Barclays' role in apartheid

2005-05-16 09:46

South Africans' memories can be dangerously and embarrassingly short.

I tend to be persuaded that the greed running rampant in this country, especially among the new black elite, dulls certain memories deliberately, and conveniently.

I remember well the latter part of the turbulent and epoch-making 1976, when thousands of children were imprisoned and murdered, and the rapacious bent of the ruling apartheid clique was insatiable.

At the time, many of today's leaders were in prison or in exile; John Vorster and his henchmen were not relaxing their programme of oppression one bit.

At the same time, the winds of change began to blow ferociously inside the National Party - Vorster and his chief sidekick Connie Mulder bit the dust; the apartheid prime minister was replaced by the hopelessly racist PW Botha.

I remember well 1977 and the so-called Carlton conference, at which Botha summoned all the leaders of big business and asked them to help the regime to beat the international arms embargo imposed by the United Nations.

The Barclays pledge

After that meeting Barclays bank pledged a whopping R90m to the apartheid army for its defence force bonds, and I remember well The Citizen, ever the chief supporter and main praise-singer of the racist and oppressive apartheid regime, praising Barclays and carrying a cartoon showing two uniformed apartheid troopies lugging away a hefty Barclays cheque for R90m.

That bank was an unrepentant supporter of apartheid, and I would argue that their financial help for apartheid delayed our liberation by at least a generation.

The government of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel has now blessed Barclays's move to secure a controlling stake in South African bank Absa!

It cuts no ice to say Barclays "disinvested" from South Africa during the sanctions campaign, because between 1972 and 1978 it lent $478m to Botha's regime during the years of "total onslaught", and also helped to arrange international loans of $725.4m for apartheid between 1982 and 1984.

What is the price for decency and self-respect, or is the ANC indirectly telling us to "let bygones be bygones"? Do self-respect and decency count for bugger all when Judas' money is concerned?

The point of the struggle?

In that case, what was the point of the struggle, then?

Lest we forget, Absa director and senior ANC man Tokyo Sexwale had been sentenced to death by Botha's regime, as a saboteur and potential murderer, while Mbeki and the others were all "terrorists" and in exile.

I most sincerely hope the class action in the United States, against Barclays and others for having helped apartheid oppression against black South Africans, does go ahead and ends in victory convictions.

  • Next week: Jon Qwelane goes ballistic! Don't miss the newlook, expanded JQ column starting next week.

  • Jon Qwelane's column is published each week on News24, courtesy of Jon Qwelane and the editor of Sunday Sun, which originally carried the article.

    Send your comments to Jon or discuss this column now in our debating forum.

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.