South Africa: 20 years of apartheid by another name 13 April 2014 On my wall in London is my favourite photograph from South Africa. Always thrilling to behold, it is Paul Weinberg’s image of a lone woman standing between two armoured vehicles, the infamous “hippos”, as they rolled into Soweto. Twelve years later, with my thirty-interesting economic articles banning from South Africa lifted, there was a pinch-me moment as I flew into Jan Smuts and handed my passport to a black immigration officer. Welcome to our country,” she said.
On the twentieth anniversary of the first democratic vote on 27 April 1994, it is this resistance, this force for justice and real democratic progress, that should be celebrated, while its betrayal and squandering should be understood and acted upon. On 11 February, 1990, Nelson Mandela stepped out on the balcony of Cape Town City Hall with the miners’ leader Cyril Ramaphosa supporting him. Free at last, he spoke to millions in South Africa and around the world. This was the moment, an historic split-second as rare and potent as any in the universal struggle for freedom. Moral power and the power for justice could triumph over anything, any orthodoxy, it seemed. The next day he appeared to correct himself. Majority rule would not make blacks “dominant”.
There would be no public ownership of the mines, banks and rapacious monopoly industries, no economic democracy, as he had pledged with the words: “a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”. In 1985, apartheid had suffered two disasters: the Johannesburg stock market crashed and the regime defaulted on its mounting foreign debt. In September that year, a group led by Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, met Oliver Tambo, the ANC president, and other liberation officials in Mfuwe, Zambia. The Relly message was that a “transition” from apartheid to a black-governed electoral democracy was possible only if “order” and “stability” were guaranteed.
This was liberal code for a capitalist state in which social and economic democracy would never be a priority. United Democratic Front and were fighting in the streets. The betrayal of the UDF and its most effective components, such as the National Civic Organisation, is today poignant, secret history. In 1987 and 1990, ANC officials led by Mbeki met twenty prominent members of the Afrikaner elite at a stately home near Bath, in England. Around the fireplace at Mells Park House, they drank vintage wine and malt whisky.
They joked about eating “illegal” South African grapes, then subject to a worldwide boycott, “It’s a civilised world there,” recalled Mof Terreblanche, a stockbroker and pal of F. If you have a drink with somebody and have another drink, it brings understanding. So secret were these convivial meetings that none but a select few in the ANC knew about them. The prime movers were those who had profited from apartheid , such as the British mining giant Consolidated Goldfields, which picked up the tab at Mells Park House. The most important item around the fireplace was who would control the economic system behind the facade of “democracy”. At the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations in Pollsmoor Prison. His principal contact was Neil Barnard, an apartheid true believer who headed the National Intelligence Service.