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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 151

Paragraph Numbers 43 to 60

Volume 6

Section 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 5


43 . Again, as it is not possible to develop case studies on each private corporation, reference will be made to the Anglo American Corporation, without prejudice.

44. Through punitive taxes in rural reserves and through land dispossession (the Land Act of 1913 and 1936), the black male worker was dislodged from agricultural subsistence farming and forced to work at the underground rock faces. This influx of a large black population instigated early stirrings of swartgevaar (‘black danger’) – and more broadly a fear of the threat posed not only to frontier political control but also to the stability and profitability of diamond and gold mining.

45. Migration control regulations were first drafted by the Chamber of Mines’ Native Labour Department in 1895 as a response to perceived state reluctance to organise a stable and constant labour supply. The President of the Chamber of Mines enthused: ‘… a most excellent law … which should enable us to have complete control over the Kaffirs’. In its submission to a 1944 commission on ‘native wages’, the Chamber of Mines argued openly for the ‘subsidiary means of subsistence’ that migration back to homelands guaranteed. This would subsidise the cost of labour and the costs of reproducing that labour. This zeal for population control on the part of the mining houses set a precedent for the pass laws of the apartheid government .

46. The mines’ thirst for migratory labour led them to establish recruiting agencies in distant rural areas and neighbouring countries, originally opened to capital by military conquest. In this way ‘native reserves’ evolved into labour reserves . Offering financial inducements to the Swazi monarch, the Native Recruiting Commission set up by the Chamber of Mines was able to diminish the severe labour shortage in the post-World War II economic boom, while migrant work assured the King of his subjects’ annual repatriation to fulfil tributary labour ‘loyalties’. Tribalism on the Rand originated in recruitment strategies and bargain-hunting by the mines. It was perpetuated by a closed compound system of hostels that fostered separate identity and anticipated the conflicts within the hostels and with permanent township residents. Thus the blueprint for ‘grand apartheid’ was provided by the mines and was not an Afrikaner state innovation. The mines’ instigation of tribalism in employment and housing practices is admitted in their submission to the Commission.

47. The single-sex hostels, moreover, eroded family structures. Women who had accompanied their male partners and husbands to the compounds were ‘endorsed out’ or sent back to the homelands. A corollary to the slave-like conditions of work on the mines, women were left to rear children and cultivate fields ultimately on behalf of the mine owners. When occupational hazards ejected invalid workers, the social security of homesteads helped absolve companies of providing adequate compensation and/or pensions.

48. In mitigation of its housing policy, the Anglo American Corporation contends that it was frustrated in its attempts to develop an ‘urban model for black South Africans’ by the apartheid regime. The Corporation argued that Sir Harry Oppenheimer appealed to the Ve r w o e rd government in the 1950s to be allowed to house 10 per cent of black workers with their families at the Free State gold mines. These appeals were rejected by the state, but they cannot atone for the cellblock structures and systems the company provided for each of its armies of black miners.

49. Harsh conditions on the mines were enforced by state repression which employers – and Anglo American – did nothing to discourage. Strikes were unheard of during the booming 1960s. When the upsurge of worker resistance began with the wave of strike actions in Durban in 1973, state security forces became almost permanently resident on production sites to maintain and restore order. From the outset, Anglo American did not hesitate to use the services of the apartheid security apparatus to curb working-class militancy during this period. A strike at its Western Deep mine was dealt with by government force s and resulted in the deaths of twelve miners. Worker resistance to the state-led ‘total onslaught’ campaign led to the detention of five executive members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

50. The consensus between business and the apartheid government was given institutional expression in an array of joint committees at the interface of private capital and the state. ‘Total strategy’ was quickly sold to business South Africa at the government-convened Carlton Conference in 1979. Harry Oppenheimer promoted the ‘new era’ of business and state détente. Joint Management Centres (JMCs) were set up to gather intelligence about trade union activity. Their reports to the State Security Council (SSC) effectively drafted business leaders into the state apparatuses.

51. The renting of Waterloo farm to security force agents by Tongaat Hulett, a sugar- producing company with a majority Anglo American shareholding, represents one example of such collusion. Business, moreover, directly financed the SADF through its participation in the Defence Manpower Liaison Committee structures. These were designed to facilitate the least disruptive conscription of white men to the armed forces by supplementing the income of soldiers during their stints in the army.

52. Outsourcing the function and/or costs of national security to private interests was accomplished by the 1980 National Keypoints Act of the Botha regime . ‘Keypoints’ of national interest, usually production sites, were identified as possible targets. Protection was supplied by the SADF and paid for by the business concerned .

53. By 1976, the Anglo American group enjoyed a shareholding interest of 20 per cent in Barlow Rand. Through a number of its subsidiaries, Barlow Rand was a major producer of defence electronics, dividends from which were paid to Anglo American. Three members of the Barlow Rand board of executives (including the chairman) were also members of PW Botha’s Defence Advisory Board . Anglo American chairman Gavin Relly himself served intermittently on the Armscor board. The sinews of the military–industrial complex were firmly enmeshed with the mine-based economy.

54. The high level of accidents on the mines went far beyond anything that can be excused by the ordinary hazards of working underg round. Here again it was the mines themselves that must take responsibility for ignoring the most basic safety standards applied by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). By 1993, the mortality rate on the gold mines as a result of accidents stood at 113 for every 100 000 miners. This does not take into account the delayed deaths and disability resulting from the occupational hazards of work underg round. The migratory labour system allowed employers to repatriate miners suffering from injury, silicosis, pulmonary tuberculosis and other work-related ailments to their distant homes, where they would often die slow and painful deaths, living on meagre pensions and without the necessary medical treatment. Even though a curative treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis was available by the 1950s, mines continued to send sick miners home, with the result that up to 60 per cent would die within two years, and families became infected. By the 1980s, only 10 per cent of these workers – effectively retrenched – received the necessary treatment .

55. Apartheid also affected how workers were recompensed by the state, and can be seen in the inadequacy and racial differentials of lump sums paid out. The structure of the Workmen’s Compensation Fund cleared mine owners of liabilities stemming from whatever civil claims could have been brought against them. Thus deference to the state made good business. As late as the early 1990s, permanently disabled black workers were paid only R2000, with a 1:13 compensation ratio between black and white workers.

56. In 1974, ‘Harry Oppenheimer made a public call to review South Africa’s labour laws’ and was ‘amongst the first to grant independent black unions access, recruiting and collective bargaining rights’. The Anglo American submission to the Commission attributes this to Oppenheimer philanthropy. Yet his sudden concern about the absence of union organisation amongst black workers cannot have been coincidental: his call was stoked by the fear of disruption of production schedules when industrial relations are not mediated by union representation . Despite the orderly bargaining framework that union recognition brought to industrial relations, apartheid employers did not take this to imply that legally striking workers ought not to be dismissed. Anglo American cut the biggest swathe through workers’ ranks when it dismissed 50 000 workers who were on strike for a living wage.

57. Nor did the recognition of black trade unions preclude security cordons around mines and the control of union meetings. AnNUM report on re pression at Anglo American mines described how meetings had to be approved by mine management. The significance of union recognition was further downplayed by the spread of Anglo American companies throughout the Bantustans. Unions enjoyed legal status only if the labour laws upheld by the homeland puppet states allowed this. Rustenburg Platinum, owned by the Anglo American subsidiary, Johannesburg Consolidated Investments, adopted schizophrenic policies that saw the company recognise NUM representatives in South Africa but not on the other side of the Bophuthatswana border.

58. When Botha’s reforms of apartheid only elicited increased labour unrest, and economic sanctions looked set to force the regime to default on its debt, business leaders broke ranks with the government, and a delegation, including Mr Gavin Relly, flew to Lusaka to meet with African National Congress (ANC) leaders. Ye t just two years later, in 1987, after the declaration of the second state of emergency, Mr Relly described the national alert as ‘necessary’. ‘Open minds’ closed again once mass detentions brought a modicum of quiet to the townships and factory floors, and once debt payments had been successfully rescheduled by agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

59. The extent of Anglo American’s ‘real and permanent contribution to the well being of the people of southern Africa’ and its founding ‘economic nationalism’ must be judged according to its deeds. Nor can its ‘deeds’ be represented by cases of its magnanimity when these stand out as exceptions against a general rule of profiteering based on racist systems of exclusion, indignity, manslaughter and expropriation. Even in terms of the modernisation thesis the corporation p ropounds in its literature – ‘the slow march to modernity’ – Anglo American fails. The basic premise that a modern, non-racial capitalist economy will engender full democratic rights for all South African citizens presumes the necessity of coerced labour and racist employment policies, because it is precisely on these practices that its empire was built. The estimated R20 billion that the corporation ‘exported’ in offshore investments between 1970 and 1988 cannot have benefited the modernisation project it claims to cherish.


60. A reparations claim against corporations like Anglo American would be based on the extent to which decades of profits were based on systematic violations of human rights. In legal terms, this could be based on the principle of ‘unjust enrichment’. ‘Unjust enrichment’ is a source of legal obligation. Actions based on ‘unjust enrichment’ are common to most modern legal systems. These kinds of claims give rise to an obligation in terms of which the enriched party incurs a duty to restore the extent of his/her enrichment to the impoverished party. Put differently, the impoverished party acquires a legal right to claim that the extent of the other’s enrichment be restored to him/her if it was acquired at his/her expense.

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