Circle 021: Donald Woods, South Africa Awareness, September 28, 1981

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It's really quite clear why the South African government wanted to silence journalist Donald Woods with a "banning." Under this unique form of punishment, Woods was isolated from his country, forbidden to write, to publish, or even meet with more than two people at the same time. Hearing Woods talk about his country and its perverse political and social system, the Circle was impressed with the passion of this man. But Woods' passion was tempered with a rare blend of irony and good humor. And the South African government must have found that combination considerably more dangerous than stridency.

Woods spoke of the land and people of South Africa with genuine warmth. It was the government, with its petty rules and monumental blindness, which was the target of Woods' wit. He told colorful vignettes ("Now these two fellows were standing in a pub...") which devastated the legal niceties which the South African government has constructed to keep the ground solid under apartheid.

Woods is not impressed with the lifting of some of the racial barriers in South Africa. It is not a major shift in policy that blacks can now use exits previously reserved only for whites, or that black players can now play some sports with whites. "Don't be fooled," warned Woods. Nor should American businessmen be deluded into thinking that their continued investment can somehow alter the essential political or social realities in South Africa. Woods was firm and precise about the key to the South African problem. When South Africa, said Woods, gives the vote to all people of all races, then the country shall be truly free.

By Barry Hillenbrand (Bureau Chief, Time-Life News Service, Boston, MA)