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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 9. 1ts May 1973

Blacks Urge Boycott of S. Africa

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Blacks Urge Boycott of S. Africa

Boycott of S. Africa header

South African Congress of Trade Unions

The present system of Apartheid, which has been in operation for the last 23 years, has brought many restrictions, hardship and sufferings to the African and other non-white people in South Africa.

The policy of Apartheid has shown itself to be the most dishonest method of oppression of the non-white people. It is used by the whites when it suits them, and they disregard its existence when it suits them. The 23 years of the existence of this policy have left no doubt in our minds as to the reality of its aims. At the beginning you were asked by the racists through the United Nations Organisation, the ILO and other international organisations, to give it a chance, so that it could be proved by the racists to be a good policy to be applied to the South Africans. Time has proved that we were right in opposing this system.

We are today faced with strong propaganda which suggests that the system of Apartheid and discrimination is actually breaking down under the pressure created by economic growth. This propaganda is used by the supporters of Apartheid. It is used not only by those who reap big profits out of the misery and hardships of the black workers, but also by those who believe that higher wages, better conditions, and more profits can only be acheived by the perpetual enslavement of the blacks. They go on to say that it is only a matter of time before further growth will bring major changes in the system. They therefore unite with the South African Government and the industrialists in appealing for more investments, more emigration and exchange of sportsmen to South Africa.

This is an attractive argument. To some people apartheid means what the South African Government says it means—separate development of the races. Even if it means separate development on an unequal basis, this is not taken into account by such people.

Let us go beneath the surface and find out what Apartheid really means and what its aims are.

"Relaxation" in Apartheid helps exploitation

When the whites need something from the blacks, then Apartheid is nowhere to be seen, e.g. job reservations for whites is applied and relaxed in various factories at any time when it suits the Whites in South Africa. This relaxation of job reservations in various factories does not mean a change in the policy at all.

In South Africa 95% of white children are looked after by African women (nannies). While Africans are barred from many areas and facilities, these African women are permitted to use them when they have the white child with them. They may use the passenger lift reserved for Whites only, while otherwise Africans must use the goods lift. They may use parks otherwise reserved for Whites only. Once again, such relaxation suits the Whites, but it does not mean a change in Apartheid policy at all.

In the shops Africans and other non-whites are allowed to buy anything in the white man's shop, standing side by side with Whites. At this stage Apartheid is not to be seen anywhere. This is because the economy which belongs to the white man needs money and markets from the black man, and it cannot exist in the same way as it is without the support of the Blacks.

Dr Banda was given a tremendous welcome in South Africa by the Prime Minister in 1971. Why? Because the Whites need more markets for their goods which cannot get buyers in South Africa and overseas, and because they need the cheap labour force of Africans from Malawi. Through Malawi they wish to organise African States to buy South African goods and to create good relations with other African States.

All these methods do not change the system of Apartheid in South Africa.

Non-Whites have no right to vote for their representative in Parliament in South Africa.

Wages are still low.

Restriction of movement of Africans under the pass laws is still the same.

The Africans have been forcefully removed from the industrial areas to the rural areas, where in many instances no industries exist.

The relaxation of Apartheid in sport as in other fields makes no changes as far as Apartheid is concerned. The fact that Maoris were allowed in the All Black team which toured South Africa in 1970 did nothing to bring about any change in Apartheid.

The relaxation of boycotts overseas does not help in any way to remove Apartheid but it is used to intensify Apartheid at home by means of good relationships with overseas people.

This does not assist the African man who suffers under the present regime.

African labour vital

The implementation of the Apartheid policy seems to imply an increasing separation of races on every level, but the opposite has taken place during the last 23 years. More and more African workers have come to the cities, not to live, but to work there and to go back to the rural areas. The importance of the African labour force has increased. Africans are employed in semi-skilled jobs and as operatives, although they are not paid the rate for the job. These trends indicate a greater degree of economic independence between the races. The African workers appear to be increasingly part of one social structure. This greater integration suggests to some that apartheid is not really working. It further suggests that the goals of apartheid are impossible ones, and leads to the conclusion that apartheid is bound to disintegrate on its own. This thinking is based on incorrect premises.

Apartheid is not concerned with separate development. It is in reality an indirect system of forced labour. Africans constitute more than 70 per cent of the labour force in South Africa. The South African economy cannot do without them. So there is nothing surprising about some recent changes in the occupational distribution of the African labour force. These are the normal results of economic growth. This does not signify a breakdown of apartheid at all. The changes have taken place within the South African traditional way of life—that is, white supremacy. The social system remains the same. Whites are wealthy and free. Blacks remain poor and oppressed. Their lives are controlled by laws made by whites in Parliament.

Distribution of Income and Cheap Labour:

Wages and Salaries of Europeans and Non-Whites in South Africa.

Medical Officers
White Starting salary R5,700 p/a
Coloured After 8 yrs service R5,700 p/a
African After 11yrs service R5,400 p/a
Miners - Average wages
In all mines Coal Gold
White R341 R350 R354 p/mth
Coloured R71 R73 R90 p/mth
African R19 R18 R17 p/mth

From 1912-1962 300,000 Africans were lost to the mining industry due to pneumoconiosis, the equivalent figure for Whites was 30,000. It is possible that many were not recorded because Africans in the mines, the majority of them, work under contract of one year labour or eighteen months or two years' labour. Then they return home sick and die at home in the rural areas, and so there is no record of their illness.

A comparison can be made between wages in Zambia and those paid to Africans in South Africa (taken from United Nations publication "Unit on Apartheid", No. 45/71, Nov. 1971).

Average Wage of Africans by Sector (in rands)

Zambia Sth Africa
Mining 1,248 216
Manufacturing 629 612
Construction 732 589

Laws provide cheap labour

The basic purpose of Apartheid is, and always has been, to secure an abundant supply of cheap labour, and this can only be realised by forcing people to do what is required of them. There are laws which are only applicable to Africans. Apartheid entails an elaborate system of rules for regulating the lives of the blacks.

Labour laws include the Pass Laws, which send thousands of African workers to jail every year. For the year ending June 30, 1967, the Commissioner of Police reported 315,756 prosecutions of Africans under the heading "Registrations and Production of Documents by Bantu". The following year the number was 352,517. In 1969 the number was 318,825—an average of 870 prosecutions a day. In 1970 alone 600,000 were prosecuted.

Photo of South Afican man

Job Reservation: Under the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1956, the Minister of Labour may bar anyone from any job because of race. Very few Africans have the chance of moving up the occupational ladder, and even those few who do, do not get the same rate for the job as whites.

Labour Bureaux: Mostly created in the so-called "homelands". Here Africans have to register and be re-employed to be dispatched to an industrial area.

All are part of this system. The essence of Apartheid is to be found in the complex of rules and the arbitary force with which whites have used to dominate Africans and to make them their servants. This reduction of human beings to fuel bricks in an economic machine is acheived in several ways:-
a)Africans are denied the right to join or form recognised Trade Unions.
b)Africans are denied the means necessary to enable them to live independently of the white economy.
c)Africans have no right of permanent residence near the industrial area except in those areas designated by the Government, which are in most cases exceedingly poor. In fact no industries exist in some of these areas. They lie outside the bounds of modern South Africa.

Africans denied any trade union organisation

Africans are confined to the migratory labour system which denies them the right to stay with their families near the industrial areas. Under this system they have no right to choose the kind of job they wish to do, or to decide for themselves to seek a better paid job. They are restricted to the compounds with no right to visits by their families except by the permission of the authorities. As Africans they have no right to form a recognised trade union. Under the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924 and the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1956, the African Trade Unions are not recognised since the African workers are not employees in terms of the 1924 Act. This means that Africans have no recognised negotiating machinery. As a result, they never have a representative at the meetings where agreements are negotiated and decided upon by the employers and registered trade unions. Agreements are always extended to cover them.

The result of this non-representation is low wages, misery and hardship for the African workers. This is of course proof that the distribution of income in South Africa is highly unequal. There is probably no other country in the world where the distribution of income is so unequal. Africans constitute 70% of the population and receive less than 20% of all income. Whites account for less than 19% of the population and receive 74% of the total income.

There can be no voluntary change in the low wage structure until the African workers are accepted as employees in terms of the Industrial Conciliation Acts of 1924 and 1956, and can thus enjoy the same rights as other workers enjoy. This is a fundamental issue which cannot be confined to wages only, since other restrictions are imposed on the movements and the advancement of the African people. It is an issue which reduces the African to a modern slave in South Africa, This gives rise to the question of the role which the white workers play in attempting to bring the African workers to the same status which they themselves enjoy. The answer to this question can be found in the way in which the white workers in South Africa support the present Government on issues such as the Pass Laws, the various labour legislation, the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1956, the migratory labour system, detention under the 180 day and 90 day laws and the Terrorism Act, which terrorises anyone who does not support Apartheid and discrimination.

Some organisations stand against this treatment of the black people. Some church leaders, teachers' organisations, and the Black Sash organisation in South Africa have protested against the treatment of the African people. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the International Labour Organisation, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the British Trade Union Congress, the N.Z. Federation of Labour, the French C.G.T. and many international organisations have protested against the treatment of the African people in South Africa. A few whites support the African people, but at no stage have the white trade unions ever raised their voice against this kind of treatment.

Finally, it is our opinion that the white trade unions in South Africa have, to the embarrassment and shame of the World Trade Union Movement accepted the division of workers on colour lines. This is a tragedy for the working people of South Africa.

It is our belief that any New Zealand worker emigrating to South Africa will in fact help entrench and expand the policy of Apartheid for the enslavement of the African people.

Our appeal to the international Trade Union Movement is to follow up the resolutions and decisions taken by various trade union movements and to campaign against investments and emigration and for the isolation of South Africa in sports.