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Ambassadorial Dropout Plans To Lead Black Businessmen To South Africa

August 6, 1986

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A businessman who withdrew his candidacy as U.S. ambassador to South Africa says he will lead a delegation there to help set up ties between black entrepreneurs in both countries.

″What we’ll be doing is setting up ways ... black businessmen can establish joint ventures with black businessmen in South Africa and help them get control of businesses in their own communities and assist them in establishing business ties with major corporations in South Africa,″ Robert Brown said in an interview with The Charlotte Observer.

The public relations executive also said he plans to accompany Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., to meet with high-ranking officials of countries bordering South Africa to discuss South Africa’s apartheid government. Mrs. King and Brown will attend the Sept. 7 coronation of Bishop Desmond Tutu as archbishop of Capetown.

Brown, 51, of High Point, said Tuesday he hopes he and Mrs. King can meet with Winnie Mandela, wife of jailed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, and Oliver Tambo, the ANC’s current president.

Brown was thrust into the national spotlight in July when his name was leaked as a potential candidate to be ambassador to South Africa. But he withdrew from consideration after questions arose about his past business dealings. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Brown said four or five black business people will accompany him on the two-week trip to the South African cities of Capetown, Johannesburg and Durban.

He said although blacks constitute the bulk of South Africa’s buying power their economic opportunities are limited.

″The end of apartheid is going to have to take place where they (black South Africans) are going to have control over their own destiny,″ Brown said. ″Without some economic instruments, there’s still going to be a certain amount of no freedom.″

Brown said he has been working with black and white South African business people as well as church and civic organizations there for about two years.

″We’ve been trying to help set up a teacher training program there,″ he said.

Brown has been working with the Johannesburg-based Urban Foundation, whose aim is to help improve business, educational and housing conditions in South Africa. Four months ago, he formed International Concern Foundation, which he says is ″trying to raise money and make some changes in the lives of South Africans.″

Brown said he didn’t think the American group’s efforts to establish business ties in South Africa would be thwarted by looming economic sanctions a number of nations, including the United States, are considering against the Pretoria government.

Brown said the recent flap about his business dealings hasn’t hurt his relationship with White House and U.S. State Department officials.

He said President Reagan called him Monday.

″He indicated to me he wanted to chat with me about South Africa and he regretted I felt the need to withdraw my name from consideration,″ said Brown, a former Nixon administration aide. ″He also said he hoped I would continue to work with them.″