Strug­gle be­comes busi­ness’ busi­ness

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

UN­TIL the Soweto Up­ris­ing of 1976, busi­ness in South Africa was for the most part stu­dious in re­main­ing aloof from pol­i­tics.

That changed in the late 1970s, as the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of apartheid loomed larger in the board­room. Within the decade, some of the coun­try’s lead­ing ex­ec­u­tives were in the van­guard of ef­forts to break the log­jam and get the coun­try think­ing about a new fu­ture.

The gov­ern­ment was still stuck in its in­sis­tence it would not talk to the ANC un­til the lib­er­a­tion move­ment aban­doned the armed Strug­gle when, in 1985, An­glo Amer­i­can’s Gavin Relly led a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion to Zam­bia for talks with the ANC’s Oliver Tambo and other se­nior ex­iled lead­ers. The fol­low­ing is the re­port on that meet­ing: Septem­ber 14, 1985 ANC: “Hopes raised”

Luangwa Game Park (Zam­bia) – White South African busi­ness­men, who held un­prece­dented talks with the ANC in the Zam­bian bush, said they found enough com­mon ground to raise hopes for a so­lu­tion to the coun­try’s trou­bles and both sides held open the door for fur­ther talks.

Pres­i­dent Ken­neth Kaunda at­tended most of the dis­cus- sions, which took place at his pri­vate lodge in a re­mote and un­spoilt game sanc­tu­ary and which lasted for six hours.

The venue was shrouded in se­crecy un­til the start of the talks, which were at­tacked by the South African pres­i­dent PW Botha as a dis­play of dis­loy­alty. The del­e­gates were led by An­glo Amer­i­can con­glom­er­ate head, Gavin Relly, and the ANC pres­i­dent, Oliver Tambo. Other mem­bers of the busi­ness­men’s group were Dr Zac de Beer, Tony Bloom, Peter Sorour of the South Africa Foun­da­tion and ed­i­tors Har­ald Pak­endorf, Ter­tius My­burgh and Hugh Mur­ray.

Relly said: “It was a very use­ful and suc­cess­ful day.”

He added there had been con­sid­er­able una­nim­ity of views about the im­por­tance for South Africa of struc­tur­ing a co­her­ent and sen­si­ble so­ci­ety.

There had been some dis­agree­ment about the way this should be done, but enough com­mon ground had been found to make the prospect of fur­ther talks quite valu­able.

Relly told re­porters his group found the ANC’s at­ti­tude “not nearly so grossly an­tag­o­nis­tic as might be thought”.

“We had a good sense that more talks might lead to a fruit­ful con­clu­sion.”

Tambo, ac­com­pa­nied by five mem­bers of the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, ad­dressed a news con­fer­ence, but he is banned in South Africa and may not be quoted.

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