Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Signing the Executive Order Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving South Africa

September 9, 1985

The President. I want to speak this morning about South Africa and about what America can do to help promote peace and justice in that country so troubled and tormented by racial conflict. The system of apartheid means deliberate, systematic, institutionalized racial discrimination, denying the black majority their God-given rights. America's view of apartheid is simple and straightforward: We believe it's wrong. We condemn it, and we're united in hoping for the day when apartheid will be no more.

Our influence over South African society is limited, but we do have some influence, and the question is how to use it. Many people of good will in this country have differing views. In my view, we must work for peaceful evolution and reform. Our aim cannot be to punish South Africa with economic sanctions that would injure the very people we're trying to help. I believe we must help all those who peacefully oppose apartheid, and we must recognize that the opponents of apartheid, using terrorism and violence, will bring not freedom and salvation, but greater suffering and more opportunities for expanded Soviet influence within South Africa and in the entire region.

What we see in South Africa is a beginning of a process of change. The changes in policy so far are inadequate, but ironically, they've been enough to raise expectations and stimulate demands for more far-reaching, immediate change. It's the growing economic power of the black majority that has put them in a position to insist on political change. South Africa is not a totalitarian society. There is a vigorous opposition press, and every day we see examples of outspoken protest and access to the international media that would never be possible in many parts of Africa or in the Soviet Union, for that matter.

But it is our active engagement, our willingness to try that gives us influence. Yes, we in America, because of what we are and what we stand for, have influence to do good. We also have immense potential to make things worse. Before taking fateful steps, we must ponder the key question: Are we helping to change the system? Or are we punishing the blacks, whom we seek to help? American policy through several administrations has been to use our influence and our leverage against apartheid, not against innocent people who are the victims of apartheid. Being true to our heritage does not mean quitting, but reaching out, expanding our help for black education and community development, calling for political dialog, urging South Africans of all races to seize the opportunity for peaceful accommodation before it's too late.

I respect and share the goals that have motivated many in Congress to send a message of U.S. concern about apartheid. But in doing so we must not damage the economic well-being of millions of people in South and southern Africa. If we genuinely wish -- as I do -- to develop a bipartisan basis of consensus in support of U.S. policies, this is the basis on which to proceed. Therefore, I'm signing today an Executive order that will put in place a set of measures designed and aimed against the machinery of apartheid without indiscriminately punishing the people who are victims of that system, measures that will disassociate the United States from apartheid but associate us positively with peaceful change.

These steps include a ban on all computer exports to agencies involved in the enforcement of apartheid and to the security forces; a prohibition on exports of nuclear goods or technology to South Africa, except as is required to implement nuclear proliferation safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency or those necessary for humanitarian reasons to protect health and safety; a ban on loans to the South African Government, except certain loans which improve economic opportunities or educational housing and health facilities that are open and accessible to South Africans of all races. I'm directing the Secretary of State and the United States Trade Representative to consult with our major trading partners regarding banning the importation of Krugerrands. I'm also instructing the Secretary of the Treasury to report to me within 60 days on the feasibility of minting an American gold coin which could provide an alternative to the Krugerrand for our coin collectors.

I want to encourage ongoing actions by our government and by private Americans to improve the living standards of South Africa's black majority. The Sullivan code, devised by a distinguished black minister from Philadelphia, the Reverend Leon Sullivan, has set the highest standards of labor practices for progressive employers throughout South Africa. I urge all American companies to participate in it, and I'm instructing the American Ambassador to South Africa to make every effort to get companies which have not adopted them -- the Sullivan principles -- to do so. In addition, my Executive order will ban U.S. Government export assistance to any American firm in South Africa employing more than 25 persons which does not adhere to the comprehensive fair employment principles stated in the order by the end of this year.

I'm also directing the Secretary of State to increase substantially the money we provide for scholarships to South Africans disadvantaged by apartheid and the money our Embassy uses to promote human rights programs in South Africa. Finally, I have directed Secretary Shultz to establish an advisory committee of distinguished Americans to provide recommendations on measures to encourage peaceful change in South Africa. The advisory committee shall provide its first report within 12 months.

I believe the measures I'm announcing here today will best advance our goals. If the Congress sends me the present bill as reported by the conference committee, I would have to veto it. That need not happen. I want to work with the Congress to advance bipartisan support for America's policy toward South Africa, and that's why I have put forward this Executive order today.

Three months ago I recalled our Ambassador in South Africa for consultations so that he could participate in the intensive review of the southern African situation that we've been engaged in. I have just said goodbye to him. I'm now sending him back with a message to State President Botha underlining our grave view of the current crisis and our assessment of what is needed to restore confidence abroad and move from confrontation to negotiation at home.

The problems of South Africa were not created overnight and will not be solved overnight, but there is no time to waste. To withdraw from this drama or to fan its flames will serve neither our interests nor those of the South African people. If all Americans join together behind a common program, we can have so much more influence for good. So, let us go forward with a clear vision and an open heart, working for justice and brotherhood and peace.

And now, I'm going to sign the Executive order.

Q. Mr. President, why did you change your mind on sanctions?

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I haven't. I thought here I tried to explain. I am opposed and could not sign the bill if it came to me containing the economic sanctions which, as we have repeatedly said, would have harmed the very people we're trying to help.

Q. But much of that's in your order -- --

The President. But there are -- no, there were many things in that bill -- --

Q. Right.

The President. -- -- that we could agree with and many of those are incorporated in this Executive order.

Q. But those are basic sanctions, aren't they?

The President. Not in the sense of the economic kind of sanctions that the bill called for and that, as I say, would have hurt the economy there.

Q. And this won't hurt the economy?

The President. No, I don't believe so.

Q. Mr. President, you've basically put the weakest measures in the congressional package. Why should this satisfy those in Congress who want a strong message sent to South Africa?

The President. Well, we have consulted with some of them and found that there's a great deal of improvement for what we're doing here, and they see the intent of this.

Q. Mr. President, South Africa's business leaders have been talking about meeting with its black political leaders, but President Botha has described this as disloyal. What do you think?

The President. Well, we happen to believe that negotiation is the thing that must take place, and we hope that maybe we can persuade them that they should -- with the responsible black leaders -- they should negotiate with regard to the solution of the problems.

Q. Mr. President, can you still call your policy constructive engagement now?

The President. What's that?

Q. Can you still call your policy toward South Africa constructive engagement?

The President. Yes. You might add the word ``active'' to constructive. But, yes, I do think it is.

Q. But what changes -- --

The President. It is similar to what we have been doing in the past.

Q. What changes would have to take place in South Africa for you to lift these measures?

The President. Well, I think the negotiations that lead toward the steps necessary to bring about political participation by all the citizens of South Africa, and when they start those constructive steps, as I've said, there isn't anything that's going to be achieved overnight. And -- --

Q. So, a dialog would be enough?

The President. No, I think out of that dialog then would come further steps leading toward, as soon as possible, the end of apartheid.

Q. But at what point would you feel free to lift what you have done today?

The President. Well, that would be hard for me right now to say. I think you have to see the intent and see whether the steps are being taken in a forthright manner or whether there is some trying to give in here and there but still hold off from the ultimate results. So, let us wait and see what happens.

Q. What are you saying in your letter to Botha?

The President. Well -- --

Q. Basically, is it the same premise?

The President. I assured him of our desire to be of help in this and to be of help in the further progress that we hope they intend to make.

Q. Well, what kind of reaction do you think your reactions are sending to South Africa?

The President. What is that?

Q. How would you describe the kind of message you think this action is sending to South Africa?

The President. I think the same kind that we've been using before. It is persuasion, but also indicating that the American people can get impatient with this, that we all feel very strongly about the changes that are needed in that society.

Q. You know, Mr. President, since the bill is so similar to what you are proposing, why would you veto it?

The President. Because, as I say, there were features in there -- --

Q. What? Which ones?

The President. You see, this wouldn't have been necessary if I had what a President should have, which is line-item veto. I could have signed the bill and line-item vetoed out the -- --

Q. What don't you like?

The President. What?

Q. What don't you like?

The President. Well, as I say, basically, let me just sum it up and say the actual economic provisions that we thought would have militated against the chance for prosperity and good living of the people we want to help. But now, I think I've taken enough here because George Shultz is waiting in the press room to take your questions and to brief you more thoroughly on this whole problem.

Q. Would you tell us, however, if you have discussed this matter with Congress and what kind of response you are going to get? Aren't you in effect stealing their thunder a bit here with what you are doing?

The President. No, we have discussed this with leaders of Congress and have been very pleased with the reaction that we got.

Q. If these sessions don't bring progress, the kind of progress you are looking for, will you take stiffer sanctions then?

The President. Well, that we'll look at when that comes. But remember, we're talking about a sovereign nation, and there are limits to what another country can do. We can't give orders to South Africa. We're trying to be helpful to them, knowing that there is a large element in South Africa which also wants an answer to this problem.

Q. Do you intend to keep the Ambassador there?

The President. What?

Q. He was recalled several months ago because of displeasure over policy. Will he remain in South Africa?

The President. Yes. I said goodbye this morning.

Q. Have you spoken personally to President Botha about these actions?

The President. What?

Q. Have you spoken personally to President Botha about -- --

The President. No, I've written him.

Now, I think George -- --

Q. Are you going to fire Don Regan?

The President. -- -- must be getting very impatient.

What?

Q. Are you going to fire Don Regan?

The President. [Laughing] Are you talking about the Redskin football player? [Laughter]

Q. Not quite. I'm talking about the Post articles on the schism in your hierarchy.

The President. If I fired anybody, it would be the Post. [Laughter]

Okay, go join George.

Q. I shouldn't have mentioned their name. [Laughter] Oh, excuse me.

Q. How are you feeling, sir?

The President. What?

Q. How are you feeling?

The President. I feel just fine. Don't I look it? [Laughter]

Q. Are we going to be looking forward to more vetoes after this one?

The President. What's that?

Q. If you're talking about vetoing this bill, are you going to veto others, too? Is this going to be a rough session?

The President. Oh, I don't know. That'll depend a lot on the fellows on the Hill. I don't want it to be rough, but I've never -- --

Q. Don't forget your veto pen.

The President. What?

Q. Don't forget your veto pen.

The President. [Laughing] I'll just leave it there for future use.

All right.

Q. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. George P. Shultz was Secretary of State, and Donald T. Regan was Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff.