Spurred on by Stephen Lewis, the silver-tongued moralizer of international affairs and former Canadian ambassador to the U.N., the Canadian government continues its blustering campaign against South Africa. It is so much easier to right the wrongs in far-off countries than to face the failures and difficulties at home. While the Canadian government preaches sanctions against South Africa, to its embarrassment, trade between Canadian and South African businesses has not declined in the past year. Irony is piled on hypocrisy.
A recent news item concerning steel production underscores the shortsightedness of sanctions against South Africa. Spokespeople for the Canadian steel industry have warned that production of specialty steels may have to be curtailed if it is no longer able to obtain certain alloys of which South Africa has been the sole supplier. These alloys (ferro-manganese, ferro-chromium, and ferro-vanadium) are used in the production of stainless steel, certain kinds of steel pipe and steel plating. The Canadian Steel Producers Association has estimated that some 20,000 Canadian jobs may be affected if these alloys would become unavailable to Canadian producers.
Other producers of these alloys are China and the Soviet Union. It is reported that an agent of a Canadian steel company is also exploring the possibilities of obtaining supplies from Zimbabwe and even Albania. Every one of these countries, notably the Soviet Union, China and Albania, has a long history of cruel oppression of their own people, but that does not seem to deter the South Africa bashers.
The proponents of sanctions against South Africa have turned a deaf ear to all who have warned against such sanctions. There are countless opponents of apartheid who are equally opposed to sanctions against South Africa. They rightly argue that the first victims of economic hanlship will be black workers. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has pointed out, “General sanctions would put large numbers of black South Africans out of work permanently, would create immense hardship for their dependents and would be likely also to have disastrous effects in the neighbouring states….! cannot think how you can hope to make things better in South Africa by making them worse.”
Helen Suzman, a long-time South African Member of Parliament and an opponent of apartheid, is equally opposed to sanctions. The black Zulu leader, G. Buthelezi, has called sanctions “a recipe for disaster.” T. Ngcoya, a representative of the black Southern African Bus and Taxi Association, has warned: “If South African Blacks suffer through sanctions, and that suffering is very real and painful, they will begin to ask: who caused us this pain and anguish?….We sincerely ask you [the U.S. Congress] not to make our own difficult situation worse by general and non-selective sanctions. We now need, not more punishment, but positive actions and support and encouragement.”
The black American economist, Dr. Ophelia Jatta, has equally emphatically warned against the program of the African National Congress and against sanctions: “As long as you cripple South Africa, you cripple black South Africa.” Economic sanctions “will bring about a lot of suffering, a lot of starvation on our black people in South Africa,” predicted Bishop Isaac Mokoena, head of the Reformed Black Independent Churches of South Africa.
A highly respected South African with impeccable anti-apartheid credentials is the late Alan Paton, who said: “You cannot change a society for the better by destroying its economy. Sanctions are indeed intended to be punitive, and punishment is not the way to make people behave better.”
But compared to the moral purity and enlightened wisdom of Joe dark, Stephen Lewis, the New Democratic Party, the Canadian Labour Congress and all the other secular and clerical occupiers of the Canadian moral high ground, what do people like Suzman, Buthelezi, Paton, Jatta, Mokoena and Ngcoya know?