JANUARY 1983 - VOLUME 4 - NUMBER 1
Namibia Conference Targets MNCs
The role of multinational corporations in Namibia was the focus of a conference held November 29-December 2 in Washington, D. C. "The people of Namibia are exploited, very often under slave conditions, by multinationals," said keynote speaker and Nobel Peace Laureate Sean MacBride. "Namibia is used as a colony by South Africa," he added.
Organized by the American Committee on Africa, with the support of the United Nations Council for Namibia, the conference brought together activists, academics and trade unionists from around the world who are involved with the issue of Namibia's economic and political future.
Theo-Ben Gurirab, the permanent observer at the United Nations representing the South West African Peoples' Organization (SWAPO), stated that multinationals have a "negative role" in Namibia. Foreign corporations "do not, have never, and will not for the foreseeable future play any useful role for the Namibian people," he said.
A booklet prepared by the American Committee on Africa to accompany the seminar, Namibia's stolen wealth: North American investment and South African occupation, details the extent of multinational penetration of each sector of the Namibian economy.
For example, mining, which accounts for 60 percent of Namibia's exports, is dominated by three multinationals: the South African firm Consolidated Diamond Mines (De Beers), the British Rossing Uranium Ltd. (46.5 percent owned by Rio Tinto Zinc), and the U.S. Tsumeb Corp. (jointly controlled by Newmont Mining and Amax.)
Namibia's tax structure favors such large multinational investors. According to the booklet, "Rossing illustrates these conditions most dramatically. Rossing has paid absolutely no taxes to the government and will pay none until 1984. Yet it paid more than $115 million in shareholder's dividends (from 1977, when it commenced production) to 1982."
In addition to their role in exporting Namibia's mineral wealth at bargain prices, multinationals contribute to the military and police apparatus that maintains South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia, the report states. Moreover, some multinationals are now maintaining their own security forces which act in conjunction with the official police and military. "Rossing has a private commando force of 69," which the company has ready to use "against black workers, particularly during industrial unrest," states the booklet.
Profiles of each of the foreign corporations doing business in Namibia are included in the booklet, which is authored by Gail Hovey, research director of the New York-based Africa Fund. Sean MacBride wrote the foreword.
For a copy of the booklet, send $2.50 to: American Committee on Africa, 198 Broadway, New York, NY 10038.