Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Comment - With Such Friends...

Hearing the South Africans tell it, the visit was a monumental success and nothing but nobody was going to spoil their jubilation. Over in South Africa they know what amount of importance to accord to cosmetic actions, They are, after all, masters at such arts themselves, thus the fact that the Prime Minister P. W. Botha had to sneak and out of Britain was not considered a set-back at all. They had had a breakthrough in the nerve-racking isolation that they had suffered for twenty-three years and they had cause to celebrate.

Over in West Germany, more cosmetic concessions to opponents of the Botha visit meant that the South African flag was not raised outside the chancellery and aides removed the chairs where the West German chancellor Dr Kohl and his guests traditionally face press photographers.

All such moves were not likely to upset South Africa unduly, in much the same way as they know that the cosmetic concessions they have made in apartheid mean nothing and pose no threat to their white supremacy set-up, they are willing to be sneaked in through the back door to avoid demonstrators. Not having the South African flag raised ranks on the same scale as having a few mixed race rugby teams - a little irritation but if that is what will keep people quiet while we proceed with the important business, we will endure it.

Doubtless, Mr Botha was very understanding about why he had to be sneaked in and out: "there were communist agitators out there" and that line of reasoning must have featured very prominently in the discussions in Chequers.

South Africa has blackmailed the West into accepting a morally indefensible position, by this constant harping on the country being a bulwark against the threat of communism and should therefore be supported at whatever cost.

Mrs Thatcher takes up the refrain about the strategic importance of South Africa not just to Britain but to the Western Alliance as a whole and this position is supposed to be at risk unless South Africa remains in the safe hands of Mr Botha and his apartheid disciples.

Such posturings must necessarily sound very strange indeed to the battered and abused Blacks in Namibia and South Africa whose only aspirations are taken as fundamental and basic human conditions that everybody takes for granted in the West.

Mr Botha's most constant and persuasive argument to the West against the African National Congress (ANC) is that its leaders and members are Marxists and Commun ists who if allowed near power in South Africa will turn the southern tip of the continent into a veritable commun ist hotbed and thus pose the greatest security threat to the West.

It is not for nothing that every time the ANC freedom fighters have been caught, every western reporter's story never misses to point out that the guerrillas' captured arms were all Soviet supplied.

There are not many options left to the ANC or any Black in Namibia or South Africa who wants to fight against the terrorism that is his daily life but to resort to arms. The reality of the playground is that when the bully is chasing you, anybody that offers help is welcome and that is what the whole history of the liberation struggle in Southern Africa has meant. Considering the enormity of the arsenals at the disposal of South Africa, what are a few AK-47 submachine guns that the freedom fighters have?

What is more, since the 'strategic importance' of South Africa appears more important to the West than the plight of the country's 17 million Blacks, what options are open to the oppressed people but to seek help from whoever will give it?

President Reagan went to great pains recently to explain to congress and the American people, that the people who are fighting the Sandinistan government in Nicaragua deserve American support because they are freedom fighters who are fighting a just cause and who rightly feel that the Nicaraguan revolution had been betrayed!

And yet neither President Reagan nor Mrs Thatcher can see the need to extend Western help to the Blacks who have been betrayed and abused daily for over a century in South Africa and when the Eastern bloc offers a little help, the freedom fighters are called 'communists'.

Recently when a 17-year old South African girl with undisputed running talents wanted to run in the Olympic Games, all it took was to find the birth certificate of her grandfather and she and her family have become British citizens. Obviously, if and whenever any other white settler in South Africa would want to either leave the country or require the convenience of another country's passport, all that will be required would be to dig out birth certificates in the UK or Germany or Holland or whichever European country the grand or great-grandparents came from and that little temporary problem will be resolved in ten days. Even Mr Botha can possibly get a Dutch passport if he should put his mind to it. For the 17 million Blacks however, there are no such options and they can hardly be expected to be swayed by the enormous strategic importance of their country to the West. From their perspective, it is a very strange way indeed for the West to demonstrate that they regard their country as being of 'enormous strategic importance' as Mrs Thatcher puts it, when the comfort of 4 million settlers is counted higher than the lives of 17 million indigenous inhabitants.

When the independence of Namibia finally comes, as it will, it will not be lost on those who fought for it, where the help came from in their hours of desperate need and when truth finally triumphs in South Africa, the people's friends are bound to be accorded their deserved place.

It is of no comfort whatsoever to those who have to endure the daily humilliation of apartheid, that Mrs Thatcher expresses her total abhorrence of the system to maintain that very system. Because she finds communism so very distasteful, she was able to take the unpleasant decision to site cruise missiles in her country against a possible attempt by the Soviet Union to impose communism on the U.K. If she indeed finds apartheid as equally abhorrent, why is she willing to sacrifice the rights of 17 million people? With such friends as the West regularly claim to be, it is no wonder the Blacks in Southern Africa have given up on advancing gradually.

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