Mandela Meets with Ajcommittee, Talks About ‘common Interests’

African National Congress President Nelson Mandela told leaders of the American Jewish Committee this week that a multicultural, democratic South Africa is an ideal that can be reached only through cooperation and careful decision-making.

At a meeting in his hotel here Monday, Mandela pledged to work together with South Africa’s Jewish community during the government’s transition to democracy, according to an AJCommittee representative who was present.

Mandela also spoke of the “common interests” of blacks and Jews and their history of cooperation against racism.

“There is a good amount of interaction with the Jewish community. There is a general danger that confronts all of us from the right wing,” Mandela told the four-member AJCommittee delegation.

Mandela, who is in the United States on a two-week fund-raising and educational tour, had reportedly been expected to call for the lifting of economic sanctions against his country during his visit here.

But a debate over how South Africa will be run until free elections are held next April may put on hold Mandela’s appeal to lift the sanctions.

AJCommittee Executive Vice President David Harris, who led the 70-minute meeting with Mandela, said the black leader is searching for “a formula that would lead to an early lifting of the sanctions” and encourage outside investment.

“He would like to be certain in his mind that the steps have been completely agreed upon” before lifting the sanctions, Harris said.

Harris said that AJCommittee’s position on the trade embargo is much more general than Mandela’s, but the organization feels sanctions “ought to be lifted soon.

“We believe in the lifting of the sanctions and the encouragement of foreign investment,” Harris said, “to provide hope, particularly to the poorer sections of South Africa.”

COUNTRY’S PROBLEMS ARE NOT OVER

Harris also expressed his support of ANC’s attempts to work together with South Africa’s Jewish community as the country moves toward a non-racial democracy and free and fair elections for South Africa’s citizens.

During the meeting, Harris presented Mandela with a framed poster from AJCommittee’s human relations campaign, and praised the ANC president for his “courageous adherence to democratic principles.”

“This poster will go a long way toward influencing thoughts and conduct of many of our people who want to guide our country toward a democratic society,” Mandela said.

“It will also address the concerns of those who want to end the tensions that seem to have split humanity throughout the world.”

Harris said AJCommittee is working hard to correct the misconception that with the dismantling of apartheid apparently in full swing in South Africa, that country’s problems are over.

“We will contribute as best we can helping to keep America’s attention span to the ongoings in South Africa and contribute to a peaceful transition to a truly democratic process,” said Harris.

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