Crude politics : the ANC, the shipping research bureau and the anti-apartheid oil boycott

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    Abstract: The workings of the anti-apartheid oil boycott have attracted little scholarly attention to date. Their symbolic importance and contribution to the significant escalation of financial cost for the Apartheid state has been noted, as has the role of Western states and multinational oil companies and Middle Eastern oil states in undermining the boycott. This article focuses on an aspect of the boycott which has received insufficient attention: the role in the boycott of the African National Congress (ANC) and of the Shipping Research Bureau (SRB), the Dutch anti-apartheid organisation specially established in 1979 to trace oil shipments to South Africa. Through a close reading of under-utilised source materials, the article analyses the ANC’s handling of the SRB’s identification of Middle Eastern anti-apartheid allies as the primary source of oil supplies to South Africa throughout the length of the boycott. The SRB’s ‘anti-apartheid forensics’ was hamstrung by the ANC’s asymmetrical emphasis on the collaboration of Western oil companies with Apartheid. Dependence on invaluable anti- Apartheid solidarities of various kinds constrained the ANC’s ability to act vis-à-vis allies, who in pursuing their own interests, were in violation of the boycott.