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May 21, 1977 - Image 6

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-05-21

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Page Six

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

idturdoy, Moy 21, 1977

U.S. firms back white rule

By MICHAEL YELLIN
'"HE INVOLVEMENT of U n i t e d
States based corporations and
their subidiaries in South Africa
has contributed much to the main-
tenance of a militarily powerful,
white - supremist government in
that country. Corporate executives
largely agree they would not be able
to keep up their large percentage
of profit if the system of apartheid
did not exist in South Africa.
In recent years multinationals
such as Ford and Mobil have had to
answer to stockholders' queries and
resolutions a i m e d at discerning
what these businesses are doing to
establish humane, equal employ-
ment for blacks in South Africa.
When questioned, corporate man-
agements always state their busi-
nesses are apolitical and then go on
to list a number of policies they
have a g r e e d upon to upgrade
blacks. Agreement on policies and
the ability to implement them have
proved to be two different things.
To exist in South Africa, corpor-
ations must abide by the laws of
that country or risk being kicked
out by the government. The laws of
apartheid the w h i t e government
have established are not apolitical
but a blatant abridgement of hu-
man rights. Nonetheless U.S. busi-
nesses abide by them.
The apartheid system has been,
designed and implemented primar-
ily to force the majority population
of blacks, coloreds and Asians (80
per cent of S o u t h Africa's resi-
dents) to work for the minority
white population. In affect, apar-
theid works to enslave the black
population to bring a higher profit
for w h i t e investments in South
Africa.
SOUTH AFRICAN Prime Minister
James Vorster agrees with this
interpretation. In 1968 he stated, .
"It is true there are blacks work-
ing for us. They will continue to
work for us for generations, in spite
of the ideal that we have to sepa-
rate them completely . . . The fact
of the matter is this: we need them
because they work for us . . . But
the fact that they work for us can
never entitle them to claim politi-
cal rights. Not now, nor in the fu-
ture . .. under no circumstances."
South African laws and their en-
forcement may represent the most
blatant breach, on a national scale,
of the Universal Declaration of Hu-
man Rights; a document adopted
in response to the Nazism and Fas-
cism of WW II. It is a law in South
Africa that no black can give a
white an order. The government
has said as long as it remains in
power this law will be enforced.
The United States State Depart-
ment has said it would intervene

five can live efficiently on. The
MEL is one and a half times the
amount of the PDL but is still con-
sidered by many to be inadequate
for basic human needs.
Wages American companies pay
blacks are often times low even by
South African standards. No Ameri-
can corporation or its subsidiary
pays a minimum wage above the
MEL. Seventy-five per cent of the
companies in South A f r i c a pay
many of their black workers below
PDL standards.
During the time of slavery in
this country slave o w n e r s spent
more money keeping their slaves
(workers) alive than businesses pay
many blacks in South Africa.
In recent years the South African
government has been proceeding
full speed ahead with the "resettle-
ment" of A f r i c a n "homelands."
This involves the forced deporta-
tion of literally millions of men,
women, children and old people
from government designated
"white" areas to reservations set
up on the worst land the govern-
ment can find. The word "resettle-
ment" was a 1 s o the euphemism
used by the Nazi's for the deporta-
tion to concentration camps and
forced labor of millions of Jews and
others.
Black Africans who are unem-
ployed or unable to work but living
in white areas are forced to "re-
settle" on the 1 a n d set up and
worked for the government. Fami-
lies and individuals restricted to
these areas often attempt to live on
an income of less than half of the
Minimum Poverty Level.

wne uuunauiun continues in apartneid noutn africa.

on behalf of U.S. companies if the
South African government inter-
fered with the companies attempts
at implementing the Declaration
of Human Rights. H i s t o r y has
s h o w n that U.S. corporations in
other countries have no qualms
about calling in the American gov-
ernment to protect business inter-
ests. The fact that no U.S. company
has requested the S t a t e Depart-
ment assistance in implementing
basic human rights can be inter-
preted to mean companies are mak-
ing no serious attempt at relieving
the situation or m a k i n g waves
with the government.
Good relations with the govern-
ment of South Africa are essential
for a corporation's well being there.
The South African government is
responsible for a large percentage
of business transacted.
In 1965, Ford South Africa bid on
a contract to supply four-wheel-
drive vehicles to the South African
Government. (Ford Motor Company
of South Africa is actually a wholly
owned subsidiary of Ford Motor
Company of Canada, which in turn
is 81 per cent owned by the U.S.
parent company.) The Canadian
government decided the vehicles
were in violation of the United Na-
tions Arms embargo of South Africa
and refused to permit the sale of
these i t e m s. In retaliation the
South African government refused
to allow Ford to bid on contracts
for the next two years. Since then

Ford has made every effort to avoid
conflict with the government.
THE ARGUMENT given by invest-
ors that corporate development
will produce social change and sig-
nificantly benefit the African pop-
ulation is entirely false. The latest
spurt of foreign investment from
1973 to 1975 has resulted in a sig-
nificant increase in the wealth of
whites, further increasing the gap
in wages b e t w e e n blacks and
whites. Most of the increased wages
blacks have incurred recently are
the result of the s e r i o u s labor
struggles of 1973 and 1974 and not
of booming investments.
Any increase in the number of
blacks working jobs that were for-
merly for whites has come about
not to upgrade the level of blacks
but as a result of the severe labor
shortage in South Africa. The re-
strictive labor practices of the gov-
ernment has resulted in a lack of
skilled workers. By filling white
positions w i t h blacks, employers
can move whites to a higher super-
visory position and at the same
time pay the black worker a frac-
tion of what the white worker was
making.
Whites are never supervised by
non-whites. If a black works along-
side a white, the white is desig-
nated a supervisor and paid five to
ten times as much as the black
working next to him.
The government of South Africa
has established a Poverty Datum
Line (PDL) to represent the
amount of money needed to meet
a bare minimum of costs on a short
term basis for a black family to
survive. The PDL does not include
any money for education, taxation,
medical costs or household goods.
United Nations nutritional experts
do not consider PDL funds to be
even enough to live on at the lowest
level of poverty. The government of
South Africa has also set up a Mini-
mum Effective Level (MEL) of in-
come which represents the lowest
level at which an urban family of

AVERAGE MONTHLY PER CAPITA
WAGES IN SOUTH AFRICA
(R1.00=$1.25)
Sector Whites Africans Difference
Mining 1975 R598 R67 R531
1973 R405 R27 R388
Manufacturing 1975 R486 R100 R386
1973 R376 R67 R310
Construction 1975 R472 R95 R377
1973 R376 R67 R310
Source: "Rand Daily Mail," August 9, 1975. "Financial Mail,"
February 21, 1975.

U.S. corporations charter clearly
support apartheid po ii c i e s in
South Africa. Caltex is Texaco
and Standard Oil of California.
4 MERICAN M ON E Y, know-how
and materials have made pos-
sible a self-sufficient ,South Africa,
virtually immune to international
sanctions. The auto industry, rub-
ber industry, petroleum companies
and electronics corporations open-
ly admit they build, sell and help
train white South Africans to oper-
ate sophisticated machinery used
for the defense of South Africa. As
a result of the laws established to
protect the defense of the minor-
ity white government, these cor-
porations are not required to re-
lease any information concerning
See BUSINESS, Page 10
Michael Yellin is a Michigan Daily
night editor.

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