In the course of his perceptive and balanced review of American opinion written on the eve of Nelson Mandela's visit {Outlook, June 17}, Juan Williams included a curious quote from Randall Robinson. The head of the leading sanctions lobby argues that "sanctions are de Klerk's best friend. He can say to the right wing that sanctions are killing us and negotiations are the only way out."

If this were true, one might have expected that this would have been a major theme for President de Klerk, and for the more liberal Democratic Party of South Africa, in the campaign leading up to last September's general elections. Actually, the entire issue of sanctions was virtually ignored in those debates. But in the 1987 elections, just seven months after the passage of our so-called Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, our sanctions did emerge, albeit as a secondary campaign issue. Visiting South Africa just after that election, we found liberal candidates bitter at what they saw as a stab in the back from well-meaning Americans. The Conservative Party, calling for a return to old-time apartheid, made substantial gains from appealing to the voters to send a resounding reply to those hypocritical foreign sanctioneers.




The writers are director and secretary, respectively, of a citizens' group called Peaceful Progress in South Africa.