Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act

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Concept.png Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act 
US 1986 sanctions against apartheid South Africa
President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "implacably opposed" to sanctions against P W Botha's regime

The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) of 1986[1] was a law enacted by the United States Congress which imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Sponsored by U.S. Representative Ron Dellums in 1972 with support from the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. Howard Wolpe, chair of the House Africa Subcommittee, the law was the first United States anti-apartheid legislation.

The CAAA was initiated in reaction to the plight of blacks in South Africa and demanded the end of apartheid. The legislation was passed in 1986 and imposed international sanctions against apartheid South Africa. There were five preconditions for the lifting of these CAAA sanctions, including establishing a timetable for the elimination of apartheid laws, and the release of the renowned political prisoner Nelson Mandela.[2]

CAAA sanctions imposed

The CAAA banned all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and was a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. Direct air links were also banned, including South African Airways flights to U.S. airports. The withdrawal of operations from major corporations and the loss of confidence by the global banking community caused South Africa's economy to go into a deep recession.[2] The act also required various U.S. departments and agencies to suppress funds and assistance to P W Botha's apartheid regime.

Presidential veto overridden

President Ronald Reagan vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress (by the Senate 78 to 21, the House by 313 to 83). In the week leading up to the vote, President Reagan appealed to members of the Republican Party for support, but as Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. would state: [3]

"For this moment, at least, the President has become an irrelevancy to the ideals, heartfelt and spoken, of America".

The CAAA marked the first time in the twentieth century that a president had a foreign policy veto overridden.[2]

Statement by Reagan

When Ronald Reagan's veto was overridden, the president made the following statement:[4]

"Today's Senate vote should not be viewed as the final chapter in America's efforts, along with our allies, to address the plight of the people of South Africa. Instead, it underscores that America — and that means all of us — opposes apartheid, a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals. The debate, which culminated in today's vote, was not whether or not to oppose apartheid but, instead, how best to oppose it and how best to bring freedom to that troubled country.

"I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Punitive sanctions, I believe, are not the best course of action; they hurt the very people they are intended to help. My hope is that these punitive sanctions do not lead to more violence and more repression. Our administration will, nevertheless, implement the law. It must be recognized, however, that this will not solve the serious problems that plague that country. The United States must also move forward with positive measures to encourage peaceful change and advance the cause of democracy in South Africa.

"Now is the time for South Africa's Government to act with courage and good sense to avert a crisis. Moderate black leaders who are committed to democracy and oppose revolutionary violence are ready to work for peaceful change. They should not be kept waiting. It would be tragic to lose this opportunity to create a truly free society which respects the rights of the majority, the minority, and the individual. There is still time for orderly change and peaceful reform. South Africans of good will, black and white, should seize the moment."

Fatal flight

Pan Am Flight 103 sabotaged on 21 December 1988 over Lockerbie

Two years after the CAAA ban was imposed on direct flights from South Africa to America, foreign minister Pik Botha and a party of negotiators were required to change planes at London's Heathrow airport on 21 December 1988 en route to the signing ceremony of Namibia's Independence at UN headquarters in New York the following day.

Pan Am Flight 103

Pik Botha

The 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross - Lockerbie quoted Tiny Rowland as disclosing that Pik Botha told him that he and 22 South African delegates going to the signing of the Namibian Independence Ratification Ceremony were all booked on Pan Am Flight 103. The film reported that they were given a warning from a source that could not be ignored, and took the earlier Pan Am Flight 101 to New York. It was subsequently shown that the South African booking had always been on the morning Pan Am Flight 101 that departed London Heathrow at 11:00am and arrived safely at New York's JFK airport in the afternoon.[5]

Nelson Mandela accused

Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999

In August 1988, Nelson Mandela was admitted to a luxury Cape Town clinic after contracting tuberculosis in Pollsmoor prison. On 7 December 1988, the Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee announced that, following Mandela's complete recovery, he had been transferred to a "suitable, comfortable and properly secured home" adjacent to Victor Verster prison near the town of Paarl, some 30 miles from Cape Town.

Thus, when Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21 December 1988, the African National Congress (ANC) leader remained in custody as a prisoner.

Despite this perfect alibi, the apartheid regime were quick to accuse Nelson Mandela and the ANC of masterminding the Lockerbie bombing. This amazing accusation was made on 11 January 1989 by South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha who had travelled to Stockholm in Sweden with other foreign dignitaries – including UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar – to attend the memorial service of United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, the highest profile victim of the 270 fatalities at Lockerbie.[6]

Interviewed by Sue MacGregor on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Pik Botha alleged that he and a 22-strong South African delegation, who were booked to fly from London to New York on 21 December 1988, had been targeted by the ANC. However, having been alerted to these ANC plans to kill him, Pik Botha said he managed to outsmart them by taking the earlier Pan Am Flight 101 from Heathrow to JFK, New York.[7]

Bernt Carlsson targeted

Bernt Carlsson laying down the law about Namibia

Of the 270 people murdered at Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was obviously a target. Yet the Lockerbie investigators (CIA, FBI and the Scottish Police) failed to undertake even the most cursory of investigations into Bernt Carlsson's murder.

Commissioner Carlsson was to have taken charge of Namibia on 22 December 1988 immediately after apartheid South Africa had signed an agreement at UN headquarters giving up its illegal occupation of the country. In a 29 September 1987 TV interview, Carlsson had warned that he intended to start proceedings against the countries and firms which had been defying UN law over many years by stealing billions of pounds-worth of Namibia's natural resources. Among those facing UN compensation claims were: the diamond mining firm De Beers; the apartheid regime of South Africa; Rio Tinto Group, owners of the Rössing Uranium Mine; and, the government of Iran which today still owns 15% of Rössing and, in 1988-89, received large shipments of uranium from Namibia.[8]

Because Bernt Carlsson died at Lockerbie, none of these prosecutions ever took place. Now, more than 21 years after the Lockerbie disaster, it is probably too late to seek compensation from the offending countries and firms. However, the lapse of time cannot allow the murder of a senior UN diplomat to go unpunished.

On 20 May 2012, the so-called "Lockerbie bomber" Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who is innocent of the crime, finally succumbed to cancer. The UN must now establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the crime of Lockerbie, and authorise the Commission to refer the case to the International Court of Justice for action to be taken against both the individuals and country or countries involved in the targeting of Bernt Carlsson on Pan Am Flight 103.[9]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Pan Am Flight 103: It was the Uraniumarticle6 January 2014Patrick HaseldineFollowing Bernt Carlsson's untimely death in the Lockerbie bombing, the UN Council for Namibia inexplicably dropped the case against Britain's URENCO for illegally importing yellowcake from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia.
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  1. [USPL|99|440, USBill|99|H.R.|4868]
  2. a b c
  3. Roberts. Steven V "Senate ,78 to 21, Overrides Reagan’s Veto and Imposes Sanctions on South Africa" The New York Times October 3, 1986 retrieved on 2 February 2009.
  4. Statement on the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, October 2, 1986.
  5. "Why the Lockerbie flight booking subterfuge, Mr Botha?"
  6. "Lockerbie: Bernt Carlsson's secret meeting in London"
  7. "ANC as the fall-guys for Lockerbie bombing" Patrick Haseldine's letter to The Guardian, 22 April 1992
  8. "Bernt Carlsson laying down the law about Namibia"
  9. "Bernt Carlsson: Assassinated on Pan Am Flight 103"

External links

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