S. Africa 'Shot Itself in Both Feet,' U.S. Aide Says

Times Staff Writer

The South African government has managed to "shoot itself in both feet" with the imposition of press censorship and other repressive measures in recent weeks, a Reagan Administration official declared Sunday.

Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, reasserted the Administration's opposition to further sanctions as a way to bring change in South African racial policies. He urged continuation of the Administration's "constructive engagement" policy to retain a minimum of U.S. influence in the deepening crisis.

Ultimately, he predicted on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley," the white regime will have to negotiate with the currently outlawed African National Congress and other black opponents.

But a South African official appearing on the same program denounced the African National Congress as Soviet-dominated and said that the government never will negotiate with the rebel organization unless it purges Communists from its ranks and forswears violence.

Louis Nel, South Africa's deputy minister of information, blamed the congress for the bulk of the deaths--more than 600 in the last 22 months--that have resulted from blacks fighting blacks.

"Our policy is not apartheid," Nel said. "It's power sharing. We are committed to that and to negotiate the new constitution for South Africa which will include all the races, all the people, all the citizens of South Africa irrespective of racial color."

Asked why, if this is true, censorship has been imposed, Nel said that the African National Congress and other "revolutionary" organizations have created an emergency. "We have an abnormal situation," he said.

Crocker condemned censorship and denounced the prolonging of time periods in which prisoners can be held without charges and the extension of banning, a punishment in which citizens can be isolated in their homes.

'Measures of Repression'

"We think what the South African government has done in recent weeks is to shoot itself in both feet," the State Department official said. "These measures of repression, which is what they are, will not address the basic grievances and their basic problems. . . . There are more than enough means of security laws and repression existing in South Africa's current laws without all these additional measures."

Crocker warned against the pullout of U.S. investment in South Africa, a move backed in a vote by the House last week. Forecasting a presidential veto if this bill clears the Senate, he said the United States should continue its presence in South Africa and press for "negotiation between black and white that produces a new political system."

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