The people of the United States have been lulled into believing that apartheid is on its way out of South Africa, but that is not the case, a human rights advocate said Saturday.
South Africa still has a long way to go to rid itself of apartheid, said Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, an organization that lobbies for Africa and the Caribbean.
Robinson spoke to about 100 people gathered for a "South Africa Beyond Apartheid" conference at Kansas University. He said the title of the one-day conference was unsettling.
Robinson, who visited South Africa in May, said the United States must realize that South Africa's system of racial segregation was not squelched when Nelson Mandela, a South African black leader, was freed from prison.
He said "snapshot journalism" and "USA Today journalism" has sent an inaccurate message to the American people that all is well in South Africa.
"EVERYBODY NOW believes two things that apartheid is on its way out, and that F.W. de Klerk is the Gorbachev of South Africa," the Harvard Law School graduate explained. "In America, analysis means virtually nothing. We are a snapshot country."
Robinson met with Mandela in May, and he said it was his first visit to South Africa in 14 years. Since then, his attempts to travel to South Africa had been unsuccessful, he said. But the country opened its arms to him when Mandela was freed.
"On this occasion, I was vigorously welcomed to South Africa," said Robinson, who is regarded as a leading advocate of human rights for South Africans.
Although television programs and newspaper stories indicate that the climate is improving for black South Africans, Robinson said the United States must put on pressure for real change.
SANCTIONS HAVE cost the South African economy more than $10 billion during the past year, Robinson said. He believes sanctions should be strengthened.
Without sanctions and other forms of pressure, the world will continue to believe South Africa's "cosmetic" changes, Robinson said.
"We are losing ground," he said. "Momentum is not with us. We must recognize the pickle we find ourselves in."
Robinson said young people must lead the struggle for real change and fight to bring apartheid back to the front burner.
He said leaders in Washington would like to forget about apartheid and believe that South African blacks are living better these days. Robinson said the American people must be educated about the real truth, and he said the nation's leaders must also be educated.
FOR EXAMPLE, Robinson said President Bush is not committed to supporting change in South Africa.
"President Bush and Barbara Bush are nice, nice, nice," he said. "But his policies are awful. All he wants is this veneer of niceness."
Robinson said it is up to the anti-apartheid community to invite change in South Africa.
"It's up to us to be vigilant," he said.