defense funds for employees willing to challenge racially discriminatory laws.


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