Commentary Type

Case 62-2 and 85-1


UN v. South Africa (1962-1994: Apartheid; Namibia)
US, Commonwealth v. South Africa (1985-91: Apartheid)


Chronology of Key Events


Nationalist party assumes power in South Africa and, over the next two years passes legislation that forms the pillars of the apartheid system: Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949); Group Areas Act (1950), which separates areas of legal residence by race; and the Population Registration Act (1950), which requires official registration by race. (David 215; Massie 21)

April 1960

During a protest against the pass laws, which restrict the movements of blacks and other minorities, sixty-nine blacks are killed by police at Sharpeville. Incident provokes worldwide condemnation of South African regime, calls for UN sanctions. UN Security Council passes Resolution S/4300, with UK, France abstaining, that deplores violence and calls for end of apartheid. (Doxey 1972, 537; Doxey 1980, 61; Massie 63-66)


African states demand political, economic sanctions against South Africa. South Africa withdraws from British Commonwealth upon becoming a republic, subsequently is excluded from specialized UN agencies. (Doxey 1980, 61; David 217)

October 19, 1962

Francis T. P. Plimpton, US representative to UN, criticizes efficacy, potential use of economic sanctions against South Africa, states US "will continue to oppose" specific sanctions. (David 217)

November 6, 1962

UN General Assembly in a non-binding resolution (1761), calls upon members "separately or collectively, in conformity with the charter" to break diplomatic relations with South Africa, to close ports to South African vessels, to forbid vessels flying their flags to enter South African ports, to boycott South African trade, and to suspend landing rights for South African aircraft. (Doxey 1972, 537; David 217)

May - June 1963

Organization of African Unity is established, recommends economic sanctions against South Africa, termination of diplomatic links, and it calls on US to choose between Africa, colonial powers. (Doxey 1980, 62; David 218)

August 2, 1963

US ambassador to UN, Adlai E. Stevenson, speaking in opposition to mandatory arms embargo: "The application of sanctions in this situation is not likely to bring about the practical result that we seek.... Punitive measures would only provoke intransigence and harden the existing situation..." Nevertheless, US pledges to terminate all new sales of military equipment by end of 1963. (David 218)

August 7, 1963

UN Security Council, with US support, UK, France abstaining, adopts Resolution 181 recommending that member states cease shipment of arms to South Africa. (Doxey 1972, 537; Doxey 1980, 61; David 218-19)

December 4, 1963

UN Security Council, with US, UK, French support, adopts Resolution 182 expanding the arms embargo recommendation to include shipment of equipment, materials for arms manufacture. UK, France state they will distinguish between weapons for internal suppression, external defense. US, UK, France oppose any mandatory or broader economic sanctions. (Doxey 1980, 62; David 219)


US prohibits direct Eximbank loans to South Africa and places limits on value of loans to US firms exporting there; uses voting power in IMF to block purchase of South African gold. India imposes complete embargo on trade with South Africa. (Chettle 6, 8; Hayes 9; Bissell 78)

October 1964

Newly elected British Labour government bans all arms exports to South Africa. (Doxey 1980, 62)

October 21, 1966

UN General Assembly passes Resolution 2145 by margin of 114 to 2 (3 abstentions) to terminate South African mandate for Namibia, place territory under UN administration. (Doxey 1972, 538; Doxey 1980, 63)

June 1968

At US instigation, IMF refuses to purchase gold from South Africa at prices in excess of $35 per ounce. (de Vries 409-16)

January 30, 1970

UN Security Council Resolution 276 ends South African trusteeship of Namibia. International Court of Justice upholds resolution in 1971, but South Africa ignores ruling. (Doxey 1980, 63)

November 1973

Organization of Arab Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OAPEC) imposes oil embargo on South Africa; Iran refuses to comply, becomes South Africa's major oil supplier. (Doxey 1980, 65, 103-04)


UN General Assembly votes 91 to 22 to reject South Africa's credentials; UK, France, US veto Security Council resolution to expel South Africa. (Doxey 1980, 63)


Hundreds of blacks, many of them children, are killed in riots in Soweto township triggered by a protest against inequities in the education system. Event sparks intensified international condemnation of apartheid regime, also raises concerns among foreign investors about stability in South Africa. Some firms that had been reinvesting profits begin to repatriate them. (Doxey 1980, 64; Massie 444)

March 1977

Eleven US multinationals announce adoption of six principles, developed by Rev. Leon Sullivan, first black board member of General Motors, that relate to equal opportunity in workplace. Similar codes are subsequently drafted by EC (September 1977), Canada, some private institutions. (Chettle 65-66; Bissell 85-86)

September 1977

Stephen Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness movement, dies in police custody. To pre-empt protests, government arrests or bans several key opposition leaders. (Massie 421-26)

November 4, 1977

Primarily as result of Soweto riots, subsequent disturbances and repression in South Africa, UN Security Council adopts Resolution 418 declaring arms trade with South Africa (but not apartheid per se) a "threat to peace" under Article 39 and making the arms embargo mandatory (in August, France had announced it would discontinue arms sales to South Africa). (Doxey 1980, 64)

December 13, 1977

UN General Assembly approves recommendation to Security Council for mandatory oil embargo against South Africa; US, UK, France, other key countries abstain, rendering proposal moot. (Spandau 152-53)


British Commonwealth nations adopt Gleneagles Agreement calling for ban on sports contacts with South Africa. (Hayes 10)

February 22, 1978

Regulations issued by administration of President Jimmy Carter deny export or reexport of any item to South Africa or Namibia if exporter "knows or has reason to know" item will be "sold to or used by or for" military or police in South Africa. (Chettle 17)

July 1978

Rev. Leon Sullivan publishes expanded version of original six principles, announces that 103 companies have committed themselves to apply them. (Bissell 86-88)


US reduces staffs of US military attaché in Pretoria, South African military attaché in Washington; Congress passes legislation codifying prohibition on Eximbank loans to South African government firms, as well as US firms that do not adhere to Sullivan code. Norway, UK ban sale of North Sea oil to South Africa (David 223-24; Lipton 1988, 16)

July 1, 1979

South Africa Act comes into force in Sweden prohibiting "the formation of any new Swedish companies in South Africa or Namibia. Swedish-owned subsidiaries already operating in those countries are forbidden to make any further investments in fixed assets...." (Swedish Business 24)


Newly inaugurated administration of President Ronald Reagan announces policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa; State Department says it "represents above all the reality that there is a limit on the U.S. capacity to use negative pressure to achieve policy results in South Africa." New policy, formulated by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester A. Crocker, includes relaxation of diplomatic, economic sanctions imposed under previous administrations, including allowing more South African honorary consuls in US, granting visas to South African rugby team, relaxing controls on nonlethal exports for South African military and police and on restrictions on exports of dual-use military equipment, technology. (Washington Post, 23 July 1986, A14; Baker 8-12)

Spring 1981

Administration of President Ronald Reagan breaks with allies (UK, France, West Germany, Canada) seeking to persuade South Africa to unconditionally implement UN plan for Namibian independence; links South African withdrawal from Namibia to withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola (see Case 86-2 US v. Angola [1986-1992: Cuban troops]). "Washington thereby dismantled collective Western diplomatic pressure on Pretoria and provided the issue of Cuban troops as a rationale for a prolonged South African military presence in Namibia." (Marcum 161; Massie 487-88)

May 1983

Rev. Sullivan says principles he developed for US corporations operating in South Africa are "beginning to work ... but [are] not getting the desired results quickly enough." He calls on US government to make compliance with Sullivan code mandatory, back it up with sanctions (e.g. tax penalties, loss of government contracts) against recalcitrant firms. (Sullivan)

December 6, 1983—
January 8, 1984

South African forces mount successful campaign into Namibia to destroy logistical base, prevent planned offensive of South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). South African forces, however, face sophisticated Soviet-supplied weaponry that raises questions about ability to maintain military superiority in the field. "The lesson of the operation ‘is that they can't match the Soviet buildup that can occur in front-line states like Angola, and it scares the hell out of them.'" (Washington Post, 24 February 1985, A26; Facts on File 14)

September 1984

South Africa institutes new constitution under which Prime Minister P. W. Botha moves into even more powerful presidency; constitution establishes separate parliamentary chambers for Indian, "colored" representatives while still excluding blacks. New constitution sparks widespread protests, rioting in black townships. (The Economist, 30 March 1985, 27)

November 21, 1984

Three prominent black Americans are arrested in front of South African embassy in Washington, initiating "Free South Africa Movement" in the US. By October 1986, when sanctions legislation is enacted, about 6,000 people have been arrested at embassy, South African consulates around US. (Baker 29; Washington Post, 23 July 1985, A12; 25 July 1985, A1)

December 12, 1984

Of approximately 350 US companies operating in South Africa, 119 agree to expansion of Sullivan principles, committing themselves "to press for broad changes in South African society, including the repeal of all apartheid laws and policies." (New York Times, 13 December 1984, D1)

December 13, 1984

UN Security Council reaffirms 1977 embargo of arms exports to South Africa, votes unanimously to request that "all states refrain from importing arms ammunition of all types and military vehicles produced in South Africa." (Washington Post, 14 December 1984, A46)

Late December 1984—early January 1985

Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, on visit to Washington after accepting Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, criticizes administration's "constructive engagement" policy, says US could end apartheid "tomorrow" by adopting get-tough policy. (Washington Post, 24 December 1984, C1; International Herald Tribune, 4 January 1985, 1)

January 7, 1985

Coalition of six employer groups, claiming to represent 80 percent of South African workers, issues statement calling for significant changes in apartheid system: meaningful political participation for blacks; recognition of right of all groups to ownership of property, employment; universal citizenship; free, independent unions; equal justice; end to forced removal of people. Statement cautions that such changes can be made only in atmosphere of economic growth, thus opposes sanctions, disinvestment. (Wall Street Journal, 9 January 1985, 31)

April 15, 1985

South Africa announces that it is abolishing Mixed Marriages Act, provisions of Immorality Act prohibiting sexual relations between races. (Washington Post, 17 April 1985, A1)

May 7, 1985

Rev. Sullivan calls for moratorium on expansion by US firms in South Africa and a deadline of two years hence for an end to apartheid. If that goal is not met, he calls for a complete embargo, including withdrawal by US investors there. (Massie 579)

Mid-May 1985

Following imposition of complete trade embargo against Nicaragua, Crocker defends administration's opposition to sanctions against South Africa by arguing that "South Africa's economy is 30 times larger than Nicaragua's and much less vulnerable to the impact of sanctions...." (Washington Post, 15 May 1985, A3)

May 21, 1985

As part of South African effort to destabilize regime in Angola, South African commandos attempt to blow up oil storage tanks in Angola belonging to Gulf Oil Co. but are intercepted by Angolan soldiers. Incident increases support for sanctions in Congress. US Ambassador to South Africa Herman W. Nickel is recalled for consultations. (Washington Post, 10 June 1985, A1)

Summer—Fall 1985

Blacks, who account for over half of all retail sales in South Africa, impose boycott on white-owned businesses in eastern Cape region. Some communities retaliate, while others attempt to negotiate with leaders of boycott. In October, one group of white businessmen sends delegation to Pretoria seeking to improve welfare of blacks in their area. (Washington Post, 27 July 1985, A1; 7 October 1985, A15)

July 20, 1985

In response to ongoing protests, violence in townships, South Africa declares state of emergency in 36 districts. (Massie 584-85)

July 24-26, 1985

France, protesting state of emergency, recalls its ambassador, bans new investment in or loans to South Africa, offers resolution in UN Security Council calling for voluntary sanctions against South Africa, including bans on new investment, imports of krugerrands, new contracts in nuclear energy sector, exports of computers for use by South African army or police. Resolution also calls for immediate lifting of state of emergency, unconditional release of all detainees, freeing of political prisoners, including African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, jailed since 1964. UK, US veto resolution backed by several African nations calling for mandatory sanctions against South Africa, but abstain on French resolution, allowing it to pass. Reagan administration for first time publicly calls on Botha government to lift state of emergency, release detainees, which now number more than 900. At least 16 blacks have been killed by police since state of emergency was declared, 500 since protests began in September. (Washington Post, 25, 26, 27 July 1985, A1; Lipton 1988, 19)

July 31, 1985

House, Senate conferees agree on compromise bill that would impose sanctions similar to those called for in French UN resolution, would also ban all new bank loans to South African government, which most American banks voluntarily suspended seven years before. Legislation would also make observance of Sullivan principles mandatory for US companies with operations in South Africa employing more than 25 people. Citing economic, not political, reasons, Chase Manhattan Bank confirms that it has decided to stop lending to South Africa, will not renew maturing short-term loans, which reportedly total around $400 million. South Africa recalls its ambassador-designate to US, Herbert Beukes, for consultations; bans public funerals for victims of unrest, political statements at any funeral. (Washington Post, New York Times, 1 August 1985, A1; Wall Street Journal, 1 August 1985, 21; Ovenden 128)

August 15, 1985

In speech expected to include announcement of significant new reforms, Botha takes hard line, saying he has "crossed the Rubicon" on road to reform, but that he will set pace, choose terms. Botha rules out significant political power-sharing, blames "barbaric communist agitators" for disturbances in South Africa. Value of rand drops 20 percent following speech. Botha's speech, in addition to increasing pressure on Reagan administration to take some action, also spurs reassessment of investment policies on part of number of state/local governments, US colleges, pension funds and others. (Baker 32-33; Washington Post, 16 August 1985, A1; 23 September 1985, A22; Ovenden 82-83)

August 27, 1985

Just before he is to lead mass march on prison where Mandela is being held, South Africa arrests Rev. Allan Boesak, founder of United Democratic Front (UDF), largest legal anti-apartheid coalition in South Africa. Concerns about continuing unrest, political instability in South Africa cause foreign banks to reduce lending, refuse to renew maturing short-term loans, causing plunge in value of rand to record low 36 US cents. Of South Africa's total foreign debt of $17 billion, $11.5 billion will mature within coming year. South Africa closes foreign-exchange, stock markets until 2 September. (Washington Post, 28 August 1985, A1; Financial Times, 28 August 1985, 1)

August 28, 1985

Central Bank Governor Gerhard de Kock leaves for Europe seeking assistance in dealing with financial crisis but finds little sympathy. Black mineworkers union announces that it will strike at seven gold mines beginning 1 September. (New York Times, Washington Post, 29 August 1985, A1; Washington Post, 30 August 1985, A1)

August 29, 1985

South Africa's four main business groups call on government to open negotiations with black leaders, asserting that any measures adopted to deal with economic crisis must include political changes to be effective. (Financial Times, 30 August 1985, 1)

September 1, 1985

South Africa announces temporary "standstill" on repayments of commercial debt principal, including short-term interbank loans, sets up two-tiered exchange system for rand to discourage disinvestment. Finance Minister Barend du Plessis says South Africa will continue to service its debts; total interest on foreign loans is estimated to be no more than 6 percent of annual export earnings; hence meeting interest payments is not expected to pose problems. (Washington Post, 3 September 1985, A1; 4 September 1985, A26; Financial Times, 2 September 1985, 1, 16; 3 September 1985, 1; 4 September 1985, 1)

September 5, 1985

Responding to debt repayment moratorium, uncertainty over how it will be resolved, American banks refuse to extend short-term credits for US exports to South Africa. (Washington Post, 6 September 1985, A29)

September 9, 1985

Reagan imposes limited economic sanctions by executive order in effort to head off embarrassing defeat in Congress, where House-approved compromise legislation has been stalled in Senate by Jesse Helms (R-NC) filibuster. Executive order bans exports of US-manufactured computer hardware, software to agencies that administer or enforce apartheid; exports of nuclear goods, technology; loans to South African government, except for educational, housing, or health facilities open to all races. Order also mandates compliance with Sullivan principles as called for in congressional legislation. Unlike congressional measure, order does not immediately ban importation of krugerrands, instead calling for discussions of possible legal problems of krugerrand ban under General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), nor does it mandate additional sanctions if "significant progress" toward ending apartheid is not made in 12 months. Reacting to Reagan's imposition of limited sanctions Archbishop Desmond Tutu states: "I think I should say now [Reagan] is a racist pure and simple.... Get rid of constructive engagement, apply to South Africa the policies you apply to Nicaragua, and voila, apartheid will end." (Washington Post, 10 September 1985, A1)

September 10, 1985

Eleven of 12 EC nations agree on package of limited sanctions, including tighter enforcement of arms embargo, ban on all nuclear, military cooperation with South Africa; UK withholds approval pending assessment of sanctions' impact. UK also objects to recall of military attachés, "discouraging" of cultural, scientific exchanges. In Basel, Switzerland, central bankers meeting at Bank for International Settlements reportedly refuse to consider request from de Kock to put together official "rescue" package for South Africa. (Washington Post, 11 September 1985, A1, A20)

September 25, 1985

UK agrees to adopt measures previously approved by other EC ministers, withdraws its defense attachés from British embassy in South Africa. (Washington Post, 26 September 1985, A33)

October 1, 1985

Following consultations with major trading partners, none of whom object, Reagan imposes ban on import of krugerrands, effective 11 October. (Washington Post, 3 October 1985, A27)

October 20, 1985

Commonwealth of Nations overcomes UK objections, adopts sanctions package similar to that adopted by US, EC. Commonwealth package also includes ban on government loans to South African government, threatens increased sanctions if progress on dismantling apartheid is not made within six months. Package falls short of Commonwealth's Third World members' call for immediate comprehensive, mandatory sanctions. (Washington Post, 21 October 1985, A16; 22 October 1985, A22; Lipton 1988, 16)

November 2, 1985

South Africa bans all television, radio, photographic news coverage of unrest in designated emergency areas, restricts movements of print reporters. (Washington Post, 3 November 1985, A1)

November 18, 1985

One hundred eighty-six American companies operating in South Africa, all signatories of Sullivan principles, send telex to Botha urging him to do something to "lower tensions" in black school system. "It is the first time any group of foreign companies has intervened so directly with the government on a domestic political issue." (Washington Post, 19 November 1985, A1)

November 27, 1985

Financial Times reports that Central Bank Governor de Kock recognizes the need for evidence of political reform in order to complete the debt rescheduling and that he "hinted that this message had finally reached the Government after direct warnings from Dr. Fritz Leutwiler." (quoted in Harris 802).

December 10, 1985

Unable to reach mutually acceptable agreement with its creditors, South Africa announces that it is extending freeze on debt repayments until March 31, 1986. After an earlier meeting with creditors, Central Bank Governor de Kock had complained that politics was interfering with negotiations because "The banks can't be seen as helping South Africa because it would be seen as propping up apartheid." (Washington Post, 11 December 1985, A32; Massie 595)

January 31, 1986

"[A]pparently as a gesture in the direction of the political reforms that the banks had indicated were a precondition for settlement," Botha gives speech announcing that influx controls would end and pass laws controlling movement of blacks into "white" areas would be repealed 1 July. (Ovenden 89)

February 1986

Fritz Leutwiler, Swiss banker mediating between South Africa and foreign banks holding South Africa's debt, meets with representatives of banks whose loans are caught in standstill "net"; they agree to interim settlement, until 30 June 1987, that includes "an increase of 1 percent in the interest payable, an immediate principal repayment of 5 percent on those debts originally maturing before the end of March 1986, a 5 percent principal repayment on the original maturity date of all other debt caught in the 'net'." (Ovenden 89)

March 4, 1986

Botha lifts state of emergency. (Washington Post, 13 June 1986, A26)

May 19, 1986

South African commandos strike alleged ANC "operational centers" in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia. Botha attempts to justify attacks as legitimate response to terrorism, similar to recent US air raid on Libya. Reagan administration lodges formal protest, recalls its military attaché from Pretoria, expels South Africa's military representative, but refuses to impose additional economic sanctions. (Washington Post, 20 May 1986, A1, A23; 21 May 1986, A1; Baker 42)

June 12, 1986

To head off planned protests marking 10th anniversary of Soweto uprising, South Africa declares nationwide state of emergency. More than 1,000 persons are detained on first day of decree. Simultaneously, Eminent Persons Group, appointed by Commonwealth to mediate between South African government and ANC, reports that it has failed, claims that Botha "is not interested in negotiations at this point in time", calls on Western nations to impose widespread sanctions. (New York Times, 13 June 1986, A1, A12; Massie 604-06)

June 16, 1986

In commencement address adapted for New York Times, Archbishop Tutu calls for international economic sanctions: "There is no guarantee that sanctions will topple apartheid, but it is the last nonviolent option left, and it is a risk with a chance. President Reagan's policy of constructive engagement ... [has] failed dismally." (New York Times, 16 June 1986, A19; Financial Times, 16 June 1986)

June 18, 1986

By voice vote, House approves, sends to Senate legislation imposing trade embargo against South Africa, requiring all US companies with operations there to disinvest within 180 days. US, UK veto UN Security Council resolution that would impose limited sanctions against South Africa. World Council of Churches reports that nearly 3,000 persons have been detained in week since state of emergency was declared. (New York Times, 19 June 1986, A1)

June 29, 1986

Zulu Chief Gatsha Buthelezi denounces House sanctions bill, asserting blacks "want more jobs, not less jobs. They want more investment, not less investment." (Washington Post, 30 June 1986, A17)

July 22, 1986

In his first major speech devoted to South Africa, Reagan urges Congress, Western Europe to "resist this emotional clamor for punitive sanctions," criticizes state of emergency, but praises Botha regime for "dramatic change" in recent years and attacks ANC for using "terrorist tactics." Moderate Senate Republicans criticize speech for offering no new initiatives, indicate their support for limited additional sanctions. (Washington Post, 23 July 1986, A1; 28 July 1986, A17; Baker 44; Massie 614-16)

August 4, 1986

Seven representatives of Commonwealth nations, meeting at "mini-summit" in London, split over sanctions against South Africa, with Thatcher agreeing only to call for voluntary bans on new investment, promotion of tourism in South Africa. She also pledges not to block possible EC sanctions to be considered next month. Other six representatives agree to recommend additional immediate measures, including banning new bank loans to private as well as public borrowers, imports of agricultural goods, uranium, coal, iron and steel, air links. Proposed measures would also define reinvestment of retained earnings as new investment, thus bringing it under ban. (Wall Street Journal, 5 August 1986, 1; 6 August 1986, 21; Washington Post, New York Times, 5 August 1986, A1; Commonwealth Secretariat, app. 3, 3)

August 15, 1986

Sanctions bill sponsored by Richard Lugar (R-IN) passes Senate 84-14. (Massie 617)

September 4, 1986

In attempt to head off sanctions legislation, Reagan renews executive order authorizing limited sanctions for another year. A week later, House of Representatives approves more moderate Senate bill without amendment and sends it to president. (Baker 44-45; Massie 617-18)

September 16, 1986

EC votes to ban imports of iron, steel, gold coins, and new investment in South Africa; investment ban does not extend to reinvestment of retained earnings. Ban on coal imports, most significant of proposed sanctions, is blocked by West German, Portuguese opposition. (Washington Post, 17 September 1986, A1; Lipton 1988, 29)

September 17, 1986

Coca-Cola Co., one of largest, most visible US companies remaining in South Africa, announces it will sell its operations there to multiracial group of investors as "statement of our opposition to apartheid." Company executives deny move was motivated by planned boycott of its products announced a week earlier by Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (Washington Post, 18 September 1986, A1)

September 19, 1986

Following EC's lead, Japan bans imports of iron and steel, but not iron ore or coal. (Washington Post, 20 September 1986, A16)

September 26, 1986

Reagan vetoes sanctions bill. California Governor George Deukmejian signs legislation requiring state to divest $11 billion in South African-related investments. (New York Times, 27 September 1986, A1)

October 2, 1986

Senate overrides Reagan's veto of sanctions bill by vote of 78 to 21, following House vote to override earlier in week (313 to 83). Falling well short of House-proposed sanctions, Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) extends and expands existing sanctions: it bans all loans to, new investment in South Africa (ban does not extend to letters of credit, loan rescheduling, reinvestment of retained profits); bans imports of iron and steel, coal, uranium, textiles, agricultural products, goods produced by government-controlled firms (parastatals), except for strategic materials for the US military; transfers South Africa's sugar quota to Philippines; bans export of petroleum and products, weapons and munitions; severs air links; prohibits US banks from accepting South African government deposits (worth $329 million in March); prohibits government agencies from cooperating with South African military, promoting trade or tourism in South Africa. In addition, Act authorizes $40 million in aid for disadvantaged South Africans, $4 million a year in scholarship funds for victims of apartheid; calls on ANC to suspend "terrorist activities"; threatens to impose additional sanctions if "substantial progress" toward dismantling apartheid is not made within a year of enactment. Act also restricts US military assistance to countries that do not join UN arms embargo, provides for sanctions against countries that "benefit from or take commercial advantage of" limitations imposed on US business. CAAA also sets five conditions for lifting of sanctions (see "Goals of Sender Country"). (Washington Post, 3 October 1986, A1, A16; New York Times, 3 October 1986, A1; Hayes 2; Baker 44-45, app. D; Lipton 1988, 18, app. 6)

Fall 1986

"Flood" of companies announce withdrawal from South Africa (see "Observed Economic Statistics"). Anti-apartheid activists, however, criticize licensing, other arrangements that allow parent companies to continue selling, servicing their products in South Africa. Barclays Bank, until recently largest British investor in South Africa, becomes first British firm to pull out, announcing that it will sell its 40 percent share in South Africa's second largest commercial bank, worth estimated $250 million. Student groups have been pressuring Barclays to withdraw; its share of student loan market has fallen to 17 percent from 28 percent in 1981. Barclays sells its interest for only $8.10 a share, far below market price of $14.58. (Washington Post, New York Times, 22 October 1986, A1; Wall Street Journal, 22 October 1986, 3; 24 October 1986, 2; Washington Post, 25 November 1986, A1, A17; The Economist, 29 November 1986, 65; Business Week, 8 December 1986, 54)

November 1986

UN arms embargo is significantly tightened by addition of spare parts, components, broadening of definition of covered articles to include military, police vehicles, equipment. (Lipton 1988, 15)

December 9, 1986

Rev. Sullivan announces that he will mount major divestment campaign, call for total economic embargo in June if significant progress in South Africa is not made by then. Sullivan says he has already received pledges of cooperation from pension funds, university and other investment funds with more than $60 billion in assets. (Washington Post, 10 December 1986, G1)

January 1987

Five major anti-apartheid groups issue guidelines for local governments with divestment laws on how to tighten them so as to prohibit types of licensing, franchise agreements signed by most US companies when pulling out of South Africa. Groups identify Kodak, which, when it withdrew in November, also prohibited its branches worldwide from selling its products to South Africa, as only company thus far to meet their criteria for severing all ties when disinvesting. Reagan administration grants exception to sanctions for South African uranium imported for reprocessing on behalf of third countries (e.g., Japan). (Washington Post, 20 November 1986, A1; New York Times, 9 February 1987, D1; Lipton 1988, 53, 65)

February 20, 1987

US, UK, West Germany veto Security Council resolution calling for package of mandatory sanctions modeled on those imposed by US over Reagan's veto in fall of 1986; France, Japan abstain. (Hayes 1)

March 24, 1987

With interim agreement due to expire in June, South Africa reaches three-year agreement with foreign creditor banks on rescheduling its debt. Under agreement, South Africa will continue to service all its debt, will continue to make principal payments on official debt (which was never frozen) as originally scheduled, and, by June 1990, will repay 13 percent of total principal of debt in standstill net. Agreement also contains two "exit" options, one that allows banks to convert "short-term claims frozen inside the net into repayable long-term debt," another that allows creditors to use claims to purchase equities in South Africa. News of agreement is interpreted in South Africa as indicating "a major shift in the perceptions and attitudes towards South Africa of some of the world's biggest and most influential banks" and as "taking the sting out of the most damaging sanction yet." (Financial Times, 25 March 1987, 1; Ovenden 91-93)

June 3, 1987

Rev. Sullivan calls on 127 US companies that are signatories to his code to pull out of South Africa, urges Congress to penalize other countries replacing US business, urges administration to break diplomatic relations, impose complete economic embargo against South Africa until it ends apartheid. (Washington Post, 4 June 1987, E1)

August 9, 1987

National Union of Mineworkers begins three-week strike, longest legal strike in South African history. (Baker 94)

October 1987

In report to Congress required by CAAA, Reagan says that sanctions have not contributed to achieving Act's goals, that he will not recommend additional sanctions. (Ovenden xiv; Baker 84)

December 1987

Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) successfully adds amendment to FY 1988 Deficit Reduction Finance Bill that denies foreign tax credits to US firms operating in South Africa. (Ovenden 51; Baker 62)

February—March 1988

South Africa "bans" all major nonwhite opposition groups, prohibits political activity by trade unions. Variety of new sanctions bills are introduced in Congress. (Washington Post, 23 March 1988, A1; International Trade Reporter, 30 March 1988, 473)

May 1988

US importers of strategic minerals increase purchases, stockpile to guard against possible retaliatory actions by South Africa if Congress passes tough sanctions bill. South Africa continues to reject retaliatory export embargoes, saying that it is opposed to sanctions, boycotts in principle. (Washington Post, 6 May 1988, A1)

August 11, 1988

By vote of 244 to 132, House approves sanctions legislation that would end all trade with South Africa except for imports of strategic minerals; require complete disinvestment; end military and intelligence cooperation; deny federal oil, gas, coal leases to international oil companies with investments in South Africa (primarily Royal Dutch-Shell, British Petroleum); prohibit US-owned or -registered ships from transporting oil to South Africa; require retaliation against other countries undercutting US sanctions. Legislation does not come to vote in Senate, dies at end of session. (Washington Post, 12 August 1988, A1)

December 1988

Peace pact is signed in New York in which South Africa agrees to implement UN plan for Namibia's independence in return for withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. (Washington Post, 21 March 1990, A1)

January 11, 1989

Rev. Boesak credits sanctions with role in inducing South Africa to sign UN accord providing for withdrawal of Cuban troops in Angola, independence for Namibia. In calling for additional sanctions, Boesak says, "The pressure of sanctions forced them [South African government] to the negotiating table. If that is true for Namibia and Angola, it must also be true for South Africa." (Washington Post, 12 January 1989, A30)

April 26, 1989

Mobil, largest remaining American employer in South Africa, cites Rangel amendment, which may have cost it $5 million in 1988, as one reason for its planned withdrawal from South Africa. Mobil reportedly will sell its assets there for around $155 million, recording a net book loss of about $140 million on the sale. In June, Goodyear also cites Rangel as one factor in its decision to withdraw. (New York Times, 27 April 1989, D1; 29 April 1989, A1; Wall Street Journal, 27 April 1989, A3)

May 17-18, 1989

Newly elected President George Bush adopts more conciliatory attitude toward ANC, other black opponents to Botha regime. He meets with Rev. Boesak and Archbishop Tutu who urge the Bush administration to impose financial sanctions on South Africa. Bush also announces he has invited Albertina Sisulu, wife of imprisoned ANC leader Walter Sisulu and co-presidents of banned UDF, for a visit in June. (Washington Post, 18 May 1989, A17; 19 May 1989, A13; 19 July 1989, A16; Financial Times, 20 June 1989, 20)

Late May 1989

Central Bank Governor de Kock warns that economic stagnation threatens country if political reforms are not taken to restore confidence, head off additional sanctions and induce lifting of existing ones. (Washington Post, 2 June 1989, A28; New York Times, 4 June 1989, section 4, 2)

June 1, 1989

Tutu, three other prominent church leaders urge international banks to exert financial pressure on South Africa to dismantle apartheid by refusing to reschedule its debts, refusing to extend trade credits. (Washington Post, 2 June 1989, A28)

July 1989

Mandela, still prisoner, meets with Botha in president's office in Cape Town. US General Accounting Office (GAO) releases report noting that failure to identify products associated with parastatals has inhibited enforcement of ban on imports from South African government agencies, state-owned companies identified by State Department. In particular, US Customs Service was generally unaware that gold bullion should fall under parastatal ban because mining companies sell gold to South Africa Reserve Bank, which then markets it internationally. Although US imports of gold bullion from South Africa fell to zero in 1987-88 from their 1986 level of $79 million, US imports of gold bullion from UK, Switzerland between January 1987, March 1989, were $175 million, $164 million, respectively. (Washington Post, 13 July 1989, A1; GAO 3)

August 8, 1989

Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting in Canberra, Australia, propose package of financial sanctions to be considered by Commonwealth heads of government at meeting in October. Measures recommended include official lobbying of banks to impose tough conditions on South Africa when its debt is rescheduled next year; tightened restrictions on new lending to South Africa; imposition of tougher terms for trade financing. New restrictions, however, are blocked by Britain at the October meeting of heads of state. (Financial Times, 9 August 1989, 1; 23 October 1989, 2)

August 14, 1989

Botha, who suffered mild stroke in January, resigns abruptly. In his resignation speech, he takes hard line against ANC, harshly criticizes expected successor de Klerk. (Washington Post, 15 August 1989, A12)

September 1989

Congress considers defining CAAA ban on new loans to include rescheduling of old ones. Treasury officials testify against such changes, arguing that they would encourage South Africa to default, which would help government rather than anti-apartheid cause. British anti-apartheid coalition launches campaign to pressure three British banks not to reschedule South Africa's debt; group also calls for tighter enforcement of existing oil, arms embargoes, as well as additional trade, financial sanctions. (International Trade Reporter, 9 August 1989, 1049; Financial Times, 2 September 1989, 3)

September 5-6, 1989

Black opposition groups call for general strike to protest exclusion from elections. Acting President de Klerk, campaigning on platform of reform, negotiations, is elected to five-year term; his National Party wins majority in parliament, although by slimmest margin since party was founded. Seats are lost nearly equally to newly formed liberal Democratic Party, Conservative Party; de Klerk interprets results as mandate for reform. (Financial Times, 8 September 1989, 6)

September 13, 1989

Largest legal protest march since 1959, involving over 20,000 people, takes place peacefully in Cape Town. (Washington Post, 14 September 1989, A1)

October 2-3, 1989

President Bush sends annual CAAA report to Congress in which he concludes that sanctions "have not to date been successful," declines to impose additional measures. Testifying on report, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman J. Cohen is a bit more optimistic, saying that "sanctions have played a role in stimulating new thinking within the white power structure of South Africa." Cohen says administration would like to see some normalization of political life in South Africa, such as releasing political prisoners, unbanning political organizations, by end of year; he adds that administration would consider imposing additional sanctions if actions toward ending apartheid are not taken in next parliamentary session, to be held from February to June 1990. (Washington Post, 4 October 1989, A8)

October 10, 1989

De Klerk announces Walter Sisulu, six colleagues will be released from prison within days; phones Margaret Thatcher directly to inform her. Move is "clearly [timed] in order to strengthen the anti-sanctions posture of ... Thatcher" in advance of Commonwealth heads of state meeting beginning 11 October. (Financial Times, 12 October 1989, 15; Washington Post, 16 October 1989, A1)

October 18, 1989

Preempting anti-apartheid activists' efforts to increase financial pressure, South Africa concludes three-and-a-half-year rescheduling agreement with its creditors several months before current agreement is due to expire. Anti-apartheid groups criticize banks for easing the immediate debt pressure on South Africa. However, with continued capital outflows South Africa will probably be able to grow no more than 2 percent a year rather than at rate of 3 percent to 4 percent. (Washington Post, 19 October 1989, A45; 20 October 1989, A37; Financial Times, 20 October 1989, 4, 18)

October 22, 1989

Commonwealth summit ends with joint communiqué agreeing to maintain existing sanctions, threatening to impose additional measures if progress in dismantling apartheid is not made in six months. However, Thatcher undercuts joint statement by issuing her own that is critical of sanctions, calls for "positive and constructive steps" rather than "tightening [of] sanctions and the imposition of new punitive measures...." (Financial Times, 23 October 1989, 2; Washington Post, 25 October 1989, A38)

November 16, 1989

De Klerk orders immediate opening of whites-only beaches to blacks, announces his intention to repeal Separate Amenities Act, which enforces system of "petty" apartheid measures (much of which has already eroded), as soon as possible after parliament convenes in February. (Washington Post, 17 November 1989, A1)

January 24, 1990

Assistant Secretary of State Cohen meets with de Klerk, tells him that, if conditions set out in CAAA are met, "the administration will immediately consult with Congress with a view toward suspending or modifying sanctions." (Washington Post, 25 January 1990, A29)

February 2, 1990

In speech opening parliament, de Klerk promises to release Mandela as soon as possible; suspends death penalty; unbans ANC, Pan Africanist Congress, South African Communist Party, 33 other opposition organizations; releases some political prisoners, although not those imprisoned for violent offenses (Human Rights Commission in South Africa estimates that only one-fourth of 2,500 convicted political prisoners serving sentences will be eligible for release); repeals parts of Emergency Regulations, but does not lift state of emergency completely; lifts all restriction orders on individuals; limits duration of detentions under Emergency Regulations. (Washington Post, New York Times, 3 February 1990, A1)

February 11, 1990

Mandela is released without conditions, asks international community to keep pressure on South Africa: "To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process toward ending apartheid." Bush telephones Mandela, invites him to visit White House. Bush says he spoke two days earlier with de Klerk, invited him to visit as well. (New York Times, 12 February 1990, A1, A17; Washington Post, 12 February 1990, A1)

February 12, 1990

Thatcher calls for meeting of EC foreign ministers to consider community-wide lifting of voluntary sanctions. Bush says US sanctions cannot be lifted until South Africa has met conditions outlined in CAAA. (Financial Times, 13 February 1990, 1; New York Times, 13 February 1990, A17)

February 15, 1990

Twenty thousand whites march through Pretoria in protest against de Klerk's release of Mandela, legalization of ANC. (Washington Post, 16 February 1990, A25)

February 20, 1990

Thatcher unilaterally lifts ban on new investment in South Africa after 11 other EC foreign ministers decide only to "re-engag[e] South Africa in cultural and scientific cooperation." (Financial Times, 21 February 1990, 1)

March 22, 1990

Secretary of State James A. Baker III meets with de Klerk in Cape Town, in highest-level meeting between the two countries in more than a decade. Mandela, other black leaders criticize meeting as premature. (Washington Post, 23 March 1990, A15)

April 17, 1990

De Klerk rejects majority rule as "unacceptable" to whites: "We believe that majority rule is not suitable for a country like South Africa because it will lead to the domination and even the suppression of minorities." (Washington Post, 18 April 1990, A1)

April 19, 1990

In speech to parliament, de Klerk announces that, while government will repeal Separate Amenities Act, it will delay for at least a year consideration of main "pillars" of apartheid: Group Areas Act, Land Acts, Population Registration Act. He also noted that those laws may not be fully repealed, but may be replaced with substitute legislation. (Washington Post, 20 April 1990, A20)

May 2, 1990

South African government, ANC hold first formal talks, focusing on remaining obstacles to substantive negotiations on political reform, including release of all political prisoners, lifting of state of emergency, general amnesty for all political exiles, end to ANC's armed struggle. (Washington Post, 3 May 1990, A1)

May 8, 1990

De Klerk begins 16-day trip to EC. Netherlands says it would welcome de Klerk visit later in year, Portugal pledges to support lifting of sanctions at upcoming meeting of EC foreign ministers. Other EC leaders praise de Klerk's reforms but refuse to discuss lifting of sanctions. (Financial Times, 9 May 1990, 6; 16 May 1990, 24)

June 4, 1990

Mandela begins 6-week, 13-nation tour, including several days in US, during which he says sanctions will be "uppermost in all the discussions." (Washington Post, 5 June 1990, A20)

June 7, 1990

De Klerk announces that state of emergency will not be renewed when it expires 8 June, except in Natal, where interfactional violence between ANC, Zulu Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha organization has killed 3,500 people in last three years. De Klerk also says 48 blacks detained under state of emergency will be released as gesture of goodwill; however, between 350 and 3,500 political prisoners remain in custody. (Washington Post, 8 June 1990, A1; 19 June 1990, A1)

June 25-26, 1990

Mandela meets with Bush at White House, addresses Congress, urges both to keep sanctions in place. EC leaders reject Thatcher's suggestion of immediate lifting of some sanctions, but say they would consider "gradual relaxation" of sanctions "when there is further clear evidence that the process of change already initiated continues." In South Africa, right-wing leaders call for early elections, claiming that de Klerk has no mandate for his reforms. (Washington Post, 26 June 1990, A1; 27 June 1990, A23; Financial Times, 27 June 1990, 1)

August— September 1990

Violence in Natal escalates, spreads to Soweto, other Johannesburg townships. After 500 people are killed in 12-day period, South African government declares areas of greatest violence to be "unrest areas," imposes restrictions, grants police powers similar to those under state of emergency. ANC criticizes move, charges police are siding with Inkatha against ANC, trying to promote tribal strife, weaken ANC in negotiations. In September, Inkatha attacks workers' hostel, with support from police and army units, killing at least 34 persons, wounding many more. Claiming that white extremists are fanning violence to undermine negotiations, Mandela says ANC may have to resume its armed struggle if killing does not stop soon. (Washington Post, 25 August 1990, A6; 5 September 1990, A21; 12 September 1990, A16)

September 23-25, 1990

De Klerk becomes first South African head of state to visit Washington in 45 years. Following meeting at White House, administration officials say South Africa has met two of CAAA's five conditionslifting ban on political parties, agreeing to enter good-faith negotiations with black oppositionand Bush says he would ask Congress to lift or modify sanctions if two more conditions are metlifting state of emergency in Natal, freeing all political prisoners. (CAAA gives president discretion to lift some or all sanctions if four of five conditions outlined in the act are met, fifth being repeal of the two main pillars of apartheid: Group Areas Act, Population Registration Act.) Meeting with members of Congress, de Klerk says he wants to move to American-style democracy based on principle of one man, one vote, although combined with guarantees to protect white minority. (New York Times, 25 September 1990, A1; 26 September 1990, A3)

October 4, 1990

Deputy Constitutional Minister Roelf Meyer says South African government has dropped idea of "group rights" in postapartheid political system, that whites will have to depend on other "mechanisms," such as strong bill of rights, strong regional governments, political parties to protect their rights. (Washington Post, 5 October 1990, A29)

October 15, 1990

Repeal of Separate Amenities Act becomes effective. However, officials in many small towns, villages say they will use Group Areas Act (which bars blacks from residing in white areas), other municipal regulations to continue barring blacks from using public libraries, swimming pools, other public facilities. For example, farming town of Bethal says it will require nonresidents (i.e. blacks) to pay prohibitively expensive membership fee to use public library. (Financial Times, 15 October 1990, 24)

December 1990

EC leaders in Rome vote to allow new investments in South Africa to acknowledge the political reforms of the past year, but state remaining sanctions stay in place because "the basic institutions of apartheid are still firmly in place." (Washington Post, 16 December 1990, A1)

February 1991

EC foreign ministers agree to lift economic sanctions once the South African Parliament repeals three basic apartheid laws, as has been requested by South African President Frederick W. de Klerk. (Washington Post, 9 February 1991, A9).

February 9, 1991

Mandela threatens to "unleash a wave of ‘mass action'" (street demonstrations, rallies, boycotts) to make new investment in South Africa impossible if the United States and European governments lift sanctions. (Washington Post, 9 February 1991, A9)

February 17, 1991

Nine-nation Commonwealth committee decides to maintain all trade, financial and sporting sanctions until South Africa takes more concrete steps toward the abolition of apartheid. (Financial Times, 18 February 1991, 4)

Early June 1991

South Africa parliament repeals the Land Act, Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act and releases several political prisoners. (Banks, Day, Muller 768)

July 9, 1991

The International Olympic Committee ends its 21-year ban on South African participation in the Olympics. The International Cricket Council in London votes to recognize the United Cricket Board of South Africa. This follows urging by the British Prime Minister John Major for the world to gradually welcome Pretoria back to international sports. (Observer, 10 July 1991, 1; New York Times, 11 July 1991, A1)

July 10, 1991

Concluding that it has met the 5 conditions in the CAAA, President Bush lifts US sanctions against South Africa. Mandela criticizes decision, says US should wait for more progress toward the elimination of apartheid before lifting the sanctions. Top Democratic leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People all oppose the decision. To counter his domestic critics, Bush announces a doubling of US assistance to black South Africans from $40 million to $80 million. However, the US continues to oppose loans for South Africa in multilateral institutions, and a ban on nuclear trade and the arms embargo also remain in place. (Financial Times, 11 July 1991, 14; New York Times, 11 July 1991, A1; Facts on File, 14 July 1991, 505 A1)

October 23, 1991

Japan lifts economic sanctions against South Africa. (Financial Times, 23 October 1991, 9)

April 7, 1992

The EC lifts its ban on oil sales to South Africa, and votes to encourage resumption of more sports, cultural and scientific links. The only remaining EC sanctions on South Africa now are the UN Security Council ban on the sale of arms and the exchange of military attaches. (Financial Times, 7 April 1992, 4)

February 3, 1993

Norway announces it will partially lift its economic and trade sanctions against South Africa on March 15 but maintain its embargo on oil and weapons sales. (Financial Times, 24 February 1993, 4)

May 25, 1993

The World Bank announces that $1 billion worth of development projects will be available for South Africa once a multiracial transitional government is installed. (Financial Times, 25 May 1991, 4)

July 15, 1993

The Clinton administration plans to urge state and local governments to lift their economic sanctions against South Africa (International Trade Reporter, 21 July 1993, 1194)

August 1993

The State of Massachusetts threatens Digital Equipment Corporation with sanctions for its decision to start doing business in South Africa. 165 US counties, cities and states maintain some type of penalty against companies doing business in South Africa. (Journal of Commerce, 13 August 1993, 3A)

September 13, 1993

India announces it will lift trade sanctions against South Africa this month and may soon establish diplomatic ties with Pretoria. (Financial Times, 13 September 1993, 1)

September 25, 1993

The day after the South African parliament approves the creation of a multiracial Transitional Executive Council, Nelson Mandela announces to the United Nations that the end to apartheid is in sight. In a speech to the UN Special Committee on Apartheid, he states, "we therefore extend an earnest appeal to you the governments, and the peoples you represent, to end the economic sanctions you imposed and which have brought us to the point where the transition to democracy has now been enshrined in the law of our country." (Financial Times, 25 September 1993, 1)

September 29, 1993

Members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) vote to lift economic sanctions against South Africa, except for the UN mandated arms embargo. OAU countries will also maintain a ban on oil sales and nuclear technologies to Pretoria. (Financial Times, 27 January 1993, 4)

October 1993

The UN General Assembly agrees to remove the oil embargo when the transitional executive council becomes operational. The arms embargo will remain in place. (New York Times, 9 October 1993, 8)

October 15, 1993

Nelson Mandela and President de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (Banks, Day, Muller 771)

November 23, 1993

President Clinton signs into law a bill repealing all remaining federal anti-apartheid sanctions, except for the arms embargo and restrictions on transfers of nuclear technology. Lifted sanctions include: ban on aid; ban on OPIC and Export-Import Bank programs; trade restrictions including inegibility for MFN status. The law also calls on local governments to repeal their own sanctions before October 1995. If they fail to do so by that date, they risk the loss of federal transportation funds. (Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 27 November 1993, 3281)

May 10, 1994

Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as the first democratically-elected president of South Africa. (Christian Science Monitor, 10 May 1994, 1)

June 1994

UN Security Council lifts its 1977 arms embargo against South Africa. Pretoria is also allowed to reactivate its membership to the UN General Assembly and UN specialized agencies. (Banks, Day, Muller 771)

February 27, 1998

After settling a dispute with Pretoria over the extradition of South Africans involved in illegal arms deals, the US lifts its 35-year old arms embargo against South Africa, the last remaining sanction imposed at the beginning of the apartheid era. (New York Times, 28 February 1998, A4)

Goals of Sender Country

UN General Assembly
Goals are to end apartheid, possibly leading to black majority rule; terminate South African presence in Namibia. (Doxey 1980, 60-65) UN Security Council Resolution 418: "[s]trongly condemning the South African Government for its acts of repression, its defiant continuance of the system of apartheid and its attacks against neighbouring independent States…; Decides that all States shall cease forthwith any provision to South Africa of arms and related material of all types, … and shall cease as well the provision of all types of equipment and supplies and grants of licensing arrangements for the manufacture or maintenance of the aforementioned.…" (UN Security Council S/RES/418, 4 November 1977)

United States

US Vice President Walter F. Mondale, speaking in South Africa, 20 May 1977:
"Every citizen should have the right to vote and every vote should be equally weighted." (Chettle 11)

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester A. Crocker, in April 1981 meeting with South African officials, stresses that "top U.S. priority [in southern Africa] is to stop Soviet encroachment." (Baker 8-10, 107-08)

Crocker concentrates on settlement of disputes in Angola, Namibia, believing that "Regional security would diminish white South Africans' siege mentality, produced by their country's isolation in the region, and increase their willingness to embark on a program of serious reform. Based on this premise, external pressures, such as public criticism and sanctions, would be counterproductive, exacerbate white fears, and increase government intransigence." (Baker 9-10)

President Ronald Reagan, in announcing September 1985 sanctions:
"Yes, we in America, because of what we are and what we stand for, have influence to do good. We also have immense potential to make things worse. Before taking fateful steps, we must ponder the key question: Are we helping to change the system? Or are we punishing the blacks whom we seek to help? American policy through several administrations has been to use our influence and our leverage against apartheid, not against innocent people who are the victims of apartheid." (Washington Post, 10 September 1985, A12)

US Congress
Section 311 of Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 provides for termination of sanctions if South African government takes following steps: "(1) releases all persons persecuted for their political beliefs or detained unduly without trial and Nelson Mandela from prison; (2) repeals the state of emergency...and releases all detainees held under such state of emergency; (3) unbans democratic political parties and permits the free exercise by South Africans of all races of the right to form political parties, express political opinions, and otherwise participate in the political process; (4) repeals the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act and institutes no other measures with the same purposes; and (5) agrees to enter into good faith negotiations with truly representative members of the black majority without preconditions."

Section 311 also provides for modification of any sanctions if president determines that South Africa has taken "three of the four actions listed in paragraphs (2) through (5)" and "made substantial progress toward dismantling the system of apartheid and establishing a nonracial democracy." (Lipton 1988, 145)

Howard Wolpe (D-MI), Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa:
"Sanctions aren't a quick fix for apartheid. There is a long, protracted struggle in process, and [sanctions] are part of a pattern of developments that will shorten this time frame and accelerate the onset of negotiations." (Wall Street Journal, 21 September 1987, 24)

President George Bush:
"Lifting the sanctions at this time is the right thing to do in order to encourage continued change in his country, to help provide a more stable and dynamic economy in which the blacks of South Africa can participate." (Reuters, 10 July 1991)

Commonwealth of Nations
"African and Asian countries have used the Commonwealth as a particular source of pressure on South Africa.... Commonwealth pressures also contributed to the UK's gradual ending of its defence links with South Africa....Over the last decade, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have gradually shifted to support for sanctions against South Africa, leaving the UK increasingly isolated within the Commonwealth.... Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, India was the first country to sever trade (and all other) relations with South Africa in 1964, and has since had no official relations or commerce. Among the African countries, Nigeria has taken a lead in calling for economic sanctions, and has taken punitive action against some transnational companies involved in South Africa." (Lipton 1988, 16, 20)

Response of Target Country

John H. Chettle
Limited progress is made by early 1980s in race relations, for example, desegregation of some public facilities, permanent presence of Africans accepted in designated white areas, race-neutral labor legislation, significant recognition of black trade unions. (Chettle 50-55, 65, 67-68)

Margaret P. Doxey
"South Africa developed close trading links with France and Japan; military equipment was obtained from France ... and in return France became an important purchaser of South African uranium." (Doxey 1980, 109)

New York Times
"So far, Pretoria has managed to stay ahead by paying a premium and keeping details of oil purchases secret. Disclosure of oil transactions is punishable by large fines and long prison sentences....To achieve a measure of energy security, the country has spent millions of dollars to build up an oil stockpile in disused coal mines and specially built tank farms. The supply is intended to cover consumption for six months to two years....Government officials predict that the Sasol oil-from-coal plants will meet more than 40 percent of South Africa's oil needs by the mid-1980s." (New York Times, 21 March 1983, D7; Bissell 83-85)

"... the South Africans pursued a number of strategies designed to heighten their ability to withstand potential American pressures: (1) establishment of intense economic ties in other directions, as with Taiwan and Israel; (2) the pursuit of technological self-sufficiency; (3) maximizing the value of exports and capitalizing on good fortune like the skyrocketing price of gold in 1979-80; and (4) pointing out to the US and others the collateral damage that sanctions would wreak on nearby black states in southern Africa." (Bissell 93)

South Africa's tools for countering sanctions include import substitution (partly through technology licensing); "sanctions busting" (transshipment, false labeling); adjustments in macroeconomic policies (exchange controls, dual exchange rate system). (Lewis 75)

President P.W. Botha
In his first major policy statement after declaring first state of emergency: "We have never given in to outside demands and we are not going to do so. South Africa's problems will be solved by South Africans and not by foreigners. We are not going to be deterred from doing what we think best, nor will we be forced into doing what we don't want to do." (Washington Post, 16 August 1985, A1)

When asked to adopt reforms to ward off sanctions, [1986]: "You're giving me a choice. If we don't do these things, we'll be poorer, and if we do them, we will lose control. You and I have both lived poor and we can live poor again, but we cannot lose control." (Journal of Commerce, 24 September 1991, 8A)

Deputy Foreign Minister Louis Nel
Releasing brochure intended to influence Senate vote on sanctions in September 1985: "Let us be frank; our neighboring states will suffer before we do. Those measures will have an impact on the whole of southern Africa, and South Africa will be better able to absorb them than its neighbors. The choice is between sanctions on the one hand and political, social and economic progress on the other." (Washington Post, 6 September 1985, A1)

Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha
During fall 1986 congressional debate on overturning Reagan's veto of CAAA, with help of Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), Botha calls Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Edward Zorinsky (D-NE) threatening to retaliate against sanctions by cutting off grain purchases from US. Both senators nevertheless vote to override. (Washington Post, New York Times, 3 October 1986, A1; Massie 619)

Private Sector
Anticipating possible freeze of bank accounts in US, most South Africans move their deposits offshore, primarily to Switzerland, which already "handles most of South Africa's gold transactions" according to spokesman for major US bank. (Journal of Commerce, 28 July 1986, 3A)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the House Subcommittee on Africa after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in late 1994, "We don't want our chains made more comfortable. We want them removed." (Quoted in Massie, 562)

Reverend Allan Boesak in a June 1985 speech calling on the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in the United States to support sanctions and disinvestment, "You will surely ask whether your action will make us suffer. But you will begin to understand if you learn as a woman said on Friday in Johannesburg, that there is a difference between suffering in hopelessness and suffering with hope." (Quoted in Massie, 574)

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) issues a statement in November 1985 endorsing sanctions, "All forms of international pressure on the South African government-including disinvestment or the threat of disinvestment-are an essential and effective form of pressure on the South African regime." (Quoted in Massie 598)

Zulu Chief Gatsha Buthelezi agrees to inclusion in a series of American, European advertisements opposing disinvestment; is quoted as saying, "Those who advocate trade sanctions and economic withdrawal to help my people and punish the whites in South Africa may be killing us with kindness. What we need is not disengagement, but full foreign participation in South Africa's overall economic development to create more jobs, higher wages, and better training opportunities. I am no apologist for apartheid but a realist who knows that a job may make the difference between living or starving for many black families in South Africa." (Quoted in Massie 361).

In late 1985, Buthelezi criticizes COSATU, creates alternative union, "Those who have supported sanctions so far from inside have done so as surrogates for the ANC." (Quoted in Massie 598)

Attitude of Other Countries

United Kingdom, 1981
"British business and political leaders are concerned about not antagonizing their important trade partners in black Africa, but are not, under current circumstances, willing to reduce trade substantially with South Africa or to withdraw British investments. Avoiding this choice is a key objective of British policy." (Study Commission 303)

West Germany, 1981
"The German government does not support economic sanctions, trade boycotts, or prohibitions on investments." (Study Commission 305)

European Community
"All EC members subscribe to the EC sanctions package of September 1986.... The Thatcher government opposes further economic sanctions, and only reluctantly agreed to participate in the recent Commonwealth and EC measures, having whittled away the compulsory elements of these as far as possible. The Kohl administration in West Germany and the Portuguese government share Mrs Thatcher's reluctance to impose further sanctions. But all three governments have gradually shifted their position, probably mainly in response to developments in the USA. The policy of France used to lag behind that of the UK and USA.... Then, in July 1985, [France] unexpectedly took a number of initiatives on South Africa.... However, France continued to supply nuclear exports and maintenance for Koeberg [French-supplied commercial nuclear power project in South Africa], in accordance with its 1979 contract for the nuclear plant." (Lipton 1988, 18-19)

Scandinavian Countries
In October 1985, foreign ministers of Nordic Council (representing Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) approve "Nordic Program of Action against South Africa" calling for mandatory UN sanctions and, in the meantime, unilateral restrictions on investment, loans, certain goods (e.g., arms, oil, computers, krugerrands). In early 1986, Denmark bans imports of coal from South Africa; a few months later, it becomes "the first European country to ban all trade in goods and services (with the exception of imports of raw phosphate, vermiculite and tanning extracts)." In early 1985, Sweden closes loopholes in earlier sanctions, tightens restrictions on investment in South Africa. In 1987, both Sweden, Norway impose nearly comprehensive trade, investment bans against South Africa, with limited exceptions for some raw materials. Norway's ban includes shipping of North Sea oil; measure is strongly opposed by Norwegian shipping industry. Scandinavian countries are among leading donors to so-called front-line states (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe). (Financial Times, 21 February 1985, 2; Lipton 1988, 19, app. 7)

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
"Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other African and Asian countries have tried for almost a decade to keep oil from reaching South Africa." (New York Times, 21 March 1983, D7)

Organization of African Unity
"Since its formation in 1963, the OAU has provided the institutional framework for activity against South Africa by black African states....resolutions calling for commercial, diplomatic, and political sanctions against South Africa have been introduced regularly at the United Nations by the African states." (Study Commission 305)

Responding to Botha's defiant August 1985 speech rejecting fundamental reform of apartheid system, Australia decides to close its trade office in Johannesburg, ban direct investment in Australia by South African government or its agencies, ban import of krugerrands, end export assistance for Australian firms trading with South Africa. In addition, Australia asks banks, financial institutions to voluntarily cease lending to South Africa, bans export of petroleum products, computers, other products of potential use to South African police or army. Defending "apparent mildness" of actions, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Hayden says, "The important thing is not to use up all your shots in one volley." (Washington Post, 20 August 1985, A10; Financial Times, 20 August 1985, 1)

In summer 1986, Japan bans export of computers to South Africa, discourages import of gold coins from South Africa. Following adoption in fall of 1986 of additional sanctions by US, EC, Japan bans imports of iron and steel, restricts travel and tourism to and from South Africa. (Financial Times, 16 June 1986, 2; Lipton 1988, 23)

Southern African Development Coordination Conference
This organization of front-line states estimates that South African "aggression" and "destabilization" have cost its neighbors $10 billion since 1980, including $1.6 billion in direct war damages. Conference Executive Secretary Simba Makoni says, "Sanctions are a road not to a peaceful change but a less violent change." He also says that South Africa's neighbors realize that economic sanctions will hurt them as well, but that they are willing to bear that cost "because there is no other alternative." (Washington Post, 20 November 1985, A24)

In 1983, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe criticizes Reagan administration policy of "constructive engagement," saying it has encouraged South Africa "to become more aggressive" toward neighboring black-ruled nations. Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda earlier called on West to pressure South Africa, asking, "Why action in [Poland] and no action in [South Africa]?" (Washington Post, 2 April 1983, A16; 19 August 1983, A14)

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Mugabe concedes that "It became clear that some frontline states are not able to impose sanctions because their economies are tied into the South African economy like Siamese twins... Although unable to do so themselves they urge those who can—especially the big powers—to adopt sanctions." Zimbabwe has also taken lead in trying to reduce dependence of front-line states on South Africa for transport routes. "At present, 60 per cent of the external trade of the neighboring countries is said to go to, from or via South Africa." (Washington Post, 11 February 1988, A37; Hayes 79)

Legal Notes

International Court of Justice (ICJ)
In December 1966, ICJ holds that Ethiopia, Liberia do not have standing to challenge South African administration of Namibia. (Doxey 1980, 63)

In January 1971, ICJ upholds Security Council Resolution 276 that ends South African trusteeship of Namibia. (Doxey 1980, 63)

Economic Impact

Observed Economic Statistics

"[A]s skill-intensive manufacturing grew, apartheid became an ever greater burden. The color bar kept white wages high by preventing blacks from competing for skilled jobs; apartheid retarded the development of the black consumer market, and depressed demand; international opposition began to restrict South African access to export markets, foreign capital, and technology; and after the 1976 Soweto riots apartheid was increasingly seen to threaten domestic stability, which also hampered growth. The economy was proving it could no longer sustain the contradictions of apartheid." (Waldmeir 26)

South African real GDP grows a total of 4.7 percent from 1981 to 1987; nonagricultural employment is stagnant, population grows by 2.5 percent annually during same period, leading to 10 percent drop in per capita income. (Lewis 27-28)

"South Africa has had a disappointing growth rate since the mid-1970s, and especially during the 1980s.... And, the record clearly shows that sanctions are only one of a number of external shocks that have adversely affected the South Africa economy since 1980s, and that they are by no means the most important factor.... Domestic factors also contributed to South Africa's economic problems, these included: one of the severest droughts of the century...; the widespread internal unrest that began in late 1984; and the burgeoning costs of the apartheid bureaucracy involved in the establishment of the tricameral system in 1984." (Lipton 1990, 18)

Greater part of increase in foreign direct investment in South Africa since 1950 has been reinvested earnings; since 1956, remittances of profits, dividends have substantially exceeded new capital inflows. "For the past 20-30 years, South Africa has financed virtually all its growth from domestic investment." Declining productivity of investment has more impact on growth than does level of investment, whether domestic or foreign. (Lewis 66-71)

As of 1979, total foreign investment in South Africa was $26.3 billion, of which 80 percent was held by US (20 percent), UK (40 percent), West Germany (10 percent), Switzerland (5 percent), France (5 percent). (Study Commission 134)

Wisconsin (1978), Nebraska (1980), Connecticut (1980) adopt legislation calling for divestment of shares held by public institutions in US companies with investments in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, cities of Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, New York pass laws forbidding investment of municipal or state funds in companies operating in South Africa. In 1986, California announces it will gradually divest itself of holdings in companies with ties to South Africa; decision affects about $10 billion in investments. By end of 1988, 23 states, 19 counties, 79 cities adopt various economic measures to distance themselves from South Africa. (Chettle 106-08; New York Times, 28 October 1984, A18; Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1984, A1; Lipton 1988, 23-24; Baker 61)

Finance Minister Barend du Plessis estimates in 1985 that shortfall in foreign investment capital has reduced annual growth rate from possible 5.5 percent to 3.5 percent "in recent years." (Washington Post, 1 September 1985, A30)

UN Sanctions
In late 1970s, early 1980s, South Africa depends on oil for less than 20 percent of its total energy needs, but 80 percent of energy needs of transport sector. Moreover, South Africa has stockpiled at least one to two years' supply and is completing two nuclear power plants, a third Sasol coal-conversion plant. By one estimate, the stockpile would entail "tying up $1-$4 billion or more in capital, depending on acquisition price." In 1990 it is estimated that Sasol plants provide one-third of South Africa's oil consumption. Some estimates of total cost of oil embargo, including price premium on imports, costs of stockpiling, costs of construction and operation of Sasol plants, fall in range of $1 billion to $2 billion. Others question magnitude of these estimates, noting that some South Africans (e.g., dealers and shippers) have gained from embargo, and that South Africa might have pursued coal-conversion technology in any case after 1973-74 oil shock. (Chettle 82; Spandau 153-55; Lewis 60, 103; Lipton 1988, 86-87)

"Direct costs [of the oil embargo] have more than doubled South Africa's oil import bill… Direct costs of the oil embargo in the 1980's equaled South Africa's gross foreign debt, which by the end of the decade was estimated at between $15 to 20 billion. Indeed, had the oil embargo not been imposed, the 1985 South African debt crisis would probably not have emerged… In addition to these direct costs, economic activity in South Africa suffered from spillover effects to other markets and opportunity costs, while the country's long-term development was hurt… Economic activity in South Africa has also been hampered by the fact that fewer new technologies became available to the country during the implementation of sanctions."(Van Bergejik 343-344)

South Africa: Arms Transfers, 1963-90 (millions of US dollars)


Source: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World military expenditures and arms transfers, various issues.

"...informed estimates are that markups for arms purchased on the international black market range between 20 and 100 percent." (Washington Post, 24 February 1985, A26)

Reports suggest that price premium on military goods, licensing arrangements doubled when UN arms embargo was made mandatory in 1977. (Lewis 102)

"The economic development program ... calls for reduced reliance on foreign capital. This reflects concern that South Africa has been overly dependent on foreign investment in the past, making the economy vulnerable to the effects of domestic political and social unrest on outside investors. For example, the drop in foreign investment following the Sharpeville shootings in 1960 prolonged and deepened the recession of 1959-63, while the reaction of foreign investors to the Soweto riots of 1976 had a similar impact on the 1974-78 downturn." (Study Commission 134)

Financial crisis
Despite decrease in lending to public sector from about $500 million in 1979 to $200 million in 1985, US bank lending to nonbank private sector in South Africa doubles to over $1 billion, while lending to South African banks increases fivefold to more than $3 billion in 1984. By 1985, short-term debt is 40 percent of total South African liabilities to foreigners. (Financial Times, 18 February 1985, 10; New York Times, 29 April 1985, D8; Lewis 65; Lipton 1988, 60)

American banks reportedly withdraw $1 billion in first half of 1985. "It was their refusal to extend new credit, primarily on political grounds, that touched off the short-term debt crisis [in August]. British banks, which are owed more than a quarter of the $12 billion debt falling due in the next 12 months, are also unwilling to make new loans…" (Washington Post, 1 September 1985, A1)

On the decision not to rollover South Africa's loans at the end of July 1985, a Chase Manhattan Bank executive said, "'We felt that the risk attached to political unrest and economic instability became too high for our investors. We decided to withdraw. It was never the intention to facilitate change in South Africa, the decision was taken purely on account of what was in the interest of Chase and its assets.'

"Probably other unspoken factors also influenced Chase: the feelings of black board members; the threat of depositor or shareholder resistance; the impact of nightly television footage of South African police brutality. But the move was primarily an economic response to economic conditions. South Africa was unstable, and small; small, unstable countries (unlike large ones) do not borrow money." (Waldmeir 56)

At end of August, rand falls from 54 cents to 34 cents before South Africa closes exchange. "It is widely acknowledged that the collapse of the rand...was not justified by the economic fundamentals...politics intervened in the dual form of domestic unrest and the threat of economic sanctions which between them precipitated the currency crisis." (Financial Times, 29 August 1985, 10; 30 August 1985, 10)

September 1985 debt repayment moratorium affects $13.6 billion in debt "inside the net." South Africa continues regular repayments on the 40 percent of its debt that is "outside the net," including "public bonds, debts guaranteed by governments and outstanding debts to international financial institutions (mainly the IMF)." Pending rescheduling agreement, South Africa unilaterally sets interest rate for servicing of debt inside net at 1/4 percent over London interbank offer rate (LIBOR). "In nominating a 1/4% loading over LIBOR, the South African government was effectively conceding to lenders some compensation for the moratorium." (Ovenden 85)

Financial rand, reintroduced during liquidity crisis in August-September 1985, trades at discount relative to commercial rand, must be used for investments in South Africa by nonresidents; capital imported by immigrants; proceeds from sale of South African securities, other equities if repatriated abroad; investments abroad by South African residents (these transactions must first be approved by authorities); capital exports by emigrants. Other transactions, goods trade, payments of investment income, royalties, use commercial rand. In period 1985-88, financial rand trades at average discount to commercial rand of 40 percent. Because financial, commercial rand accounts must be kept separate, dual exchange rate, primarily intended to discourage disinvestment, also limits impact on balance of payments of any disinvestment that occurs. (Ovenden 113)

GAO estimates that $10.8 billion flowed out of South Africa from January 1985 through June 1989, including $3.7 billion in loan repayments to banks, $7.1 billion in other debt repayments, capital flight. GAO report also notes that most US banks appear to have stopped providing even short-term trade credits to South Africa; reasons cited include "the absence of Export-Import Bank guarantees, the combined economic and political risks in South Africa, the increase in laws at the state and local level in the United States directing government business and pension plan investments away from companies and banks dealing with South Africa, and the growth in public sensitivity on the apartheid issue." (GAO 12, 17)

"Of the approximately 350-400 US companies with direct investments in South Africa in January 1984, the IRRC (Investor Responsibility Research Center) estimated that seven withdrew in 1984 and 39 in 1985. During 1986 the pace quickened: 40 left and 13 announced their intention of leaving, including some of the biggest—Eastman Kodak, Coca-Cola, Exxon, General Motors and IBM. By June 1987 a further 39 had left or announced their intention of leaving, including Ford Motor Co., Citicorp and ITT." By mid-1988, only 136 US companies remain in South Africa. (Lipton 1988, 64; Baker 59)

"[G]reat majority of disinvestment sales have occurred at prices below both the capital value of the assets and the quoted stock exchange price of the companies' shares. Mobil, for instance, is believed to have sold its four South African subsidiaries to Trek ... for half the book value of the assets. Anglo-American ... acquired another 18% of the shares in Samcor, the vehicle-assembly business that was previously owned by the Ford Motor Company, for what Ford described as a 'nominal' sum." (Ovenden 153)

"Bell & Howell was so anxious to get out that in April [1986] it sold the entire subsidiary—with an estimated book value of $5 million—to a South American conglomerate for $1." (Washington Post, 17 November 1986, A1)

"While the disinvestment program has mostly benefited white-owned businesses, which have often acquired assets at fire-sale prices, few businessmen believe it is in the long-term interests of the country. They regret losing the guaranteed access to know-how that a multinational connection brings, and they fear the loss of positive U.S. involvement in the economy. And...large amounts of investment capital are absorbed in buy-outs instead of being applied to new investment." (Journal of Commerce, 27 February 1989, 1A)

"[B]ecause of exchange controls, the selling of equity stakes in South African subsidiaries [does not have consequences as serious as the drying up of new loans]. Barclays, for example, has to repatriate the proceeds of its sale of Barnat ... through the financial rand. This means that it has to find other foreign investors to purchase the rands from it. But the sale also ends the outflow of fairly generous dividends from Barnat in South Africa to a foreign owner. Dividends can be paid at the higher commercial rand rate....As a result, the Barclay's disinvestment may even have a favourable effect on South Africa's balance of payments." (Financial Times, 6 August 1987, 16)

"Assuming that, in the absence of politics, money might have flowed into the country at the rate it did before 1985, economists at Trust Bank, a South African commercial bank, calculate that South Africa has forgone some R32 billion ($14 billion) in loans and direct investment over the past five years. They add to that an estimated R8 billion of exports lost as a result of trade sanctions (most notably on coal, iron and steel, and fruit), bringing the total amount of foreign exchange lost to R40 billion." (The Economist, 10 February 1990, 69)

Trade Sanctions
"Protectionist lobbies within the USA—coal, textiles and agriculture (including tobacco, until it was realised that the USA is a net exporter to South Africa)—were active in shaping the items selected for the 1986 CAA Act. Clearly, the selection of items worldwide reflects these interests and pressures and not simply their possible effectiveness in inflicting costs on the South African government, while avoiding costs which hit the victims of apartheid. Coal, iron and steel, sugar, wine and fruit are labour intensive industries, heavily geared to export production." (Lipton 1988, 52)

South African Chamber of Mines says embargoes imposed by Denmark, France, "reluctance by other countries" to buy South African coal have cut expected 1986 exports by 17 percent, threatening 40,000 jobs in mining industry. To maintain exports, South Africa has also had to sell its coal at 10 percent discount below world price of $25 to $26 per metric ton for that grade of coal. (Washington Post, 25 July 1986, A27; Lipton 1988, 46)

"By September 1987 average prices for South African coal exports were only R50.78/t, far lower than in 1986, and with higher transport costs. Some coal mines were not even covering costs. This was undoubtedly the low point for South African coal exporters. France, Denmark, and the USA had just embargoed imports of some 10mtpa [million tonnes per annum], the world market price dipping towards the $20/t level, and domestic rail charges had just shot up." (ILO 1992a, 3)

"South African coal exports continued to grow in the late 1980's and earned vital foreign exchange well in excess of R3bn in 1989 and 1990, placing coal second behind gold in terms of contribution to the balance of payments. This export growth in the face of sanctions was all well the more remarkable because the world market was well supplied with coal, and new competitors were entering the market all the time… The continued upward trend in South African coal exports during this period [1987-1989, the period in which sanctions pressures were greatest] suggest rather strongly that the efficacy of the coal embargo was rather limited." (ILO 1992a, 1-12)

South Africa: coal exports (millions of tons)

1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
44.9 45.5 42.4 42.6 47 49.4

Source: ILO 1992, 9.

It is estimated in March 1989 that "almost 8% of South Africa's current gold production was, at the then price, being produced at a loss.... A further reduction in the world price to say a band between US$330 and $360 would mean that" 22 of 43 mines would be operating at a loss and "could only continue to maintain production with a further, drastic, devaluation of the Rand." (Ovenden 173)

"The international trade in Kruggerrands [sic], which by the early 1980s absorbed about 100 tonnes of South African gold, has been virtually eliminated by the international embargo." (Ovenden 175)

It is estimated that krugerrand ban cost South Africa only about 3 percent of value of gold exports, as loss is limited to value of coin's premium over value of gold it contains. Anglo-American owns 29 percent of corporation manufacturing American Gold Eagle, gold coin created to replace krugerrand. (Hayes 30; Lipton 1988, 47)

Only "distinctive" South African exports—gold, strategic minerals—have been nearly untouched by sanctions. "Beyond these products, shifts of international markets could have been expected to absorb the relatively small amounts of South African exports [affected by sanctions] with relatively low price discounts." Major exception has been coal, which is easily traceable, reportedly resulting in reduced shipments, relatively steep price discounting. "It is difficult to read any significant effect of the trade sanctions at the aggregate economic level, even though in certain cases trade clearly had decreased, apparently in direct response to sanctions. Examples include the total volume and value of coal exports and the level of trade in specific commodities between South Africa and the United States." (Lewis 105-06)

Because CAAA does not clearly define when a product is South African, administration interpretations of law allow products shipped from South Africa under varying circumstances to legally enter US. For example, tuna shipped from Cape Town is allowed as long as it is caught in international waters by non-South African fishermen; lobster tails caught by South African fishermen in South African waters are allowed if they are processed on non-South African-flagged vessel; fabricated iron and steel of various types, including 11 million tons for suspension bridge in Houston, are permitted because those shapes were not banned by EC (interpretation based on legislative history of CAAA). Also, narrow definition of petroleum products allows certain petroleum-based products to continue being shipped to South Africa despite ban on exports of petroleum and products. (Journal of Commerce, 15 May 1990, 1A)

"The sanctions passed by Congress have scarcely put a dent in the volume of trade between the United States and South Africa.... Why did the sanctions turn out to be a paper tiger? First, the law was compromised from the start by the vague language in which it was cast. And, second, neither the Reagan nor the Bush administration aggressively enforced it." (Journal of Commerce, 15 May 1990, 1A)

Economist Stephen Lewis estimates that oil embargo, other trade sanctions impose cost on South Africa of $2 billion a year, primarily in terms-of-trade effects. He predicts that end of sanctions, political and economic reforms in South Africa might also result in increase in capital flows of $2 billion to $3 billion per year. His estimate does not include economic effects of distortions from import substitution, government policies designed to counteract effects of sanctions (e.g., promotion of oil-from-coal plants, indigenous arms production). (Washington Post, 18 February 1990, B1; Lewis 114, 147)

"Unemployment was a serious and escalating problem before the sanctions screw was tightened in the mid-1980s. The causes were primarily structural, related to the decreasing returns on investment.[…] The restriction or severing of economic links with South Africa has directly caused the loss of large number of jobs in relatively few industries. Most affected have been workers in agricultural activities dependent on export markets, notably sugar and deciduous fruit. To the extent that coal exporters have been disadvantaged by having certain markets closed to them, sanctions can be considered to have caused job losses in this industry too." (ILO 1991, 668)

The main products affected by sanctions were iron and steel, uranium, coal, fruit and textiles. Most of these found alternative markets, affecting prices, not volumes. About 65 percent of South Africa's exports are precious and strategic metals—gold, diamonds, platinum, chrome and vanadium—which were virtually sanctions proof. Gold exports in 1991 were R19.7 billion, or 26 percent of the total. (Financial Times, 14 July 1992, 7)

South Africa: Foreign Trade, 1982-1992a (millions of dollars)





As reported by South Africa

As reported by partners







Imports from




































































































Exports to




































































































a. Except as indicated, trade flows are as reported by partner country.
b. World export figures are c.i.f. (cost plus insurance and freight), because partner-country imports are reported in that manner.
c. Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden.
Source: IMF, Direction of Trade Statistics, various issues.

South Africa: selected exports, 1982-92 (millions of dollars)




To other OECD



Iron and Steel



Iron and Steel



































































  - = negligible.

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Foreign Trade by Commodities, various issues.

South Africa: Net Capital Flows, 1980-91a (millions of dollars)








































a. Negative numbers represent capital outflows
Source: International Monetary Fund 

Calculated Economic Impact (annual cost to target country)

UN-led Sanctions


Phase I, 1963-78:


Increased cost of arms imports resulting from diversion of purchases from US, UK suppliers; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of average annual imports, 1963-78.

$7 million

Economic security cost of holding large oil stockpiles 1974-78; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of estimated value of stockpile.

$100 million

Reduction in Eximbank loans to South Africa; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of reduced transfers.

$1 million

Phase I total, 1963-78

$108 million

Phase II, 1979-85:


Mandatory UN arms embargo; welfare loss estimated at 30 percent of average annual recorded imports, 1979-85.

$3 million

Economic cost of holding large oil stockpile, 1979-85; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of estimated value of stockpile.

$300 million

Price premium on imports of oil after Iranian revolution in 1979; welfare loss estimated as 10 percent of average annual value of crude oil imports, 1979-85.

$220 million

Phase II total, 1979-85

$523 million

Average annual total, 1963-85
$234 million

UN and US-led sanctions, 1985-94


Mandatory UN arms embargo; welfare loss estimated at 30 percent of average annual recorded imports, 1986-94.

$74 million

Economic cost of holding large oil stockpile, 1986-94; welfare loss estimated at 10 percent of estimated value of stockpile.

$200 million

Price premium on imports of oil after Iranian revolution in 1979; welfare loss estimated as 10 percent of average annual value of crude oil imports, 1986-94.

$120 million

Impact of US trade sanctions (excluding coal, see below); welfare loss estimated at 30 percent of reduction in trade from average annual value in 1982-85.

 $210 million

Impact of US, French, Nordic, Commonwealth ban on South African coal imports; welfare loss estimated at 40 percent (because of significant discounting) of reduction in trade from average annual value in 1982-85.

 $103 million

Impact of krugerrand ban; welfare loss estimated at 3 percent of value of gold used in coins (calculated as 100 metric tons of 1982-84 average annual price of $386 per ounce).

 $41 million

Reduction in access to international capital due to federal, state, local government measures; welfare loss calculated at 10 percent of average annual change in net flows, 1986-90 compared to 1980-84.

$260 million


$1008 million

NB: The estimated costs of the oil embargo are based on the $1b-$4b range for the cost of stockpiling in Lewis (p. 103) and Lewis' estimate (p. 60) of imports for daily consumption of 70m barrels annually and annual average prices of $31/bbl in 1979-85 and $18/bbl in 1986-94.

Relative Magnitudes

Gross indicators of South African economy
South African GNP (1964)
$9.8 billion
South African population (1964)
18.1 million
South African GNP (1979)
$43.8 billion
South African population (1979)
27 million
South African GNP (1985)
$52.6 billion
South African population (1985)
33 million
Annual effect of sanctions related to gross indicators
Percentage of GNP (1964-base)
Per capita (1964-base)
Percentage of GNP (1979-base)
Per capita (1979-base)
Percentage of GNP (1985-base)
Per capita (1985-base)
South African trade with OECD as percentage of
total trade
Exports (1964)
Imports (1964)
Exports (1979)
Imports (1979)
Exports (1985)
Imports (1985)
Ratio of OECD GNP (1964: $1,276 billion) to South African GNP
Ratio of OECD GNP (1979: $4,532 billion) to South African GNP
Ratio of OECD GNP (1985: $8,817 billion) to South African GNP

Source: IMF, International Financial Statistics, 1998; IMF, Direction of Trade Statistics, various issues.


Assessment of UN-led Sanctions

Study Commission on US Policy Toward Southern Africa, 1981
"The available evidence indicates that South Africa's vulnerability to even an effective oil embargo is decreasing with time. The combination of stockpiles, rationing, conservation, and alternative fuels should be able to keep vital South African industries and essential security and administrative machinery functioning for years. An embargo implemented after the mid-1980s would probably have little chance of significantly damaging the country's economy." (Study Commission 143)

Stephen R. Lewis, Jr.
On the arms embargo: "In the short term, the embargo increased the prices South Africa paid for arms imports and made some items unavailable.... There was period of rapid growth of the domestic industry and some success in bringing down costs to internationally competitive levels as shown by export sales.... But the country faces potentially serious problems in the longer run without access to some items that cannot be produced economically at home.... A quarter-century after the initial voluntary embargo, and more than a decade since the mandatory embargo began, the South African Defense Force is still considered the most effective in Sub-Saharan Africa." (Lewis 102-03)

On the oil embargo: "The oil embargo has probably been the costliest international action against South Africa to date.... However, the decisions forced on South Africa by the oil boycott have resulted not only in higher costs. The SASOL projects, for example, have pushed South Africa into international leadership in coal conversion technology.... Policy actions by the government effectively mitigated both the economic costs and the disruption of the oil embargo, and South Africa is in a better position today to meet short-term cutoffs in oil than it was a decade or two ago." (Lewis 103-04)

Washington Post
On the UN arms embargo: "It has cost large sums of money and has denied South Africa access to the most sophisticated hardware...South Africa has mastered the manufacture of artillery, small arms, missiles, electronics and communications equipment, but it has lagged behind in such key fields as aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles.... The seriousness of these deficiencies was made clear during last year's (1984) successful military foray into southern Angola when South African soldiers faced Angolan troops using Soviet-built T55 tanks, MiG23 jets and SA8 and A9 antiaircraft missiles." (Washington Post, 24 February 1985, A1)

Newell M. Stulz
"To date the 1977 arms embargo has clearly provided the high water mark in the United-Nations on-going international campaign against apartheid. In spite of the undoubtedly symbolic value of this decision to the global anti-apartheid movement, however, its practical consequence …may actually have undermined the movement's goals. In response to this embargo, the Republic accelerated development of its domestic arms-making industry and has now become one of the foremost suppliers of military armaments in the world. Indeed as early as 1984, the Security Council found it necessary to urge all states 'to refrain from importing arms, ammunition of all types and military vehicles produced in South Africa.'" (Stulz 21-22)

Assessment of US-led Sanctions

Financial Times
"It is clear from everything [Mandela] has done since he was released from prison ... that he regards international pressure on the South African Government as the principal weapon available to the ANC. Without it, Mr. Mandela would probably still be a prisoner and militant black nationalist organisations would still be illegal.... From the black point of view, the overthrow of apartheid has come to depend more than ever on a single factor: the desire of white South Africans to rejoin the world community and see both economic sanctions and constant expressions of opprobrium brought to an end." (Financial Times, 18 April 1990, 20)

Helen Suzman, member of South African Progressive Federal Party
"Many far-reaching noncosmetic changes took place before the U.S. Anti-Apartheid Act of October 1986 was passed, such as legal recognition of black trade unions and the repeal of the laws that severely restricted the mobility of South Africans. The main impetus to reform has been the escalating black resistance in South Africa to apartheid ... the growing impossibility of implementing apartheid laws in the teeth of the irresistible tide of urbanization, and the astronomical cost of administering a system designed to maintain racial segregation in a country where de facto economic integration has been proceeding apace." (Washington Post, 27 June 1990, A19)

Stephen R. Lewis, Jr.
"It is not entirely clear how the economic costs of apartheid and international pressure have affected the nature and pace of political change in South Africa. It is clear, however, that economic pressures have played a major role in forcing the South African government to change its policies on a wide range of issues from labor reform to the release of political prisoners; and that in the absence of fundamental political change, the prospects for economic growth in South Africa are bleak." (Lewis 167)

David Rotberg, president of Lafayette College
"I don't know if De Klerk would have moved so quickly, if ever, without sanctions. Coupled with increasing unrest, sanctions made perpetual apartheid impossible." (Quoted by: Christian Science Monitor, 2 July 1991, 7)

Keith Ovenden and Tony Cole
"Of all the many measures that have been proposed, and in some cases implemented over the years to bring about the abolition of apartheid, the financial sanction that has been in place since August 1985 has undoubtedly placed more pressure on the regime than any other.... South Africa is being excluded from the world stock of savings not because bankers and financiers are ideologically united in their detestation of apartheid ... but because most of them now see South Africa as a bad risk.... Many commercial banks in the Western world, with some notable exceptions in Europe, have also been profoundly influenced by public opinion. The threat of the loss of substantial domestic business as a consequence of engaging in South African lending has been an important deterrent. So too, though more latterly, has been government intervention....The effect of this combination of forces is to ensure that the financial sanction is almost ideal, because although in some cases backed up by governments, it is by and large a sanction that market forces work to encourage." (Ovenden 187, 189-90)

Jennifer Davis
"Although I worked for sanctions since my arrival in the United States in 1966, and believe they were a potent force in the South African liberation struggle, I cannot claim for them either swiftness or overwhelming effectiveness. But I want to be clear. In the South African case, the fault lies not in the weapon but in the reluctance of those who controlled the weapon to use it.... "It is vital to recognize the South African context within which sanctions were proposed. Never did serious sanctions supporters believe that sanctions by themselves could achieve the desired end of bringing human equality and political democracy to South Africa. Rather, economic coercion was seen as a strategy to provide direct support for an ongoing and very active liberation struggle. Cutting South Africa's supply lines from the outside world could weaken the regime, limit its physical capacity for survival, and ultimately undermine its psychological base." (Davis 173-74)

Merle Lipton
"[T]he claim that the current ferment and fluidity in white politics is due to sanctions is based on an oversimplified and reductionist view, which overlooks the significant socio-economic transformation that has been taking place over the last two decades and which is now culminating in the current dramatic political developments." (Lipton 1990, 39)

Lucy Komisar, journalist and author
"International sanctions alone aren't causing apartheid's end. That wouldn't have happened without a strong, internal black movement and a new, moderate, white political leadership that cared about economic development. But sanctions played a critical role." (Journal of Commerce, 24 September 1991, 8A)

Audie Klotz
"In response to conservative criticism, de Klerk called for a whites-only referendum on his reforms…. Sanctions, particularly the implicit threat of renewed economic and cultural isolation should the reform effort be repudiated figured prominently in the debates leading up to the March 17, 1992 vote. Many whites feared the renewal of economic sanctions; they predicted increased unemployment and a general decline in prosperity should de Klerk's referendum fail. Businesses went so far as to launch an expensive advertising campaign advocating a yes vote. Sport enthusiasts, furthermore, dreaded a return to isolation just as South Africa entered its first world cricket match in years and hoped for an Olympic appearance in Barcelona. Thus international economic and social sanctions offered prospects of benefits if reforms should be implemented and increased costs if they were not." (Klotz 1995, 79-80)

Kenneth Rodman
"According to most observers... the combination of economic pressure and international ostracism ultimately convinced white South Africans that change was less risky than the continuation of status quo. Yet what is how the actions of governments were overshadowed by those of non-governmental economic and political actors. First, multinational banks inflicted the greatest damage on the South African economy when they called in their South African loans as they came due in July 1985.... Second, non-governmental anti-apartheid organizations compounded the costs and risks of normal business relations with South Africa by forcing corporations to incorporate political criteria into their economic calculations ... [by] confronting the corporation with boycotts, stock divestments, shareholder activism, and through persuading state and local governments to link municipal contracts to withdrawal from South Africa." (Rodman 1994, 314)

Neta C. Crawford
"[T]he impact of sanctions on political change was complex. The many sanctions imposed from outside were only one of several forces at work in getting South Africa to end its international aggression, forcing a negotiated end to apartheid and creating the conditions for the construction of a democratic government. The determined resistance of those who fought South African aggression in South West Africa/Namibia and elsewhere in the region and the resistance of those who fought for a nonracial democratic society inside, along with long-term structural changes in the economy and society, probably had much more to do with the character and timing of the transition than sanctions. Still, sanctions played an important role. They directly helped to pressure the regime by increasing the costs of maintaining apartheid, and sanctions also helped to promote economic changes that undermined the economic structures of apartheid. In other words, rather than simply hurting the South African economy, which they certainly did, sanctions paradoxically also promoted economic growth in some sectors and nourished antiapartheid resistance." (Crawford 58)

Philip I. Levy
"[The] international economic actions against South Africa that were most damaging were taken by private actors, and …actions taken by governments were not especially damaging economically. Instead, to some extent they caused the Nationalist party government to stiffen its repression. [T]he demise of apartheid, which followed sanctions with a substantial lag can be attributed to three different factors: the effectiveness of the political opposition of the black majority; the inefficiency and growing economic costs of the apartheid system; and the fall of the Soviet Union." (Levy 415)

Author's Summary

UN v. South Africa

Overall assessment  

Policy result, scaled from 1 (failed) to 4 (success)


Sanctions contribution, scaled from 1 (none) to 4 (significant)


Success score (policy result times sanctions contribution) scaled from 1 (outright failure) to 16 (significant success)

Political and economic variables  

Companion policies J (covert), Q (quasi-military), R (regular military)

International cooperation with sender


International assistance to target A (if present)


Cooperating international organizations


Sanction period (years)


Economic health and political stability of target, scaled from 1 (distressed) to 3 (strong)


Presanction relations between sender and target, scaled from 1 (antagonistic) to 3 (cordial)


Regime type of target, scaled from 1 (authoritarian) to 3 (democratic)


Type of sanction X (export), M (import), F (financial)


Cost to sender, scaled from 1 (net gain) to 4 (major loss)


US v. South Africa

Overall assessment  

Policy result, scaled from 1 (failed) to 4 (success)


Sanctions contribution, scaled from 1 (none) to 4 (significant)


Success score (policy result times sanctions contribution) scaled from 1 (outright failure) to 16 (significant success)

Political and economic variables  

Companion policies J (covert), Q (quasi-military), R (regular military)

International cooperation with sender


International assistance to target A (if present)

Cooperating international organizations


Sanction period (years)


Economic health and political stability of target, scaled from 1 (distressed) to 3 (strong)


Presanction relations between sender and target, scaled from 1 (antagonistic) to 3 (cordial)


Regime type of target, scaled from 1 (authoritarian) to 3 (democratic)


Type of sanction X (export), M (import), F (financial)

X, M, F

Cost to sender, scaled from 1 (net gain) to 4 (major loss)


Authors' Comments

South Africa demonstrated remarkable skill over three decades in circumventing and defying economic sanctions aimed at changing its system of apartheid. For much of this period, sanctions were relatively mild and enforced only loosely. The most potentially damaging economic weapon, the oil embargo by the Arab members of OPEC, was undercut until 1979 by Iran's willingness to sell oil to South Africa. In addition, at significant cost, South Africa has reduced its reliance on imported oil through stockpiling, promotion of nuclear energy, and synthetic fuels programs. However, the arms embargo did prevent South Africa from obtaining highly sophisticated weapons systems, particularly fighter planes, and seems to have contributed to South Africa's willingness to withdraw from Namibia. For that reason we attributed to the UN sanctions a modest role (score of 3) in a potentially positive outcome (score of 2) in the second edition.

Since that edition came out in 1990, the broader objective of ending apartheid has been achieved and the policy result is now clearly a success. How large a role economic sanctions played in that outcome is more difficult to assess, however. To the extent sanctions were important to the outcome, it appears that the ad hoc sanctions imposed by the US, EC, and Commonwealth countries were relatively more important than the ongoing UN sanctions, the impact of which declined over time as a result of adaptive measures adopted by the South African government. Thus we score the contribution of the UN sanctions overall as minor (score of 2).

In the 1980s, the economic "sanction" that had the most impact on South Africa was the withdrawal of short-term capital, beginning with Chase Manhattan's decision not to roll over its outstanding loans at the end of July 1985. There was no government role in this action and, although it may have been in part motivated by a desire to avoid consumer and shareholder activism, it was primarily a reaction to political instability and increased risk in the South African market. Similarly, the increased pace of disinvestments by US and other foreign firms operating in South Africa had more to do with bleaker profit opportunities than with government-mandated sanctions.

The increasing opposition to apartheid and unrest in South Africa were also far more important reasons for the de Klerk government to undertake reforms than the impact of sanctions. In addition, the end of the Cold War and the fading of the communist threat removed an important disincentive to negotiations for the Afrikaners.

Overall, economic and political conditions inside South Africa were clearly the most important factors influencing the outcome in this case and economic sanctions can be credited with, at best, a modest contribution. The sanctions were obviously useful to the opposition, both as symbolic support and as a lever that the ANC could use in its negotiations with the government. In terms of economic impact, while the initial capital outflow was largely due to private assessments of risk in the market, the CAAA, Rangel amendment, and other restrictions imposed subsequently prevented a return to "normalcy" even if things settled down and raised serious questions about South Africa's ability to generate growth in the long run.

In sum, the sanctions added to the already mounting costs of maintaining apartheid. Sanctions clearly did not cause the National Party to decide to abandon apartheid but they accelerated the inevitable.


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