The new assault on civil liberties and democracy generally made by the General Law Amendment Bill "the Sabotage Bill" about to become law in the Republic of South Africa, has rightly shocked the democratic world and us, its victims.

The far-reaching and most damaging implications of this measure cannot be overemphasised nor unduly exposed. Fortunately for us, we are not alone. The world, especially through the United Nations Organisation, is pledged to work actively to ensure respect for basic human rights as enunciated in its Charter. In the dark days that lie ahead, we should be fortified and comforted by this knowledge - and by the double assurance of the abiding unswerving moral and active support of groups and individuals in many lands.

We face nothing new. All people now free have faced most trying times and situations - but ended victorious. The Bill, if passed in its present form, will land us in an era of tyranny and suffering harsher than any we have ever experienced since Union in 1910 and even during the 14 tragic years of Nationalist Party rule. Its provisions go far beyond the legitimate peacetime security requirement in truly democratic countries.

Though this may be cold comfort, it is encouraging to observe that this notorious measure spells out some patent weaknesses of the Government. Cruel as it is, the Bill basically is an admission by the Government of the effectiveness of our freedom struggle and of its latent potentialities. It may be a clever anticipation, but one doomed to failure in the end. The Government knows it. In whatever it does it is merely buying time. It knows that in the hearts of freedom-loving South Africans of all races, the freedom flame burns too strong to be snuffed out by the welter of bannings, banishments, imprisonments, and threats of other repressive legislation, nor even by the extravagant promises "mere fantasies" of a Paradise-on-Earth in a separate development that gives to white South Africans a lion`s share in all the resources of the Republic. To such men and women - freedom lovers - "life is more than meat". Mirages in the apartheid desert will not deceive them.

At worst, the measure will slow down the momentum of the liberation movement, but will never destroy it. Some have said that the Sabotage Bill spells "civil death." But I am satisfied that it will never achieve its purpose. Though it may imprison our bodies it will never crush our indomitable spirit. It may initially intimidate some among us, but not the brave "mighty few," that core who lead and inspire others in any cause.

The Bill confirms why the Nationalist Party Government, with its baaskap apartheid policy, is non persona grata with progressive world. It reveals as nothing else has recently the evil mind of the Government, which cannot be hidden even by clever concealing formulations. It is a case of actions speaking louder than words. It epitomises the Government`s morbid aversion to criticism of any sort and its disregard for democratic processes and values. This negatives emphatically its proclaimed avowal to democratic principles and puts it in the company of dictatorial regimes whose fate history teaches us was an ignominious end. Nothing the Government does to us will bring us to ignominy, unless we ourselves turn traitors to the cause by accepting its enticings and succumbing to its intimidations.

The Republic of South Africa, under the Nationalist Party regime, has a stinking record among progressive sections of the world. It is one of the black sheep of mankind. This is a fair portrayal of the South African image as seen by enlightened people and groups everywhere.

We painfully encourage the world to ostracise South Africa so long as she is unrepentant, and on our part we must be ever-diligent in exposing the implications and effects of apartheid. It grieves us to have to do this when with her rich and varied potentials in human and material resources South Africa could be a more prosperous and progressive country but for the Nationalists besmirching her name.

The General Law Amendment Bill, when an Act, will virtually make it impossible for some people to engage in active freedom work. But those who can must exploit to the full the meagre opportunities not barred by law to redeem her name. The situation calls for more effective action by the UN and its member-nations, by organisations, groups, and individuals sympathetic to our cause, to get South Africa to mend her ways.

What is the call of the hour? To all true South Africans of all races and to all true men and women of the world who share a common enlightened outlook and faith, the hour demands of us all to redouble our efforts in arresting the antidemocratic tide in our country and everywhere. We should regard no sacrifice too great for this noble task.

It has been said: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself. This is my message to the stout-hearted men and women of our country, to our youth, the men and women of tomorrow, and to freedom-lovers in the world, to keep eternal vigilance on the force of reaction, to fight them at every turn: Let us not be afraid. Our cause is just and whatever hardships come our way we should meet as a challenge.

The vision of greater, happier, and strife-free South Africa in a free world should inspire us to dare all for her and for the world.

ES Reddy