Speaking to a supportive audience in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, the consul general for South Africa described his nation as one that has outlawed apartheid and as the only country in Africa “that has made a success of things.”
At a luncheon gathering of Republican women, Los Angeles-based consul Leslie B. Labuschagne attacked negative perceptions of South Africa in the American media and defended his country as one in which discrimination was steadily being eradicated.
And on the eve of a vote in Congress on sanctions against South Africa, Labuschagne warned that this action would not hurt South Africa as much as it would simply force it to operate independently of its longtime ally, the United States.
“An economy is not like a bunch of bananas where you can rip off one and squash it,” he said. Rather, South Africa was more “like a bowl of soup,” he said. “I agree, some of us have bigger spoons than the others, but at least we all have spoons.”
Labuschagne declared that South Africa could stand on its own, noting that it has the highest gross national product of any nation in Africa and is responsible for 50% of the continent’s industrial production--all “without foreign intervention” in its government.
Support for Regime
Labuschagne spoke to an all-white audience from the Newport Beach-based Balboa Bay Republican Club. The 80-plus members and a sprinkling of guests listened attentively, sometimes nodding.
Before the meeting, held at the Huntington Beach Inn, club publicity chairman Ida Williams had said that most of the women supported the South African regime. She also called South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu “a troublemaker” and described South African dissenters as “nothing but a bunch of radicals singing apartheid. They don’t even know how to spell it (the word apartheid ),” she said.
Early in his speech, Labuschagne had claimed that “apartheid is no longer the South African policy and most South Africans are very relieved that that is so.” But in comments to reporters after the lunch, the 45-year-old consul acknowledged that South Africa’s blacks and “coloreds” still do not have equal rights to vote as whites, still attend segregated schools and still live in segregated housing.
The consul devoted part of his speech to criticizing the press, arguing that American reporters have presented an unfairly negative image of South Africa and have concentrated on radicals from the African National Congress but have failed to quote moderate black leaders.
Visit to Crossroads
For instance, on Tuesday reporters covered Coretta Scott King as she visited a squalid South African township called Crossroads. “Now, we are trying to get people to leave Crossroads . . . to go a mile down the road where there are houses built,” but some black activists have been saying, ‘Don’t leave Crossroads,’ ” Labuschagne said. He added, “We have slums. But what I am proud of is we are changing these, but they don’t give us credit for what has been done.”
Labuschagne also described an advertising campaign last year in which the South African Tourist Council bought $4 million worth of TV ads on all three networks. The plan was to show the South African countryside: “You know, the beaches, the lions--nothing political.”
When the ads began to run, some viewers complained and two of the three networks refused to run the ads. “In the land of the free and the brave, they pulled the spots,” Labuschagne recounted.
After Labuschagne’s speech, club president Goldie Joseph asked her members to send postcards about South Africa to area legislators and President Reagan. Her members had “learned the truth” from Labuschagne, she said.