Gareth Evans in South Africa


Gareth Evans in South Africa

The petty and irrelevant press coverage of Gareth Evans' trip to South Africa has served to conceal the true scandal of his visit: that the Australian government has chosen to lead the charge to have international sanctions relaxed at a time when apartheid remains firmly in force.

Evidence is mounting that the de Klerk government, its security forces and covert "dirty tricks" squads are determined to entrench white supremacy by the most sinister means. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail, thousands of exiles have not been allowed to return, and the government's police state powers are intact and regularly used.

International sanctions, combined with the resolute struggle of the black majority led by the African National Congress, forced the apartheid regime to unban the liberation movements, release Nelson Mandela, begin talks with the ANC and begin to dismantle legal measures that entrench overt racial discrimination. But white supremacy remains.

The abolition of the Land Act (which reserved 87% of land for whites) and the Group Areas Act (which prevented blacks living in "white" areas) grants equal rights on paper only. Few blacks can afford to buy land or live in white suburbs. The government refuses to grant compensation to the millions who were forcibly removed from their land.

The Population Registration Act, which classifies all South Africans by race, is to be abolished before June 30. But de Klerk has said it will be replaced by unspecified "transitional measures" until a new constitution is in place.

Even a partial relaxation of sanctions now would strengthen the hand of the apartheid establishment and weaken the black majority's chances of creating a genuinely non-racial, egalitarian, democratic society.

Central to the white government's plan is ensuring that the economy remains firmly controlled by the minuscule all-white capitalist class, while the white population has a constitutional right to veto the wishes of the black majority.

The angry exchanges between Evans and his hosts and their bully-boy cops, like the shabby treatment he received from the white-owned media, do not indicate fundamental disagreement over maintaining the economic status quo. They stem from different estimates of the place of the ANC in the process.

The Hawke government recognises that the ANC has overwhelming

support and will inevitably form the government should even a half-fair constitution be created. The South African government and military, on the other hand, are hell-bent on destroying the ANC, believing that it can never be convinced to administer a system where white supremacy is maintained. They favour an alliance with apartheid-puppet Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party. Recent opinion polls place Buthelezi's personal following at a tiny 6%, and Inkatha at just 3%. Nelson Mandela and the ANC, together with its allies, command upwards of 60%.

South African security forces have collaborated with Inkatha to unleash an orgy of violence against communities that support the ANC. More than 1500 people have died since last August in these attacks. Police have refused to act and in many cases actually participated on the side of Inkatha. This was again confirmed last week, when a retired army officer told the press that the SA Defence Force is funding and arming Inkatha.

The Australian government should refuse to lift sanctions until specifically requested by the black majority, through their primary representative, the African National Congress.