How Mandela Can Still Lean On The Sanctions Lever

Nelson Mandela, the symbol of the anti-apartheid movement, was subdued. Even as the African National Congress on July 7 concluded its first national conference in South Africa in 30 years with a striking display of unity, the ANC's newly elected president couldn't help but mourn the imminent passing of the international sanctions effort against Pretoria. "We want to continue to hold the line on sanctions," he admonished more than 2,000 delegates. "But unless there is a great deal of flexibility and imagination, we shall be left holding a shell and nothing else."

That shell may prove more durable than Mandela is letting on. As President Bush lifted all sanctions against South Africa on July 10, the ANC was set to launch a strategy to discourage state and local governments in the U. S. from doing the same. The result: These state and local anti-apartheid laws are likely to become a new lever in Mandela's drive to negotiate a transfer of political power to South Africa's black majority. If he succeeds, he will prevent a mass movement of U. S. business into South Africa any time soon.

TRUMP CARD? It's not as though the ANC can stop the anti-sanctions bandwagon. With Washington's easing of restrictions on investment and trade, Denmark remains the only holdout in the European Community. President F. W. de Klerk's progressive moves to dismantle apartheid have opened a flood of new commercial contacts with formerly hostile African and Eastern European countries, as well.

But by keeping the sanctions issue in the public eye, Mandela is hoping to make the most of a wasting asset and exert some control over the pace of South Africa's reintegration into the global economy. The ANC plan is to phase out sanctions gradually as Pretoria takes steps toward democratic rule. The ANC is prepared to support the lifting of sanctions on South Africa's international sports participation, cultural exchanges, and travel restrictions when political prisoners are released and when the government helps end widespread violence. The lifting of sanctions on trade, foreign investment, and financial ties is linked to the establishment of an interim government to manage the transition to democratic rule. Only with the formation of a democratically elected government will the ANC call for an end to arms and oil sanctions.

In the U. S., ANC lobbyists will be active from Capitol Hill to city hall. The Congressional Black Caucus, which opposed Bush's decision to lift sanctions, wants to preserve a congressional ban on International Monetary Fund loans to South Africa. Locally, anti-apartheid activists will work to keep laws penalizing businesses that deal with South Africa. Says Daniel O'Flaherty, vice-president of the National Foreign Trade Council: "Those companies that have to choose between state or local contracts in the U. S. or the market in South Africa will still be in a dilemma."

Opponents of sanctions aren't likely to get much support, either. Even Bush is treading lightly: He will soft-pedal his termination of sanctions to avoid alienating black voters.As a goodwill gesture, he plans to double U. S. aid to South Africa's poor, to $80 million a year. The White House is even sending business subtle hints to go slowly when it comes to investment in South Africa. Companies also see little gain in pressing for an end to local sanctions. "All of the people who would otherwise like to see the sanctions lifted won't get out in front," says Michael Clough, an Africa specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given these hesitations, Mandela is likely to find that U. S. sanctions are still a powerful political weapon.

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