DOUGLAS HYDE suggests (August 14) that arms supplied to South Africa, even if too elaborate for resisting current guerrilla activity, would still be used against African freedom fighters if their now limited forays were to escalate into outright war. On present showing, however, it will be many years before the black African States will be in any position to organise the massive, sophisticated and sustained military support essential to the local rebels' success. Will they, indeed, ever want to subject their fragile economies to such a terrible drain and thus reduce the money and manpower available to them for expansion?
Moreover, nobody is more anxious to stem Communist influence in Africa than the very leaders who perforce accept aid from Communist countries. There is reason to think that some of them would privately be glad of a military build-up in the south able to contain a Russian presence in the Indian Ocean—even if the latter is there more for political than military reasons, as your leading article of July 31 asserts.
It may be true, as Mr. Hyde says, that apartheid in the south lends strength to the Communist effort in Africa, but whether the Western supply of arms to South Africa for external defence would add to this situation is quite another question. Africans are not fools. They are perfectly capable of distinguishing between the different motives for such supply. A long experience of the African peoples has taught me to differentiate between the things their leaders, like all leaders, have to say on political platforms or the diplomatic level and the basic common sense instincts of their followers.
Finally, a deep and abiding respect for the African character and intellect has long since convinced me that, in ideological terms, Communism in Africa stands less than a snowball's chance in hell. What we have to guard against is Russian and Chinese imperialist aggression there. still believe that to have a relationship with the South Africans in all that is not immoral, is the best way of bringing our person-to-person influence to bear on them, and of playing on the instincts submerged within them which should lead them to see the evil of their racialism. Bishop Butler's reference in The Times to the struggle now going on in the consciences of some South African whites is not, as Fr. Levi's reply seems to suggest, inconsistent with the need to denounce apartheid and work against it in the here and now. Even the confessor, while refusing absolution to the unrepentant sinner, tries to stay on his wavelength.
R. Frost London, N.4.