Magazine article UN Chronicle

Apartheid: A Study in Black and White

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Apartheid: A Study in Black and White

Article excerpt

Apartheid: A study in black and white

For more than two decades, the international community has mounted sustained pressures upon South Africa in order to terminate the system of apartheid and to realize self-determination for the people of Namibia. The important role played by TNCs in the South African economy and their exploitation of Namibian resources have been the subject of United Nations resolutions over the years, by which Member States are urged to prohibit or restrict the operations of TNCs in South Africa and Namibia. The Economic and Social Council, acting on recommendations of its Commission on Transnational Corporations, has adopted numerous resolutions calling on TNCs to terminate all further investments in South Africa and Namibia and to end collaboration with the South African Government.

In addition, divestment campaigns have been mounted by non-governmental organizations, labour unions, church groups and other concerned parties in home countries of TNCs to bring pressure on South Africa to abandon its apartheid system. However, some of these nations have not adopted comprehensive restrictions, and TNCs continue to operate in key sectors of the South African economy and to exploit the rich resources of Namibia.

South Africa has a total population of more than 31 million, of which blacks and coloured account for some 26.5 million (over 85 per cent). The country has a dual economy consisting of a modern sector controlled by whites, and impoverished rural areas reserved for blacks. The modern sector--mostly manufacturing, mining, modern agriculture and services--provides a large proportion of the country's gross domestic product and employs virtually all of the white labour force. However, blacks constitute the majority of the work force and tend to be concentrated in the lowest-paying jobs.

The white minority, comprising less than 15 per cent of the population, has allocated to itself about 87 per cent of the territory. The majority of the black population is restricted to the remaining 13 per cent--called "homelands', "bantustans', or "native states'-- overcrowded, poor and where the economy consists largely of subsistence agriculture. Given those conditions, large numbers of blacks must seek employment in the white areas; however, the apartheid laws severely limit their access to these areas.

Blacks are permitted in white areas in South Africa only for the purpose of serving the white economy, and while there, their movements are strictly controlled. They are prohibited from residing in any urban area for more than 72 hours unless they were born there, work there, or satisfy other stringent conditions.

In 1984, more than 1,000 TNCs maintained operations in South Africa, of which more than 400 are from the United States, 360 from the United Kingdom, and 140 from the Federal Republic of Germany. Other countries with significant numbers of TNCs operating in South Africa are: Switzerland (32); Australia (24); Canada (21); France (20); Sweden (18); and Netherlands (17). The total amount of foreign direct investment in South Africa at the end of 1983 was estimated at between $15.5 and $17 billion.

The estimated work force in South Africa is about 10.1 million, of whom 8.1 million (more than 80 per cent) are black. TNCs employ some 600,000, of whom 400,000 are black--equivalent to only 5 per cent of the total black work force.

TNCs transfer capital and technology to South Africa, provide markets for the country's exports and supply a large part of its imports. …

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