May 16, 1981: Policy of "constructive engagement" instead of "confrontation" with South Africa is announced by the Reagan administration. The State Department says the policy "represents above all the reality that there is a limit on the U.S. capacity to use negative pressure to achieve policy results in South Africa." A senior State Department official says the new approach is to "positively support that which one wishes to see, both by word and deed."

Sept. 16, 1981: Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, says in testimony before the House subcommittee on Africa: "In South Africa, it is not our task to choose between black and white, but rather to foster conditions in which all South Africans can more fully share and participate in the economy and political process. We seek through our policies neither to destabilize South Africa nor align ourselves with apartheid policies that are repugnant to us."

June 5, 1985: The House votes 295 to 127 to impose new sanctions on South Africa in an attempt to force an end to apartheid. Fifty-six Republicans join 239 Democrats in approving the measures. The House bill would ban new loans to, and investment in, South Africa; stop the sale of computers and computer parts to its government, and halt imports of South African gold coins. The bill would permit a one-year waiver of the bans on new investment and coin imports if the president determined, and Congress agreed, that South Africa had met at least one of eight conditions in the bill.

July 11, 1985: The Senate approves its antiapartheid bill, 80 to 12. It includes a ban on new U.S. bank loans and exports of nuclear technology and further curbs on computer sales to South Africa. U.S. firms operating in South Africa would be required to "take an active role" in opposing apartheid, and firms with more than 25 workers would have to observe a stricter version of the Sullivan principles, which mandate pay raises, desegregation and promotions for blacks. Stiff sanctions could be imposed within 18 months of the bill's enactment unless the South African government made progress toward ending apartheid.

Sept. 9, 1985: President Reagan signs an executive order on South Africa incorporating some of the economic sanctions contained in the congressional antiapartheid bills. The order bars all computer exports to security forces and "agencies involved in the enforcement of apartheid"; bans loans to the South African government, with certain exceptions, and prohibits exports of nuclear goods and technology, with certain exceptions. Reagan also encourages, but does not mandate, U.S. firms' adherence to the Sullivan principles, and directs the secretary of state and U.S. trade representative to consult with trading partners about a ban on imports of gold coins.

June 18, 1986: By voice vote, the House approves legislation offered by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) requiring the withdrawal of all U.S. firms operating in South Africa. The measure would require total U.S. disinvestment 180 days after enactment, and impose a trade embargo against South Africa except for key minerals needed by the American defense industry.