Shultz, Senators Clash Over South Africa
Secretary of State George P. Shultz clashed sharply Wednesday with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who expressed a strong, bipartisan determination to impose new U.S. economic sanctions on South Africa despite President Reagan’s objections.
Angered and disappointed by Reagan’s speech Tuesday in which he reaffirmed his South African policy, senators of both parties bluntly told the secretary that the President had erred in ruli1852252271the speech as “a principled statement of which we can all be proud.”
An especially bitter exchange erupted when Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), his voice rising with indignation, accused the Administration of siding with the ruling white regime in Pretoria--which he called “some stupid puppet government"--against South Africa’s black majority.
Shultz, his own voice strained with anger, said, “I hate to hear a senator of the United States calling for violence.”
“I’m not calling for violence,” Biden insisted. “I hate to hear an administration and a secretary of state refusing to act on a morally abhorrent point. I’m ashamed of this country that points out a policy like this that says nothing, nothing. . . . I’m ashamed of the lack of moral backbone to this policy.”
Shultz replied, “I resent that deeply because there is tremendous moral backbone in that policy, on a bipartisan basis.” He said he recognizes that blacks in South Africa are oppressed but added: “I don’t turn my back on whites. They are also people.”
The confrontation clearly delighted White House officials. “Shultz beat up on them,” presidential spokesman Larry Speakes boasted.
Both Speakes and Shultz denied a New York Times report that the United States had worked closely with the British to provide South Africa with intelligence about the activities of the banned African National Congress (ANC). Shultz said that CIA Director William J. Casey told him “categorically that the report was not true.”
Despite a flare of temper, Shultz generally adopted a more conciliatory tone toward Congress than Reagan’s speech. He expressed a willingness to meet with ANC leaders and indicated that the Administration is hoping that some change in South African policy will be announced Aug. 12 in a speech by President Pieter W. Botha.
Unlike Reagan, Shultz did not rule out the possibility that the Administration eventually might agree to some new steps in conjunction with U.S. allies--even though he continued to emphasize Reagan’s opposition to sanctions.
‘Prepared to Take Action’
“We are prepared to take action, with our allies, to change the mix of our pressures--positive and negative--to meet the rapidly changing course of events in South Africa,” he said.
But the secretary declined to say whether the President intends to renew existing sanctions that are scheduled to expire Sept. 9 and later cautioned: “I’m not saying that if we can get our allies to go along with us on a lot of sanctions, then we’re for them.”
He emphasized that the President strongly opposes any legislation by Congress to impose sanctions because “this is not a situation in which we can afford to be locked in the straitjacket of rigid legislation, no matter how well intended or carefully drafted.”
Ignoring the warning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and a majority of the committee members declared their intention to draft legislation that would impose new economic sanctions on South Africa. But Lugar disappointed some members by refusing to schedule a prompt committee meeting to draft the bill.
Sanctions Bill Promised
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) announced that they would offer their own sanctions measure on the Senate floor today unless Lugar agreed to draft a committee bill next week. “The time to choose is hours away, not months,” Weicker said.
Among other things, the Kennedy-Cranston-Weicker measure would ban new U.S. investment and U.S. bank loans to South Africa; prohibit importation of South African uranium, coal, steel, food and agricultural products; revoke landing rights for South African aircraft; prohibit U.S. consulates from offering services to South African citizens; cut U.S. aid to investment in South Africa; end U.S. government contact with South African companies, and outlaw the promotion of U.S. tourism in South Africa. Most of the sanctions could be lifted if South Africa frees black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela.
The three senators said they also would offer a stricter House-passed measure that requires divestiture of U.S. holdings in South Africa, even though that bill is not expected to have majority support in the Senate. Lugar, on the other hand, has indicated that he will offer an alternative containing only some of the sanctions in the Kennedy-Cranston-Weicker measure.
“The United States refused to do business with Nazi Germany; the United States must now refuse to do business with apartheid South Africa,” Cranston said.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who like Lugar is normally allied with the Reagan Administration, endorsed Lugar’s approach and called on the Administration to appoint a special envoy to initiate negotiations between blacks and whites in South Africa. He said the United States must “demonstrate our aversion to that indefensible system in a concrete way.”
Another Republican, Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.), who chairs the Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, told Shultz that she was “deeply disappointed” by the President’s speech. “It gave no new direction for our policies toward South Africa and it offered no renewed vigor in our pursuit of peaceful change there.”
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) was critical of the Administration for entirely different reasons, questioning why Shultz would offer to meet with African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo without requiring that he denounce violence. Helms and other conservatives are believed to be planning to filibuster consideration of any sanctions measure.
Shultz defended the Administration’s plan to meet with all South African black leaders, and Lugar later noted that the United States never has “impressed upon Pieter Botha that he would have to renounce repression before we would talk to him.”
State Department officials later acknowledged that there has never been any top-level Administration contact with ANC leaders, even though they have previously expressed a willingness to participate in such meetings. Shultz acknowledged that he had no meetings planned.
At the same time, Shultz condemned Bishop Desmond Tutu for saying that the West could “go to hell” after hearing Reagan’s speech. “I don’t like to hear anybody use language like he used about a presidential statement,” he said.
Most of Shultz’s testimony was what he himself described as a “laborious summary” of the economic woes of South Africa, where U.S. investment has dwindled to an estimated $2 billion and inflation persists at a rate of 17.5%. He argued that economic sanctions are unnecessary because South Africa has already received a “message sent by the marketplace.”
“It’s going downhill in a hurry,” he said.
There was a strong sense of urgency among members of the committee, most of whom seemed to share Lugar’s estimate that increased bloodshed is imminent in South Africa without some immediate change. Biden ridiculed Reagan’s call for Pretoria to set a timetable for ending apartheid.
“What’s our timetable?” Biden demanded. “Do we say ‘you’ve got 20 days, 20 months, 20 years’? Hell, they’ve tried to compromise for 20 years.”