Tambo Meets British Official, Reports No Sanctions Progress
Oliver Tambo, leader of the African National Congress, met for the first time with a British government minister Tuesday and hinted afterward at the possibility of future talks.
While Tambo said he was unable to budge Britain from its opposition to comprehensive economic sanctions against South Africa and had made no promise to give up the group’s guerrilla campaign, he added that both sides expressed the hope for what he called “further opportunities for discussion of these matters.”
Tambo’s 45-minute meeting with Foreign Office Minister of State Lynda Chalker marked the first time a British minister has ever received a representative of the ANC, outlawed as a terrorist organization by the white South African government.
While Chalker told reporters following the session that “there was a good deal more understanding than I feared there might be,” the significance of the meeting lay not in its content but in the fact that it took place at all.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government has consistently refused to meet an African National Congress representative until the guerrilla organization renounced its violent tactics.
Although Thatcher explained to the House of Commons on Tuesday that Chalker was meeting Tambo to persuade him to give up violence as a means to end apartheid, the move was widely interpreted as a signal to the South African government that it must do more to implement change.
The meeting was also likely to ease pressure on Britain from the 49 member nations of the Commonwealth, where it is virtually isolated in opposing widespread sanctions.
‘Honest, Strong, Candid’
“We have had a very serious and useful meeting,” Chalker said. “We were very honest and strong and candid with one another, but we left the meeting shaking hands, talking about the future.
“We have to find a way--that was the message we were both expressing to one another in different terms, my own with the accent on a cessation of violence, his with effective pressure,” she added.
Tambo described the meeting as useful.
“We got the views of the British government; the ANC got its own views across,” he said. “One doesn’t expect to meet a Foreign Office minister and begin (immediately) to expect a shift of positions.
“She did say that she hoped, as we do hope, that there will be further opportunities for discussion of these matters,” he added.
No Formal Recognition
Tambo said Chalker stressed that Tuesday’s meeting did not constitute Britain’s formal recognition of the black nationalist organization, which is leading the armed struggle to bring down apartheid.
Earlier Tuesday, Tambo met with a group of members of Parliament from the Conservative Party to discuss conditions in South Africa. He refused a request by the lawmakers to denounce the use of so-called necklace killings, in which tires are placed around the neck of a suspected government collaborator and set on fire.
“The necklace is a product of apartheid,” he maintained. “I regret it, but I cannot condemn it.”
Speaking in the House of Commons shortly before Tambo’s meeting with Chalker, Thatcher underscored Britain’s desire to end apartheid through negotiation rather than violence. She also repeated her opposition to comprehensive economic sanctions on the grounds that they have not worked in the past.