Struggle becomes business’ business
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.