"Perhaps it's a bit naive," said Johnny Makatini, "but we have always believed that blacks in this country are our natural allies, just as the Jewish people are the allies of Israel."
The audience that showed up Wednesday night to hear Makatini talk about the situation in southern Africa certainly agreed with him. But they probably would concede that the translation of this sympathy into the kind of powerful political clout Jewish organizations here can exert in favor of Israel is a long way off.
Makatini, who last saw his homeland 18 years ago, is the United Nations representative for South Africa's black nationalist guerrilla movement, the African National Congress. He was in town with Theo-Ben Gurirab, U.N. representative of the South West African Peoples' Organization (SWAPO), which is fighting South Africa for control of the vast desert reaches of the territory of Namibia.
The two helped kick off "Support Namibia Week" sponsored by the Southern Africa Support Project, a nonprofit community group that seeks to raise money and support for the two black movements. Mayor Marion Barry endorsed the project's program, which continues until April 24, and proclaimed this "Namibia Week" in Washington, the city out of which South Africa operates a lobbying effort in its own behalf that seeks to persuade Americans that the African National Congress and SWAPO are terrorist organizations.
About 70 blacks already attuned to the African situation showed up at the University of the District of Columbia's Carnegie Building to hear the Africans, including James C. Moone, founding director of the African Studies Program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and an eight-time visitor to Africa.