Salient. Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Vol 41 No. 3. March 13 1978
Travelling in South Africa
Travelling in South Africa
Why no New Zealander should Travel to South Africa
Tourism is big business in South Africa, and per head of population. New Zealand is its biggest investor. With the campaign against Vorster's regime moving more and more into the economic sphere, it is important to realise the extent to which New Zealand supports that regime. This article has been prepared by the National Anti-Apartheid Committee, (NAAC), who are currently engaged in a campaign to end New Zealand's cultural and economic relations with South Africa.
Given all the rhetoric on the freedom of New Zealanders to travel wherever they wish, there is an unfortunate temptation to take this freedom to the point of abuse, to mean that you don't have to question the rights and wrongs of going wherever you are going.
Freedom to travel does not imply that the innocent practise of travel is something that never hurt anyone. When you go into a travel agent's office and pick up a glossy South African Airways brochure depicting quasi-erotic wildlife on the front cover, why should you stop and think beyond the sun, surf, game parks and luxuriant suburbs, the things you'll undoubtdedly enjoy in white man's paradise; beyond these things not only to the things you won't see by going there, but about the positive effects your visit will have.
You may go there with views mildly opposed to the evils of apartheid, or perhaps "neutral" views, but don't be misled into thinking that the effect of your visit will be neutral as well — far from it. The individual tourist to South Africa is just as responsible for giving sustenance to the apartheid regime as is the business investor, as is the individual rugby player.
All are involved in making the same basic decision — do I or don't I undertake an action which will boost the morale, economy and propaganda of the white racist regime and undermine black efforts at liberation, or do I act in such a way as to undermine apartheid morale, economy, and prpaganda efforts? Whichever decision you make, it is one which drastically affects the lives of 20 million people.
How Does Tourism Give Support to Apartheid?
There are many reasons why it is a crime to travel to South Africa, none of which have any relation to the fact that the N.Z. Government won't stop you from going or that the U.N. is opposed to you going.
Firstly, there is the direct economic assistance your trip offers to a regime which badly needs, and gets, direct economic assistance from the Western world. Tourism is among the top five foreign exchange earners for the white South African economy. In 1975, 730,368 tourists spent a total of R 260 million in foreign exchange to boost the white economy. (1) This is nearly as much as the value of mineral products exported from South Africa in 1975 (R 379.5m) (2). South Africa is more than just a gold and diamonds eldorado. It is very much a tourist one as well.
The South African Government is well aware of the dependence of the South African economy on tourism. Under the Finance Act of 1964 (NO.76) the Government guarantees loan capital needed by private enterprise for the creation of luxury hotels to serve the rapidly growing industry. The South African Department of Tourism co-ordinates the South African Railways (SAR) and the South African Tourist Corporation (SATOUR). The Government owned SAR, the largest employer in South Africa, finances SATOUR to the tune of R 300,000, annually. (3) SATOUR is run by a board of control consisting of seven members appointed by the Sate President (equivalent to our Governor General but more overtly a political appointment).
It is SATOUR which is responsible for maintaining a substantial International Tourist Promotion Network, the nearest office being in Australia, from where material is regularly channelled through N.Z.'s South African Consulate and other sources. This network has been extremely effective. Between 1966 and 1975, the number of tourists visiting South Africa rose from 275,008 to 730,368.(4)
According to the South African Yearbook of 1976 "It is expected that by 1980 one million tourists will visit the country annually." (p.835) The number from New Zealand rose from 737 to 7,679, i.e. a 1,000% increase in the '66—'75 period! Prorata to population, New Zealanders are the biggest source of overseas travel to South Africa.(5)
When you go there you are buying a South African product, and as John Vorster said, "every time a South African product is bought, it is another brick in the wall of our existence."(6)
Secondly, sightseeing. A typical sightseeing itinerary was that provided by South African Airways in conjunction with our own NAC to co-incide with the International Congress of Jaycees, November 14—19, 1977. (7) The salient features of the trip include, for instance, a visit to Capetown including a "free day to take in the sights and shops of the beautiful city"— no mention being made of the Cape Flats, the area allocated to those classified as 'mixed-race' or 'coloured' under the Group Areas Act.
And "after an optional cable car ride up Table Mountain, a flight to Durban and some shopping, a deluxe coach tour to Johannesburg begins with visits to Hluluwe Game Reserve and reaching Swaziland on November 10th. Overnight and dinner at Mbabane, the capital, at the Holiday Inn, Plenty of time in the evening to try your luck at the Casino." Then 11th November, "through the rugged splendour of the Drakensburg Range, arrive in the early evening at Kruger National Park." The whole of November 12th was to be taken up viewing the Park's attractions.
Lovely stuff — but no mention of the homelands, the Soweto slums, the many manifestations of oppression which go to make up the true face of apartheid.
The only real contact you will have with with the indigenous majority is in the situation of being driven through Johannesburg by a Black Taxi Driver, waited on by Black Waiters at any of a number of South Africa's first class hotels, or perhaps talking to a member of the small black elite which has been created by the White government in order to confuse the lines of oppression, if you happen to be there on a specially provided educational tour, which SATOUR arranges in conjunction with South African Airways.
However, it is precisely because of such a tour to South Africa, that many New Zealanders have in the past returned praising the South Africa they have "seen for themselves" thus acting as apartheid propaganda agents for the South African Government.
But it is not only a question of people coming home to N.Z. actively singing the praises of "separate development" or what have you. It is very much a question of the South African Government and media construing visits from overseas as gestures of support and you saying that wasn't what you intended won't stop them from doing so.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most important reason of all for you not to go there is that the Black majority doesn't want you to. Those who represent the aspirations of the majority of the people of South Africa have made it clear that they regard the travel boycott as an integral part of the economic boycott.. It then comes down to a question of whether you want to respond to the wishes of the white minority or the black majority.
Think for a moment, how you would feel, living in slum conditions in your own country, controlled by wealthy colonial masters who regularly fete the international population with tours of the beauty spots of your land, to which you had no access yourself, either because of pass law restrictions or because you were deprived of the necessary income.
What would be your attitude to the international tourists, regardless of whether they personally claimed to be supporting the system or not, when all their discussion was with your colonial masters, and they for some reason, based on their "right to travel anywhere" decided to make their own Godal mighty judgement of your own country for their own satisfaction, their own curiosity.
There may be some whose motivation for going to South Africa is less selfishly based, not so much the desire to drink in the beautiful scenery — more the need to make a "sound" assessment of South Africa so as to add a contribution to the South African controversy in an informed way. The point is, any contribution they could make from the extra information received has been more than offset by the negative contribution made by going there.
If for anyone to act or voice an opinion on the South African issue they had first to go there, consider the phenomenal boost the South African tourist industry would receive. Another Hawaii in the making! And to some extent that situation has been the irony of the awakening on apartheid which has had quite a lot to do with the increase in S.A. travel.
More importantly, a belief that you have to go there to pass useful judgement on the issue undermines the basis on which the black liberation movements operate, i.e. the sending overseas of exiles whose purpose in life is to inform people of the nature of apartheid in order to win support for their cause. To go there having had the opportunity to learn from exiles in this country is very much like saying "we don't belive you so we'll go and ask your oppressors to give us the true story."
There are plenty of information sources in New Zealand both for and against apartheid, e.g. the South African Yearbook is capable of supplying you with the essential facts if you are sincere in your quest for knowledge. You don't have to go there to know that e.g. 13% of the land has been allocated to the black four fifths of the population in which they must determine their political and economic future.
The time for debating the rights and wrongs of apartheid is long since passed, and the international community officially regards apartheid as a crime against humanity, the apartheid regime as illegal.(8) The only decision anyone need make on South Africa is how best to support the struggle against apartheid. Support for an economic boycott, particularly a tourist boycott, is one way you can assist.
The carrying into effect of this discussion means a decision by individuals not to travel to South Africa, and a decision by travel agencies not to sell travel to South Africa. It is no more justifiable for the agency to use the excuse that it must satisfy the customer, than for the individual to flag away the responsibility to the agency. The world is full of beauty spots and it costs nothing to enjoy the scenery of the White man's paradise. The cost to the African people is in blood.
|(1)||South African Yearbook, 1976, p.835|
|(2)||S.A. Yearbook, 1976, p. 534, T.I5.|
|(3)||S.A. Yearbook, 1976, p. 837.|
|(4)||S.A. Yearbook, p. 839. Table One.|
|(5)||SATOUR Newsletter, No. 51, May '76.|
|(6)||Johannesburg Star, Aug. 26, 1972|
|(7)||NAC World Travel Brochure (spec.)|
|(8)||UNGA Resolutions, 32/105 et. al.|
If you would like more information, or would like to join NAAC, write PO Box 9154, Courtenay Place, Wellington.