Some general impressions of current U.S. Policy towards South Africa

This brief report on current American policy towards South Africa is based on impressions by a representative group of South Africans on a study tour of the US. Generally, American foreign policy seems confused and lacking direction. US relations with Africa improved under the Carter Administration, but although the US benefited from the end of the Rhodesian conflict, it contributed marginally to the settlement. In southern Africa, American policy has not achieved much. American initiatives in the Namibian negotiations showed initial success, but now appear stalemated. Towards South Africa itself, the Administration tried to be more active, but now recognizes that it can not influence changes in South Africa. South Africa perceives the Carter Administration as hostile, but it is criticised in the US for dragging its feet. It has been unwilling to support sanctions and opposed stronger Congressional economic action. African matters are currently low-priority, despite an interest in South African developments and awareness of the complexity of the issues. There is also a degree of pessimism due to unfulfilled expectations of reform. The American policy-making process is not widely appreciated outside the US. Even a change of president will probably not result in any changes towards South Africa, and since American foreign policy is crisis-oriented, only a rising level of conflict in South Africa would bring it to attention. Official policy is that the relationship between South Africa and the US will improve only with concrete moves towards full political participation of all South Africans.