Committee Reports::Report No. 03 - Apartheid and Development in Southern Africa::25 March, 1986::Report

Third Report of the Joint Committee on Cooperation with Developing Countries


1.The Committee’s Orders of Reference oblige it to examine such aspects of

‘Ireland’s relations with developing countries in the field of development cooperation as the Joint Committee may select’.

Development cooperation is fundamental to Ireland’s relations with developing countries. It is a complex process which involves levels of activity ranging from project work in local communities to global negotiations in international fora. Important issues at a global level impinge on the development process, the debt problem, North South negotiations, the transfer of technology and even disarmament. Inevitably these issues have a political dimension. If development cooperation is to be placed in its proper context and the problems posed by it are to be properly addressed this dimension cannot be ignored.

2.A particular problem which, in essence, is political but which has an important bearing on the development of the whole Southern African region is the South African policy of Apartheid. Over the past year the question of the effect of Apartheid on development in South Africa and on the Southern African region has, in differing circumstances, been brought to the Committee’s notice. In 1985 a delegation from the Committee heard first hand evidence of the effect of Apartheid on development in Lesotho. The Committee has also received submissions touching directly and indirectly on the subject. Early in 1985 the Committee met a delegation from Action from Ireland (AFRI) and from the Dunnes Stores Workers. In the latter part of 1985 it met the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement (IAAM). In December the Government announced that it was assessing its policy on sanctions relative to the importation of South African fruit and vegetables.

3. In all of these circumstances the Committee decided to issue a short report on the subject of Apartheid and Development. It took evidence (Appx. 1) from NGO representatives with first hand knowledge of the situation in Southern Africa, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Kevin Boyle, author of the Amnesty Report ‘South Africa: Imprisonment under the Pass Laws’. The Committee invited representatives of the African National Congress and of Inkatha to give evidence before it. Because of various constraints this did not prove possible. The Committee had a variety of documentation available to it which included the South African Embassy’s analysis of recent reforms announced by President Botha.

4.The Report deals with the effect of Apartheid (and related South African foreign policy) on the development of the Southern African region under the following headings:

(i) the operation of Apartheid in South Africa itself

(ii) its effect on the development in the Southern African region

(iii) the prospects for change

(iv) external action (sanctions)

(v) conclusion

Chapter I Operation of Apartheid and its effect on Southern Africa

5.I Apartheid in South Africa

South Africa is a country of approximately 30 million people. The white population amounts to about 4½ million i.e. 15% of the total. The non-white population consists of 21,000,000 black people of various tribal origins, and approximately 1,000,000 Indians and 2,500,000 people of mixed race. 87% of South Africa’s land is reserved for whites and 13% for blacks. The latter is divided into self-governing homelands, 4 of which are nominally independent. Since 1983 the South African Parliament is tricameral, having separate chambers for whites, Indians and people of mixed races. However, a large majority of the two latter categories chose not to participate in elections to their respective chambers. The white chamber provides the Government which, since 1948, has been dominated by the Afrikaaners who constitute the majority of whites. Since that date the policy of Apartheid or the ‘separate development’ of the various races or groupings has been put into effect by the South African Government.

6.Apartheid as a policy would appear to derive from the Afrikaaners particular historical experience both as slave owners and as a people who, since the early 19th century have sought autonomy for themselves. The British imposition of anti-slavery laws in the early part of the 19th century led to a massive Afrikaaner withdrawal from the Cape Province and to the establishment of the basically independent Orange Free State and the Transvaal. These states lost their independence in the Boer War and Afrikaaners did not regain full control of their destiny until they came to power in the Union of South Africa in 1948. Having achieved their goal they did not grant the franchise to the majority black population (because this would undo the result of a century and a half’s struggle on their part). Instead they chose to preserve their position by denying the majority their rights through the development of the policy of Apartheid. Each race/tribe would develop separately, ideally in separate territorial areas. Nowadays the South African Government states the view that South Africa is a country of minorities thus implicitly denying the existence of a non-white majority.

7.The Committee is satisfied that while Apartheid is presented as an attempt to give Afrikaaners control over their own affairs the South African Government policy of separate development was a device

(i) to retain control of South Africa’s principal resources

(ii)to control black access to urban areas

(iii)to ensure a cheap labour market

8. 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.

9. 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

10.(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 than whites. Blacks are further classified according to tribal origin to establish a basis for independent tribal states.


Under the Homelands Act 87% of South Africa’s land is allocated to whites and 13% to blacks. Homelands are self-governing and the South African Government has succeeded in pushing four of them into ‘independence’, its objective being to create total territorial Apartheid and to deprive blacks of their South African citizenship. The Committee notes that no Government outside of South Africa has recognised the ‘independent’ homelands. Many blacks living outside homeland territories have been forcibly removed to them. However total territorial separation has not been perfectly established because of the cities’ labour needs. ‘Qualified blacks’ i.e. those who have worked in the city for ten years may live in proximity to it but only in controlled areas i.e. the black townships.


Control of movement through passes had its origins in the 18th century control of imported slaves. Later this was extended to cover Africans in general and was specifically related to categories of employment e.g. domestics and miners. Today blacks may reside only in designated areas and need authorisation to travel from one area to another. In the case of citizens of ‘independent’ bantustans a ‘passport’ is required and in the case of others a pass card. Both act not only as a means of controlling movement but also as a mechanism for controlling employment. Thus they serve the twin aims of ensuring separation and the sub-ordination of black employment prospects to white needs. The principal movement patterns are:



(i)Migrants must register for employment in homelands, are classified permanently (sometimes arbitrarily) into working categories and must return to the homelands for one month annually to renew their contracts.

(ii)Up to 600,000 commuters travel vast distances from homelands to cities on a daily basis to work.

13. The Committee received detailed evidence about the operation of the Pass Laws and in particular their relationship to the question of enforced labour. A pass is required by all blacks over 16 and can be demanded by up to 20 officials. In 1984 up to 1/4 million people were arrested for failure to produce a pass or for unauthorised presence in the area where they were found. There was a 90% conviction rate in circumstances where only a tiny proportion of those charged were legally represented and where legal proceedings from arrest to conviction observed only superficial standards. A large percentage of those convicted were sentenced to prison for failure to pay fines which must be produced on demand. Those sentenced to prison have, in theory, the choice of being ‘paroled’ i.e. of spending the equivalent of their prison sentence working on South African farms. Parolees were, in common South African parlance, ‘sold’ to white farmers. Occasionally prisoners are ‘rented’ to city dwellers to do e.g. a day’s housework or gardening. Farm labourers on parole are paid little and are subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.

14.Relative to the question of the extent to which information on the use of prison labour was available witnesses agreed that an examination of the South African prison parole system presented difficulties. South African prison legislation itself is complex in the extreme. Legislation also constitutes a major inhibition for the media in reporting on prison conditions. The media is obliged under the law to take reasonable steps to verify information and this is interpreted to mean that prison authorities must be consulted and their information accepted. Although cases involving parole labour rarely reach the courts, court proceedings are the principal source of information. Evidence was quoted from the Amnesty Report (South Africa: Imprisonment under the Pass Laws, Jan 1986) to illustrate both that the parole system was deliberately used as a source of cheap labour and that working and living conditions of parolees were inhumane.

15.The Committee notes the convincing evidence adduced on poverty levels in South Africa in an intensive study directed by Professor Francis Wilson of the University of Cape Town whose results were made public in April 1984 *. This identified influx control, land use and citizenship policy as three of the basic causes of poverty in South Africa. The survey found that one third of all black children in the country suffer from malnutrition and that the infant mortality rate is 31 times higher among blacks than among whites. More than one million blacks have no income. Contrary to claims by the South African Government the study highlights the fact that poverty among black South Africans is increasing and they are economically worse off, than the people of a number of African and Third World countries. The report concluded that poverty is not endemic but a direct result of the policy of Apartheid which excludes the black majority from equal rights, equal opportunities and equal access to South Africa’s material wealth.

II Effect of Apartheid on Development in the Southern African region

16.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.

17.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.

The Committee feels that both sets of circumstances affect the development of Southern African countries in a very direct manner.

18.In the case of Lesotho members of the delegation met the then Prime Minister and other Ministers including the Foreign Minister, representatives of multilateral bodies such as the EC and UNHCR, representatives of the Lesotho opposition and the ANC and project workers and their Basutho counterparts. Although the primary purpose was to review the Bilateral Aid Programme all of the above named sources, in some measure, drew attention to the effect of South African policy on the development of Lesotho. The then Prime Minister and then Foreign Minister indicated particular areas of South African pressure on Lesotho. In the context of its attempts to neutralise the African National Congress (ANC) South Africa was attempting to impose a mutual security agreement on the lines of agreements already drawn up with Mozambique and Angola. In order to encourage the development of the Bantustans South Africa was pressurising members of the Common Customs Union to admit the so-called independent states of Ciskei, Venda, Transkei and Boputhaswana. These are a central element in South Africa’s attempts to maintain the Apartheid system and are enabled to offer incentives in both industrial and salary terms which other states were unable to compete with.

19.South Africa could 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. It could also repatriate miners, thus cutting off a major source of Lesothan income. The Foreign Minister complained that the South African agreements with Mozambique and Angola made specific provision for an intake of migrant labour thus enabling South Africa to play off one dependent neighbour against another. He also explained that South Africa was attempting to make its participation in the Highland Water Scheme (an extremely ambitious project designed to trap Lesotho’s abundant water resources and export them by means of a tunnelling operation to water deficient areas of South Africa) contingent on Lesotho’s compliance with South Africa’s demands in the security area.

20.Project managers whom the delegation met feared that localization, i.e. the process by which the administration of projects is transferred to local control, was threatened by the fact that the managers’ Basutho counterparts, who would eventually manage projects independently, would be hampered in South Africa by virtue of their race from doing effective business there.

21.The Committee heard evidence on the effect of South African policy on development in neighbouring countries from the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement (IAAM) and from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) workers in the field. The IAAM felt that South Africa had destabilised the entire Southern 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. South Africa had established unequal, exploitative relationships with neighbouring countries partly because they were small and partly because it wished deliberately to frustrate their self-sufficient development. In these circumstances aid was achieving little in the countries concerned. Botswana seemed to be in a stronger position than other neighbouring countries in that it possessed independent sources (i.e. diamonds and a strong cattle trade).

22.A particular difficulty encountered by South Africa’s neighbours relates to South African and Namibian refugees. In its evidence to the Committee the IAAM said that there were two categories of South African refugees. Young people in need of education and training were fleeing South Africa itself. Many of these were finding refuge in Tanzania. Whole communities with a range of needs had fled from Namibia. Ten per cent of the Namibian population were now refugees. Sixty thousand were in Angola and twenty thousand in Zambia. Northern Namibia and Southern Angola constituted a war-zone in which normal life was not possible.

23.A multilateral source outlined Lesotho’s position relative to the refugee problem. Lesotho is a signatory to the Geneva Convention 1951 and took its obligation under the Convention seriously until the South African incursion of 1982. Before 1982 the procedure for defining asylum was loose. As a result of the South African incursion the Government had been constrained to move more politized refugees to other countries and in particular to Tanzania. A parallel situation holds in Swaziland. Many young South Africans, particularly those who have boycotted schools, transit on the way to Tanzania (Morogoro) in search of continued education. An aspect of the South African pressure on Lesotho to sign a Mutual Security Pact was a demand to provide information on the intake of refugees. On 1 April 1985 there were 1,500 registered refugees in Lesotho. NGO evidence to the Committee suggested that South Africa was strongly opposed to aid for refugees and that the organisation of reception centres actually endangered the lives of development workers.

24.The IAAM said in evidence that because of the worsening of the situation in South Africa the IAAM itself had begun to provide humanitarian aid to refugees. It suggested that the Government should directly prioritise refugees under the Bilateral Aid Programme. It also suggested that Irish institutions (e.g. Co. Councils) could be more responsive to refugees’ training needs.

Chapter II Prospects for change and role of sanctions

I Prospects for change in the Southern African region

25.Sources of possible change in South Africa are:

(i)South African Government policy

(ii)action by the majority

(i)The Committee’s examination of the question centred on President Botha’s announcement of reforms at the opening of the South African Parliament 31 January 1986. Among the more notable proposed measures indicated by official South African sources are

1.legislation to remove existing influx control measures

2.a uniform identity document for all

3. freehold property rights for members of black communities

4. one citizenship for all South Africans

5. greater participation by all South Africans in the democratic process of government.

26.In evidence to the Committee the Department of Foreign Affairs commented that this was the first occasion on which Apartheid as a policy was stated to be outdated. The Department intended to study the actual effect of the proposed changes before coming to a conclusion about them.

27.On the possibility of real reforms emerging, Professor Boyle, in his evidence said that President Botha wished to reform but within narrow parameters. For President Botha a number of elements in the South African situation were non-negotiable. If these elements remain no-one in the black community would accept that Apartheid was either dead or outmoded. The elements in question are:

(a)The Constitution Act 1983 which set up a tricameral Parliament without black representation. The present phase of unrest dates from the implementation of the Act. The Committee notes that the United Democratic Front (UDF), a broad based umbrella organisation representative of most anti-apartheid forces, was established as a response to the passing of the Constitution Act.

(b)Group Areas. Separate residence, schooling and hospitalisation would continue.

(c)Race Classification.

(d)Homelands Policy.

28.With the abolition of the Pass Laws all South Africans will be issued with a common identification document. However the crucial issue is whether or not the laws which underpin the present policy on influx control will be abolished. In all probability common citizenship will be restored only to blacks permanently resident in non-homeland South Africa. Denationalised people will remain aliens and thus subject to control. Although influx control might be deemed in the future to apply to all, in practice because other groups are mainly urbanised, it will apply only to non-urbanised blacks.

29.The Committee feels that if the will were there the system of Apartheid could be abolished quickly. It was suggested in evidence that the proper approach to monitoring whether or not the system was being genuinely dismantled, should be not to view Apartheid as if it were a monolithic structure but to establish a check list of the elements which go to constitute it i.e. race classification, group areas, restriction of movement, the homeland policy and to monitor progress in each of these. Apartheid as a system would not cease until it’s constituent and interlocking elements were abolished. The Committee noted that if influx control were truly abolished. the system of Apartheid would crumble. It also noted that the introduction of equality would reduce white living standards, given that blacks presently provide cheap labour for farming, mining and manufacturing.

(ii)Majority Action

30.Witnesses were generally agreed that the majority wanted the Apartheid system abolished immediately. A policy of gradual or partial concessions would no longer satisfy this demand which was based on the assumption that the present system was irreformable. The majority were much less likely to compromise than they might have been in the 60s.

The question now was not whether change would come but in what manner. There were two possibilities, violent or non-violent change.

(a)Likelihood of violence

31.NGO witnesses, in particular, felt that South Africa was already on this road. The African National Congress (ANC) had been dedicated to peaceful change until the 60s when it responded to increased repression by developing a violent wing. The situation was worsening with forced removals and militarization. One witness felt that the escalation in violence was taking place despite the ANC and not because of it. Violence within the majority community was also growing. A boycott of white supermarkets is in force and some violent intimidation seems associated with it.

32.From the evidence of witnesses and from documentation available to it the Committee notes that the majority are not agreed on the current strategy to follow in opposing Apartheid particularly in relation to the use of violence. However, it was felt that in pursuit of its aim of attempting to cloud the issue of majority rights the South African Government was deliberately formenting division on tribal lines.

(b)Possibility of non-violent solution

33.A number of NGO witnesses felt that the Trade Union Movement was a possible vehicle for massive change in South Africa. The Trade Union Movement has exhibited in recent times a marked improvement in the quality of leadership among the majority. Trade Unions were of two kinds, registered unions whose activities were constricted but which had legal guarantees and unregistered unions which suffered much harassment. Recently they had formed a Confederation and, with the possibility of establishing industrial unions, a new avenue for change was opening up.

34.Witnesses felt that two possible unifying forces existed in South Africa

(i)A common love of South Africa which transcends both black and white tribal divisions.

(ii)Nelson Mandela: It was felt that no other South African could rise above the political and ideological differences in South Africa.However, if his release were to make a contribution to the peaceful resolution of the situation negotiations for majority rule would have to accompany it.

II Need for External Action

(i) Opinion in South Africa

35.Witnesses felt that the peaceful option for change was rapidly running out. If conflagration was to be avoided in South Africa the efforts of those who favoured non-violent change would have to be backed up by the imposition of sanctions.

36.The Committee is aware that the question of imposing sanctions on South Africa is a controversial one and in seeking evidence it made a particular effort to ascertain the actual state of majority opinion on the subject. Obviously majority opinion cannot be expressed through election results as the majority are deprived of the franchise. They are further inhibited from expressing opinion on the subject of sanctions because the law expressly forbids public support for this policy. A specific difficulty for Ireland in its efforts to monitor the situation is the fact that, due to its disapproval of the South African regime, no diplomatic relations exist and official contact is kept to the absolute minimum necessary.

37.Given these circumstances the Committee sought evidence from witnesses who had worked in or had direct experience of the Southern African region. Some of the witnesses before the Committee had interviewed a cross section of South African society ranging from prominent clergy to trade union leaders, community workers and members of the white establishment. These witnesses agreed that the situation in South Africa was now acute and that, insofar as they could judge, the great bulk of the majority population supported the imposition of sanctions. The Committee notes that opinion differs within the majority Community on the degree to which sanctions should be applied. Chief Buthelezi, Chief Minister of Kwa Zulu and leader of Inkatha, an anti-apartheid organisation which supports non-violent change in South Africa (and which would appear to have about 10% support among the majority) is on record as saying that the sanctions presently operating are sufficient and that he is opposed to further sanctions in case they inflict irreparable damage on the South African economy which he feels should be preserved intact for the benefit of all. However witnesses before the Committee and the delegations’ official contacts in Lesotho last year were in no doubt about the support of the majority of non-white people for sanctions and the Committee is satisfied that the leaders of 90% of the majority population are in favour of tougher sanctions.

38.The imposition of sanctions is also supported by South Africa’s neighbouring states despite the fact that trade between them and South Africa appears to be on the increase. South Africa is their closest market for essential supplies and their level of trade reflects their dependency on the South African economy and not any kind of tacit support for the regime. If more stringent sanctions are imposed on South Africa, in which they would undoubtedly participate, they will require further aid to ensure even the maintenance of their present level of development.

(ii)Irish Government Policy

39The Government’s policy on Apartheid is clear. It is based on the deep repugnance felt by most Irish people for the system of Apartheid. The Government has expressed its understanding of the frustration arising from Apartheid, but cannot condone violence as a means of ending it. Its analysis of the situation may be summarised as follows. In South Africa the majority have no basic political rights. The new constitutional arrangements dating from 1983 giving the mixed race and Indian population a semblance of parliamentary participation are a sham designed to ensure the compliance of the two populations in the exclusion of blacks. Inequality is a central aspect of majority life and bantustans are no more than a mechanism to maintain this. Workers are discriminated against on the basis of race. South African violations of human rights are unique in that South Africa challenges the rights of the majority on racist grounds. To build a society on this basis challenges the essence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

40.Ireland has not established diplomatic relations or cultural agreements with nor is there Irish public investment in South Africa. It does not encourage trade or economic relations. There are no Irish subsidiary companies in South Africa so the EC Code of Practice (Appx 2) is not relevant to our situation. Sporting and cultural relations are discouraged and organisations in receipt of funds are penalised if they persist in maintaining links with South Africa.

41.Ireland contributes to the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa which, inter alia, funds legal assistance for the victims of Apartheid. Ireland also contributes, since 1983, to the UN Trust Fund for South Africa, the UN Education and Training Programme and contributes to the UN Fund for Namibia. It has expanded its Bilateral Aid Programme to encompass NGO activity. Ireland aids refugees via the International Labour Organisation. It contributes to the UN Fund for Publicity Against Apartheid. In conjunction with the NGOs in Ireland the subject of Apartheid is to be included in the Development Education Programme.

42.The Committee is aware that one of the factors in the choice of Lesotho as a priority country under the Bilateral Aid Programme was the fact that its development was adversely affected by the South African policy of Apartheid. The Bilateral Aid Programme attempts to negative the effects of Apartheid on Southern Africa by contributing to the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), a body set up to promote economic and other cooperation between Southern African states, with the aim of lessening their dependence on South Africa.

43.Two of the major fora in which Ireland conducts its official anti-apartheid action are the UN and the EC. At EC level Ireland is a participant in measures announced on 10 September (Appx 3).

44.At the level of UN activity Ireland has cosponsored UN resolutions calling for international action for the elimination of Apartheid and for the establishment of a UN Trust Fund for South Africa. It has also supported resolutions on public information and public action against Apartheid and the Programme of work of the Special Committee against Apartheid. It has abstained on a resolution on the situation in South Africa and assistance to liberation movements because of the resolution’s explicit endorsement of violence. It has also abstained on a resolution to establish an International Convention against Apartheid in Sports because certain proposed articles conflict. with the Constitution. Ireland has voted against a resolution on relations between Israel and South Africa on the grounds that it is unfairly selective.

45.Ireland has voted against a resolution on Comprehensive Sanctions against the racist regime in South Africa (Appx. 4) on the grounds that the resolution beaches the principle of the Universality of international organisations and that its implementation would result in the isolation of South Africa thus leading to a situation where the fate of the majority community could not be monitored. However Ireland has voted in favour of a resolution for a World Conference on Sanctions against South Africa (Appx. 5). The Government’s policy is that it favours the imposition by the UN Security Council, of gradual and mandatory sanctions to be implemented on a universal basis. Without concerted international action it is considered that sanctions, in particular unilateral sanctions, are unlikely to be effective.

(iii) Non-Governmental Activity in Ireland

46.On the non-Governmental side the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and more recently the Dunnes Stores Workers have been in the forefront of the campaign against the South African regime. Both have given evidence to the Committee.

47.The IAAM said that it was a totally Irish organisation and the only one with bilateral links with the liberation movements of South Africa and Namibia (i.e. the ANC and SWAPO respectively). It praised past Irish policy relative to the Apartheid question and said that in the 70s Ireland adopted a progressive stance at official level by barring, for instance, semi-state business with South Africa and discouraging cultural and sporting contacts. However in the latter part of 1985 it was its view that the Irish Government seemed to be alone in appearing not to take account of the new situation in South Africa. The IAAM felt that the Government should join the Nordics, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France in giving direct aid to the ANC and/or SWAPO. A policy on these lines would be in Ireland’s long term economic interest given that it felt that these movements must eventually succeed. The IAAM wishes the Government to make public its disapproval of trading links with South Africa. A stronger move might be the banning of South African imports (without necessarily imposing a formal ban on exports). The IAAM said that Ireland and Britain are the only countries not imposing via requirements on South Africa. Measures announced in March by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to help defendents with the cost of legal aid and to train a small number of SWAPO refugees in Ireland are inadequate. So also is the commitment to investigate the possibility of aiding refugees through the Bilateral Aid Programmes. The IAAM suggested that an informal Oireachtas Anti-Apartheid Committee, meeting perhaps quarterly, might serve a useful purpose.

48.Action against the importation of South African produce was central to the position of the Dunnes Stores Workers as outlined to the Committee. The action taken by workers themselves consisted in refusing to handle South African produce. Their refusal resulted in an industrial dispute which drew attention both nationally and internationally to the question of whether or not workers had a right in conscience to take action in the work place against South African produce.This issue was raised directly by the Dunnes Stores Workers with the Committee. The Committee felt that a solution to the specific dispute should allow for a freedom of conscience clause, possibly enshrined in Labour law, in line with the growing recognition of this right in specific work-related situations (Appx. 6). The Committee took the matter up in correspondence with the Minister for Labour (Appx. 7) who felt that formulation of codes of practice as a possible means of accommodating a right of conscientious objection within particular employments would be a more appropriate basis for a solution to the problem raised than the use of primary legislation.

49.The Dunnes Stores Workers suggested to the Committee that a general Government embargo on the importation of South African fruit and vegetables would be an appropriate measure not only in helping to resolve the specific dispute but also in itself. In December 1985 the Government announced that it was considering the implementation of such a ban.

50.The Committee considered two problems which arise relative to a possible Government ban on the importation of South African produce:

(i)Its permissibility under the GATT rules by which Ireland is bound.

(ii)Its effect on the supply of fruit and vegetables and on related employment.

51.GATT Article XX (e) permits a state party to discriminate against the produce of prison labour. The Government’s eventual decision would be conditional on establishing

1.if South African fruit and vegetables are largely the product of prison labour

2.if action against such products is permissible under GATT regulations. In considering a ban the Government is following a precedent set by Sweden. In terms of the practical application of a ban the evidence suggests that the produce of prison labour cannot be distinguished from other produce. However, Sweden has concluded that of 700,000 farm workers in South Africa 170,000 may, in fact, be enforced labourers as a result of the ‘parole’ system outlined in Chapter I). On this basis Sweden has decided to ban the importation of all South African fruit and vegetables (Appx. 8)

52.In this context, the Committee notes the legal case for unilateral sanctions against South Africa issued in February 1986 by the Legal Group of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement. The Report states (at 2.5) ‘that the group takes the view that unilateral sanctions are consistent with both the EEC treaty and with GATT and furthermore are fully justified in international law and are in accordance with the fundamental assumptions embodied in the Irish Constitution’. Having outlined the legal basis for the above opinion it concludes (9.1) that ‘the imposition of legal sanctions against South Africa in relation to trade, scientific and cultural contacts is entirely consistent with Irish law and with Ireland’s international obligations’. Finally it states (9.1) ‘that (a) Ireland should be more steadfast in supporting mandatory and comprehensive action at the United Nations and (b) follow the initiative of a number of European States which have taken unilateral action, or promised such action’.

53.Relative to the supply of fruit and vegetables to the Irish market the question was raised in Committee of whether a ban on the importation of South African fruit might deny a vital resource to e.g. the health sector. The Committee has received, on an informal basis varying points of view on this question.

54.Submissions to the Committee from Fruit Importers of Ireland (Appx. 9) suggests (1) that because of the need for a lead-in time of from 6 months to a year on orders a sudden banning of South African fruit and vegetables would be very detrimental to the market (2) that a ban would not be effective unless imposed EC wide. It could be circumvented by small time operators working unofficially via the UK market. This in the long run would be responsible for raising prices (3) employment might be adversely affected if inadequate notice were given before the imposition of a ban.

55.Relative to the opinion that certain fruit would become unavailable if a ban were imposed the Committee has received information from another sector of the trade and on an informal basis, that South African fruit is mainly imported between the months of January to April. Due to public awareness of the issues demand has lessened and alternative supplies in many instances have been sought and found. However it would be difficult to find substitutes for South African grapes and plums during the period (particularly for the latter in January and February).

56.On the basis of the foregoing evidence the Committee is satisfied that the practical problems arising from a ban are not insurmountable.


57.The Committee unreservedly condemns the system of Apartheid. It views with abhorrence its direct result within South Africa i.e. the denial, on racist grounds, of basic human and political rights to the majority of its citizens and their economic exploitation.

58.The Committee recognises that the situation in South Africa is a complex one and that no simplistic strategies exist which would effectively pressurise the South African regime to dismantle Apartheid and grant equal rights to all. However it is clear from the evidence which has been presented to the Committee that

(i)South Africa is now in a state of crisis

(ii)Fundamental and complex reforms are urgently required in South Africa to ensure peaceful change to majority rule

(iii)To ensure peaceful change greater external support is demanded.

59.The Committee is disturbed by the clearly negative effect which the pursuit of the policy of Apartheid has on the development of countries in the Southern African region. The Committee is satisfied that, in order to ensure its dominant position within South Africa, the white minority engages in a policy of deliberately frustrating the development of neighbouring countries. South Africa exacerbates their situation by militiary incursions and by manipulating their economic dependence upon it. In this context the Committee feels that international support for South Africa’s neighbouring countries should be sustained and strengthened. Particular support will be required in the event of the imposition of more stringent sanctions on South Africa. The Committee reiterates its recommendation in the Bilateral Aid Programme Report 1985, namely that direct BAP aid to refugees be seriously considered and that positive developmental action be taken to help the majority take its rightful place within South Africa.

59.The Committee accepts that a proper basis for monitoring the progress of reform in South Africa is the one suggested in Section III i.e. the establishment of a check list of the elements constituting the whole system of Apartheid and the careful monitoring of each element in order to ensure the formulation of a policy which will be as effective as possible in bringing the system to an end. The Committee accepts that Irish policy on South Africa should support only a non-violent approach to change.

60.In the light of the evidence of mounting crises within South Africa the Committee feels that the option of supporting stronger and even comprehensive sanctions at international level should be seriously considered. From the evidence available to it relative to the use of prison labour in farming and on the basis of the Swedish precedent the Committee feels that Ireland would be justified in imposing a ban on South African produce under the terms of GATT Regulation XXe. It feels that such action, even if it is isolated, has a value beyond its actual economic effect both in terms of encouraging other Governments and of maintaining the morale of those working for peaceful change within South Africa. The Committee therefore recommends that a complete ban be imposed on the importation of all South African fruit and vegetables.

Nora Owen T.D.


25 March, 1986.

List of abbreviations


African National Congress


Bilateral Aid Programme


Department of Foreign Affairs


European Community


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade


International Labour Organisation


Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement


Non-Governmental Organisation


South West Africa Peoples Organisation


United Nations High Commission for Refugees

* Study by Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit.