There were other sanctions recommended including refusal to landing and passage facilities to South African aircrafts and companies registered in South Africa, prohibition of airlines and shipping lines registered in the countries from providing services to vessels flying the South African flag, and encourage public collections in the country for assistance to the South African liberation movements, encourage the implementation of all United Nations resolutions on apartheid in sports, etc. The General Assembly in its recommendation to non-governmental organizations, including trade unions, churches and anti-apartheid movements in 1977, urged them to cooperate with their governments and other international bodies to ensure that maximum pressure was exerted on the apartheid regime.
As can be seen from the foregoing, there have been serious responses by the United Nations Organization to the injustices of the system of apartheid. However, the major question is, “why has the position remained for so long without much change in the UN attitude to the minority white settlers? Before we examine Nigerian and other responses to apartheid, we may need to address the above question since the facts set below here would enlighten us about successes and failures in responding to apartheid.
Big Business and Apartheid
Emmanuel Urhobo, in a seminar paper entitled “the United States of America Policy for Africa” wrote,
“The power of the big business and its influence on US internal and particularly foreign policy formation, cannot be understood unless one understands the close relationship between American capitalism and American political, legislative and administrative processes”.
Also a viewpoint expressed by Michael Parren is worth examining before we draw the conclusions that flow from Urhobo’s comments. These will help us in assessing responses to apartheid. Parren wrote:
“First, the United States gives priority consideration to its economic interest in its dealings with African Nations; second, the United States is more interested in preventing communist influence in Africa than in supporting self-determination; third, we as a nation do not have a moral, ethical commitment to the liberation of Africans in Southern Africa as exemplified by Secretary of State Kissinger’s famous National Security Studies Memoranda No. 39 of 1970. And finally, for reasons of ethnic considerations, America finds it necessary to safeguard the interests of a white minority in Africa”.
As a result of the fact that the studies contained in memorandum No. 39 of 1970 were commissioned by the republican administration under Richard Nixon, it was no surprise that American responses to apartheid in the 1980’s were rather negative under Ronald Reagan until recent events induced a mild change of attitude. The weak responses to apartheid by the United States of America, Britain, France and West Germany in the 1960’s – 1980’s were dictated by these countries’ national economic interest.
In a book published in 1984, entitled, “In whose Interest?, Kevin Danaher wrote,
“U.S. Companies profiting from apartheid, as well as the US Government, refrain from any reference to apartheid as a system of exploitation rooted in class structure of a capitalist economy. ..Since US national interests are served by apartheid, it is understandable why American responses are ambivalent.
– “United States corporate and government leaders claim that American investment is a “progressive force” for change in South Africa. The author lists the argument which generally includes the following elements.
– Race prejudice is anachronistic, an irrational hold over from pre-industrial society that will be dissolved gradually by market forces. This assumption finds support in the social science literature on modernization.
– American corporate involvement will help spur growth in South Africa economy, creating more jobs and income for blacks.
– As the economic situation of blacks improves, they will be better equipped to press for full social equality. With a greater stake in the system, they will be more likely to rely on peaceful, orderly methods of social change.
A discerning reader of these apologetic reasons would draw a “rewarding” conclusion from these banal positions adopted by “U.S. officials” to fend off UN initiatives for economic sanctions against South Africa. There have been major obstacles in the way of extra-Africa responses to apartheid because these other entities draw policy inspirations from the United States government sources and these seem to be informed by the following rationales:
1. Fundamental change can come about via the existing political institutions.
2. Euro-American businesses operating in South Africa “can be a force for democratic change”.
3. Only black groups that rely on peaceful methods of change deserved Euro-America support.
4. Communism is a greater danger than apartheid.
5. Most Euro-American mineral imports are strategically dependent on the Cape Sea Route and since these are crucial to the defence of the western world, the US government “has limited leverage over the white minority”.
In sum, national interests shape extra-African responses to apartheid rather than considerations of legality, morality or ethics.
One comment must be made in response to the call for peaceful methods of change, at least to show its hollowness. Protagonists of this view-point often lull us into the examples of Mohandes Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
As Charles Krauthammer wrote,
“It is no accident, however, that these two exceptions, the movements of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr. took place within the political and moral boundaries of liberal democratic politics steeped in constitutional values, and thus susceptible to the constraints of law and the power of shame. Where law and shame are less easily mobilised, non-violence has not fared well”.
Those who advocated non-violence died themselves through violent means. In discrediting the viewpoint that Euro-American business in South Africa ‘can be a force for democratic change’ Elizabeth Schmidt in her book, “Decoding Corporate Camouflage, US Business Support for Apartheid”, wrote
“In the decade that followed the Second World War, South Africa’s cheap labour economy and mineral wealth attracted billions of dollars in foreign investments. Although the ‘good investment climate’ was due, in large part to the racist structure of the economy, the United State government adopted a neutral policy vis-à-vis American investments in South Africa. Urged on by American government connivance with those companies that had invested in South Africa during the Carter administration, ‘American corporations rapidly expanded their investments in South Africa without remonstrance from the American government. Between 1943 and 1978, US direct investment in South Africa grew from $50 million to $2 billion, an increase of 4,000 percent”.
Those in Europe and America who propagate the progressive force theory that increase in investments does strengthen the national economy have been disproved by Elizabeth Schmidt when she said:
“History has exposed the weakness of the corporate argument. The “trickles down” theory has not worked. While the South African gross domestic product has increased by more than 2,000 per cent since the end of the Second World War, very little of that increase has benefited South Africa’s black majority. Most of the black population continues to subsist below the poverty line”.
Elizabeth Schmidt further intimated that in spite of the supposed affluence that Euro-American business was expected to bring about, all was not so rosy. Other authors who have written on South Africa’s apartheid agree. For example writing in the “South Africa Fact Sheet” Harrel, Joan and Rothmyer, Karen said, “In 1975, when the officially recognized absolute minimum for a black family of
six was set at $127.65 per month, the Financial Mail reported that 63.5 percent of the black households earned monthly income less than $92. In 1976, South Africa blacks who constitute 71m percent of the population, took home only 23 per cent of the national income. The white minority which accounted for 16 per cent took home 67 per cent of the earned wealth.
While the income of the blacks is overwhelmed by inflation, that of the whites is cushioned by their high incomes. E. Schmidt noted that during the 1976 period of tremendous economic growth, the ratio of white to black per capita has increased, rather than diminished. The white to black per capita income ratio was 16 to 1 in 1966; it reached 17 to 1 in 1975. 200 in 1978, white workers were still paid an average of 5 to 20 times more than black workers.
Apart from economic well-being, “there are denials of social and political rights, which for long have failed to materialize”. There has been widespread repression of blacks. Thousands of blacks have been imprisoned under an increasing number of South African security laws – statutes so comprehensive that activities likely “to endanger the maintenance of law and order” can be construed as terrorism and punished by prison or death.” For example in April 1978, Dr. Monflana told the New York Times: “If I said that the only way to bring change would be total economic sanctions, I would be liable to go to jail”. So, let’s just be cagey. Let’s just say I support “pressures” and leave it at that.
All these repressions in South Africa and the attendant crisis they precipitated drew world-wide responses. Reflecting upon the role of big business in South African politics, it became a generally held view that only economic pressure would hurt apartheid.
In the fall of 1978, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, said to the Press:
“We ask our friends to apply economic pressure.. Our last chance for peaceful change lies in the international community applying political, diplomatic and especially economic pressure..”
It is important to underline a principal issue. Whatever responses have been made by external forces, has come initially from the people of South Africa. No organization, save those that accept apartheid and work within the system, has supported continued foreign investment in the apartheid economy”.
The South African people, it is, who have taken on apartheid and whatever Nigerian responses or the lack of them may do, whatever extra-African responses may influence or not spur, seem secondary to the struggle.
Nigerian Responses to Apartheid
One observes that Nigeria often plays more active roles in opposition to apartheid when she operates at the United Nations level, when she operates at Conferences and in other international fora than when on her own. The work of the various Nigerian chairmen on the U.N. Committee for Action Against Apartheid like Ambassador Edwin Ogbu, Alhaji Yesuf Maitama Sule, Major-General Joseph Naven Garba, stand out prominently. Also, the Nigeria Committee for Action Against Apartheid which propagates the evils of apartheid has achieved limited success too. However, if we consider the external environment of a country, “then we might readily see why Nigerian responses to the Southern African problems are limited to chest-beating, sloganizing and promises until the Muritala Administration showed some teeth during the Angolan crisis. Nigeria’s foreign policy was ineffective herself, being a neo-colonial state. Our leaders, both in government and the civil service were subservient to Anglo-American dictate. This curious situation does not seem to have changed much in spite of the posturing we have witnessed since August 27 1985, when General Ibrahim Babangida came to power.
The attitude of Nigeria to apartheid is fractured by the need for the country to ensure that tribalism and nepotism do not shameless thrive in the country. Externally the environment is not conductive to responses that would be taken seriously. Nigeria simply has no military capability to back its responses.
On the other hand, as a result of the U.S South African atomic energy agreement signed in 1967, South African has produced enriched uranium for its atom bomb. Secondly, giant c.130 Hercules fighter planes and c-142 star lifer transport planes are in the racist’s war arsenal and the U.S still supplies spare parts. Thirdly, there is formidable military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and South Africa. All these are bound to overwhelm any Nigeria responses to help in the protestations against apartheid. Nigeria hosted in Lagos from 22nd to the 26th August; 1977, the conference organized jointly by the United Nations Special committee against apartheid and the Federal Military Government of Nigeria.
The Conference proceedings were not reported in South Africa this was understandable, however, the event was important to the morale of those who were and are still engaged in the fight against apartheid.
The solidarity with oppressed South Africans which encouraged outspokenness against apartheid discouraged “the forces of the white oppressors”.