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URGENT South Africa Threatens To Stop Buying U.S. Grain

October 2, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The government said Thursday that if the United States imposes economic sanctions on South Africa, this nation will stop buying American grain.

Foreign Minister R F. Botha said in a statement issued at 2 a.m. that South Africa also would stop transporting American grain to black nations in southern Africa if the U.S. Senate overrides President Reagan’s veto of the sanctions bill.

Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed the sanctions bill, and the House overrode Reagan’s veto earlier this week. A Senate vote on the veto, which would require two-thirds approval, is scheduled for Thursday.

Botha said he had spoken to U.S. senators Edward Zorinsky, D-Nebr., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

″I informed them that if the Senate should reverse President Reagan’s veto and legalize the ban on the import of South African agricultural products under terms of legislation passed by the U.S. Congerss, then South Africa would purchase no grain from the United Sates,″ he said.

Botha said he had stated that this was not a threat but would be the logical consequence of the adoption of the U.S. legislation.

He said South Africa ″would very much wish to import more grain from the U.S., but if South African farmers can no longer sell their products on the U.S. market, the South African government would have no choice but to prohibit the purchase of American grain.″

Botha said he also told the senators that if the United States adopts the sanctions, ″The South African transport system, which serves all the countries of southern Africa, will transport no American grain to these countries.

″It would therefore not only be South Africa that would not buy any grain from the U.S. ... (but) all its neighbors, which are dependent on the South African transport system, will also no longer be able to purchase grain from the U.S,″ he said.

Botha said the sanctions legislation before the Senate would have ″catastrophic consequences for more than 60 million people″ in the region.

That includes 32 million people in South Africa and the residents of neighboring Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.

A spokesman for Botha, Awie Maraif, said he knew of at least one South African grain purchase this year, but he had no details. In the past, South Africa has imported U.S. corn during drought years, but last year’s crop was adequate for domestic needs.

Arnold Mentz, economic minister at the South African Embassy in Washington, said U.S. agricultural exports to his country have averaged $265 million anually since 1983, but were likely to jump substantially next year because of drought damage to the domestic wheat crop.

At a news conference last week stating South Africa’s case against sanctions, Botha noted that the sanctions legislation did not prohibit American farmers from selling grain to South Africa.

Botha said he wondered how American legislators could morally reconcile their willingness to sell their farmers’ grain to South Africa while barring other exports, including computers, to that nation.

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