South Africa: "Three Cheers for Simplisticity"
South Africa: "Three Cheers for Simplisticity"

South Africa: "Three Cheers for Simplisticity"

April 1 st 1985

Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, recently travelled the free world advising governments and corporations to oppose apartheid by refusing to invest in South Africa. Other voices, while opposing the South African government's apartheid policies, have warned against such a boycott.

During a recent visit to Toronto, Gatsha Buthelezi, chief of South Africa's six million Zulus, warned that sanctions against South Africa would hurt black people before they hurt the whites. The majority of black South Africans, c1aimed Buthe1ezi, are also against "disinvestment." Plagued by massive unemployment and severe poverty, South Africa's blacks need the jobs created by foreign investment. Liberation of the black people, said Buthelezi, will have to take place by the black people themselves, but to be successful, they first of all need jobs. Rather than implement economic sanctions against South Africa, Western countries like Canada should require companies operating in South Africa to abide by certain codes of conduct.,/p>

Alan Paton, the well-knovn author of Cry the Beloved Country and other writings against apartheid, agrees that disinvestment would have terrible consequences for the black people of South Africa, and he publicly took exception to Bishop Tutu's views in the Johannesburg Sunday Times. In response to the criticism that his position is "simplistic," Paton argued that despite its popularity in the Western world, disinvestment in South Africa will destroy countless jobs and result in starvation and death. He wrote: "I hereby solemnly declare that I will never, by any word or act of mine, give any support to any campaign that will put men out of jobs—not even if they promised file that it would bring Chernenko down. Or Reagan. Or P W Botha . . three cheers for simplisticity."

Lucy Mvubelo is the general secretary of the National Union of Clothing Workers, the largest black trade union in South Africa, and has long been associated with anti-apartheid and pro-1abour activities. She, too, cautions against economic sanctions. The following advice is taken from her foreword to The Politics of Sentiment—Churches and Foreign Investment in South Africa, written by Richard Sincere and published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.:

To proponents of isolation, disinvestment, and embargoes, I must say: Don't break off contact, and don't advocate disengagement and withdrawal of foreign investments. Only indigenous movements—the trade unions, the political groupings, the schools, the business associations—within South Africa can bring about significant , positive change. Outsiders can influence it, but only through participation, not by isolation.

Foreign investment has created jobs for thousands of African workers who would otherwise be unemployed. Thanks to the policies of foreign firms operating here, black workers have gained significant wage increases, often larger than the increases gained by black workers in South African companies. These workers enjoy the benefits of equal-opportunity codes adopted by American and European firms, whose example is now being followed by many South African companies. The vitality of South Africa's economy offers more hope to South African blacks than destructive forms of pressure from abroad.

Those who insist that Christian visim requires them to support revolutionary change in South Africa fail to acknowledge any reform in South Africa and fail to see—or turn a blind eye to—the effects violent revolution will have. My friends, colleagues, and co-workers in South Africa are deeply concerned to learn that foreigners think South Africans can live better in an economy laid waste by an investment boycott.

Have the various Canadian churches and church groups currently campaigning for sanctions against South Africa taken the trouble to listen to these voices?

Harry Antonides
Harry Antonides

Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.


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