Black and Gold

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

According to Sampson, after the Boer War, the defeated English-speaking South Africans made an unofficial promise to their Afrikaner conquerors that they would not challenge Afrikaner repression of blacks and other “second-class” human beings if they could take charge of South Africa’s manufacturing, mining, and banking industries. This conspiracy of silence, though at times causing many an English speaker to have an uneasy conscience, was maintained without many problems until the early 1960’s, when black revolution became not only an American but also a South African cause. More momentous still, however, from the 1960’s onward, has been the increasing hold foreign businessmen have had on South African affairs. Afrikaner leaders, enjoying the great prosperity brought in large measure by American, West German, Canadian, and British investments in South Africa, allowed Western leaders to expand their companies and, by so doing, their influence as well.

As white prosperity increased, so did Afrikaner pride in their white nation’s accomplishments. As Sampson notes, that pride came from a sense of having made secure what other nations felt could never be secure. Lulled by a false complacency and forgetful of how Afrikaner prosperity resulted from black labor and foreign managers directing those workers, the Afrikaners failed to notice that world opinion was turning against them in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Massive pressures applied by angry stockholders in companies such as General Motors, Kodak, and International Business Machines forced overseas owners of South African operations either to reduce or entirely withdraw their commitment to South Africa. Foreign curtailment of ventures led many highly trained English-speaking whites to leave their country and those remaining to feel betrayed by Afrikaner racial policy.

Sampson brings his own sense of sadness over the tragedy of South Africa to his commentary yet never questions the rightness or the inevitability of the changes taking place. He gives much of the credit for change to those people within South Africa and abroad who demanded of corporations doing business in the republic that they speak out against apartheid and help destroy it so that a system fair to all South Africans might be established.