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Senior House - discussion on Apartheid Collquium

By David B. Oberman

Professor of Political Science Willard R. Johnson called for immediate economic sanctions against South Africa at a Senior House discussion of apartheid last week, held as part of the Institute Colloquium on Apartheid.

Associate Provost Samuel J. Keyser was also present at the discussion.

Johnson said that sanctions would cause a great economic crisis there. He added that President Ronald W. Reagan's token sanctions caused little damage to the South African government and that America's acceptance of them as effective measures against apartheid prevented more potent actions from being taken.

Johnson commended US banks for refusing to renew $12 billion in loans to the South African government, which has been severely stricken economically by the low price of gold in recent years.

South Africa is also trying to borrow $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The US Congress has resolved to vote against these loans, largely due to the persuasive efforts of MIT Economics Professor Richard S. Eckaus '54, according to Johnson.

But US corporations operating in South Africa are not exercising their considerable power to bring about change in the South African government, Johnson said. Corporations abiding by the Sullivan Code for fair treatment of blacks account for only $93 million in South African business each year, which is not enough to change anything, he said.

"The threat of withdrawal [from South Africa] is sometimes worse than withdrawal," Johnson said. He warned that the outright withdrawal of American corporations from South Africa would accomplish little. If South Africa survived economically, it would stand on stronger ground than ever.

Johnson said the threat of a Soviet takeover of South Africa if the current government topples has been overstated. He was unaware of any connection between any of the South African Marxist "National Liberation Organizations" and the Soviet Union.

The longer US economic sanctions are delayed, though, the more powerful these anti-west factions will become, and the moderate leaders like Bishop Desmond Tutu will lose power, Johnson concluded.

Johnson said many people fear that too many factions exist in South Africa, and that a black takeover would cause chaos. "If assimilation starts early," these factions could become united, probably under the popular anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, he said.

After a revolution, the whites in South Africa would probably stage a mass exodus, and those that remained might become second-class citizens, Johnson said.

More Europeans, however, now live in Kenya, Cameroon, Mozambique and other African countries that overthrew white governments than ever before, he added.