South African Prime Minister John Vorster tonight dismissed the U.S. government's announced review of its policy toward his country as "totally irrelevant" to him. He voiced strong support for his minister who ordered the banning of 18 mostly black organizations and the detention of more than 40 black leaders yesterday.
Speaking at a party meeting at Alberton on the southeastern outskirts of this city. Vorster said that if the United States wished to reconsider its relations with South Africa. "I am not interested. As far as I'm concerned, it is totally irrelevant."
"The Carter administration has for 10 months now been trying to make policy for us. It will be nice for a change if they make their own policy," he said adding that "then we will at least know where we stand and what the policy is."
At the same time, the South African leader said that he fully supported Justice Minister James Kruger, who was responsible for yesterday's banning and detention orders. "Each and every one of us would have done the same thing." he said.
Commenting on the hue and cry abroad over the crackdwon on the black opposition. Vorster said that his country was not governed from overseas and that the "safety and security" of South Africa "comes before everything else."
His remarks made clearer than ever before that this country has decided to ignore pressure from the outside world, including the Untied States, and intends to crush black and white dissent whatever the cost to its image abroad.
There was nothing really new in what the South African government has just done. The banning of the 13 organizations and at least seven idividuals, as well as the detention of 40 more black leaders, is simply a continuation of longstanding practices used to stifle dissent here. These methods have become more pronounced since the current outbreak of black protest began in Soweto in June, 1976.
They will probably continue, according to two top South African officials who warned of the possibility of even harsher measures if those taken yesterday failed to achieve their objective of stemming the simmering unrest in the black community.
Gen. II. J. Van den Berg, head of the South African Bureau of State Security, said in an interview published in an Afrikaner newspaper today that these steps might include "phsical measures such as arrests and restrictions of movement. The chaos of Soweto and other black areas can no longer be tolerated because it is to the detriment of South Africa and the peace-loving blacks," he was quoted as saying.
A similar warning came from Minister of the Interior and Information Connie Mulder who told foreign correspondents at a luncheon yesterday that other newspapers than The World, a black paper, might be banned if law and order and the security of the state were still threatened.
He said the government regretted having to take those stiff measures but that they had been "forced upon us" and we had no option." He said they were necessary to protect the "large black majority" that had been under pressure from the organiatizons banned by yesterday's decrees.
Meanwhile, as if to reassure the outside world that change is not a dead letter in South Africa, the government late tonight announced that it was going ahead with its plan to establish an elected community council with wider local powers in the giant African township of Soweto outside this city. A spokesman said elections would be held in February.
And Mulder, at the luncheon yesterday hinted that the ban on The World might be lifted soon. At the offices of the newspaper, activity continued almost as usual with reporters being sent out on assignment and editors at their desks.
"We're just going ahead preparing ourselves for the eventuality that the ban will be lifted." said news editor Joe Latakgomo.
Around the rest of the country, South Africa was by and large surprisingly calm today following the sweeping roundup of crities of the government's racial polices.
There were cries of ourage from both Africans and English-language newspaper over the banning of The World. The only report of any violence as or early evening came from East London where riot police broke up a predominantly white demonstration protesting the government's action yesterday.
This relative calm and the government's actions did little to answer the main question on the minds of many South Africans, black and white: why the government had decided to take such harsh measures to stifle dissent at this time.
The ruling Afrikaner-dominated National Party is in the midst of an election campaign, but all indications are that it is heading for an over whelming, and possibly unprecedented, victory at the polls Nov. 30.
While the government continued to defend its action, there were indications in various circles of strong disagreement with it. One of the most interesting ones came form academics at Potchefstroom University, a center of puritan Afrikaner ideology.
One professor was quoted as saying the government action had confirmed "My fears that South Africa is becoming a police state and the national party commited to a system of state absolutism." Another voiced doubt that such "smothering of the voice of the non-extremist was a wise step."
Outside observers of South African politics were interpreting the latest government steps to crush white and black dissent at any cost as a clear victory for the hardliners, or verkramptes , within the National Party leadership.
The tip-off of their continuing strength came late last week when Minister of Justice. Kruger, who has responsibility for internal security, beat out two leading Afrikaner moderates for the post of deputy chairman of the party's powerful branch in the Transvaal. He defeated both Foreign Minister R.F. (Pik) Botha and Sports Minister Piet Koornhof in the important party elections.
His election and the latest government measures seem to prove beyond a doubt that power still really lies with the Verkrampte faction of the National Party and that it is determined to impose its will no matter how much outery there is at home or abroad.
Ironically, six of the blacks detained including the editor of The World Percy Qoboza, had attended a luncheon at the residence of U.S Ambassador William G. Bowdler only last week.
One of the whites "banned" was editor of the East London Daily Dispatch, Donald Woods, who was stopped late yesterday at the airport from leaving for Washington where he was to attend a conference of the African American Institute. Under the banning order, Woods is restricted to his home town, may not work, is forbidden to speak to more than one person at a time and cannot be quoted.
The total number of black leaders taken into custody yesterday and today is not known, but the Rand Daily Mail, which is also in danger of being banned , gave a list of 42.