Britisher Sampson, veteran observor of the alliance of money and might (The Sovereign State of ITT, The Money Lenders, The...


BLACK GOLD: Tycoons, Revolutionaries, and Apartheid

Britisher Sampson, veteran observor of the alliance of money and might (The Sovereign State of ITT, The Money Lenders, The Arms Bazaar), here chronicles capitalism's historic investment in--and current tenuous disenchantment with--apartheid. Sampson opens his basically straightforward account with reports on three 1986 events that highlight South Africa's present economic isolation: a conference of Commonwealth ministers at which only Britain's Thatcher opposed sanctions; a ground-breaking luncheon between world bankers and Oliver Tambo of the out-lawed African National Congress; and a credit-raising expedition to the US by a top South African banker, who was treated by American colleagues ""as if he had the plague."" To explain the financial/political community's shift away from Pretoria and towards the ANC, Sampson traces the history of corporate involvement in South Africa, effectively demonstrating that foreign corporations and banks (IBM, General Motors, Chase Manhattan), as well as home-grown firms, have shared an umblemished record of looking solely after their own short-term interests there--interests that until the 1980's invariably coincided with those of apartheid. He argues that only in response to grass-roots protests, primarily in the US, have corporations begun to divest, nations to sanction, and both to open dialogues with the ANC, whose leaders he cameos as crisply as he does the financiers who long made capitalism the backbone of apartheid. Sampson concludes by expressing his wilting hopes that bloody civil war can still be avoided in South Africa if financial interests, now pressured into awareness of the urgency of the political situation, not simply divest but use all available leverage to pressure the Botha government into a total dismantling of apartheid. Sampson covers familiar territory here, but skillfully so; and in not moralizing and letting the facts speak for themselves, he provides a cogent, valuable brief on corporate culpability for apartheid.

Pub Date: April 1, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987