SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA
THE African National Congress (ANC) has told its international supporters to prepare for the lifting of remaining trade and financial sanctions within the next few months.
This means that South Africa could gain access to much-needed international capital for development projects by April or May.
The ANC asked an international solidarity conference here, attended by more than 500 guests from around the world, to approve the lifting of sanctions once agreement is reached on a transition to democracy and a date set for the country's first democratic ballot.
Thabo Mbeki, the ANC's foreign secretary, told an ANC fund-raising conference Friday night that the remaining hurdles to agreement on a transition package should be removed by April.
These include establishing a multiracial, advisory Transitional Executive Council, setting up independent electoral and media commissions, and passing a Transition to Democracy Act as proposed by the ANC to amend the existing Constitution for the transition period.
Most economic sanctions against South Africa have fallen away since President Frederik de Klerk legalized the ANC in February 1990 and abolished most apartheid laws in mid-1991.
Last year the ANC gave the green light for the lifting of cultural and sporting sanctions.
But South Africa has not been able to gain access to vital development loans from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
When the US repealed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in June 1991, it left in place the so-called Gramm amendment that withholds US approval for international loans to South Africa until certain conditions are met. The needed conditions are understood to mean a signal from black leaders in South Africa that the transition to democracy is irreversible.
And access to loans from the International Monetary Fund will come only once democratic elections have been held. In addition, the arms and oil embargoes will remain in place until a democratic government has been elected.
The ANC also decided that South African membership in international bodies - like the UN and its agencies - should wait until an elected interim government is in place.
The decision to bring forward the lifting of most financial sanctions was taken against the backdrop of a deepening economic recession and a national unemployment figure approaching 50 percent.
The ANC appealed to its international supporters to shift their emphasis from moral support and protest to financial support for its election campaign and contributions toward development in the post-apartheid South Africa.