Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

South Africa: will sanctions work?

by Kofi Andoh

"Translated into the simplest language, this problem means nothing but that we must preserve South Africa white. Preserving it white can mean only one thing - namely, white supremacy. Not the leadership or the leading role but complete control - supremacy".

H. Verwoerd, Father of Apartheid.
Just as the above quotation (right) bears out, South Africa is the only country in the world that enjoys the dubious distinction of having institutionalised racial discrimination and adopted it as an official policy of government. Its political, social and economic policies are all specifically geared towards maintaining the status quo - white supremacy. To this end, it has established a strong economic and military base, largely meant to impress upon militant Africa the military and economic costs involved in an effort to destroy the system.

In order to understand the system of apartheid itself, one has to appreciate the dynamics within the country as well as the international capitalist system that gave birth to it and that has continued to nurture and sustain it. The country's political economy can be reduced to capital accumulation, rein- forced by racial discrimination and segregation which has had the effect of depriving blacks of effective participa- tion in the political and economic pro- cess in the country. At the international level, it becomes a "relay system" or stagepost of imperialism. Over the years, it has assumed the role of the West's only committed ideo- logical, military and economic outpost on the continent.

The origin of the present South African system goes back to the forma- tion of the Dutch East Indian company in 1652 as a refreshing station for Asian-bound vessels at the Cape of Good Hope. Initially, religion rather than race formed the basis of distinction. By the 17th century, it had significantly altered and assumed racial dimensions, the reasons being purely economic:-

(a) the search for grazing pastures and cattle often stolen from the indigenous population,

(b) the rapid desire to acquire more land as symbolised by the 'trekking' which commenced in the 17th century and culminated in the Great Trek of 1836 had already created the foundations on which the racial policies of South Africa were to be erected and consolidated.

The growth of mining and industri- alisation and the exploitation of various economic sectors speeded up the process and since then elections in the republic have been won and lost on the issue of apartheid. In 1950, the system of identifying people by races was started with the stamping of documents of millions of people with 'black' or 'coloured' marks in compliance with the law segregating the people into racial groups.

Since then, in spite of endless resolutions, in spite of humanitarian appeals and considerations and in spite of the moral, legal and political implications of perpetuating the apartheid policies

Britain sustains its role in the South African underhand arms deal through the purchase of defence bonds through Barclays Bank and through the exercise of control over substantial holdings by the British International Computers Equipment Finance Corporation of South Africa, the racist regime appears quite bent on reinforcing its policies. Sanctions, resolutions, condemnations and contempt have only served the purpose of making life much more unbearable for the blacks in the country.

The obvious questions that flow from South Africa's unbending role are legion. Why is the South African government so much afraid of reforms? What keeps the system going? Why does the West pay lip-service to the issue of dismantling apartheid? Answers to these are well provided and are inherent in the forces that gave birth to the system itself. A recount of the West's complicity and double- dealing in South Africa's attempt to become a military and economic power in Africa is instructive.

In spite of tangled debates on detente in Europe and assents to the United Nations' Security Council Resolution 418 of November 1977 which requires that "all states shall refrain from any co-operation with South Africa in the manufacture and development of nuclear weapons", most Western powers are still in a sinister plot to arm the country to the hilt. The country's military posture is directly integrated into the military structures of the West through an illicit arms trade.

According to the 1981 report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, about 40% of the war planes of the South African Air Force originated from the US while almost two-fifths of the war material used by the land-based forces were made in the US. Under a US-South African pact extending to the year 2007, the US is obliged to furnish South Africa with a broad range of sensitive information, material and technical aid.

To this end, the US has been feeding South Africa with information on Russian submarine movements on the South African coastline; with weapons routed through non-existent companies; with generous military investment capital through the Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Morgan Guaranty and other financial institutions. It is on record that South Africa's first nuclear reactor was designed by National Laboratory and built by Allis Chalmers Co both of the US.

Britain sustains its role in the South African underhand arms deal through the purchase of defence bonds through Barclays Bank and through the exercise of control over substantial holdings by the British International Computers Equipment Finance Corporation. Im fact Britain's military links with the South African government began with the Simonstown Agreement.

Since 1964, France has become South Africa's most important source of defence equipment. Already France has equipped the South African Army with Daphne-type submarines, Mirage IIIs and F-I jets. Before the arms em-bargo, France had been supplying South Africa with Mirage II-Ce interceptors and Alouette helicopters. In a 1961 secret agreement between West Germany and South Africa, the Bonn government retains 45,000 workers on South African soil and to ensure that their interests are protected, Bonn lends directly to the South African Strategic Oil Fund (SASOL) and acts through Hermes Kreditversicherungs AG to guarantee the construction of uranium enrichment plants in the republic.

With Western support therefore, South Africa has acquired a military potential comparable to a medium- sized power in the West.

In terms of manpower, South Africa is far stronger than the combined forces of its foreign neighbours Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania. Its army also has more kill- power than the combined military strength of sub-Saharan Black Africa. It should be realised that South Africa's basic purpose for devising her present military capability has been transformed from what it was when defence planning began in the 60's. Initially designed to cope with internal threats to the status quo, this objective has been transformed over the years to fulfil a number of additional, though related functions.

Today nothing propels South Africa's foreign policy more than the sheer will to survive. Since 1967, its major foreign policy has been to "establish an economically and militarily strong republic surrounded by client states, befriended by the major powers and geographically isolated from any significant enemy. To achieve this, it has established a strong economic and military base. Her only enemy is black nationalism. Her main preoccupation therefore, is to keep these forces at bay.

Considering South Africa's strategic importance to the west, has the leadership in the US and Europe the political and moral will to impose and enforce sanctions against the republic? The answer is definitely no! Sanctions have not worked against South Africa would never work. 1982, the UN Year of Sanctions against South Africa achieved nothing and in spite of provisions of Paragraph 3 of the International Convention of the Suppression and Punishment of the crime apartheid adopted in 1973 by the regime making any person guilty of this crime liable to legal punishment, So Africa has always managed to escape punishment.

To the west, the end of apartheid signifies the end of capitalism and upsurge in the communist threat Southern Africa. They might therefore insist on a change in the method of exploitation and not the termination of the evil itself.

This leaves Africa and its sympathisers with no option other than creased military action.

talking drums 1985-10-07 Nigeria at 25 - A nation in a hurry