International Moves Against Apartheid
This paper briefly outlines the development of international efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, from early moves in the United Nations and the Commonwealth, to boycott movements in the sporting and cultural spheres, to campaigns for disinvestment and economic sanctions, before considering their contribution towards its demise in the 1990s. It was written in late 1995 as part of research work carried out for Dr Pamela Thomas of the Australian National University, and is reproduced here with thanks to Dr Thomas.
Early international moves against apartheid
Opposition to apartheid was slow to develop at the Western government level during the 1950s and 1960s. South Africa considered itself, and was considered by others, to be an important part of the Western world, valued both for its strategic position in relation to trade routes around the Cape of Good Hope, and as a source of valuable and essential minerals. In a period of struggles for independence throughout Africa, and at the height of the Cold War, the white South African government was regarded by many in the West as a bulwark against communism in the region. These considerations generally took precedence over any moral questions regarding apartheid throughout the 1950s and—despite concern over the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre—the 1960s. Nelson Mandela has noted that ‘in the 1950s and 1960s, when we went to Western governments seeking contributions to the ANC, we were turned down flat’ (Mandela 1994: 603).
The most significant moves against South Africa in this period came from international bodies such as the Commonwealth and the UN. The Commonwealth became more hostile towards South Africa as newly independent states joined the organisation through the 1950s and beyond; Sharpeville catalysed the issue of South Africa’s membership (Grundy 1991: 80-81). When South Africa’s whites narrowly voted in 1960 for the country to become a republic, the government applied for continued membership of the Commonwealth, but met with considerable opposition. ‘Seeing the writing on the wall, Verwoerd withdrew South Africa’s application. Although technically South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth, in actuality it was expelled.’ (Ibid.: 81.) This expulsion from the British Commonwealth, however, was not entirely to the disliking of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party government, which spoke of ‘“freedom” from old colonial masters and outside domination’ (ibid., 82).
Opposition to apartheid was also increasingly voiced in the United Nations during this period, with calls by African states through the 1960s for South Africa’s expulsion from the UN. Because of the need for Security Council approval for such action (which because of the veto held by Western powers was not forthcoming), these calls were never formally heeded, although from 1973 the General Assembly ‘rejected ... the credentials of the South African delegation and ... thereby denied South Africa its seat’ (ibid.: 78). The Assembly ‘did not go so far as to eject South Africa in 1973. Rather, it promised action in subsequent years. When Pretoria saw that the Africans had an easy majority in 1974, they decided to withdraw.’ (Ibid.)
A successful campaign was waged against South Africa, however, in other UN organs. In the 1950s, UNESCO published reports critical of apartheid (ibid.: 79). The Food and Agriculture Organisation forced South Africa’s withdrawal in 1963, as did the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation in 1964; others later followed suit (ibid.). The UN Trust Fund for South Africa was established in 1965, with most of its funds ‘utilized for ... humanitarian assistance to liberation movements: legal defense, education programs, development projects, and support for the victims of apartheid’ (Shepherd 1977: 128). The contributions from major Western powers, however, were significantly small, and far outweighed by contributions from the Scandinavian countries (ibid.: 129-130), who were also notable during this period for their direct financial support for the ANC (Mandela 1994: 603-604).
A further significant UN action against apartheid in the 1960s was its ‘“voluntary” embargo against the sale of military weapons to South Africa [which] was finally adopted unanimously by the Security Council in December 1963’ (Shepherd 1977: 87). By the mid-1970s, however, it was clear that this had ‘not stopped the flow of arms from the West, nor [had] it changed the relationship in any fundamental way’ (ibid.). One limitation upon the Security Council was its desire to respect member states’ sovereignty; when the Council finally adopted a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa on 4 November 1977, it statedly did so because of South Africa’s ‘threat to the maintenance of international peace and security’ (Özgür 1982: 84). The embargo, of course, affected South Africa internally also, but here the results were mixed. South Africa was denied access to new generation fighter aircraft which it was unable to build for itself, which took its toll on its defensive capabilities; but it also developed its own sophisticated arms-manufacturing industry which left it ‘virtually self-sufficient in armour and artillery’ (Leach 1989: 294-295).
The 1970s also saw an oil embargo instituted in 1973 by OPEC (Phillips 1979: 34). This, however, was ‘circumvented with only minor difficulty’ (Gavin 1986: 234), through oil purchases from Iran in the 1970s (Phillips 1979: 34) and later by other means, including illicit ones. The message sent to South Africa by these boycotts was perhaps, therefore, not as disheartening as their proponents might have wished: ‘The lesson to be learnt from previous boycotts is that South Africa can get by, but with some gaping holes and at a cost’ (Leach 1989: 295).
In most of the fundamental economic areas, the West continued to conduct business more or less as usual with South Africa throughout this period. Not all of its lack of effective action against apartheid in the period is necessarily attributable to Western self-interest, however, as ‘in the context of regional and domestic circumstances in the late 1960s and early 1970s the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa was thought to be inevitable’ (Brewer 1989: 2). Only when the staying power of the South African regime became apparent did the arguments for more substantial international pressure become more compelling.
Sports and cultural boycotts
One prominent feature of apartheid was the racial segregation of sporting activity within South Africa, and the arena of international sport was an early proving ground for international opposition to apartheid, beginning in 1956 with the expulsion of white South Africans from the International Table Tennis Federation (Grundy 1991: 88). South Africa was excluded from both the 1964 and 1968 Olympics because of its racial policies, and expelled from the International Olympic Movement in 1972 (ibid.), in a period of snowballing moves against South Africa by world sporting bodies. By the end of the 1980s, South Africa was ‘effectively excluded from around 90 percent of the world’s international sporting activities’ (ibid.: 89).
A prominent British activist described 1970 in particular as a ‘catastrophic year for white South African sport’ (Hain 1979: 183), a year when huge demonstrations were staged in Britain in protest against the Springbok rugby tour—despite consistent British government opposition to the sports-boycott campaign (Shepherd 1977: 150-151). One effect of these and similar international demonstrations was the introduction by Pretoria in 1971 of a new ‘multinational’ sports policy. ‘In essence, the different racial groups in South Africa ... would be allowed to compete against each other as four separate “nations,” within the country, but in “international” events alone. This shift, of course, preserved the logic of apartheid.’ (Hain 1979: 183.) These moves did nothing to alleviate South Africa’s sporting isolation, since it was recognised that ‘despite extravagant claims to the contrary, South African sport [remained] totally dominated by apartheid’ (ibid.: 184). The South African government acknowledged as much, one spokesperson confirming in the country’s House of Assembly in 1979 that ‘integrated clubs and integrated sports [constituted] far less than 1 per cent of the total sport activities in South Africa’ (quoted in Hain 1979: 184).
Undoubtedly, sporting isolation had a profound psychological impact upon white South Africans. ‘South Africans are extremely sport conscious. ... A severance of sporting contacts, then, ... has sensitized them to their isolation from the rest of the world more than any other issue.’ (Shepherd 1977: 148.) The ‘truly transnational’ character of the sports campaign (ibid.: 149) clearly demonstrated to ‘every South African ... that his government’s policies are not respected abroad’ (ibid.: 151). But the overall success of the sports boycott is less clear, because its aims went beyond merely the achievement of reform in South African sport:
[Isolationists] work not solely for total sport integration but to end apartheid in all its guises. So sport becomes instrumental to the larger political issue. ... Sporting isolation may add to the global opposition against apartheid, but it is not likely to be the major factor in its eventual demise. (Grundy 1991: 89.)
An earlier observer concurred that the sports boycott ‘cannot be said to have succeeded, for the essential class and caste discrimination remain,’ but added that ‘insofar as there has been any progress at all, it has been as a result of the boycott’ (Shepherd 1977: 207).
Sporting boycotts were paralleled by a campaign of entertainment and artistic boycotts, also aimed at isolating white South Africa. Some argued that these boycotts were possibly counterproductive: ‘By depriving white South Africans of sustained exposure to western ideas and thinking, they are being encouraged, possibly, to remain within their laager mentality’ (Leach 1989: 293). Further questions arose after the release of Paul Simon’s Graceland album and his subsequent tour in the mid-1980s, both of which involved black South African musicians: ‘To the astonishment of not a few supporters of the struggle and to the baffled outrage of Simon himself, he [was] severely criticized by the ANC, the UN, and other key forces in the antiapartheid struggle’ for breaking the cultural boycott (Phelan 1987: 196), despite the anti-apartheid theme of the Graceland tour. One band member lamented of the critics, ‘If they say they are helping South African musicians by keeping them away from the world, how is that help?’ (quoted in Phelan 1987: 198). Similar questions arose in the field of economic sanctions.
Economic pressure in the 1980s
Both the sports and cultural boycotts were indicators of a notable trait of international anti-apartheid activity: that this activity was led as much, or even more, from the bottom as it was from the top. While Western governments—particularly those of the United States and Britain—were reluctant to take decisive steps against Pretoria for economic and strategic reasons, domestic pressure often forced them to act. Thus, despite the presence in government of Reagan in the U.S. and Thatcher in the U.K., both of whom opposed economic sanctions, the 1980s saw for the first time the implementation of considerable economic pressure against South Africa.
Although ‘it had always had a small and ineffectual anti-apartheid movement compared, say, to that in Britain’ (Leach 1989: 275), the U.S.A. was the driving force in the1980s sanctions movement, largely thanks to that very same ‘ineffectual’ domestic anti-apartheid movement:
A rapidly growing coalition of black human rights groups, ... anti-apartheid organisations (the Free South Africa Movement), universities, churches, and trade unions demanded comprehensive sanctions, including disinvestment—and began themselves to enforce divestment. The US media supported this temporary alliance, reporting (often sensationally) on South Africa in detail. (Braun & Weiland 1989: 44.)
American anti-apartheid sentiment stemmed from the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, with anti-apartheid activity evident as early as 1960, stabilising by 1963, then peaking in 1978, and again between 1984 and 1986 (Solop 1990: 309-310). Although ‘in general these peaks correspond to periods of crisis in South Africa’ (ibid.: 310), ‘the rapid rise in anti-apartheid activity between 1984 and 1986 was not solely a reaction to events in South Africa. The movement had matured with the accumulation of more than 20 years of organising experience ... [and was] able to strategically deploy resources and press its demands for a new ordering of U.S. policy interests toward South Africa at this time.’ (Ibid.: 311.)
This was matched by developments within the U.S. Congress in the late 1970s. ‘A small number of African-American and white, liberal legislators elected in the late 1960s and early 1970s, began to reach senior positions in Congress. As they rose in the legislative hierarchy, they were better positioned to raise issues and influence their colleagues.’ (Ibid.: 317-318.) Consequently, ‘anti-apartheid legislation first moved to the government agenda [in 1978] following the Soweto Massacre in 1976 and the murder of Steve Biko in 1977. ... These bills never moved out of committee [in the House of Representatives] however until 1983.’ (Ibid.: 319-320.)
At the end of 1983 the House approved an economic sanctions package, though this was rejected by the Senate in 1984 (ibid.: 320). After this failure, ‘TransAfrica [an African-American lobby organisation] initiated a well-coordinated civil disobedience campaign at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.’ beginning in late November 1984 (ibid.). Significantly, this followed the Democrats’ defeat in the 1984 presidential election; U.S. liberals, one observer argues, turned to South Africa as a ‘unifying issue’ and as a ‘useful stick to beat the Reagan administration, whose policy of “constructive engagement” towards South Africa was seen by Democrats as occasionally rapping Pretoria’s knuckles while turning a blind eye to the country’s apartheid policies’ (Leach 1989: 276).
Apartheid was thus ‘recast as a domestic civil rights issue. ... Protests were conducted daily at the South African Embassy in Washington for an entire year. The movement captured media attention with celebrity arrests at the Embassy. ... The student movement took off in 1985 with prolonged sit-ins at universities and colleges.’ (Solop 1990: 321.) A new package of sanctions successfully passed through Congress in 1985-1986, despite attempts by Reagan to veto them and substitute softer alternatives (ibid.: 322).
The Reagan administration’s approach of ‘constructive engagement’ with South Africa had sought to induce gradual reform through various carefully-directed incentives, but had achieved little: ‘Having been offered many carrots by the United States over a period of four and a half years, ... the South African authorities had simply made a carrot stew and eaten it’ (Ungar & Vale 1986: 251).
Opponents of more comprehensive economic sanctions, however, raised some important doubts about their potential effects, not least of which concerned their possible effects on black South Africans. Any sanctions which harmed South Africa’s economy would inevitably affect blacks as well as whites, perhaps even disproportionately so in the short term (as whites would seek to cushion the ill-effects of sanctions by forcing non-whites to shoulder much of the economic burden). Surveys of black South African opinion about what international action should be taken seemed to conflict. ‘On the basis of several studies conducted in late 1984 and early 1985, for instance, it was widely believed that around 75 percent of urban Blacks opposed disinvestment and sanctions’ (Grundy 1991: 58), while more detailed analyses seemed to indicate that ‘73 percent favored disinvestment when companies are not working to end apartheid’ (ibid.: 59).
A more pressing question for the West was the effect sanctions would have upon them: ‘Sanctions on South Africa’s major exports would impose considerable costs on those applying them. The replacement of South African strategic minerals may not be impossible in the long run, but would give rise to major short-term problems, especially for Western European industrial economies which have inadequate stockpiles.’ (Lemon 1987: 356.) On this point, however, ‘the position of the American foreign policy establishment, and of business, had begun to shift in the early 1980s’ (Hirsch 1989: 74). An influential report, South Africa: Time Running Out (Study Commission on Southern Africa, 1981), ‘argued that an unreformed South Africa would be less than useful to the U.S., and that U.S. strategic dependence on South Africa, particularly for certain minerals, was not as great as some made out’ (ibid.). Congress in 1986 and Reagan administration committees in 1987 came to ‘essentially the same conclusions’ (ibid.).
Wide-ranging international sanctions on South African gold—although extremely difficult to enforce because of gold’s malleable and hence anonymous nature—might well have proven effective: ‘In 1988 gold accounted for 38.4% of all South African export earnings. It accounts for almost one-eighth of GDP and 10% of all government earnings.’ (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 175.) Gold had provided South Africa with an impressive financial safety net: in the late 1970s, ‘for every $5 that the market price of gold [rose], the value of South Africa’s annual output [increased] by about $110 million’ (Phillips 1979: 33). Without that source of international revenue, South Africa’s economy ‘would, at least in the short to medium term, be wrecked’ (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 176). South African gold, however, ‘still accounted for nearly 30% of worldwide supply and 40% of the supply from Western countries in 1988’ (ibid.: 177), meaning that such sanctions would also have had a considerable impact on the global economy.
The South African economy was, furthermore, ‘the most powerful and advanced economy in sub-Saharan Africa’ (Gavin 1986: 226) and seemingly capable of withstanding considerable pressure. From 1919 to 1969 it had been one of the fastest-developing in the world (ibid.: 225). ‘A significant disruption of South Africa’s trade would require action by the governments of the major industrial countries. ... But orchestrating an effective program of common sanctions that involves the complex economies of all the major industrial states would be a monumental task.’ (Ibid.: 236.)
Such a task was, in fact, never completed, with different Western countries following different paths where sanctions were concerned. The European Community, for example, implemented considerably ‘softer’ sanctions than the U.S. (Braun & Weiland 1989: 45), placing embargos on Krugerrands and iron and steel but not coal (Holland 1989: 63). Economic pressure upon South Africa, however, was not confined to government-level sanctions on its exports alone; of even greater impact was the flight of international private capital.
Calls for disinvestment—i.e., for corporations to divest themselves of their holdings in South Africa—held little attraction for most investors during South Africa’s growth years. ‘The average rate of return on direct investment for U.S. firms in South Africa ... had been steady (between 1960 and 1974, it ranged between 16.3 and 20.6 percent), secure, and low risk. ... Elsewhere in the world, U.S. investments steadily rendered between 10 and 11.4 percent on capital investment.’ (Grundy 1991: 56.) In the mid-1970s, however, ‘profit margins in South Africa began to fall,’ and ‘the reduced rates of return were deemed by many firms to be insufficient to justify either new investment or extensive reinvestment of profits’ (ibid.).
Thus, calls from private groups for divestment began to be heeded in the 1980s. At first, these were tempered by support for investment in South African firms which adhered to the ‘Sullivan Principles’ (which outlined various criteria concerning fair employment conditions for all races), but increasingly the demand became purely one of divestment:
Universities, trade unions, and state and local governments divested themselves and their pension funds of holdings in corporations in South Africa. In addition, legislation was passed preventing such corporations from bidding on public service contracts in the United States. ... More than half the U.S. firms with direct investments in South Africa withdrew between 1984 and 1989. ... Although many European firms were also forced to disinvest (e.g., Barclays Bank) and to reconsider their involvement, the impact of the campaign to isolate South Africa was not nearly so compelling in Europe. (Grundy 1991: 60.)
Much of this disinvestment occurred in spite of the considerable obstacles posed by the South African dual exchange rate system, which was in place from 1961 until 7 February 1983, ‘when the government ... went over to a single exchange rate as part of a general drive to try and liberalise and invigorate the economy,’ and which was reintroduced on 2 September 1985 (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 108). Under this system, foreign investments were made at the financial rate, which was highly favourable for converting foreign currencies to Rand. Dividends, royalties, etcetera were paid at the commercial rate, which was favourable in the other direction (and propped up by the South African government). For example, in 1986 the commercial Rand bought US$0.44, while the financial Rand bought only US$0.22; from 1985 to 1989 the discount for the financial Rand on the commercial Rand ranged from 22.7 to 52.9 percent (ibid.: 113).
Disinvestments were also made via the financial Rand, but here a strong disincentive effect came into play. The financial Rand’s value was ‘determined by the balance between the demand for financial Rand ... and the supply of them’ (ibid.: 114). Those who wished to disinvest were only allowed to buy foreign currency which had come into South Africa via the financial Rand exchange system. In other words, the supply of foreign currency available to disinvestors was determined by the amount available from new foreign investors and immigrants. The system was ‘entirely self-limiting’ (ibid.: 116). If many firms disinvested simultaneously, the exchange rate for disinvestors became extremely unfavourable—and extremely favourable for new foreign investors.
Those advocating disinvestment also had to consider that ‘disinvestment does not mean dismantling an existing plant and shipping it home. ... If disinvestment just means selling one’s assets to somebody else, the effect would be minimal.’ (Phillips 1979: 34.) Indeed, it was feared that ‘any attempt to divest on a massive scale could actually benefit South Africa by transferring to it a set of highly productive assets at a substantially reduced price’ (Barber, Blumenfeld and Hill, 1982, quoted in Holland 1989: 71). After 1985, exactly that occurred: ‘foreign companies have sold off their stakes in South African subsidiaries to local managers at suppressed market value’ (Holland 1989: 71); although disinvestment still promised to ‘threaten future South African access to modern technology and sophisticated managerial skills’ (Lemon 1987: 357). But these considerations were ultimately of secondary importance:
The focus of the disinvestment campaign per se, of course, is more domestic and political than international and economic. It is primarily a means of politicizing the American public—church and university constituencies in particular—around the issue of U.S. complicity in South Africa’s oppression of blacks. It is also an important gesture of solidarity with South Africa’s blacks. (Phillips 1979: 35.)
While disinvestment by foreign companies may have provided some white South Africans with economic opportunities, the reaction of the world’s banks to the black uprising in South Africa from 1984 to 1986 and to pressures from within their own countries was more problematic for South Africa: ‘As the end of 1986 neared, South Africa was increasingly being cut off from international capital markets. ... U.S. commercial letters of credit sunk from $123 million in 1983 to $11 million in 1987. Nonbank credits were virtually halved over the same period.’ (Grundy 1991: 60.)
This was especially significant considering that South Africa’s external debt had increased by fifty percent in US dollar terms from 1980 to the end of 1984, and (because of the devaluation of the Rand in that period) had quadrupled in Rand terms (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 76). When ‘in July and August of 1985 international financial institutions, beginning in New York, declined to roll over the loans that they had made available to their various South African clients, and which were due for repayment’ (Ramphal: xiii), the result was a foreign exchange crisis which forced South Africa to close its exchanges for four days (after which the dual exchange rate was reintroduced).
The banks demanded reform from South Africa, although, one observer noted, ‘since they [were] owed more than they [could] afford to lose, the banks [were] to some extent captive rather than captor, and their leverage over South Africa [was] limited’ (Gavin 1986: 224). Nevertheless, the banks’ actions ‘forced Pretoria to rethink its policies. ... Where could South Africans turn for capital? Alternative sources tapped in the past were drying up.’ (Grundy 1991: 60-61.) Although some believed at the time that the Swiss were providing South Africa with finance, two economic observers reported that ‘we can only say that our own inquiries have produced no evidence to support such a view’ (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 79).
Ultimately, ‘this loss of capital had a devastating effect on the South African economy because it shut down any prospect for economic growth; without growth, pressures in the Black community were bound to mount’ (Grundy 1991: 61). In the end the informal sanctions implemented by the international private sector—prompted by events within South Africa, and by popular and government anti-apartheid moves in the West—probably had the greatest impact of all international moves directed against apartheid.
The impact of international moves against apartheid
Determining the precise impact of international moves against apartheid remains difficult; those moves cannot be judged in isolation from internal pressures from South Africa’s black population. There is, however, evidence to suggest that the economic pressures of the 1980s, in particular, played a critical part in bringing about the demise of apartheid. As even the most optimistic advocates of external pressure acknowledged at the time, external pressures before the 1980s resulted only in ‘token moves’ and ‘cosmetic changes’ from Pretoria (Özgür 1982: 134), although they had the positive effect of encouraging internal opposition to apartheid—as Nelson Mandela wrote in a message smuggled out of Robben Island prison in the 1970s, ‘every effort to isolate South Africa adds strength to our struggle’ (quoted in Özgür 1982: 148).
Probably the most positive result of international anti-apartheid moves was their psychological impact on both black and white South Africans. White South Africans, despite protestations to the contrary, were concerned about world opinion, and feared being abandoned by those they considered their friends, particularly America. For that reason, ‘constructive engagement’ approaches to relations with South Africa could never be as effective as stronger measures: ‘The power of the U.S. was never its ability to talk to Pretoria, and always its ability to stop talking’ (Hirsch 1989: 75).
The precise effects of economic pressures on South Africa were always difficult to measure, although one South African observer noted that:
Increasingly one hears South African government ministers who are admitting to the powerful effect of sanctions in constraining their political options. For instance, Minister of Finance Barend du Plessis said at a public meeting, and I quote him, “Our economic problems began with the imposition of the arms embargo in 1964.” (Phillips 1990: 390.)
These concerns reinforced white South African fears about their future. Those fears were not so much about whether economic activity could continue at existing or slightly diminished levels, but about the barrier to growth which lack of foreign investment and capital obviously was. A 1984 Department of Health and Welfare report on demographic trends received particularly close attention from the government: it projected that South Africa’s population was set to grow from 28.44 million in 1980, with 15 percent whites, to about 40 million in 2040, with only 5 percent whites (Leach 298-300). Besides its implications of an increasingly outnumbered white population, the report made it clear that for South Africa to sustain its projected population growth, it would need substantial economic growth and thus investment.
At the same time, the gold industry, upon which South Africa’s economy so heavily depended, faced ‘a falling price, ageing mines, depleting reserves, declining grades, a rising cost structure, high capital requirements to finance a new generation of mines, [and] potentially difficult mining conditions in the new mines,’ a situation which was naturally of deep concern in white South Africa (Ovenden & Cole 1989: 175). The development of alternative sources of income would be extremely difficult under circumstances of international economic pressure.
Fortuitously, wider international events quelled other white South African fears of the consequences of ending apartheid. The end of the Cold War removed ‘the bogey of the communist onslaught that the South African government so successfully used in the past’ (Phillips 1990: 380):
Under the new circumstances, the end of white rule no longer automatically meant the triumph of socialism, Soviet intervention, or the presence of Cuban troops. ... The change in the international climate thus made it much easier for the government to move toward negotiations [with the ANC]. (Ottaway 1993: 207.)
Ultimately, the interaction of external and internal pressures—which had always influenced each other—brought about key concessions from Pretoria:
From all accounts, the final factor that made the government realize that [the unbanning of the ANC] absolutely had to be done was the Foreign Minister’s argument that if the ANC was not unbanned, there would be no point in the government attempting to achieve anything overseas anymore. (Phillips 1990: 391.)
The release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990 and the granting of independence to Namibia the following month led to the disintegration of ‘the international community’s willingness to maintain economic pressure on South Africa, ... despite the ANC’s insistence that the time had not yet come for Western countries to modify their policies’ (Ottaway 1993: 210). The international community was anxious to be free of a complex problem, and willing to rely on internal momentum within South Africa to carry negotiations forward; and ‘neither the government nor the ANC, nor indeed any of the other parties, wanted outside intervention in the negotiations’ (ibid.: 211). No doubt the memory of past international action helped to maintain the South African government’s commitment to the continuation of negotiations through the early 1990s.
The international anti-apartheid movement, then, in which ‘churches, civil rights organizations, trade unions, and student and professional organizations [were] ... in the vanguard, pressing governments, businesses, and other NGOs to sever their ties with South Africa’ (Grundy 1991: 85-86), played an integral role in determining the pace of change within South Africa. Without strong international pressure, the South African government was able to ride out the local repercussions of Sharpeville and its other repressive acts from the 1950s to the 1970s, but when international support collapsed in the 1980s the combination of internal and external pressures became more than it could acceptably bear.
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