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Tutu Calls for Economic Sanctions against South Africa

April 2, 1986 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Bishop Desmond Tutu, risking arrest for treason, said Wednesday that only harsh economic sanctions can force the white government to change its course and avert ″a catastrophe in this land.″

The black Anglican bishop said he realized he might be prosecuted for making his first direct call for sanctions, but he did not care because ″our children are dying, our land is burning and bleeding.″

″I call the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa: non-racial, democratic, participatory and just,″ he said.


In Soweto, the huge black township outside Johannesburg, black activist Winnie Mandela returned to the home from which she was barred for nine years. Her attorney said the government had, in effect, lifted a banning order that had restricted her movements for more than two decades by deciding not to contest an appeal.

Government reports said most of South Africa’s black students returned to class after the Easter recess, heeding a decision of black leaders not to resume a boycott that involved about 200,000 students before it was suspended last year.

Andrew Zondo, a 19-year-old member of the outlawed African National Congress guerrilla movement, was sentenced to death for a bombing that killed five whites Dec. 23 at a shopping center near Durban. He was convicted Tuesday.

Tutu, the bishop of Johannesburg who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his eloquent opposition to apartheid, did not recommend specific sanctions but said they should be punitive, coordinated and immediate.

He told a news conference that international pressure is the only hope for ending the racial policy through which 5 million whites deny rights to the 24 million blacks.

Information Minister Louis Nel said sanctions ″would lead to unemployment and misery, would increase polarization and escalate violence in South Africa.″

″The South African government will not succumb to pressure from whatever quarter but will continue along the difficult path of peaceful constitutional development,″ he said.

Neither Nel nor any other government official to whom the question was put indicated whether legal action would be taken. Doing so would be risky because of the intense international criticism South Africa already faces and the great respect Tutu commands.


The bishop said while touring the United States last year that, unless there were significant steps to dismantle apartheid by the end of March, he would risk treason charges by calling for sanctions.

Asked Wednesday about the prospect of arrest, he said: ″I don’t think I am going to be deterred by that kind of consequence.

Lawyers disagree about whether a call for sanctions constitutes economic sabotage under South African law, and there is no case to set a precedent.

Tutu declared: ″I have no hope of real change from this government unless they are forced. We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us.″

He said the government had ignored four proposals he made in 1980: a common citizenship for all residents, abolishing the ″pass laws″ that control the movement of blacks, no more forced removals of blacks from land sought by whites, and uniform education for all races.

″If the government had implemented them, we would have saved a great deal of anguish, bloodshed and the loss of property and an increase in bitterness and hatred and anger,″ he said.

More than 70 percent of the country’s blacks support some type of sanctions, he said, and foreigners who say they would be especially hard on blacks ″should stop being so hypocritical.″

″I ask white people: What would you do if 1,200 of your people were killed?″ he said, referring to the black death toll in in 19 months of anti- apartheid unrest. The death toll for people of all races is nearly 1,300.

Of the United States, which has resisted harsh sanctions, he said: ″I put my hopes in the United States on the people, especially the university students.″

He contended that public pressure forced President Reagan to impose limited sanctions, and said: ″I am not appealing to him. I am appealing to the American people.″

In Washington, State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said the United States does not believe that sanctions would help promote change in South Africa. He said the South African economy is a major force for stability in the region and that besides causing economic damage, sanctions would not be effective in ending apartheid.

Mrs. Mandela had a jubilant homecoming in Soweto. She arrived with her fist raised in a black-power salute to greet schoolchildren and embrace neighbors.

″I should never have been away from home in the first place,″ she said in the yard of the four-room house she once shared with her husband Nelson Mandela, who is serving a life prison term on conviction of plotting sabotage.

Ismail Ayob, her lawyer, said a prosecutor told him the government was abandoning its opposition to her January appeal of the banning order.