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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

6. Proposals

1. Our submission has shown that black workers, in particular, Africans and women, were victims of apartheid oppression and exploitation. The denial and violation of our rights as well as our exclusion from political and economic activity were not a natural phenomenon or disaster, but based on systematic planning and policy implementation by the regime and business.

2. We now require a systematic redress of these injustices. We propose a system of redress which combines reparations and ongoing social transformation. For us as workers, the only meaningful reparation is a future without the abuses that characterised the past. The question of what exactly the abuses of the past were then become of prime importance.

. It is important to differentiate between two important issues:

. Business collusion with the apartheid regime, for example loans, and;

. Business violations of human and trade union rights of workers under apartheid, which include directly using apartheid legislation (pass laws, compounds, etc); and the use of the state machinery (victimising workers).

. If we are to be serious about a future free of abuse and gross violation, then we must know all the abuses and all the perpetrators of the past so that we can define a future without abuse, oppression and exploitation. If business is only or primarily seen as abusive because of its link with the apartheid regime, we are likely to make the mistake of declaring that abuse is over (because the regime is over). Alternatively, we have to say that apartheid continues, in order to be able to explain why business continues committing such violations. In both cases the actual role and culpability of business pursuing its ordinary capitalist preoccupations will be obscured.

. In order to say something about ordinary capitalist preoccupations, it has to be made very clear that the TRC mandate, definitions, and visions of the abuse of yesterday and the non-abuse of tomorrow systematically excludes all the "ordinary" crimes of business.

. If the only meaningful reparation is a future without abuses, this hinges on how we define these abuses, as the following examples illustrate:

. If it is an abuse to pay starvation wages, then the reparation becomes a living wage.

. If it is an abuse to force millions into unemployment, then reparation becomes employment.

. There are other forms of reparation:

. Adequate recognition of the perpetrators of past abuses, as a means to focus on those who might continue such abuses.

. Recognition of the role of millions of ordinary people, who in their collective actions made apartheid unworkable, forcing every single reform that was to emerge. This forms part of an alternative culture of human rights. We need to create a culture of human rights in which abuse of workers is seen as a fundamental abuse of human rights; and where criminality is seen to extend to each circumvention, side-stepping, ignoring or breaking of protective measures that are put into place. This is something that needs to become the responsibility of all sectors of the state, rather than an appeal to capital.

. The capacity to abuse comes from unequal power and wealth. To get rid of these inequalities means challenging the basis of this inequality, which lies in the private ownership of capital. It is in this regard that we propose the following:

Closing of the apartheid wage gap

. A major source of inequity in the society is the huge differentials in earnings between workers and management. These differentials are based on the apartheid wage gap which existed between white and black. The gap remains one based largely on colour.

. The high wages at the top consume the resources of companies and hence increase the cost of production. They feed industrial tension and conflict on the shopfloor. They reduce the prospects of a shared commitment to improving company performance. They divide the workforce into two totally different worlds, based on income. They are substantially out of line with equitable international practice.

3. High salaries for managers are often justified on the basis of performance. Yet, the evidence does not bear this out. Recent research shows that salary increases for directors of many major companies exceed profit growth significantly. The table below sets out some examples.

Table 9


Annual average salary

Salary increase

Profit growth

Murray and Roberts




















Anglo Alpha








4. Contrast these earnings with some of the wages for blue collar workers set out earlier in this document!

. Those who defend this wage gap often cite the fear that well-paid staff will emigrate if their earnings are not maintained, and indeed improved. They thus accept the right of such individuals to exercise market power to push up their earnings, yet condemn workers for using their power to seek a living wage. This is not acceptable.

Training of workers

5. International experience shows unambiguously the importance of a well-trained workforce to high growth economies. The development of a country's human resource is a sustainable advantage in the search for new markets. It offers real equity benefits to workers, through increased pay for increased skills. It leads to increased productivity. It provides skills to overcome the skills bottlenecks which previously choked off growth.

. One Korean Study, for example, showed returns of 28 percent from formal in-service training, with the highest returns for workers with basic literacy, numeracy, cognitive and communication skills.

. On average, South African companies spend, according to the results of research conducted by the Industrial Strategy Project, only 1% of their payroll on training: the equivalent figure in OECD countries is 4 to 7%.

. (Source: Improving Manufacturing Performance in South Africa, ISP, 1995.).

6. Though OECD countries are characterised by higher levels of general education and literacy, they still spend a greater proportion of funds on additional, in-company training. Our backlogs in training and human resource development are staggering, and substantially greater resources are required, particularly over the next five to ten years.

. Investment in training and retraining is a key means of addressing one of the structural problems in the economy - the low level of skills. It will lead, through increased effectiveness of workers, to sustainable job creation in industry.

Investment in previously neglected areas

. During apartheid, most employers neglected to build factories as well as invest in the rural areas and in black areas. Those who did were only interested in the cheap labour system associated with the bantustan system. The commission should ensure that all of those who were investors in the so-called black spots, who left as soon as labour laws became applicable, should either return or be forced to pay reparation damages to workers in these areas.

Abolition of the forced single sex hostel system

7. The recommendations of the Leon and the Myburgh Commissions will suffice.

Migrant labour

. As in the abolition of the single sex hostel system above.

Workers Museum

. The current political and social situation has been brought about by the relentless struggles of workers. We believe that those who are currently enjoying the fruits of our struggle and have been our oppressors should make a contribution towards a remembrance for workers. A Workers Museum encompassing the struggles for trade union rights in our country since industrialisation began would be a fitting gesture and remembrance to the fallen heroes and heroines - the workers of our land.

Return of all video footage from the police

. During the apartheid era, a lot of video footage was taken by the security forces and, in isolated cases, by employers. It is our view that their usefulness, if ever there was any, has come to an end. Many people were arrested, detained or killed after various union activities. We call on the TRC to request the return of all materials that were taken by the police from our various offices as well as materials such as photos and videos which were taken by them without our consent.

Capital flight

. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, there was massive capital flight from South Africa. Much of this capital flight was illegal and was disguised by the over invoicing of imports and the under invoicing of exports. Estimates indicate that cumulative capital flight arising from trade misinvoicing for the period 1970 to 1988 may have amounted to $20bn. This amounts to over 15,5% of gross domestic fixed investment for the period.

. These figures contrast sharply with business claims about their patriotic commitment to transforming South Africa during the apartheid years. The same $20bn should be contrasted with the paltry sums invested by the private sector in the "reform" oriented development projects in this period.

. We propose that the TRC considers granting amnesty to those business people who come forward to acknowledge this unpatriotic deed on condition they disclose fully what they did and how they did it as well as reinvest such funds in the development of the disadvantaged communities.

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