Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Republican Racism Example #58: A Republican Senate Candidate Flaked for South Africa's Apartheid Regime

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, used to be a lobbyist for a company doing business with the racist apartheid regime that ruled South Africa in the 1980s.  At that time, Flake warned that the collapse of the white-run polce state would lead to the spread of communism throughout the African continent.

A fierce opponent, during his Congressional career, of abortion and gay marriage, in 2012 Flake nevertheless has positioned himself as an alleged moderate on immigration issues as he seeks the Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyle.  Flake has supported granting green cards to undocumented workers, expanding the number of immigrants allowed in the country, paths to citizenship for some of the undocumented, and encouraging immigrants who earn Ph.D.s here to stay in the United States.  (See

Jeff Flake, a U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona, once lobbied for a mining company doing business with the racist apartheid regime in South Africa and urged the state of Utah to continue doing business with the white supremacist regime. (Photo from

However, in 1987, Flake worked for a uranium company in Namibia, a puppet state set up by the apartheid government.  Such mining companies essentially used the black indigenous population as slave labor.  By the 1980s, the Namibian mines became infamous for cruel physical discipline, pitiful housing, and poverty wages.  Flake urged support for the authoritarian regime of South African President P.W. Botha, (whose government required blacks to live in segregated “bantustans,” denied blacks the right to vote, required blacks to carry passports to travel through the country, and tortured and murdered black political dissidents.) Flake told the Utah state Senate that if apartheid ended, a leftist government might take over that would deny the United States access to the region’s rich minerals.

In the 1980s, Arizona Senate candidate Jeff Flake lobbied for mining companies operating in Namibia, a puppet government under the domination of the South African apartheid regime.  Workers were often beaten and lived in horrid conditions, as shown above.  (Photo from

In the late 1980s, there was an international movement to impose economic sanctions on South Africa because of its racist policies.  The state senate in Utah in 1987 was considering a resolution opposing sanctions against iSouth Africa. Flake testified in support of the resolution.  During his Senate testimony that year, he said:

“If the government of South Africa falls, it depends on how it falls if it did fall. If it fell to radical elements from the left, then this could happen, and that is a fear of many people. We would be deprived of a share of an economic source of these vital minerals. As far as the economic sanctions having a … more direct impact on the black community, I overhear we tend to think of every black South African as a radical stone-throwing protestor who will stop at nothing until the government is overthrown. There are moderate elements there. There have been a lot of polls taken both ways. Most of them come out with about, that there are more moderates, considered moderate, than there are radicals. Those are funny terms and most of them aren’t moderate, they just don’t care one way or another or they don’t know about the situation. [Sanctions have] had a dramatic impact on the black population, the biggest impact is that the companies pulling out, the American companies pulling out …”

The word apartheid derived from the Dutch language and essentially means “apartness” or separation.  The Dutch colonized South Africa beginning in the 1600s followed by Great Britain starting in the 19th century.  The descendants of the Dutch colonizers, who called themselves Afrikaners, forced native blacks off their lands, seized control of farmland and reduced the indigenous population to poverty, exploiting them as low-wage labor.  Broken into four regions, two controlled by the British and two by the Afrikaners, South African would not merge into its present form until the early twentieth century. 

Blacks in the early 20th century already enjoyed no political rights and couldn’t move freely through their native land.  Better-paying, more respected jobs were declared off-limits for the indigenous community. State police enforced strict segregation, similar to that in the American South in the same era.  South Africa plunged into violence and chaos when the Afrikaners revolted against British domination in the Anglo-Boer War from 1899 to 1902 (Boer was another term for the Afrikaners.)  The British prevailed, established political dominance of the area, merged the four regions and in 1910, handed control of the Union of South Africa to the white minority.  

Under apartheid, white South Africans were taught to fear native Africans who supposedly were prone to theft, murder and rape.  (Photo from

In 1948, the racist Nationalist Party, dedicated to continued white dominance, won elections and in subsequent decades dominated the country.  After 1948, the party passed more than 300 laws requiring separation of whites, blacks, Asians, and mixed race people (called “coloreds”).    Evan though blacks constituted more than 80 percent of the South African population, native Africans held inferior rights to whites, to Asians, and to coloreds and became fourth class citizens.  These apartheid laws, according to the Postcolonial Studies at Emory University website, included:

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949, and Immorality Act, 1950, [which] constituted the government’s first step in institutionalizing racial differentiation. These acts prohibited sexual intercourse and marriage between Whites and Blacks.  All people over the age of sixteen were required to carry identity cards that grouped the people into various racial categories.
                  The Groups Areas Act, 1950, [which] restricted the entrance of Blacks into the urban, industrial, and agricultural areas, reserving these areas only for the Whites.  Most people who were allowed to be within the reserved areas were workers, housemaids or gardeners, who were given state permission.  Spouses and other family members were also restricted from living with those who were granted permission.  A sign in English and the Dutch-related Afrikans language warns blacks the facilities are for whites only.If Blacks were caught with family members who did not have the permission to be in the area, they were arrested and imprisoned, once spotted by the inspectors.

A sign in English and the Dutch-related Afrikans language warns blacks the facilities are for whites only.  (Photo from  

                  The Population Registration Act, also in 1950, [which] required that all Africans were classified into three categories according to race.  These were Black, Colored, or White, and the government made these classifications according to a person’s habits, education, appearance, and manner.  Rules were given according to race and had to be followed to prevent dire consequences.
                  The Bantu Authorities Act, 1951, [which] assigned all Africans to their native land.  This stole power away from the Africans, and instead allowed them to vote solely within their homeland.  This allowed the denationalization of Africans possible.  The Bantu Education Act applied apartheid to the educational system.  The education of Whites, Blacks, and Colored was separately administered and financed.
                  The Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents Act, 1952, [which] required all Africans to carry a pass-book, similar to a passport.  The pass-book contained all personal information, such as name, photograph of holder, fingerprints, and also gave a detailed explanation on where a person could be employed, and their performance at work.  If Africans did not obey the rules, they were kicked out from the area, and their crime would be reported in their pass-books.  The penalty for not carrying the book at all times was also severe, ranging from imprisonment and fines, to a torturous death.” (For more, see

Apartheid laws also required segregated ambulances, hospitals, beaches, cinemas and transportation. Blacks were also not allowed to buy hard liquor.  Spending on white education in South Africa outstripped spending on black education by a 5-1 gap in the apartheid era.  Student-teacher ratios for white schools were one teacher for every 18 students and, at black schools, one teacher for every 48 pupils.  Most blacks never attended school beyond primary grades. 

The South African scholar Tamara Shefer has written about how white schools in South Africa encouraged students to hold blacks in contempt:

“So, to mock a fellow student you repeated his words more slowly, in an affected ‘African’ kind of voice, to make him sound like he didn’t know what he was talking about, as if he were stupid.  That was enough – the mere evocation of a caricatured black voice speaking in English was sufficient to imply someone was unintelligent. Name calling – by using the prefix ‘i’, or using ‘ngi-ngu’ before someone’s name, was enough to associate them with the racist values of blackness (incompetence, stupidity, inability, and so on)……. There were also facial improvisations, flattening one’s nose, spreading one’s lips as wide as possible, making them as thick as possible, sufficed to mimic blackness. By doing this at the same time as mocking a fellow student – sometimes, oddly enough, affectionately (?), one would again set up the association of them as somehow black. In short, a series of racist stereotypes and bodily evocations became part and parcel of the repetitive play of white adolescent boys, vital instruments in the ongoing in-group/out-group identity practices of who was cool and who wasn’t.”  (See  

  By 1970, the South African Parliament stripped blacks of their citizenship, assigning them citizenship in 10 artificially created  “homelands.” The South African police and military forcibly relocated blacks from their property to these new areas, also called  “bantustans.”

During apartheid, black families were forcibly resettled in "homelands" created by the white supremacist  government.  In this 1982 photo, children look past the squalor of their resettlement village in KawZuli-Natal.  The resettlement program carried out in the 1970s and 1980s in South Africa represents the largest forced movement of people during peacetime in world history.  (Photo  from  

Political resistance brought violent responses from the South African police. During a March 21, 1960 uprising against passbooks in the black township of Sharpeville, police slaughtered 69 people.   Teenaged students started another uprising in 1976 in Sowetto to protest tuition that had been imposed on blacks forced to take classes in the Dutch-related language of Afrikaans  The South African police cold-bloodedly fired into a crowd of young people, killing 600 and injuring 4,000 more.

During the Soweto student uprising in 1976, South African police fired indiscriminately into an unarmed crowd, killing 600 and injuring 4,000.  Here, Mbuyisa Makhubo carries a wounded child, Hector Pieterson, who has been shot.  Pieterson's sister Antoinette Sithole runs beside them. Hector died from his wounds, one of many blacks murdered by the apartheid regime.  (Photo from  

The South African police harassed both black and white opponents of apartheid, subjecting them to lengthy and sometimes violent interrogations.  Authorities arrested black anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko in 1977 and interrogated him for almost 24 hours straight, beating him severely enough that he suffered a major head wound, causing a brain hemorrhage that killed him on September 11, 1977.  Thousands died in the custody of South African police during apartheid.   (See 

South African police beat to death anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko in 1977.  Such human rights abuses did not move conservative Republicans like William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, Jesse Helms, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom supported the violent white racial dictatorship in South Africa to almost the very end.  (Photo from
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, right-wing Republicans like Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms (a longtime Southern segregationist) and Ronald Reagan supported South Africa as a bulwark against communism and opposed economic sanctions against the regime.  William F. Buckley's National Review consistently supported the Pretoria  government.  Ironically, American conservatives who usually opposed what they called “big government” saw nothing wrong in enabling a authoritarian state that told its citizens who they could marry, what neighborhoods they could live in, which schools they could attend, which theaters they could go to to see movies, and what jobs they could hold.  Right-wing evangelist Jerry Falwell, who supported Southern segregation earlier in his career, was a reliable friend of the apartheid government in South Africa and ridiculed black Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his fights against the Pretoria government.  (See and and  

As ThinkProgress notes,  P.W. Both, the man who headed South Africa’s racial dictatorship in this era, when Jeff Flake was serving as the Namibian uranium company flak ,  supported the Nazis during World War II.   As South prime minister from 1978 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 1989, Botha “oversaw state terrorism, war, and murder, once ordering police to blow up the Johannesburg offices of anti-apartheid groups. Hundreds of thousands of activists — including future President Nelson Mandela — were imprisoned during South Africa’s 40-year apartheid regime. Faced with the kind of U.S. economic pressure opposed by Flake in 1987, Botha’s apartheid regime eventually crumbled as the rand’s value collapsed.  [The rand was the South African currency.}” [For more, see

P.W. Botha ruled South Africa during the 1980s, first as prime minister and then as president.  Prior to World War II, he joined the the Ossewabrandwag, a far-right Afrikaner group that supported the German Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler.  His regime murdered and tortured opponents of apartheid, the South African system of racial segregation.  (Photo from

No thanks to men like Flake, apartheid collapsed in the 1990s.  Economic pressures brought on by sanctions forced the last Nationalist Party President F.W. de Klerk to release the leader of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela, imprisoned since the early 1960s, and to negotiate with him and end to the nation’s racial laws and arrange the first multi-racial, democratic elections in 1994.  Mandela triumphed in the presidential race that year, becoming South Africa’s first black leader.

Flake perfectly represents the hypocrisy of “family values” Republicans who call for morality in American life, but confine their definition of morality to opposition to abortion, gay rights, and feminist political reforms but ignore human rights, such as freedom of speech, of association, and to vote and run for office regardless of race.  Flake support immigration reform not because he believes in the dignity and the value of Mexican undocumented workers, but because he knows his financial backers see low-wage Latino workers as economic assets, no less that the Namibian minerals and the exploited black workers who mined them long ago during apartheid.  To Flake and the business interests he fronts, people of color represent only a means to a monetary end.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. I am not sure if I should be crying or laughing. "Under apartheid, white South Africans were taught to fear native Africans who supposedly were prone to theft, murder and rape." Mmmm..... Lett me as a South African give some facts. There was basically no crime in Afrikaner areas when Africans was not allowed. Since Africans where allowed in Afrikaner areas in 1991 since the fall of apartheid about 9000 Afrikaners was brutally murdered by Africans (not to mention tens of thousands Afrikaner lady's and girls raped by Africans). That is about 0.33% of the Afrikaner population murdered by another ethnic group in the last 20 years. Isn't that genocide??? What would the world say if 15000 Scot's (About 0.33% of Scottish population) would be murdered by Germans? Or 200 000 French people murdered by Russians? Its not about black and white. Its about cultures. There is a very big gap between African cultures and traditions and Western cultures and traditions. Afrikaners are very strong supporters and followers of the latter. While violence, murder and rape are very much part of many African cultures and traditions (and if you don't live among African tribes every day of your life like I do please don't argue my point). To sum it up: Jeff was correct in the 80's. When the Afrikaner (Western) government fell everything in this country went worse. I don't support apartheid. But I also don't support the fact that the world is turning a blind eye for the big problems an African government is creating and governing a once first world country into the gutters.