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S. African Coalition Hails U.S. Sanctions Drive

Times Staff Writer

The United Democratic Front, a multiracial coalition of 650 groups opposed to South Africa’s apartheid policies of racial segregation, welcomed publicly for the first time Wednesday the campaign in the United States for economic sanctions against the minority white government of South Africa.

“White South Africa has undoubtedly been shaken to the core by the phenomenal upsurge in the anti-apartheid protests, especially the disinvestment movement in the United States,” Murphison Morobe, the front’s acting publicity secretary, said at a news conference.

“The United Democratic Front welcomes the disinvestment campaign and its gains, especially insofar as it has succeeded in rendering President Reagan’s ‘constructive engagement’ policy hollow and unrepresentative of the majority of American citizens.”

The statement was intended to encourage the U.S. Congress in its consideration of economic sanctions against South Africa and to counter arguments that blacks, not whites, would suffer from such measures.

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Avoids Open Advocacy

But Morobe stopped short of openly advocating the pullout by American and other foreign companies doing business here, the sale of their stock by shareholders to force their withdrawal, or other proposed sanctions, such as a U.S. ban on the sale of South Africa’s gold Krugerrand coins or a prohibition of computer sales to the South African government. These steps, he said, might be construed as “economic sabotage” under the country’s sweeping security laws.

The silence of most anti-apartheid groups and black labor unions on foreign economic sanctions should be taken as support for them, Morobe said. The only major black political organization to oppose sanctions is Inkatha, a predominantly Zulu group led by Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi. It is viewed by the United Democratic Front as cooperating with the government, though it, too, opposes apartheid.

Morobe disputed assertions that American and other foreign companies are among the most effective agents of economic and social--and thus political--change in South Africa through fair employment practices and other policies.

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Profit Goal Seen

“Their first and primary goal is nothing but the expansion of their profits,” Morobe said. “Without abundant cheap labor and intense repression, particularly of the trade union movement, South Africa may not have been an attractive proposition to them. . . .

“To the United Democratic Front and the entire movement for liberation in South Africa, foreign investment is not only seen but, in fact, has always been tacit complicity in the policies of apartheid and the vicious exploitation of the mineral resources and labor power of this country.”

Billy Nair, vice chairman of the front’s Natal provincial branch, criticized a much-cited report by Prof. Lawrence Schlemmer of the University of Natal on black attitudes toward divestment and other sanctions. Schlemmer’s report, which concluded that three-quarters of black industrial workers oppose divestment and other sanctions, was “of little value” because of poor methodology, Nair said.

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