By JOE PEARCE
WHEN Shell Transport and Trading's annual meeting was disrupted by the Anti-Apartheid Movement in May, Shell chairman Peter Holmes condemned the protestors as "misguided". He was right because multinationals like Shell pose a far bigger threat to the apartheid regime in South Africa than do any number of 'trendy' anti-apartheid demonstrators.
When Holmes defended Shell's position in South Africa by asserting his company's resolute opposition to 'the apartheid regime', he was confessing implicitly that Shell was using its economic muscle to put pressure on Mr Botha's regime to relax its racial policies.
The extent of Big Business's role in undermining apartheid can be gauged by the business community's involvement in South Africa's recent election.
Zach de Beer, a director of the Anglo-American mining company, perhaps the most powerful company in South Africa, announced on the eve of the election that Big Business in South Africa was backing the 'moderate independents' in the hope that their success will increase pressure on Botha's government to relax the apartheid system still further.
Dr De Beer, once South Africa's youngest MP, and now director of Anglo's public relations, was one of the businessmen who held talks with the terrorists of the African National Congress in Lusaka in 1985.
Hinting at the enormous power which international finance has in the fight against apartheid, Dr De Beer said the refusal by banks to reschedule South Africa's debts had been the most effective external pressure on the government.
Another method employed by Big Business to put pressure on the South African government is disinvestment. Thus, Citicorp, America's largest banking group, joined the growing ranks of companies quitting South Africa in June by agreeing to sell its wholly-owned subsidiary Citibank NA Ltd, thereby ending a 29-year presence in the country.
The purchaser of Citicorp's subsidiary was the First National Bank of South Africa, formerly Barclays National Bank. First National is the largest bank in South Africa and was the main target for the Anti-Apartheid Movement's campaign for disinvestment until Barclays decided to sell its 40.2 per cent stake.
However, the fact that First National is still happily buying up competitors tends to contradict claims by anti-apartheid groups that disinvestment is a major threat to white South Africa's survival.
In fact, the dubious effectiveness of disinvestment was reiterated by Dr De Beer. After stating that the refusal by banks to reschedule South Africa's debts was putting effective pressure on the government, Dr De Beer said that "sanctions as yet have not produced any effects in South Africa in terms of the government or the economy. Disinvestment has produced a good deal of distress, but there is no evidence that it has had any effect on the government." He went on to say that most companies which have been sold by their overseas owners are doing as well or better than before, a fact borne out by First National's acquisition of Citibank NA Ltd in spite of Barclays recent disinvestment.
A week before Citicorp announced its decision to quite, the Ford Motor Company outlined proposals to sell its 42 per cent stake in the South African Motor Corporation. A day after Citicorp's decision, ITT, the US industrial, telecommunications and financial group, confirmed its commitment to withdrawing from South Africa.
Shell Chairman Peter Holmes: has done more to threaten White South Africa than any anti-apartheid demonstrator could ever do.
Rand Araskog, chairman and chief executive of ITT's business operations in South Africa, hinted that the American multinational had used its influence to pressurise the government into relaxing apartheid: "We have always believed that the presence of US corporations, and ITT in particular, has provided a positive force for social change in an extremely troubled environment."
Not surprisingly, in the light of all this Big Business pressure, the ruling National Party, the ideology of which is inextricably bound up with the wishes of international capitalism, is beginning to carry out reforms which will lead to a multi-racial South Africa.
In the same week that Ford, Citicorp and ITT were announcing disinvestment plans, the South African Foreign Minister R.F. 'Pik' Botha, reiterated that his government is ready to negotiate "a new South Africa based on power-sharing" with blacks.
Thus, within weeks of coming to power on a 'hard-line' no-surrender policy platform, the ruling National Party was talking of surrender.
Nonetheless, the white man in South Africa is not yet finished. The vast majority of Afrikaners oppose any surrender of their power and will fight to keep it. That's why cynical politicians like P.W. Botha made hard-line noises in the run-up to the election, in much the same fashion as Mrs Thatcher's 'we are being swamped' speeches on immigration in the run-up to the 1979 election in Britain. And that's why pro-apartheid candidates from Andries Treurnicht's Conservative Party increased their percentage of the vote dramatically.
However, if South Africa is to survive there are some crucial lessons that Afrikanerdom must learn.
A whites-only state must be established in South Africa from which all blacks and coloureds are excluded. This is imperative because apartheid cannot work indefinitely within a mixed-race society. Blacks should be given power in those parts of present South Africa not incorporated within the whites-only state. Thus there will be white rule in the white area and black rule in the black area.
The other crucial issue facing Afrikanerdom is the role Big Business should play in a future South Africa. The answer, to put it bluntly, is that Big Business must play no role whatsoever since it has been a constant and consistent enemy of Afrikanerdom from the earliest days of white settlement in southern Africa.
In particular, the Oppenheimer and De Beer families should be stripped of all ownership and the mining industry should pass into the hands of Afrikaners. The De Beer and Oppenheimer families have never had anything but a corrosive and corruptive influence upon South Africa and their destructive dominion must now be brought to an end if Afrikanerdom is to survive.
As usual, Marxist anti-apartheid demonstrators and multinational anti-apartheid dis-investors find themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder against the white worker in South Africa.
Yet nearly ninety years ago Boer farmers took on the power on international finance and the might of the British Empire. From their struggle South Africa was born. Now they must take on the might of the multinationals. This time, if they emerge victorious, a new, all-white South Africa will rise from the ashes.