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Kennedy Urges S. Africa Reform : Plea to End Apartheid Is Rebuffed in Pretoria

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Times Staff Writer

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy urged the South African government Monday to grant full citizenship rights to the country’s black majority, but he said after talks here that he has seen no indication that the apartheid policies of racial segregation will ever be ended.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha, Kennedy asked that South Africa’s 24 million blacks be given full political rights, that no more be stripped of their South African citizenship and that the government’s program of forced resettlement of blacks be ended.

But Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said after the hourlong meeting, “I did not find anything that was very much encouraging.”

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Botha did not disagree. “It would be naive ever to expect me and Senator Kennedy to reach common ground,” the South African foreign minister told reporters. “He cannot even reach common ground with the Republicans in the United States, and the Republicans are to the left of us.”

Kennedy warned Botha that, unless “meaningful change (is) likely in the foreseeable future,” the U.S. Congress will probably enact economic sanctions against South Africa, including restrictions on American investments here.

But domestic pressure, far more potent in South African political terms than that from abroad, is also mounting on the government to broaden and accelerate the reforms of recent years.

In a major challenge to the government, five leading business groups, representing more than 80% of South African employers, called Monday for new legislation that not only would assure “meaningful political participation” for blacks but also end restrictions on black businessmen, strengthen the black trade union movement, ensure the fair administration of justice by the country’s courts and end forced resettlements.

Adopted by the Federated Chamber of Industries, the South African Chamber of Mines, the Assn. of Chambers of Commerce, the Afrikaanse Handelsinstitute and the black National African Chamber of Commerce, the statement said that the groups will also work for better labor relations, improved black housing, a greater role for black businessmen and increased educational opportunities for black children.

While expressing their opposition to foreign economic sanctions, such as those proposed in the United States and Western Europe, the business groups made clear their strong belief that the South African government is doing too little and moving too slowly to resolve the country’s problems.

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Their statement was prompted in part by a speech that Kennedy will deliver this afternoon to the South African business community calling upon it, particularly the 350 American companies operating here, to take the lead in preparing for an end to apartheid.

Kennedy ‘a Catalyst’

“Kennedy should not take credit since sentiment for this move had already developed,” one well-informed business executive said, “but he truly was the catalyst. We might have hemmed and hawed for two or three more months and eventually said half as much. He became a challenge to us: Why should an American tell us what is wrong with our society and how to fix it?”

Kennedy’s eight-day visit to South Africa focuses on what he perceives as South Africa’s problems, and he declared his intention at the outset to speak out on them.

On Monday, he took up the issue of the forced relocation of blacks from farmlands that had been declared white areas and their resettlement in more remote and usually undeveloped rural regions. He first raised the matter with Botha, noting that Americans view the resettlement policy as a primary manifestation of apartheid, and he then visited Mathopestad, a community of 3,000 blacks who are being forced from their homes.

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