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Baker - discussion on Apartheid Collquium

By Susmitha Bellam

Professor of Literature John Hildebidle said the main choice in making a South African policy is whether to "prevent the worst or allow for the best." He and Professor of Political Science Charles Stewart led a discussion on apartheid held at Baker House.

A group of about twenty students discussed whether the United States should stay in South Africa and rely on constructive negotiation or divest from the country to allow the people of South Africa to resolve the situation.

Some students said it would be better if black South Africans deal with their own problems rather than be manipulated by others.

Other people said a revolution in South Africa would result in a bloodbath. Some countries, including India and Uganda, have experienced problems that might have been better dealt with if government turnover had been on a gradual basis, a student said.

William Jacobsen of the US State Department's working group on South Africa said earlier in Kresge that the United States is not pressuring for one man, one vote. President Reagan's position is that the object of negotiations is any improvement in the situation in South Africa, Jacobsen said.

Historically, sanctions have had no effect on target nations, according to Baker Housemaster Harald A. T. Reiche. Stewart said US sanctions against South Africa would have no effect unless they received broad support from the rest of South Africa's trading partners, especially Great Britain and West Germany.

The South African government, whose economy relies heavily on exports, might be forced to give more rights to blacks, one student said. South African businessmen are pressuring the government to make concessions, another student said.

Several people if government and consumers pressured business to act, business would divest from South Africa because the decreased stock value would create a threat of takeover. Others said the US government, not corporations, should take the first step in opposition to apartheid.

The value of the rand, South Africa's currency, dropped last summer after economic sanctions had been imposed against South Africa by the United States.

Many of those present said sanctions, divestment, and disinvestment are justifiable for moral reasons. Dissociation from the government of South Africa should be the main objective of divestment, they argued.

The group discussed several factors which contribute to violence within the black community. They included the growing restlessness within the black community and the fact that many black children are effectively excluded from higher education.

Many of those present felt that a gradual approach to turning the government over to the blacks might not appease militants. One member of the group said most black South Africans suppport the African National Congress (ANC) rather than South African Bishop Desmond Tutu's policy of nonviolence.

Stewart compared the situation in South Africa now to the situation in the United States in the late sixties and early seventies. "While there is a common ground between blacks and whites in the United States, there is none in South Africa," he said.

Stewart said that the situation in a post-revolutionary South Africa might allow for a government that leans toward the Soviet Union, even though the ANC is not affiliated with the Communist party in South Africa.

Hildebidle has an interest in South African literature and Stewart studies the policies of the US Congress.