Notes and Documents
(No. 30/71)
by Sean Gervasi, Unit on Apartheid
New York, New York, United States
July 1971
Publisher: United Nations
13 pages
Type: Report
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States, United Nations
Language: English
Contents: I. BREAKDOWN OF APARTHEID? • Two versions of argument • Narrow definition of apartheid • The real essence of apartheid • Apartheid becomes more oppressive • II. POVERTY, INEQUALITY AND ECONOMIC GROWTH • Direction of growth in market economy • Consequences of highly unequal distribution of income • III. ECONOMIC GROWTH WITH CHANGES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF INCOME • This paper was prepared by Sean Gervasi, research officer in economics at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at Oxford University, for the Special Session of the Special Committee on Apartheid, held at the United Nations Headquarters in March 1971. Gervasi says milder critics of apartheid often argue that, in the "long run," the logic of "competitive capitalism" would triumph over the deliberate injustices of official apartheid policy and that economic progress would somehow "dissolve" the system of apartheid. Today this argument is made more frequently -  that apartheid is "breaking down" under the pressures of economic growth, and that economic progress and apartheid are incompatible. This "liberal optimism" has important political implications for all of sub-Saharan Africa, so it bears careful analysis. Many people believe the South African government’s definition of  apartheid as "separate development" of the races. Implementing apartheid policy would, therefore, seem to imply increasing separation of the races at every level, but the opposite has taken place during the last 20 years. Whites are wealthy and free, while non-whites remain poor. An unemployed African who does not return to his reserve risks being arrested without a warrant and sent to a work colony for up to three years. Despite some occupational upgrading, the distribution of income has shifted against Africans. Non-white wages have improved in absolute terms, but white wages have increased more rapidly. The report mentions semi-skilled jobs, forced labor, the market economy, labor legislation, pass laws, Bantustans, the labour bureau, education, cheap labor, "homelands," starvation, malnutrition, migrant labourers, the right to bargain collectively and strike, professional skills, industrialization, cities, legal right to reside in "white areas," rebellion, the "suppression of communism," a police state, economic growth, goods and services produced, basic necessities, profits, per capita spending, and African gold miners.