Botha`s British Allies

When the Pretoria regime imposed new restrictions on the press a week ago, it was in the hope that by pushing the ugly reality of apartheid violence out of sight, the issue of South Africa would drift out of the minds of the international public.

P.W. Botha`s hopes will not be realised. The question of apartheid will not drop out of world politics. On the contrary, millions of people in many countries, including the United Kingdom, will continue to act in their various ways to help bring about genuine change in South Africa.

The real problem that the Botha regime faces in this country is not one of television pictures. The question is how long Pretoria can continue to count on the open or tacit support of its traditional allies. To put the matter in another way, those in the United Kingdom who have given and continue to extend aid and comfort to racism in South Africa are increasingly having to answer the question whether these old positions serve their interests.

It is now possible to state the matter in these terms because significant sections of the British establishments have, at last and in their own interests, come to the conclusion that the apartheid system in South Africa must go.

But having come to that conclusion, many of these leading Britons still entertain the notion that change should be effected in a manner that is comfortable for them. They pray that the new South Africa that must inevitably come into being will conform to their conception of what a just South African society should look like. In other words, the recognition of the legitimacy of our cause is not accompanied by an equal acceptance of our right to decide the ways and means by which to liberate ourselves as well as the content of that liberation.

Thus we arrive at the ironic position whereby the oldest democracy in the world seeks to persuade us that democracy is bad for our country. Grave misgiving are expressed about our adopting the "British model" of one person one vote in a unitary State. Rather, it is suggested, we should opt for a federal system. It is clear to us that 75 years after the formation of the Union of South Africa, important political and business circles in the United Kingdom still refuse to turn their backs on the idea of white privilege. But as a movement committed to a democratic South Africa and, therefore, to the abolition of the pernicious system of racism, we cannot accept the suggestion that we should think and function within the racial parameters set by the social order we seek to destroy. The security and happiness of all the people of our country can be guaranteed only by the birth of a democratic society. Any arrangement which perpetuates racial divisions and privilege is a prescription for continuing tensions and conflict.

We consider it a matter of utmost importance that our white compatriots should be persuaded to recognise the correctness of this proposition. Accordingly, we would like to see as many whites as possible involved in the struggle to bring about such a democratic society. White South Africans should see themselves not as part of the problem but as part of the solution.

By participating in the democratic struggle as agents of change, our white compatriots will help to break down the racial barriers which divide our country and contribute to the formulation of a solution that accords with the interests of all our people, both black and white.

Sadly, many prominent British people dismiss this perspective as "idealistic". They cannot conceive of the white population acting other than as a white group in defence of exclusive white interests. What is presented as realism is, to us, encouragement of the white population of our country to continue to see themselves not as South Africans but as white South Africans, with a recognised international right to maintain their privileged positions. This does nothing to advance the process of change in our country. On the contrary, it is an argument encouraging the perpetuation of racial conflict.

The perspective which centres the process of change in our country on the need to accept a white veto also finds expression in the persistent demand that we must renounce violence. The British Prime Minister has even managed to reach the extraordinary conclusion that the violence of South African society cannot be ascribed to the apartheid system. In her remarkable view we, the victims of tyranny, are to blame for the violence unleashed against us.

The argument that we should not use violence to achieve the political objective of a democratic South Africa ought, surely, to be preceded by the demand that the Pretoria regime should not use violence to maintain the system of white minority rule. This demand is, of course, not made, because those who are against our taking up arms accept it as perfectly legitimate that the white minority should use force to maintain itself in positions of power.

The spurious "principle" that it is impermissible for us to use violent means to liberate ourselves cannot be sustained either by logic or by the historical practice of even the present British government. If the British government were indeed guided by such a principle, then the Lancaster House conference which resolved the Zimbabwe question should never have taken place. After all, the Patriotic Front was continuing its armed struggle even as the new Zimbabwe constitution was being negotiated in London.

The problem is not that we are violating some principle. What is at issue is that we have refused to surrender and submit to white minority rule. Denied all constitutional means to bring about change, we were expected to sit back and wait on the magnanimity of our rulers to take pity on us.

That, of course, we could not and shall not do, in much the same way as the peoples of Europe could not but take up arms when the Nazis imposed their tyrannical rule on so many countries. Like them, we have no choice but to fight and to sue for victory. Many of those who reject this position do so because they think that British interests in South and southern Africa are best protected by a white minority regime in Pretoria. It is for this reason that we are being asked to disarm ourselves and leave the Botha regime with a monopoly of arms.

It is also strange that those who present us with this demand are the same people who oppose the imposition of sanctions against apartheid South Africa. The fact of the matter, however, is that the failure to impose sanctions is the surest guarantee that our country will be torn apart by a bitter armed conflict which will be very costly in terms both of lives and property.

This is for the simple reason that as long as the apartheid regime has the material resources to maintain its machinery of repression, so long will it use that machinery to protect the system of white minority domination.

The unprecedented anti-apartheid rally in London last weekend was more than ample demonstration that the British public has understood the vital importance of sanctions as a peaceful way of helping to bring about democratic change in South Africa. Hopefully, in the end, the British Government will heed the views of the public and abandon the delusion that British jobs and property are best secured by a bloody civil war in South Africa.

It would be legitimate for any reader of this newspaper to pose the question: Why then, given all that we have said, Botha should fear that he is losing and will lose his traditional allies. Having spent a fortnight talking to a broad cross-section of leading British public personalities, including the leaders of all the parties represented in Parliament (with the exception of the Conservative), the anti-apartheid movement, trade unionists, bankers, industrialists, editors, academics, local government authorities, and so on, one thing is clear.

This is that the series of don`ts that we are presented with are a last ditch attempt to postpone reaching the inevitable conclusion that Britain must take decisive action to isolate apartheid South Africa and support the ANC and the democratic majority in our country.

Since those at the top still hide behind excuses to run away from these inevitable conclusions, the British people are acting from below to make those objectives a reality. Their actions, combined with those of our people in South Africa will leave Botha`s traditional allies with very few choices.

ES Reddy