Vol. XIII, Issue 1 (Winter 2006): Reflections on South Africa
Peter K. LeMaire
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In this issue of Africa Update Hosea Jaffe reflects on the circumstances leading to the fall of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela and the new South Africa. What forces really brought the fall of apartheid? How long did negotiations last and in what context? ‘The cosmetic political change from an openly racist state to a masked, multi-racial, partitionist confederal democracy could not lead to democracy and a non-racial society’ Jaffe concludes. The Editorial Board of Africa Update may not necessarily agree with all of Jaffe’s propositions but we consider them important enough to be discussed.
Africa Update commemorated the momentous occasion of the 1994 South African election process in an earlier issue. The sacrifices made by the victims of apartheid and the leaders of the liberation struggle will continue to preoccupy scholars for many decades to come. This issue of Africa Update is in their honor.
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
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SOUTH AFRICA, 1985-1994
THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
The 1985-94 constitutional process in South Africa was a process made up of a sequence of sub-events. Its first significant sub-event was the change of mind of the government of President Botha during the mass strikes of 1984-5. The second was the 5-year series of secret meetings with Mandela from late 1985. These were arranged by Botha's ministers, police and secret service to find out how Mandela's brain worked. Then came the un-banning of the Pan African Congress (PAC) and the Azania Peoples' Organization (AZAPO). The release of Robben Island prisoners; the release of Mandela in February 1990; the negotiations, and finally, the April 1994 election followed. These culminated in formation of a "Government of National Unity.”
The Botha - de Klerk change of mind was, however, more effect than cause. The notion that the G7 powers, the so-called international community, were always anti-apartheid and that they concluded that South Africa was out of step is quite untrue. The fact is that even after the Soweto uprising in 1976 the European Economic Council of Ministers rejected 'one person one vote' for South Africa and in that in 1978 EEC Declarations repeated this pro-apartheid policy and rejected an oil-embargo against South Africa The fact is that the EEC officially supported Portugal against Cabral's army in Guinea Bissau, the MPLA and FRELIMO, until these liberation armies defeated Portugal in 1974. The Labor Prime Minister of Britain, Harold Wilson, told the world during his visit to Rhodesia a decade before the Lancaster Independence negotiations in 1980, that the Zimbabwean Africans were not yet ready for Independence. The change of mind by the South African regime in the mid-1980 was clearly a part of a general change of mind by the USA and the EEC powers. The eventual consensus was determined by the worsening world economic crisis which ended the post-war boom in 1970. South African history is thus very much a part of world history. This has been the case since Van Riebeeck landed at the Cape in 1652 This world-system principle governing South African history was personified by those who influenced Botha and de Klerk's rethinking such as Young, Carrington, Thatcher, Kohl, Mitterand, Kissinger and - the Archbishop selected by Britain's own Anglican hierarchy in Canterbury and Westminster for this job - Desmond Tutu.
Was the constitutional crisis in South Africa part of a class-struggle? Did it signify a modal change to a New South Africa? Did it change the mode of production there? This is the problematic of this article.
SOUTH AFRICA IN THE WORLD SYSTEM
Being wide open to the world system through its colonial history, two-way trade and investment flows, South Africa is bound to refract major world events. Thus the Second World War brought about a policy change of the Communist Party of South Africa which sacrificed the national-liberation movement founded in 1938, on the altar of General
Smuts' war effort, after the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. The other world events which clearly struck South Africa with full force were (a) the world economic crisis from 1970 on and (b) collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR.
THE WORLD ECONOMY AND LIBERATION MOVEMENTS
Germany sponsored Black Consciousness (BC) via its Rhenish Churches. But the USA, noting that BC was partly an export from the USA of the same Black Power Movement which Presidents Johnson and Nixon ruthlessly repressed, turned its back on BC and also on the PAC.
By 1980 they began to sponsor the ANC (African National Congress). The ANC was already a favorite with the Anglican Church in Britain and liberals, and Germany and France soon followed suit. This foreign sponsorship, combined with a resurgence of traditional Liberal backing for the ANC inside South Africa, to put the ANC back on the political map after its replacement first by the Pan African Congress in the late 1950s, and in the 1970s by BC. The revival of the ANC in 1983, in the shape of the United Democratic Front, and its subsequent role in negotiating a new constitution, was the result of this foreign and local liberal sponsorship.
The Reform-Negotiation process, thus set in motion, required the crippling of the national liberation movements. In secret, between 1989 and 1993, the state's hit-squads systematically murdered some 200 non-collaborationists in the ANC, PAC and AZAPO, many of these taking the form of "accidents". In public, imperialist funds promoted and corrupted the main "liberation movements." Thus the Kagiso Trust was funded through Europe's Protestant Churches and the European Community. The Coca-Cola and Mobil Trusts were directly funded by its USA parent-bodies. The main liberal Aid fund operated from St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Newspapers promoting negotiation were subsidized. The English media included New Nation, the voice of the Vatican, South, New Africa and Grass Roots; and the Afrikaans media following suit included Vrye Weekblad. The powerful Argus Group sponsored The Sowetan, while the Nationalist Party press backed City Press, both aiming, like New Africa at a rapid increase of African readership. Inkatha was funded to take control of Ilanga La Se Natal. Weekly Mail was made viable by generous advertising revenue from multinationals.
SOUTH AFRICA IN THE WORLD CRISIS
The world system crisis brought about, first, a quadrupling, and then a collapse of the gold price to below its break-even level of $350.00 an ounce in 1992. The crisis and the mass struggles of the mid-1980 deflated the Rand from $0.52 in 1988 to $0.36 in New Year 1992. It raised the interest-rate to 20% and made inflation, indebtedness and unemployment chronic. These effects of the crisis converged with the popular struggles to depress not only the economy but with it the level and the scale of liberal politics as well. The economy and also the mainstream politics of the country were channeled into the trough of what Sweezy and Magdoff called "stagnation". Stagnation reduced politics to a collaborationist mode.
The restructuring involved in this economic crisis accelerated the concentration of capital in the hands of South African based multinationals, led by Anglo-De Beers, as well as the passage of Britain's investment and trade hegemony to US, German and Japanese investors, exporters and importers. Apartheid South Africa's departure from the British Commonwealth and the establishment of the Republic in 1961 opened up the country to non-British investors. The USA linked up with Afrikaner capital. The Rembrandt Group, Sappi Paper Mills (its rival, Mondi, is Anglo-American), Phelps-Dodge and the refineries of Mobil and Caltex exemplified this US- Afrikaner union. Most of the new mining capital came from the USA, enabling McGregor, in WHO OWNS WHAT, in the late 1970's, to estimate that 45% of all gold mining shares were owned by Americans.
Such foreign ownership, however, did not overturn the control of the major mining companies and of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by Anglo De Beers and other South African multi-nationals. These operated not only from juridical headquarters in South Africa, but also had their social, class base and political parties centered in South Africa itself. This combination of finance, class and politics in South Africa is typical of an imperialist country. The regime used profits made, from the Front Line States, which remained de-facto semi-colonies of South African imperialism to finance its servicing of the $24b. 1989 foreign debt. This imperialism controlled 95% of Johannesburg Stock Exchange capital, although 66% of the latter was owned by USA, European and Japanese shareholders. The transnationals of the RSA (Republic of South Africa) were powerful enough to be the first foreign investors in Hungary in 1989, and in 1992 Anglo De Beers bought mining leases in Siberia. Quarry interests were acquired in the former East Germany and the state purchased ships from the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland.
The crisis caused 7 million workers to be replaced by computers, robots and high-productivity industrial and farming machines. One example of this rationalization was the modernization of the RSA coal mines. Despite the grand modernization of UK coal mines, the output of South African coal-miners was 1900 tons of coal per worker per year in 1986, against 735 tons/worker per year for British coal miners, that is, 2.5 times higher. Those deprived of jobs by such rationalization crowded into the Homelands, Bantustans and ghettoes like Soweto, Mitchell's Plain, Atlantis and Kyalitsha in the Cape. By 1992 the squatter population had risen to 5 million, enlarging a poverty-stricken informal economy.
The ongoing world crisis precipitated the contradiction between the traditional economic policy of preventing the rise of a comprador bourgeoisie among the oppressed, and the new political need and usefulness to the ruling class of such a collaborationist bourgeoisie. As a compromise the rulers tried to expand the old indirect rule principle. A consequence of this policy was the growth of gangs between rival layers of this sub-class. This violence was amplified not only by the general rise in poverty, but by the use of INKATHA vigilantes by sections of the South African Police (SAP) and South African Defense Force (SADF) as well as by internecine warfare between factions of the ANC, PAC and AZAPO in the locations and squatter-camps.
During boycott struggles inside South Africa in 1984, the ANC demanded sanctions against South Africa. This revived the call of the 1958 "All-African Peoples Conference," at Accra, for a diplomatic and trade boycott. These calls were repeated at the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference at Conakry in April, 1960, and by the first OAU heads of state meeting in Addis Ababa in April 1963. In November 1962 the UN General Assembly recommended trade and diplomatic sanctions, with 67 voting for, 16 against, and 27 abstaining. Eric Louw, South African Foreign Minister, said at the time that the West bought ‘79.8% of South Africa's exports, excluding gold and provided 63.7% of her imports'.
The UN never excluded South Africa, as it did Yugoslavia from 1992. Nor did its sanctions undermine the economy or White standards of living, as did UN sanctions against Iraq in 1990-3, or those against Yugoslavia in 1992-4. After Sharpeville, the ANC and CPSA abroad, supported officially by the Liberal Party, began a campaign of sanctions against the apartheid regime. Sanctions, however, relied for support on two imperialist classes: the Western capitalists and the Western bourgeois proletariat. This included the Japanese. Workers and middle classes living off semi-colonial surplus value would not, apart from token solidarity, boycott ships and planes carrying minerals strategically essential to their well-being.
Nor did the divestment sanctions lead to a net withdrawal of capital. Where there was a financial pull-out of companies, such as with US car firms, it was often due to the world crisis. The sale and hence purchase of shares and companies was not dis-investment, but a change of imperialist ownership. In this the USA was the main loser and Germany, Japan and South African multi-nationals were the main winners. The Cape sea-route continued to carry over 2000 ships a year to and from over 50 member-states of the United Nations delivering 577 of Western Europe's oil and 20% of the United States oil. 70% of the West's strategic raw materials were transported by this route. Throughout sanctions South Africa remained a supplier of four key minerals, 81% of the West's platinum, 71% of its manganese, and 84 % of its chrome. And 47% of its vanadium. German metal-workers refused sanctions because an embargo on chrome only would put over a million Germans out of work. Most African states, while denouncing apartheid, did not practice a sanctions policy. Even Nasser's Egypt, on October 9, 1962, stated that South African ships could pass through the Suez Canal and later rejected a request by the Mombasa Dockers Union to close the canal to South African bound shipping. The Tshombe- Mobutu regime allowed South African planes to land on their airfields. Kaunda said in 1964 that he would be willing to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa if his envoys were assured normal diplomatic treatment. Asian states also traded with South Africa. The left-wing Banderenaike Government exported rubber and tea to the RSA. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain continued oil supplies. The Shah regime, West Germany and South Africa had an oil-uranium -atomic consortium up to the 1979 Khomeni Revolution. Finally, on 15 April 1991 the back of what remained of sanctions was broken by South Africa's main trading and investment partner, the European Community, when it voted to lift all sanctions.
THE ARMED STRUGGLE
In 1988 the Cuban, Angolan and SWAPO forces, using Soviet armaments, had broken South African air- superiority and defeated the South African army decisively at Quito Quinivale. South Africa virtually sued for peace and a 6-power imperialist bloc comprising of Britain, USA, West Germany, France, Canada and South Africa, with the aid of Soviet foreign-policy, Glasnost, made agreements at Brazzaville and New York, whereby Cuba's 35,000 troops would withdraw from Angola. By then South Africa had the beneficial experience of a neo-colonial Nkomati Accord with Machel and de-iure and de-facto diplomatic relations with Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The transformation of SWAPO from a liberation movement into a neo-colonial government came after and during a process which completed the destabilization and closing down of the bases of the ANC. The demotion of Hungary, Poland, the Baltics, and later the USSR to the Third World, begun during the European winter of 1989-1990, removed much of the training, sources of military supplies, technology, and funding which the ANC had enjoyed for 25 years. In March 1989, Yakovlev, head of the Africa department of the USSR Foreign Ministry, asked: “What armed struggle? How can one support something which does not exist?” The collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, 1989-91, finally ended the arms and money flow from these areas.
The political struggle would be directed towards negotiations, popular fronts with the liberals , and a mixed economy. This excluded wholesale nationalization and measures which would discourage foreign investment, or drive out white expertise. Critics of the armed struggle strategy saw the armed struggle as a device for negotiations which would probably lead to federal partition.14
THE 1983-86 BOYCOTTS
In November 1979, after meetings between Thabo Mbeki and Buthelezi, the ANC executive abroad, led by Oliver Tambo, met the INKATHA executive headed by Buthelezi in London.
The ANC and INKATHA agreed to cooperate. The PAC, BC, NEUM and ANC groups inside South Africa believed that Botha and Thatcher had sponsored the meeting. They criticized the ANC-INKATHA pact as unholy. In the elections of August 1984 of colored MPs to a House of Representatives and of Asian MPs to a House of Delegates, the official number of registered "Colored voters" was 881,984 (59 % of the 1.5 million over 18) and the official % age poll was 30.9% of those registered and 18% of those eligible. The New Unity Movement claimed a 90% boycott; the official "Asian" registration was 80% and the official poll 20.29% of those registered and 16% of those eligible, and this was the verdict of the world press (15). The workers rallied by forming the largest union federation ever, the Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in December 1985. Students staged a nation-wide boycott of schools and a consumer boycott shook the Eastern Cape and other urban complexes. The Deputy Foreign Minister conceded that 300 "moderate Blacks" had been killed from August 1984 to March 1985 and "about 100 Black city councilors had been attacked and 147 forced to resign". The state replied with the declaration of a State of Emergency which remained in force for five years. While 4 PAC militants and one Rivonia prisoner were released after 20 years on Robben Island, in February/March 19, Blacks were killed in a clash with the security forces near Uitenhage. 29 organizations were banned in March 1985 alone. From September 1984 to March 1985, 10,000 had been arrested and 500 killed by the police.
To divide the struggle, the regime exploited infighting between UDF and AZAPO in KwazeRhele, near Port Elizabeth. An official inquiry blamed doctors who treated prisoners later murdered in detention in 1977. In the midst of the boycott-breaking violence, in September 1985, the Chairman of Anglo-American Corporation led a team of businessmen and liberals to meet the ANC in Lusaka. The Botha regime now made contact with Mandela in Pollamoor prison, Cape. Outside, however, raged boycotts and strikes.
NON-COLLABORATION AND ANTI- IMPERIALISM.
The NUM Conference in Johannesburg condemned the August 1991 Restoration of capitalism in the ex-USSR, defended the Yugoslavian Federation against the EC-backed "self-determination" of Slovenia and Croatia, and condemned the imperialist-backed secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia. The Unity Movement defended Iraq against the UN and USA from August 1990 to 1991.
In 1989 the NUM became the first liberation movement in the world to declare that capitalist/imperialism in its relentless quest for super-profits ruthlessly and irreparably damages the ecological system. (16)This inclusion of ecological demands in the program of the NUM was not a concession to the pacifist Green movements, but an extension of its anti-imperialist aims to a new front.
While it had defended ANC leaders imprisoned on Robben Island, after their release in 1989-1990, the NUM condemned the meeting of Mr. Mandela, soon after his release with Allan Hendrickse and other quislings from the House of Representatives of the Tricameral System. The NUM criticized ANC meetings with homeland leaders. A meeting with Gatsha Buthelezi, leader of Inkatha, was planned. The Unity Movement revived the terms "Quisling" and "collaborator" used from the language of the NEUM during World War II.
REPRESSION AND NEGOTIATIONS.
The UDF, AZAPO, NUM and smaller bodies protested against the State of Emergency, and informers were attacked at a NUM meeting in Belleville in September 1985. 70% of workers wanted sanctions, according to a Markinor poll commissioned by the London Sunday Times in August, 1985. The same poll showed a sharp radicalization of "Blacks." In September in the Western Cape 15,000 defied a ban to bury Ebrahim Carelse, not to mourn but to demonstrate their anger at the brutal murder of an innocent father . In October armored cars and the army entered Athlone, Cape, while mass funeral protests were held in Athlone for A.K. Fryddie, "shot dead at the St.Athens Road Mosque", and for M.Miranda. In March 1986 over 15000 in Guguletu, Cape, buried "seven men -allegedly ANC guerrillas -shot dead by police." In October 1986 SAP/SADF shot protesters from trucks used as "Trojan Horses" in scenes seen world-wide on TV. Meanwhile, from South West Africa, South African imperialism continued its war against Angola and SWAPO, using Savimbi's UNITA which received renewed aid from the USA in early 1986.
Alarmed by the rising tide of non-collaboration, in September Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of the "Opposition" PFP in the apartheid Parliament, called for "negotiation for a non-racial democratic alternative ". The University of the Western Cape (0UWC) became a multi-racial internationally patronized center for ANC "returnees", and Liberal-led academic collaboration, led by Professors Small and Bundy and Rector Gerwel, while Archbishop Tutu was given the position of "Chancellor." (17).
In November 1989 the French Government, Mrs. Mitterand and South African Liberals like Breyton Breytonbach organized a giant Liberal-Socialist-ANC meeting. Thatcher repeated her demand for Mandela's release; he had thanked her via the British Ambassador, Sir Renwick, stating that his "unconditional release...is a fundamental prerequisite for meaningful negotiations." (18) Afrikaner Liberals, including President de Klerk's brother and known leaders of the notorious ex-Nazi "Broederbond", met the ANC in London in September, while the National Party formulated an "action plan" based on race.
THE ANC RENEWS ETHNIC POLICY
In 1989 The ANC issued its 'POST-APARTHEID GUIDELINES', which guaranteed a mixed economy, "cultural diversity", and the transformation, but retention, of "the institution of hereditary chiefs." This was renewed in the ANC's READY TO GOVERN document adopted at its National Conference on 28-31 May 1992. The ANC's acceptance of the principle of "chiefs", a century after their co-option into the "Glen Grey" cheap labor system, precluded ANC negotiations with the Bantu's Homelands agents of the racist state. On 21 November Sisulu, acting on Mandela's instructions given from his villa in the Vester Prison, near Pearl, and with the pre-knowledge of the Government, then engaged for some four years in secret talks with Mandela, welcomed talks with Zwelithini, King of the Zulus. He addressed 75,000 so-classified Zulus in Durban in November, while police shot down 15 striking transport workers in the same city. Early in 1990 Zweletini died, and between December 1993-March 1994, Mandela and de Klerk recognized his son as “King of the Zulus” and de Klerk, with Mandela's subsequent consent, made a law handing over state lands to the monarch.
Mandela urged negotiations when he received the veteran ex-Robben Island prisoner, Masemola, in his villa-prison, but Mothopeng, PAC co-founder and President and B. Alexander, spokesman for the newly formed Pan African Movement (PAM), rejected negotiations, saying: the time was not ripe because the government was too strong. In April 1990 Masomela was killed in a car "accident". In a tribute to him his comrades wrote: ‘he rejected negotiations...as a ploy to divide and weaken the African people. He could not see equal negotiations between unequal partners.’ (INDEPENDENT, 21.4.1990)
However, in November 1990 Buthelezi sent three senior INKATHA members to the funeral of PAC President Zephania Mothopeng in Soweto. From prison Mandela urged support for Holomisa, President of the Transkei Bantustan, and other Homeland and Bantustan chiefs, in terms of the new "ANC Guidelines", and on 25 November Sisulu stood alongside "General" Holomisa before 50,000 people in Umtata, "where euphoria mixed with a growing skepticism, mainly among the youth".
In Venda Bantustan, Col. Ramushwana overthrew President Ravele in another coup backed by Pretoria and by the ANC. At the same time, Chief Maphumulo, President of the Congress of Traditional Tenders of South Africa, linking 1000 clan chiefs mostly sympathetic to the ANC, toured Britain for support. When on 25 February, two weeks after his release from the Pearl Prison, Mandela told 100,000 in a Durban rally to " throw your guns into the sea," there was dissent from the ANC militants defending themselves with arms, including K47"s against INKATHA terror.
Parallel with the increasing linkages between the ANC and the Homelands/ Bantustan collaborators went a New Year appeal by the former Robben Island ANC prisoner, Walter Sisulu, to the "Colored" Labor Party and its leader, Rev. Alan Hendricks, to form a broad anti-apartheid front, after the heavily boycotted Tricameraman had recent indirect contacts with Mr. Mandela (19). These moves were condemned by non-collaborators as "collaboration with collaborators"(20).