Scarcely a week after Congress overrode President Reagan's veto and imposed a new set of economic sanctions against South Africa, the government of State President P.W. Botha retaliated. It had always warned that the first people to suffer from stronger sanctions would be the blacks of South Africa and neighboring countries, and last week it took steps to fulfill that prediction.
The government decreed that the United Democratic Front, a multiracial antiapartheid group with perhaps 2 million supporters, will henceforth be barred from receiving overseas aid. Pretoria accuses the U.D.F., whose leading members include Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Imprisoned African Nationalist Nelson Mandela, of being a mouthpiece for the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, both of which are banned. In fact, the U.D.F. has become the recognized platform for a wide range of black and liberal-white opinions. About half its present funds, which cover the legal costs of hundreds of officials and supporters who are in detention or facing trial, come from foreign donors, especially in the U.S. The latest action "will not cripple us," declared Treasurer Azhar Cachalia, "but we are concerned that the next step might be to ban us."
Pretoria also squared off against Mozambique, South Africa's Marxist neighbor to the northeast, which it accuses of harboring A.N.C. guerrillas. Mozambique, in turn, blames South Africa for supporting terrorist activity against its government. Last week Pretoria announced that no more permits would be issued for Mozambican migrants to work in South Africa, and that permits for the 95,000 Mozambicans employed there would not be renewed when they expired. That could prove a serious blow to Mozambique's poverty-stricken economy; remittances from these workers are an important source of revenue.
In the meantime, a special South African parliamentary committee is studying the impact of sanctions and exploring ways of circumventing them. Businessmen are attending strategy sessions on how to continue exporting iron, steel and other goods despite the U.S. boycott. Under discussion are techniques ranging from the creation of foreign "front" companies to the rerouting of trade through such neighboring black states as Lesotho and Swaziland.
The Botha government may focus additional wrath on the white dissenters in its midst. According to the magazine Financial Mail, Finance Minister Barend du Plessis recently told its Washington correspondent that "when the time comes," Pretoria will "know what to do" with South African businessmen who have been strenuously pressing for racial reform.