Bob Hawke, watching cricket in Perth on February 2, decided to perform a major foreign policy somersault and campaign to have international sanctions against the South Africa's white-minority regime phased out. Labor has now openly joined forces with the US and British governments and the European Community to support continued white domination in South Africa.
Hawke's decision was a response to the South African President F.W. de Klerk's speech announcing the planned repeal of some of the country's most blatantly racist legislation, in which he claimed, "Should parliament adopt the government's proposals, the South African statute books will be devoid, within months, of the remnants of racially discriminatory legislation which have become known as the cornerstones of apartheid".
But even if the specific laws are removed, apartheid will remain as long as the racist constitution — which denies blacks any vote and ensures white domination over Indians and "coloureds" — is in effect.
In his speech de Klerk pointedly opposed the demand by the ANC that an elected constituent assembly draft a new constitution, and that an interim government be formed to run the country in the meantime. As de Klerk rose to present his speech, millions participated in a nationwide general strike to reinforce this demand.
The racist government continues to drag its feet on its promise to release all political prisoners and to allow the return of exiles by April 30. There have been no moves to repeal the government's vast battery of repressive security laws that give the police and armed forces enormous power to stifle the political expression of the black majority.
Moreover, the formal elimination of racist laws will not lead to equality unless measures are introduced to reverse the effects of decades of apartheid. While repeal of the Group Areas Act may legally give blacks the formal right to live where they wish, areas will remain segregated because blacks will not be able to afford to buy homes in white areas. Despite the repeal of the Land Acts, blacks cannot afford to buy land.
ANC deputy president Nelson Mandela has called on the international community not to be hasty about reviewing sanctions: "As a liberation movement, we are not called upon to thank the government for the repeal of laws and reviewing policies which are considered a crime against humanity".
The eight Front-line States, after being briefed by Nelson Mandela
and Pan Africanist Congress president Clarence Makwetu, have opposed lifting sanctions until Pretoria agrees to the election of a constituent assembly and interim government. This call has also been endorsed by the Organisation of African Unity.
It ought to be endorsed also by governments that claim that war is the only way to defend "democracy" in other parts of the world.