Seanad Éireann - Volume 115 - 11 December, 1986

Third Report of Joint Committee on Co-operation with Developing Countries — Apartheid and Development in Southern Africa: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Seanad Éireann takes note of the Third Report of the Joint Committee [827] on Co-operation with Developing Countries: Apartheid and Development in Southern Africa.”

—(Senator Bulbulia.)

Mr. Connor: When this debate was adjourned a fortnight ago, I was in posession. I was beginning to talk about South Africa's relations with its neighbours. We call them the front line states. It is important to examine this aspect of the problem in a discussion on apartheid. South Africa has, of course, in its usual malevolent way, involved its neighbours in the problem of apartheid in the region.

I read a recent report which shows that the front line States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana and Lesotho, and perhaps one or two others claim that South African aggression has cost them 10,000 million American dollars since 1980. That has been the cost of the various aggressions carried out by the South African regime in Pretoria against them. That 10,000 million American dollars is greater in value than the total amount of foreign aid which these countries received in that period.

South Africa has carried out direct invasions in Angola, Mozambique and Lesotho, three of its neighbours. South Africa has also in a calculated way disrupted oil supplies to Angola, Mozambique and Malawi. There is a calculated evil in all of the attacks which South Africa carries out on its neighbours. Most of the attacks are carried out on rail and sea communication points. One has to understand the geography of these countries. They are linked to South Africa in the sense that many of their railways go to South Africa which naturally has a better developed rail link etc. The South Africans bomb and destroy by sabotage and by direct military action — nothing covert at all, absolutely overt, out in the open — railway lines in Angola, Mozambique and Botswana. The same thing happens at the sea ports of the coastline states among their neighbours.

The motive in Pretoria is to try to destroy the economy, the movement of economic goods and services within these countries. In a calculated way Pretoria [828] tries to destroy the internal communications and the facilities in these countries to get their exports out or to get their imports in. If and when the international community impose full sanctions, the idea will be to bring down the South African regime by economic methods or measures. By being involved economically with South Africa, the front line States are forced, of necessity, to move their goods through South African ports and via South African road and rail links. The South Africans are saying to the western world: if you destroy our economy you are also destroying the economies of these countries in the front line with whom you purport to have friendly relationships. That point is also very well made by the South Africans to their neighbours.

Economic chaos has resulted from military attacks. Pretoria knows very well that military attacks in a country with a weak economy breed greater economic chaos. There is one very telling figure, that is, about 100,000 people have died in the region since 1980. We do not have accurate figures on how many people actually died as a result of bombings, shooting or whatever. We do know that the majority of them died from starvation and famine, especially in Angola and Mozambique, as a direct result of military intervention by South Africa in these countries. They died as a result of the chaos which destroyed the food supply. That was no accident; that was all part of the calculated campaign of the regime in South Africa to destablise as far as possible and to destroy ultimately their neighbours. They tried in this very calculating manner to draw all the front line States into the economic morass they see coming from full blown economic sanctions — if the international community had the courage to impose them.

I would like to say something about the internal political set up within South Africa. It has been a major plank in Pretoria propaganda to try to give the impression that the nationalist political groupings in South Africa are all subversives or Communist inspired. All Members of this House have received [829] various propaganda leaflets issued from their Embassy in London. The theme of many of them has been to impress upon us as Members of this democratic House, that the Pretoria regime is essentially a democratic regime fighting forces of subversion and of Communism.

The Nationalist Party, the ruling party in South Africa, is purely representative of the white supremacy regime in that country. It probably represents 90 per cent of the white population. Its raison d'être, the reason it is there, is to represent the white population and the white interest alone. It makes no bones about that. It is there also to preserve and to perpetuate this policy of apartheid. There are other political parties or political groupings in South Africa representing some of the non-white population, some of them to the right of the Nationalist Party and some of them slightly to the left, or at least more liberal than the Nationalist Party. All in all they are quite insignificant in terms of the amount of influence they wield among the white population. It is interesting to note the move towards the more right wing HNP Party which is a ultra-white supremacist party in South Africa. It moved from getting just a few thousand votes in previous years to a point in the most recent contest where it had nationally about 200,000 supporters in the white community. In a by-election of less than two years ago it won its first parliamentary seat.

If we could move and have a brief look at the political groupings on the nationalist side in South Africa — that is, the non-white side in South Africa — we see that the largest non-white political grouping is the ANC, the African National Congress. This is one of the oldest nationalist political parties in Africa and was formed in 1912. It was originally set up to fight racial discrimination and to fight for majority rule. It has had among its leaders in our own lifetime people like Albert Luthuli who won a Nobel Peace Prize and nowadays its political leader is Nelson Mandela who had been in prison for the past 20 years. The ANC is socialist in character but it [830] draws its membership from all elements of thought throughout South Africa, and from some thoughtful elements among the non-black community in the country. It has within its membership groupings from all religions, Non-conformists, Catholics, the Anglican Churches, Moslems and so on and even some people from the black consciousness movement, who believe in total black control in South Africa. I should point out that the ANC has been illegal since 1960 and has not been allowed to function as a normal political party or a normal political grouping.

In 1983 a new political grouping was formed, the United Democratic Front. That was set up in the wake of Botha's constitution which was to establish separate white assemblies. This new constitution greatly increased the power of the president and it provided assemblies for Indians and Africans but the whole arrangement was so constructed that the white majority nevertheless could always out-vote these separate assemblies. This meant that in democratic terms they were totally meaningless. At that time in 1983 there was very widespread oppression throughout the country which exists at the present time. It was probably the beginning of the more violent present problems which we see in that country and there was brutal repression.

Tens of thousands of people came together at that time at one particular meeting — I think it was in Johannesburg — and set up this new party, the United Democratic Front (UDF). It is important to point out to the House that 600 separate groups, including youth, sporting, trade union, religious and womens' groups throughout the country, have affiliated to the United Democratic Front. Its constitution sees South Africa as a multiracial, single country with no bantustans. Since the state of emergency in 1985 as part of the repression we find that thousands of the UDF members have been arrested and at least 40 of its leaders have been detained. There are many people among its leadership and [831] membership who also have been murdered.

Another significant political grouping in South Africa is INKATHA. It was set up in 1975 by Chief Buthelezi, Chief of the Zulu tribe or clan in South Africa. In fairness to Chief Buthelezi and to INKATHA, they refused to accept “independence” for the homelands. They are unequivocally opposed to apartheid but they are not quite unequivocally opposed to the imposition of sanctions. As a political grouping in that country they have somewhat tarnished their image in recent years by their attacks within Zululand on United Democratic Front supporters. We have all read of these things in recent times in the newspapers. This has been exploited very much by the South African regime. I make these points of criticism about INKATHA because it was giving a stick to the Pretoria regime to beat the anti-apartheid movements throughout that country. Pretoria quickly seized upon the INKATHA attacks on the UDF people. With their censorship laws they made sure that the newsreels sent to the western world were newsreels of black people attacking black people in these townships. The whole idea of that was to give the world the impression that the troubles in South Africa were more related to inter-racial problems between coloured and black people rather than the problems caused by apartheid.

My criticism of Chief Buthelezi and his movement INKATHA is that he played into the hands of the South African regime by his failure to control the people who carried out these attacks.

We had an ANC friend from South Africa to see us last week and he made the point to us about a recent survey — and I have read this recently in a report also — that showed that only about 8 per cent of all non-white people in South Africa support INKATHA or would see INKATHA as a realistic nationalist government when that stage is reached in that country. That survey was carried out among Zulus as well as Indians and other Africans.

[832] I am a member of the Joint Committee on Co-operation with Developing Countries whose report we are debating. I want to call on the Irish Government to impose no holds barred sanctions against South Africa.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Hear, hear.

Mr. Connor: Since 1985 we have been a part of the European Community sanctions programme against South Africa. With the permission of the House I will read into the record the areas of economic sanctions because I want to make a point about them that is particularly relevant to this country: They are the following:

(1)  A rigorously controlled embargo on exports of arms and para-military equipment to the Republic of South Africa;

(2)  A rigorously controlled embargo on imports of arms and para-military equipment from the Republic of South Africa;

(3)  Refusal to co-operate in the military sphere;

(4)  Recall of military attachés accredited to the RSA, and refusal to grant accreditation to military attachés from the Republic of South Africa;

(5)  Discouraging cultural and scientific agreements except where these contribute towards the ending of apartheid or have no possible role in supporting it; and freezing of official contacts and international agreements in the sporting and security spheres;

(6)  Cessation of oil exports to the Republic of South Africa;

(7)  Cessation of exports of sensitive equipment destined for the police and armed forces of the RSA;

(8)  Prohibition of all new collaboration on the nuclear sector.

There are eight points there. Of all those points, in the economic area very few for them would hurt Ireland. We do not export arms to South Africa. We do not send them sensitive equipment for [833] the police or armed forces, such as certain electronic equipment.

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry (Mr. Donnellan): We would not have it anyway.

Mr. Connor: That is the point I am making. We cannot collaborate in the nuclear sphere since we do not produce nuclear energy. For that reason it is very easy for Ireland to go along with these measures proposed by the EC. If we are to go for full blown sanctions against South Africa we will impose a certain hurt upon ourselves. I submit to the House that we must be prepared to accept hurt.

The last year for which we have complete figures of trade with South Africa is 1984. Ireland's imports from South Africa amounted to £17 million. I am quoting this from the official Irish trade figures. The imports fall into the categories of minerals, textiles, fruit, coal and fertilisers. We exported to South Africa £39 million worth of goods and services. These were mostly machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and certain metals. Our figures show that we exported about £39 million worth of goods but the South African trade figures show that they received about £44 million worth of goods from us — there is no great discrepancy there. Nevertheless, there is quite a large measure of discrepancy on the Irish import figures. The Irish trade figures suggest that we purchase about £17 million worth of goods from that country.

The discrepancy would appear to be because of the fact that Irish trade statistics do not show imports and exports in and out of the Shannon Free Zone — a free trading area. They do show up in the South African figures, which is an interesting point. We know that there are two major South African firms operating in the Shannon Free Zone. Approximately 1,000 people are employed in those industries. The imports are coming into these industries because they are in the area of precious metals and hard metals. It is quite obvious that the discrepancies [834] I have been talking about — between our figure of £17 million and the £44 million suggested by South Africa — are in the imports to those industries to enable them to carry on their business in Shannon. Let is be stated clearly in this House and elsewhere that if we go for full blown no holds barred sanctions, we put that trade in jeopardy and we put those jobs in jeopardy. We have a moral obligation, I suggest to the House, to do just that.

If this country of all countries — an ex-colonial country — were seen to give a lead in imposing meaningful full blown sanctions, and if the rest of the world followed us, we would very quickly bring an end to the racist regime in South Africa. In that country there is a fundamental denial of human rights and dignity. The whole system is profoundly immoral and profoundly illegal. World opinion is moving against South Africa; that is happening increasingly. We have witnessed what has happened in the United States of America. The Congress of the United States of America — both Houses, and these measures were taken prior to the recent congressional elections where there were shifts from Republican to Democratic majorities — voted to impose a whole range of economic sanctions against this regime — far more than the White House was suggesting — against the resistance of the White House and its present incumbent.

The consciousness of the non-white majority in South Africa is now so roused that it will lead to nothing less than a national revolution. It is, in my opinion, unstoppable at this stage, Our country is a member of the United Nations. We have signed all the human rights declarations. We have supported the United Nations in its unequivocal condemnation of apartheid. We are committed to the rule of law enacted in democratic assemblies, which takes account of all sectors of population. For that reason and for all the other reasons I have stated in this submission — today and a fortnight ago — I suggest to this House and to this country that we take the moral leap and declare total, unequivocal, unconditional [835] sanctions against that country.

Mr. A. O'Brien: Africa has been attracting worldwide attention for the wrong reasons for quite some time now. We had the appalling famine in Ethiopia and north-east Africa last year, which sent shock waves across the world. We have the continuing shame of apartheid in South Africa, which has attracted worldwide attention on almost the same scale. South Africa's system of apartheid is a frightening example of man's inhumanity to man. History has many instances of minority groups being denied basic fundamental rights by majority groups, but in South Africa we have the majority group being denied basic rights by a relatively small minority. The population of South Africa is about 30 million. That is made up of 4 million whites, 21 million blacks of various tribal origins, about one million Indians and 2 million people of mixed race. The fact of apartheid is that 4 million people keep more than five times that number in total subjection. Eighty seven per cent of the land is reserved for the whites who make up only 15 per cent of the population. Black people, who make up over two-thirds of the population are confined to one-eighth of the land. That is a clear indication of how the black population are being deprived of their rights.

Since 1948 the policy of apartheid — of separate development as they chose to call it — has been put into effect by the South African Government. Separate development implies that different groups of people develop at different rates. Development could be looked on as proceeding at a rapid rate for the white section and as being non-existent for the 21,000,000 black population. That is what they chose to call separate development, and this policy of separate development is extended to moving big sections of the black population into small areas where they are kept in a state of deprivation without any reasonable hope of being able to advance themselves. That is basically what the policy of apartheid is all about. A minority white population [836] has chosen to deny the majority population of their rights through the development of this policy.

The joint committee had several discussions and examinations on how apartheid is kept in operation. Everything that is learned about it is a clear indication of the ruthlessness of a relatively small minority group and their determination to keep the majority groupings in total subjection. Far from there being any indication of a worthwhile change taking place, as recently as yesterday it was announced that there will be further restrictions on news coverage. It is obvious that the powers-that-be are determined to suppress as much information as possible and to prevent accounts of the atrocities committed there leaking to the outside world. That is a clear indication of the determination to continue as they have been doing for quite some time.

The report states and I quote:

Evidence given before the Committee suggests that Apartheid operates as a system of Government which attempts to balance two conflicting objectives, the exclusion of blacks from urban areas (to prevent them demanding rights) and their inclusion in the cheap labour market to man farms, mines, services and manufacturing. In balancing these objectives an urban black presence is tolerated as a privilege and not as a right.

Apartheid is effected through violence and repression which ensures a basic denial of human rights and of free speech. It is also effected through a number of legal mechanisms i.e.

(a) race classification

(b) territorial separation

(c) movement control

(d) control of employment

(a) Race

The South African population is classified under the Population Registration Act of 1950 into four groups. White, Mixed, Indian and Black. Classification is for life and all other groups have lesser rights [837] than whites. Blacks are further classifed according to tribal origin to establish a basis for independent tribal states.

This is used as a pretence that something is being done to set the black population up in kingdoms or in states of their own, whereas, in fact, the real purpose is to herd them together and to ensure that they will have little or no opportunity of self-advancement and that their opportunities of gainful employment are rigidly curtailed. These are the purposes behind this structure.

Under the Homelands Act, 87 per cent of South Africa's land is allocated to whites. The report also draws our attention to the pass laws which are designed to control the movement of the black population in a very restricted way so that there are only certain places where they are allowed to go. Their movements are constantly under check and freedom of movement, as we understand it, is totally unknown to them. The determination under the apartheid system would appear to be to ensure that that continues.

On any objective examination, it must be concluded that apartheid should be unreservedly condemned. It is a cold-blooded, callous and very often brutal denial of the rights of the majority by a small but powerful minority. Apartheid must stand condemned as one of the great shames of the 20th century, a century that has had much to be ashamed of in Hitler, Stalin, concentration camps, atom bombs, assassinations, massacre at the Olympic Games, genocide, abortion, hijacking of planes, food mountains and famine, pollution and acid rain. The list of the factors which should cause people to be ashamed of the century we live in and our approach to life contains many examples and apartheid ranks high in this catalogue of shame.

History tells us that man is often inhuman to his fellow man and a vandal to his environment. It is shameful that the treatment meted out to negroes and coloured people by the white men of other generations should continue in [838] South Africa into the last quarter of the 20th century. It will cause future generations to wonder how the insensitivity of the savage could extend into the age that brought man into outer space. The evil effects of apartheid are not confined to South Africa. By the pressure, power and influence of the Government of South Africa these evil effects extend into the neighbouring states. Paragraph 16 of the report states:

In considering this aspect of the question the Committee has drawn, in the first instance, on the experience of its delegation which visited Lesotho and Tanzania in April 1985. The delegation noted the interdependent but unequal relationship which existed between South Africa and Lesotho. Lesotho, in common with other independent states in the region, is economically dependent on South Africa through its membership of a Common Customs Union and through its reliance on South Africa for essential supplies. South Africa is also an export market for surrounding countries. In turn South Africa relies heavily on migrant labour from these countries particularly in its mining industry. All these factors contribute to the economic and thus political vulnerability of its neighbours to South African policy.

Paragraph 17 of the report states:

the delegation's experience and evidence heard by the Committee tend to confirm that South Africa uses its neighbours dependence on it in two ways:

(i) in terms of a stronger economy exploiting the weaker and smaller

(ii) in political terms i.e. in order, internally, to maintain its policy of Apartheid and the structures going with it. A major aim of South African foreign policy is to keep its neighbours under control, both militarily and in economic terms.

This is used as far as possible to the advantage of the white population of South Africa and to the disadvantage of [839] the people of the neighbouring States. Paragraph 19 reads;

South Africa could only apply direct pressure on Lesotho (and has done so since the delegation's visit, resulting in the downfall of Chief Jonathan's Government) by cutting off supplies at any time.

South Africans have worked themselves into a position where in order to force their will on some of the neighbouring States and to bring about the sort of circumstances that are favourable to them, they simply cut off supplies and in that way force these people into an agreement with them or into subjection as the case might be. This is intolerable and is deserving of the worldwide condemnation that has been heaped on it. Paragraph 21 of the report states:

The Committee heard evidence on the effect of South African policy on development in neighbouring countries from the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement (IAMM) and from Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) workers in the field ... South Africa has destabilised the entire South African region whose states, as a result, had no real freedom of action. NGO representatives who had either direct or planning experience relative to Swaziland, Mozambique, Lesotho and Botswana, felt, in general, that Apartheid was a direct cause of underdevelopment in all of these States. South Africa had to establish unequal, exploitative relationships with neighbouring countries partly because they were small and partly because it wished deliberately to frustrate their self-sufficient development.

This is a glaring example of those with power curbing the potential of those who are weaker. In these circumstances aid was achieving very little in the countries concerned.

This is another genuine cause of shame to those who are guilty of imposing such conditions on neighbouring people and [840] going out of their way to prevent these people reaching an acceptable standard of living and ensuring, by every means possible, that they cannot be regarded as being an independent people. The activities of the authors of apartheid are not confined to their own country. It is an evil influence that extends from South Africa into many of the neighbouring States.

Peaceful change or violence are the alternatives. It cannot be expected that over 20 million people will continue indefinitely to be totally under the thumb of roughly four million people. That does not make sense. One of the most striking lessons of history is that people will not continue to allow themsleves to be trampled on indefinitely. History shows that even minority groups will in the long run find some way of upsetting or unseating the despots who make life unbearable for them. If that is true with regard to minority groups under oppression — and history gives several examples of it — it is certainly true that a majority group will not indefinitely put up with the existence that the majority, over 20 million people, have to suffer in South Africa.

The alternative is for some sort of enlightened approach on the part of the ruling group and a gradual extending of rights to the majority but there are no genuine indications that that is under way. The fear that must be generated in the minds of people is that, if peaceful and constitutional means are not seen to be making headway, there is always the danger of violence taking over. There are many examples of violence and that is why it has been found necessary to strengthen the censorship regulations to ensure that people outside never get the full story of what is happening within.

There are examples of brutal treatment of the black population by the police and countless examples of that had come through before the censorship became as rigid as it is at present. It is a well known fact that thousands of people, many of whom are school going children, are kept in prison without any charges preferred against them, or without any indication of how long they will be kept there before [841] charges are preferred against them. That, in itself, should be disturbing to the conscience of mankind.

It has been said that the only way to bring these people to their senses is to cut them off and impose sanctions, in other words a boycott of the State which practices this wrong system of Government. Sadly, some people, for selfish reasons and because of the dangers they might cause to their own economies, are not willing to impose all-out sanctions on South Africa. Governments who take this type of approach are yielding to the pressure of big industrialists and big firms who accumulate wealth as a result of their dealings with South Africa. Recently we had some encouraging signs that the conscience of even big business people is being pricked by the atrocities in that part of the world. Recently we had a decision by Barclay's Bank to pull out of South Africa and the American firm, General Motors, had done so prior to that. It is hoped that example will be followed by other big firms and that in the long run the pressure of the outside world and the loss of business and trade will force the South African Government to be more considerate of the people whom they now wish to keep in a state of perpetual oppression.

Development is altogether too slow. In time to come historians will judge the people of the 20th century as being inconsiderate to a high degree because effective action was not taken to end this disgraceful abuse that prevails in South Africa at present and has done so for long enough to have got corrective measures under way. We are a small country but nevertheless we have influence because we do not have the same kind of vested interests in various parts of the world of other industrial and big trading nations. Thus, we are in a position to view the situation that pertains in different parts of the world more objectively and also because the history of our own country is a story of people fighting against oppression.

I am quite confident that it is the determination of our Government to use what influence they have in the EC, in the [842] United Nations and in other assemblies to draw attention on the widest possible scale to the abuses that prevail in South Africa and to convince people to take every measure to ensure that such atrocious treatment cannot continue for much longer. I have no doubt but that is the approach our representatives abroad will take at all times. I am happy that contributions in the Seanad have made it clear that that is what the Members of this House would like the Government to do at all levels. We wish then first, to convey to the widest possible audience our horror and rejection of the very notion of apartheid and everything it stands for and, secondly, that if total sanctions are necessary to bring these despots to their knees then they should be undertaken.

Mr. McDonald: I will be very brief. I want to avail of the opportunity to compliment the joint committee on the work they put into this latest report to be debated in the House. On 27 November when the report was introduced by my colleague, Senator Bulbulia, we heard a very forceful, extraordinarily strong and interesting contributions from both Senator Bulbulia and Senator Michael Higgins.

I suppose, it is a subject on which it is easy to have strong views. In common with all my colleagues who have contributed to this debate, I abhor the policies of apartheid that are operated by the Republic of South Africa. It is appropriate that the Oireachtas should debate issues of this kind. Indeed, successive Irish Governments have shown their concern by concentrating to a considerable degree the not inconsiderable amount of funds provided through our development and aid programme. I had the opportunity of visiting South Africa on a number of occasions, mainly by virtue of having to pass through that territory on the way to Maseru, Lesotho where many Irish nationals, from the semi-State sector and from some Departments of State, are doing a marvellous job to assist the development of that ancient if fledgling [843] State to get off the ground. The Lesotho people with their Queen — I think the King may be back there since the change of Government, I just do not know for the minute — call their country the Kingdom in the Sky because of its exceptionally high altitude; it is all over 5,000 feet elevation. From my first visit to one a few years later, I could see the great development that had taken place.

I saw what could be accomplished with aid and that brings me to the only difference of opinion I have with all my colleagues here. I do not support the idea of all-out sanctions, and this is not because I am against sanctions against the Government of South Africa. It is because I fear economic sanctions would impinge to the greatest extent on the people at the foot of the ladder, namely, the 21 million coloured people who reside in that Republic. After reading and hearing Chief Buthelezi speak, I was impressed by the case he made. I know the Zulu people are a great race; they have tremendous poise, presence, dignity and as a race they are very significant and are easily recognizable. That is the tragedy of South Africa today. It is proper that all the civilised nations should endeavour to force a change of policy in the way that country treats the children of its nation. This is the great dilemma, how best to bring about a change that will be of material benefit to the people who reside there.

The Republic of South Africa is undoubtedly one of the finest countries in the world. Their infrastructures are very well developed compared with practically any other of the 51 countries on the sub-continent of Africa. A lot has been brought about by much hard work and planning and, having regard to the fact that it is a very rich country in resources, it was easier to bring it up to that stage of development than in most other cases. The Bantu system of education there, where the Government handed over education for the coloured population to this particular system——

Debate adjourned.