Defiant South African businessmen met with exiled black guerrilla leaders today and said they are optimistic that ways of bringing peace to their racially divided country can be found.
Gavin W. H. Relly, chairman of South Africa’s giant mining conglomerate, Anglo American Corp., said he emerged from the talks in this remote game park “with a good sense that more talks might lead to some fruitful conclusion.”
“We felt, they and us, that this has been a very important contribution to the process of seeking ways and means of ending the violence of apartheid,” said Oliver Tambo, president of the outlawed African National Congress guerrilla organization.
The white businessmen, who control much of South Africa’s vast wealth, and the guerrilla chiefs fighting for black power met for six hours at the private lodge of Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, who also attended the session.
The park is 250 miles east of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
South Africa’s white-minority government regards the ANC as a terrorist organization, and President Pieter W. Botha has said he will talk with its leaders only if it and its jailed chief, Nelson Mandela, renounce violence.
There was speculation, however, that today’s meeting could lead to talks between Botha and the ANC.
Business sources in South Africa identified other businessmen taking part in the meeting as Zac de Beer, an Anglo American director, and Tony Bloom, head of Premier Group, a food and retailing group.
All three have been increasingly critical of what they say is the South African government’s refusal to consider black demands for equal rights and an end to discriminatory race laws.
In Johannesburg today, police banned an international religious conference scheduled to begin Saturday in the huge black suburb of Soweto where Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu was to give a lecture on peace.
The order, issued by Soweto Police Commissioner Brig. Jan Coetzee, was served on the organizers of the World Conference on Religion and Peace shortly before Tutu met reporters in St. Alban’s Church for a briefing on the two-day conference.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner burst into disbelieving laughter when shown the order, which said the conference was banned because it was “likely to endanger public safety and the maintenance of public order.”
“Are we in ‘Alice in Wonderland?’ ” Tutu asked. “They are scared of people discussing peace.
“My father used to say: ‘Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad,’ and we are seeing signs of this creeping craziness,” the Anglican bishop said.
The order also said five conference executives due to arrive Saturday will be refused entry to South Africa.
Tutu was asked to comment on President Botha’s pledge to restore citizenship to blacks and on Thursday’s recommendation of a government advisory panel to scrap the blacks’ “pass laws"--both fundamental pillars of the white-minority government’s racial segregation policy called apartheid.
“Why so late?” Tutu asked.