Falwell defends South African president


PRETORIA, South Africa -- Moral Majority leader Rev. Jerry Falwell met Monday with President Pieter Botha and emerged with praise for the white-minority government. He vowed to wage a $1 million media blitz in support of Pretoria and blasted Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu.

Nine South African churchmen -- six whites and three blacks -- who met with Botha to seek an end to nearly yearlong racial violence that has claimed some 635 lives, said Botha refused to listen to their pleas to dismantle the government's apartheid policy of racial segregation.


'The president gave us nothing to take away with us,' Catholic Bishop Denis Hurley complained. 'The two perceptions of the South African community were so different that we hardly communicated at all.'

At the same time, police in Pretoria said they arrested 94 people in four incidents of racial unrest.

Eighty-eight people were arrested for 'public violence' in a single incident at Robertson, 750 miles southwest of Johannesburg, police said. They gave no details of the clash.

Six people were arrested on similar charges in incidents near Johannesburg and outside the diamond-mining town of Kimberley. No details were released.

Falwell, a television evangelist who has lashed out against liberalism, communism, gay rights, pornography, abortion, and sex education in the schools, met with Botha before the president's meeting with the nine South African clergymen.


Afterward, the leader of the Moral Majority said he agreed with Botha that apartheid is more 'a social reality' than a government policy.

Falwell also said Americans were falsely informed about South Africa and he would spend $1 million on television advertisements to correct the impression. He said he would mount a campaign to promote U.S. investment in South Africa.

Falwell accused black leaders such as Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Peace for his decades-long non-violent struggle against apartheid, of presenting a distorted picture of South Africa.

'There are millions of American who do not agree with ... what Bishop Tutu has been saying,' Falwell said at a news conference. 'The South African government is making progress.'

The churchmen who met later with Botha said Falwell 'hasn't the slightest notion' of the South African reality and had made no effort to find out what is happening.

Tutu -- snubbed by Botha last month -- declined to join the nine clergymen in their talks with Botha. The group included Anglican Archbishop Phillip Russell, Hurley and Methodist church leader Peter Storey.

Falwell defended Botha's speech last Thursday in Durban in which he failed to announce major reforms in the apartheid structure and refused to grant the nation's majority blacks the vote.


Referring to that speech, the South African clergymen gave Botha a memorandum that said, 'We must say with deep sadness ... that a moment to save South Africa was missed.'

Blaming apartheid for recent violence, the clergymen said, 'Our people are now caught up in a spiral of confrontation, repression, funerals, more confrontation and more repression.

'We are utterly convinced that unless people see a significant, substantial move from apartheid to sharing, there will be no end to the unrest in South Africa.'

They urged Botha to dismantle apartheid, free political prisoners including African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, lift the 5-week-old state of emergency and convene a national convention of black and white leaders to decide the country's future.

In a related development, Australia announced limited economic sanctions against South Africa to protest apartheid. The sanctions will suspend most new government investment and new bank loans in South Africa.

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