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Mandela's mission.

The ANC president visits America to secure the financial and technical assistance needed to build a new South Africa.

African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela says a new South Africa is being created and African-Americans can assist in the process. Last Dec. 4, the ANC leader described his vision of a democratic South Africa to some of the United State's most influential black entrepreneurs and corporate executives. But that was not his only goal; he challenged the more than 30 men and women to join the ANC in supplying the financial resources and technical expertise, a truly independent, multiracial South Africa needs. "We asked for this meeting because of our desire to learn the principles and strategies of economic empowerment for blacks in our country," Mandela said. "Until we have a very strong business class, it is going to be very difficult for us to make real progress in our attempt to democratize the political system."

The meeting, which was held in the executive boardroom of New York City-based BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine, grew out of earlier South African visits. In October, 31 black activists, business people and labor leaders led by Washington, D.C.-based TransAfrica executive director Randall Robinson, visited the ANC in Johannesburg, South Africa and set up the South African-American Business Council (SAABC) to work with and transfer skills to the South African black business community.

Several weeks later, New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins also visited South Africa and invited the ANC president to the city to address some of the nation's most prominent African-American businessmen and women. The ANC brought a senior-level delegation to the United States. Besides Mandela, it included Thabo N. Mbeki, international affairs director; Thomas Nkobi, treasurer general; Lindiwe Mabuza, representative to Washington, D.C., and Tebogo Mafole, chief representative to the United Nations.

The group Mandela addressed was also top drawer. In attendance were Mayor Dinkins and the CEOs of several BE 100s companies, including Earl G. Graves of Earl G. Graves Ltd. in New York and Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C. LP; L. Bruce Llewellyn of Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Inc. and New York-based Queen City Broadcasting Inc.; Edward Lewis of New York-based Essence Communications Inc., and New York-based Inner City Broadcasting Chairman Percy Sutton.

Others in attendance included Richard T. Greene, CEO of New York-based Carver Federal Savings Bank; Bertram Lee, chairman of Boston-based BML Associates; Robert Johnson, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Black Entertainment Television; Ernesta G. Procope, president of E.G. Bowman Co. Inc. in New York; Lee Dunham, president, Harlem McDonald's; Ronald E. Lewis, president of Butch Lewis Productions; media specialist Eugene Jackson; Ronald Gault, a managing director of First Boston Corp.; former Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy and Arthur R. Ashe, co-chairman of Artists & Athletes Against Apartheid.

Mandela seized the opportunity. The South African government and white minority, he charged, has vast resources at its disposal. These include total control of 87% of the land and economic dominance. By contrast the ANC, which was only legalized by the South African government in 1990 and has limited resources, must find ways to mobilize 30 million largely undereducated people, teach them to understand and embrace the idea of a "non-ethnic democracy" and develop a business class. "We also need large-scale training of our people for the civil service if we are going to bring about a democratic change," Mandela asserts. "These changes can never be applied by the existing civil service. That is a civil service that was created to apply apartheid, and if we left it intact, they would sabotage everything that a democratic government adopts."

Mandela acknowledged the history of American apartheid, but said U.S. blacks have things South Africans lack. African-Americans have gained technical and corporate expertise and experience, financial resources and won political office. "I have no doubt that your commitment to the anti-apartheid struggle will not allow us to leave [the United States] empty-handed." he said. "We must be able to employ the best people. Give us the capacity to mobilize the country."

The group responded immediately. Within several days, the ANC received money or pledges from many of the participants. And the group of African-American business leaders expects to generate substantial funds through an advertising campaign in 1992. (see Publisher's Page, this issue) The CEOs also held preliminary discussions with the ANC regarding issues of technology transfer and the training of South Africans at African-American owned companies. After the business meeting, BE editors held a briefing with ANC President Mandela.

The official position of the U.S. government under the Bush administration is that financial support of the ANC violates its policy of not providing aid to political movements. But Mandela says such a policy ignores the fact that the ANC ended its armed struggle and sought negotiations with its enemy. Therefore, Mandela asserts, "if they [the United States] support the peace process .... they must then give us the capacity to be able to carry it to fruition." Lifting sanctions is another matter. Mandela reiterated that the ANC supports American states and cities refusing to do business with companies invested in South Africa until a more representative government is either appointed or elected.

As BE went to press, the first conference of all South African political parties, including the ANC and the white minority government, got underway. The goal: to lay the foundation for a new constitution and multi-party, one person, one-vote elections.

Tax-deductible contributions to assist the ANC may be sent to: Mandela Freedom Fund, 1819 H. Street NW, Suite 620, Washington, D.C. 20006.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Nelson Mandela
Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:928
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