By Pinky Khoabane
FW De Klerk – Last President of Apartheid SA
FROM using former revolutionaries of the liberation struggle to employing their relatives in strategic positions, many of the individuals and companies that propped-up apartheid have become big-time beneficiaries of the democratic dispensation.
The names of some of these donors who were complicit in apartheid and profited from the system are contained in archives discovered by Open Secrets while doing research for the recently published book “Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit”.
The group collected approximately 40000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries.
Some of the donors include Barlow Rand (now Barloworld), Shoprite’s Christo Wiese, PG Glass, Tedelex, Altech (now Altron) and many more.
The same companies which profited immensely through apartheid feature on today’s government tender bulletin – under both “bidders” and “successful bidders”.
A few names from ANC revolutionaries feature on many of these companies’ BEE deals enabling them access to government tenders.
“Some donors were unsurprising, given their long term complicity with the regime. In a letter written in 1988, FW de Klerk informed PW Botha of a R50 000 donation from Barlow Rand – now trading as the large conglomerate, Barloworld.
“De Klerk notes that, “they prefer to keep their contribution confidential…” before stating that one of the companies directors D.E. Cooper would handle the donations.
“Barlow Rand was one of the chief suppliers of technology to the government.
“Between the 1960s and 1980s, the corporation’s leadership sat on PW Botha’s Defence Advisory Board all the while presenting itself as an enlightened opponent of apartheid”.
Barloworld was the pillar of the military-industrial establishment that thrived during apartheid. In post-apartheid South Africa, it had among its new South Africa “partners” people like acclaimed human rights lawyer and former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza. As Barloworld’s non-executive chairman in 2007, he praised Barlow for its resistance against apartheid. In the 2007 annual report he wrote: “Barlows was also a pioneer in corporate social investment in those days and then, during the early 1990s, the company gave measurable support behind the scenes to the negotiation process that led to our transition from apartheid to democracy.”
The Open Secrets team also found letters from Altron’s Bill Venter.
“We also found letters of support from Altech (now electronics giant Altron) head, WP (Bill) Venter. A long-time ally of the apartheid military, Venter made profits supplying the military with missile systems and other key technology at the height of apartheid’s war in Angola and cross-border raids. To return the favour, Venter made hefty donations to the NP. In 1982 he pledged R150,000 (R2.4-million in today’s terms) with promises of more to come which he honoured in 1985 and 1989 with generous donations of R200,000 (R2.2-million in today’s terms). In the letter Venter points out the success that his company has achieved, adding, ‘…we believe that we would be able to achieve very little without the firm support of the current [NP] government…’
“In February 2017, Venter finally stepped down as Altron chair and was praised for his contribution to the South African economy. His collaboration with the apartheid state was conveniently ignored,” writes Open Secrets.
A statement released by the company on his decision to retire read: “Dr Venter founded the Group some 51 years ago. He has dedicated his life to the Altron Group and his significant contribution to South Africa and the business community has always been widely recognised by both the public and private sectors”.
Altron has, since the advent of democracy, employed Blacks with political connections as part of their executive management team.
Altron continues to rake in billions from government tenders.
The archives also show some “surprising donors”. A letter by PG Glass’ executive chairman Bertie Lubner, “written to PW Botha dated 23 June 1982, Lubner writes to thank the prime minister for ‘a very wonderful evening which we spent with you, charming members of your family and other guests’. He proceeds to write of how much he admires Botha’s leadership of the country: ‘It is men with such high ideals and determination like yourself that create history.’ Post-apartheid amnesia ensured that at the time of his death last year, Lubner was praised as a beloved philanthropist and iconic business leader with far too little said about his support for the establishment during apartheid”.
“This letter and others of a similar nature from Bennie Slome of Tedelex and Macsteel’s Eric Samson were some of the more surprising finds in the archive. This is because these men were widely known as part of the self-proclaimed liberal English-speaking business elite of the time. Though perhaps this surprise is misplaced – big business motivated by profit notoriously funds whoever is in power”.
There are many such stories, with perhaps the saddest part being the complicity of the ANC “revolutionaries” in contributing towards apartheid amnesia.