International Businesses in South Africa During Apartheid

Topics: South Africa, Ethics, Apartheid Pages: 13 (3748 words) Published: March 30, 2009









Apartheid was a racial segregation, divide and rule system invoked from 1948 to 1994 in South Africa by the Whites-only National Party, achieved through racial laws that expropriated Blacks of all civil and political rights. Under apartheid, Blacks were denied the prerogative to vote, hold political office, move freely within the country, assemble, unionize or bargain collectively, attend decent schools of their choice or own land. At the peak of apartheid, several multinationals crossed the South African borders and set up business operations in the country. Apartheid was perceived by most as an immoral, unethical and barbarous tenure that infringed upon Black people’s civil and political rights. Amidst the conflict between moral principles and the profit motive behind most corporations, did such international corporations have a moral obligation to divest and terminate all their business transactions in order to further the Black’s human rights? Or could a moral argument be put forward that their presence in South Africa was to the direct benefit of the well-being of their Black employees and of Blacks in the whole country to assist with their struggle in preparation for a way to a robust economy in the post-apartheid South Africa? The arguments on both sides of this subject appeal to four basic types of moral standards, namely (1) utilitarianism (2) rights (3) justice and (4) caring. Furthermore, the arguments allude to the moral characters of individuals and groups of people involved in this contention. Both arguments and moral characters of individuals and/or groups will be discussed in detail in this paper. In addition, a Sweden’s engagement with the apartheid regime in conducting business operations will be briefly scrutinized, as Sweden typically epitomizes the moral conduct of most foreign nations in South Africa at the time.


Around the late 1800s, South Africa had a population of 80% Blacks and 20% Whites. In 1948, the Whites-only National Party gained rein of the South African government and passed the first Apartheid legislation (Manuel G. Velasquez) that systematically and deliberately ostracized Blacks from significant participation in the economy. The premeditated ban of Blacks from economic participation commenced in the late 1800s, first with the expropriation of land, and resumed throughout the 20th century with the introduction of the Mines and Works Act in 1911, the Land Act of 1913, and the raft of Apartheid laws passed in 1948. Under White rule, the distinguishing feature of Apartheid was the use of skin colour to control Black’s access to the legislatively race-based economy by implementing a wealth conglomeration process that restricted wealth creation amongst Blacks and inflicted lack of advancement on Black communities to make certain that Blacks were, in the main, producers of cheap labour.

The Black’s under-development took the form of on-going eradication of prolific resources, intentional denial of access to jobs and skills, and deliberate sabotaging of self-sufficiency and of entrepreneurship. The repercussion of this systematic denied empowerment not only gave rise to majority landless Blacks with regulated access to skills development, but also resulted in Blacks who were deliberately deprived off self-employment, entrepreneurship or access to feasible business prospects in the following manner:

← Apartheid constrained Blacks to homeland areas, characterized by their lack of dynamic business infrastructure, were the most impoverished in terms of living conditions, business opportunities and geographic location relative to main cities;

← Apartheid regime invoked the Group Area Acts...
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