House Panel Votes New Curbs on South Africa

Times Staff Writer

The Democratic-run House Foreign Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to back a new round of U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa, reviving last year’s tug of war over how to protest white minority rule--a confrontation that pressured President Reagan into imposing modest trade restrictions.

The panel ignored Administration objections and voted 25 to 13 in favor of a tough package of penalties that would halt new American investment in South Africa, ban imports into this country of South African coal, uranium and steel, withdraw American landing rights for South African aircraft and stop U.S. computer business in that country.

House Passage Predicted

Supporters predicted that the measure would easily win approval in the full House and timed a vote for next week to coincide with the 10th anniversary of deadly anti-apartheid riots in Soweto, an impoverished black township outside of Johannesburg.


In the face of rising racial violence, both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-run Senate overwhelmingly approved sanctions packages last year. However, Reagan headed off final congressional approval of a compromise version when he cast aside earlier reservations and issued an executive order imposing a watered-down set of penalties.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) has scheduled hearings on South Africa next month, during which the question of new sanctions will be examined. However, Mark Helmke, a spokesman for Lugar, said that conservative Republicans could use procedural roadblocks to slow sanctions legislation in the Senate this year.

Sponsors of the legislation said that Reagan’s executive order, which among other things curbed the lucrative sale in this country of South African gold coins, has failed to prod the white-run Pretoria government into meaningful political reforms that would cool racial tensions and lead to the end of apartheid.

“If the South Africans refuse to bring the problem to the table we are going to find an explosion in South Africa,” predicted Rep. Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa.


But Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, called the legislation “the wrong bill at the wrong time” and suggested that it would undercut several Administration initiatives designed to bring about low-key pressure for change on Pretoria.

Shultz Opposed

Meanwhile, Secretary of State George P. Shultz also expressed his opposition to new sanctions in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.). Rather than bring whites and blacks together, Shultz predicted, new sanctions would stiffen resistance to compromise on both sides.

“I fear that the proposed legislation would backfire, reducing our influence and our continued capacity to use effective pressure for change,” Shultz wrote.


Most Republicans on the panel voted against the bill, including Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, who said the sanctions would harm blacks most while they hurt the economy of South Africa. Dismissing the package as a “Democratic policy of scorched earth for southern Africa,” Hyde said Democratic sponsors are trying more to score political points at home than resolve the racial problems of South Africa.

However, Iowa Republican Jim Leach, one of only three GOP panel members to support the bill, recalled the anti-slavery roots of his party in arguing for passage. Leach admitted that he is unsure whether the bill would help end apartheid. “But opposing a tightening of the noose could put the Republican Party on the wrong side of its heritage,” Leach said.