Bishop Desmond Tutu today openly called for punitive economic sanctions against South Africa for the first time, risking a charge of treason.
Tutu, the black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid campaign, had said several months ago that he would call for sanctions if the government did not take significant steps to dismantle racial segregation by the end of March.
The Anglican bishop said none of the major proposals for reform had been met. He told a crowded news conference:
"I have no hope of real change from this government unless they are forced.
"We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us.
"Our children are dying. Our land is burning and bleeding, and so I call on the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa--non-racial, democratic, participatory and just."
There was no reaction from the government.
In Washington, the Reagan Administration today swiftly rejected Tutu's call. "The United States does not believe that punitive sanctions will help promote change in South Africa," State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said.
Lawyers disagree as to whether a call for economic sanctions violates South African laws. Tutu, asked about the prospect of arrest, said, "I don't think I am going to be deterred by that kind of consequence."
The bishop prefaced his call by recounting his efforts over the last 10 years to persuade the country's white-controlled government to improve the status of the voteless black majority.
He said the government ignored four proposals he made in 1980--to declare a common South African citizenship for all residents, to scrap the pass laws that limit blacks' movements, to halt forced removals of blacks from land sought by whites and to establish uniform education for all races.
"If the government had implemented them, we would have saved a great deal of anguish, bloodshed and the loss of property, and an increase in bitterness and hatred and anger," he said.
Tutu said more than 70% of the country's blacks support some form of sanctions. He said Western countries arguing that sanctions would be especially hard on blacks "should stop being so hypocritical."
Tutu said it would be up to the government and the white community to decide how much economic punishment they wanted to endure before they agreed to major changes.
"I am not sadistic," Tutu said. "I love this country passionately. Nothing is further from my mind than seeing this country destroyed."
Tutu was asked what impact his call would have on the United States, which has resisted all-out economic sanctions on South Africa.
"I put my hopes in the United States on the people, especially the university students," Tutu replied, contending that President Reagan agreed to limited sanctions only because of public pressure.
"I am not appealing to him," Tutu said. "I am appealing to the American people."