Donate to Links

Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

GLW Radio on 3CR

Recent comments


Syndicate content

BHP-Billiton: a corporation founded on apartheid plunder

25 April 2001



In late March, newspaper headlines hailed the announcement that giant Australian-owned mining, oil and steel corporation BHP and the huge Anglo-South African mining and base metals conglomerate Billiton had agreed to merge, forming the world's largest mining and second-largest resources corporation. The new monolith is worth A$57 billion at current stock market prices.

None of the capitalist “market analysts” who have churned out thousands of words on the merger thought it necessary to point out that Billiton's accumulated capital is the product of decades of collaboration with the racist apartheid system in South Africa.

Billiton's parent company Gencor formally came into being with the amalgamation of two companies formed in the late 19th century, the General Mining and Finance Corporation (later known as Genmin) and the Union Corporation.

Billiton was purchased by Gencor from Royal Dutch/Shell in 1994. In 1997, Gencor chose Billiton to be its off-shore investment subsidiary listed on the London Stock Exchange. Gencor's extensive non-precious metals assets (aluminium, titanium, nickel, chrome and manganese alloys, and coal) in South Africa, Mozambique, Australia, Colombia, Brazil, Suriname and North America were transferred to Billiton.

Gencor's gold and platinum holdings — Gengold and Impala Platinum — remain with the parent company listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

Capitalism and apartheid

South Africa's mining capitalists did not just benefit from the racist system, they helped design it. In the late 1890s, Genmin's owner George Albu proposed that legislation be passed to force black South Africans to become cheap labourers. “The law is not the same for the kaffir as for the white man”, Albu stated. Albu's views were shared by all the country's mining bosses.

In its submission to the 1997 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings into business and apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) explained: “Capitalism in South Africa was built and sustained precisely on the basis of the systematic racial oppression of the majority of our people ... Employers collaborated with the apartheid regime from the outset, supported apartheid in all its manifestations and benefited from apartheid capitalism with its exploitative and oppressive nature ... Far from being innocent of racial oppression, it was precisely the captains of industry — particularly those associated with the diamond and gold-mining industry — who pioneered many of the core features of what later came to be known as apartheid.”

In 1913, the infamous land act was passed that reserved 87% of South Africa's land for the white minority and confined the vast majority of black South Africans to “native reserves”.

The basic thrust of the capitalists' policy, COSATU noted, “was clear and explicit: to create a land shortage in the native reserves so as to force rural African males into service on the mines, white agriculture and industry. These migrant workers were always seen to be single males, temporarily employed in the `white' areas at wages which mine owners, farmers and industrialists ... could afford. African women and children were to remain in the reserves, supposedly living off the land. The pass laws were to be strictly applied to ensure that `surplus' or `idle' `natives' were promptly returned to the reserves ... This was the system which apartheid sought to preserve and modernise after 1948.”

This allowed the bosses to pay very low wages that did not take into account workers' expenses in raising families and looking after elderly relatives. Wages did not take account of the workers' periods of ill health, unemployment and retirement. These costs were borne by relatives, mainly women, in the “bantustans” in which millions of black people were forcibly removed to.

South African big business systematically denied trade union rights to black workers and worked hand in glove with the racist South African state's repressive bodies to subjugate and entrench the “inferior status” of black workers.

Especially after the outbreak of mass strikes in 1973 and the 1976 Soweto uprisings, noted COSATU's TRC submission, “cooperation between the police and bosses in crushing strikes, often violently, was commonplace. Mass arrests and dismissals were the order of the day ... The [police] security branch usually dealt with operations affecting trade unions ... Operations ranged from disappearances and abductions [of trade union activists] to the theft of trade union subscriptions to a major wave of arson and bombings of [trade union] offices ... There was no discernible action by the bosses to distance themselves from the naked brutality of the apartheid system.”

Gencor was no different. On New Year's Day 1986, 30,000 workers at Impala Platinum (Implats) mines in Bophuthatswana went on strike for higher pay and other improvements. Implats refused to recognise the workers' union because it chose to abide by the “independent” apartheid-created Bophuthatswana's anti-union laws (while continuing to recognise the South African-based whites-only union). Six days after the strike began, 25,000 workers were dismissed. Implats permitted Bophuthatswana riot police to attack workers with teargas and dogs. Similar mass dismissals and repression took place during strikes at Gencor's mines in Bophuthatswana in 1991.

In its final report, the TRC found that the South African mining industry's “direct involvement with the state in the formulation of oppressive policies or practices that resulted in low labour costs (or otherwise boosted profits) can be described as first-order involvement [in apartheid] ... The shameful history of subhuman compound [hostel] conditions, brutal suppression of striking workers, racist practices and meagre wages is central to understanding the origins and nature of apartheid.”


The scale of the South African mining capitalists' disregard for workers' lives is breathtaking: approximately 69,000 mineworkers died in accidents between 1900 and 1993, and more than 1 million were seriously injured.

The most chilling example of how South Africa's bosses put profits before workers' safety occurred on September 15, 1986, at Gencor's Kinross gold mine. In what was the worst accident in South African mining history, 177 mineworkers were killed in an underground polyurethane fire. Shortly after the disaster, the names of white miners were released. The dead black miners were identified by ethnic group as: “Sotho 45, Shangaan (Mozambican) 21, Pondo 20, Hlubi 6, Venda 1, Xhosa 29, Tswana 14, Malawi 15, Pedi 1".

Gencor management obstructed and sabotaged the investigation of the tragedy. In a poorly prosecuted case, the company was acquitted of culpable homicide. The only fine imposed was R100,000 against the worker accused of starting the fire.

In 1987, another 63 workers were killed in an accident at Gencor's St Helena gold mine.

The symbiotic relationship between capitalism and apartheid resulted in annual profit rates of up to 40% for local and international big business. The source was not hard to detect. As Professor Sampie Terreblanche told the TRC, “the per capita income of whites was 10.6 times higher than African per capita income in 1946/47, white income was 15 times higher in 1975".

Gencor and the Broederbond

South African corporations were able to accumulate vast fortunes from the superexploitation of black workers. By 1994, mining giant Anglo American Corporation and four other conglomerates — the tobacco-based Rembrandt and insurance companies Sanlam, Old Mutual and Liberty Life — controlled 85% of the shares listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

The Afrikaner Broederbond (a secret society of ruling-class Afrikaans-speakers in the top ranks of the National Party, the civil service, the military and police, big business and the Afrikaans-language white media and universities) and the Afrikaner-owned Sanlam insurance company (which controlled Gencor) worked closely with the NP to promote Afrikaner capitalism after 1948.

Sanlam, the Volkskas bank and Old Mutual mobilised the savings of Afrikaner farmers and workers and invested them in Afrikaner big businesses. Sanlam's assets rose from R30 million in 1948 to R3.1 billion in 1981, and companies it controlled had assets worth R19.3 billion.

Sanlam and Gencor were pillars of the apartheid establishment until the system's formal demise in 1994. Sanlam, founded in 1918, was run by National Party founder W.A. Holmeyer until his death in 1953. A long list of NP leaders and ministers served on the Sanlam board and the many companies it controlled — including Gencor.

Sanlam managing director Desmond Smith admitted to the TRC in 1997 that the conglomerate's first priority was the interests of its shareholders and policyholders. Sanlam management was bent on protecting those interests, hence its collaboration with the National Party and the racist apartheid regime. Smith said that the rhetoric of nationalisation and socialism espoused by those in the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle was irreconcilable with Sanlam's commitment to a free market.

In the early 1970s, Wim de Villiers — Sanlam vice-chair, Gencor chairperson, a key member of the Cape NP establishment and mentor of apartheid's brutal second-last president, P.W. Botha — championed “cooperation between the public and private sector in an overarching strategy to ward off Marxism”. It was more than symbolic that in 1977 famed Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko met his death at the hands of police torturers in room 619 on the sixth floor of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth.

This cooperation reached its most vicious peak with PW Botha's 1978-84 “Total Strategy” to defeat the liberation movement, in which the military and police brass, the top business people and leading white politicians combined in the semi-secret National Security Management System to defend “free enterprise” and white supremacy.

In 1986, Gencor's executive chairperson, Derek Keys, moved directly into the apartheid government as minister of economic coordination, trade and industry.

As the anti-apartheid movement was making apartheid “ungovernable”, in 1988 Fred du Plessis, Sanlam chairperson and a top adviser to President Botha, advocated “reforms” that would help divide the black population by creating a black “middle class”.

In mid-1992, Keys became finance minister. Following South Africa's historic first democratic election in 1994, the African National Congress-led government reappointed Keys as finance minister as a signal that the new government would not deviate from its predecessor's pro-capitalist economic policies.

Pleading ill health, Keys rejected pleas from the ANC to remain as finance minister and resigned in 1994. Keys subsequently served a term as chief executive of Billiton.



This is a most interesting article and very explanatory.

You say you are Marxist / Communist, I believe it is no different to British Capitialism at all.

I worked in the Mining Industry too, as a Draughtswoman, and as a Coloured person, the few of us of only 1 Black and 15 White Afrikaner, 10 Coloured, including myself and I found in the entire industry in Johannesburg. I know precisely what the office politics were about, because I had to go to over 60 companies, to work at, including 4 in London and 5 in the Netherlands in 2002, due to racist Black Empowerment Policies.

I certainly hope that you believe in Freedom of speech and publish everybody's views, unlike the British Apartheid controllers, who have removed the websites of DA and Leader Magazine, because they do not believe in Freedom of speech and the truth that I have to say about the evil ones who owe me/us money - the AAC/De Beers.......& their bosses, for having stolen my forebearers properties and their Apartheid policies of oppression, lake of opportunities, low rates/salaries, no unemployment, leave, ....., unfair dismissals, no job opportunities as they had only employed, Firstly, White British only Managers, Section Leaders, Draughtsmen, Secretaries....., then other White foreigners, then only White Afrikaners, then Coloured people, in the Offices.

I got on well with all of the Engineers whom I worked with and they approved of all of my Drawings first time.

This was the system, policies and practices, which eminated from the British governments,Oxford University, Cambridge University...... etc. and as a single-parent Coloured woman, whose work was of excellent quality - even if I have to say so myself, because I was never asked to redo a single Technical Drawing, I was asked to provide, but I was the only person or the first, to be told that they did not have any more work for me, yet they kept the foreign, White staff and contractors on, for years, despite the fact that they were doing no work whatsoever and just chatting to each other all day long. They were also then allowed to have holidays and still return to secured, paid permanent or contract positions, going on overseas holidays, allowed to use the office telephones more than twice a day, but I/we never was/were - as per your indications of above, in our own country as well.

They were also thus able to afford to live in the expensive White areas too, and this is all that I used to even go and talk to the NP Director of Manpower about in Johannesburg at my own initiative, after I was assisted by the organisers of the NMP [National Manpower Commission's] three day Conference in Pretoria in 1991. I saw the said advert in the newspaper and as I was unemployed, I called them and told them that I had to be present too, but that I was unable to pay the said R1,300:00 fee. The Afrikaner gentleman then took my no and called me abut an hour later, to inform me that, they had managed to get Gencor, to sponsor me.
I thanked them and Cosatu said on TV news, that there were boycotted because they had wanted to Chair the conference. I attended and then saw that Adrian Bird arrived with about 10 Black males, contrary to their press announcement of the night before.

After the Chairman, Mr Barker, made his opening address and welcomed Cosatu for attending, I asked the first question which was, "When are the foreigners going to be stopped from being given our jobs and being paid more than us, South African's?"

Needless to say, during each of the tea and lunch breaks we had, all three day's, I had of the other delegates, including a Black male who was from the USA, representing some American Government organisation, who also wanted to know who I was, and who said to me on the third day, "do you know what, you really should meet Hilary Clinton, because you will get on very well with her. She also enjoy talking about politics."

After the third day's deliberations, we were asked if we were interested - to then write out any proposals we may have for the drafting of new Labour Laws.
I did no see anybody else stay to do so, but I certainly jumped to the occassion, because I had so much interest in it, and it affected my children and I as well, since when I had begun working in 1977, including all of the Draughtspersons, countrywide, whom I was representing, as a one-woman trade unionist in the Technical Engineering Field, and all of the other workers too who were not represented there as my proposals were basically generalised.

They had to supply me with five pages, to do so and I was most pleased and felt that it was truly worth my while having attended and two months later, I received 5 Books concerning the said conference, including the prospective new Labour Laws, of which all that I had proposed, I was so pleased to see, had also been included, therein.

In 1992, I received and invite from the Human Sciences Research council to present a paper on Maths, Science nd Technology, in South Africa. I was taken by surprise but did so, nonetheless. When I presented it, one of the delegates said that something I had just said "that the Corporations'do not inform the government as to what type of skills are required in the foreseable future, so as to them inform the schools and colleges & universities and to stop recruiting foreigners for our jobs, because we need the money too."
This British male stood up immediately after I asked him which company he was from and he replied AAC, and I said that I was there as well, and he stormed out, back to the office in Johannebsurg.

They were so decent to me, that they even posted me a copy of th enewspaper artices which had my speech in it.

In 1992 and 1993, I occassionally arranged appointments, which were allocated to me immediately, with the then Director of Manpower in Johannesburg, to discuss my/our problems of discrimination against me/us,by AAC and they even said that I should set up my own trade union. I told them that that would not be easy, because there were not many of us, that we were working at various companies and that i would be very difficult because the British and British South African bosses were bound to find out, because we shared offices with these other staff/contractors and then e would be black-listed, which was a known AAC practice too. You would then not be able to get work in the Draughting Field again, which is precisely what happened to myself, in 1993, after the Anglo Bosses had seen me in the Sunday Times, fighting the government non-violently, since 1990, for the Restitution of my one grandmother's over 300 properties in Johannesburg, which they had taken from her in 1958-1962, after I had discovered my proofs to the effect in the government archives.

Anglo Bosses then told me to leave immediately "because I was always setting precedents in the country". I was then not offered another contract since by the Britihs agents or comanies and had to resort to normal office work, instead, but that too was not forthcoming, because then the ANC-SACP said that companies had to employ Black people and I therefore could not get work in Johannesburg anymore. So once again, we are being discriminated against.

In 1997, I had also handed in my statement to the TRC, regards my similar complaints as you have stated here, against us South African Draughtspersons, but they chose not to have it addressed, for their own discriminatory, ANC-SACP reasons.

So, when are you guys going to do the same as above, to AAC...De Beers.....too?
Is it because they are British, that you are not doing the same to them too, or because they are in cahoots in secret deals with ANC-SACP, for Black people only now, while we Coloured people, because I see hat there are o Coloured people appointed to Board memberships either, and are still oppressed and disadvantaged, when Southern Africa in fact,originally belongs to the minority Coloured people?
I dislike gangsterism/bullying by the masses against minorities, who are the non-violent people, anway.


MORE: a corporation founded on apartheid plunder

English Dukes & their relatives were involved in the Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa and had thus also benefitted and profitted thereof as well as of British Apartheid in South Africa. Of such example, being:

2nd Duke of Westminster

When the 1t Duke inherited his father’s property at the end of
1869, he found the stud boxes and yards empty and derelict, and the eleven paddocks occupied by cattle and sheep………..

In the early 1890’s, the Duke of Westminster had begun to worry about the problem of adequate financial provision for his ten surviving children.
His grandfather’s entail on the settled estate which included the London properties, had ended when Victor Alexander came of age in 1874, and the Duke had resettled them so that they were held by him and his heir for each of their lifetimes, to be inherited outright by Earl Grosvenor’s eldest son. The £6000,000 plus he had spent on rebuilding Eaton Hall had left him strapped for cash……….He solved the problem in 1893 by selling Clivedon to William Waldorf Astor for £250,000……….

The Boer War began on 11 October and Wyndham was appointed Under Secretary of State for War, a job well-suited to his romantic concept of Imperial mission. With the start of hostilities Bendor became Extra ADC to Lord Roberts, Commander-In-Chief, South African Forces, who already had the Dukes of Marlborough and Norfolk on his staff..……..and Marlborough joining his cousin Winston Churchill on the march to Johannesburg……..

When Bendor was transferred to Lord Roberts staff he joined at the front, where there were a number of his relations. Arty, Gerry and Bertie Grosvenor were all in uniform, as were Lord Chesham, Lord Charles Cavendish and Prince Dolly of Teck.

Bendor was at Lord Robert’s side when the General relieved Kimberley, captured Cronje and took over Bloemfontein………..At one stage Bendor saw another officer, firing away, crawl up beside him. It was Marlborough who joked, “Dukes are cheap today”.

The greatest battle was the capture of Pretoria, the Boer capital.
Mr. WH Knowles of Great Harwood had sent a small package addressed. “To the Officer who hoists the Union Jack (when that happy even takes place), Pretoria, South Africa”.

Inside was a note “Thanks have a cigar” and when this was delivered to Lord Roberts, he passed it on the ADC On 7 June a letter was sent from Government House, Pretoria to Mr. Knowles:

Dear Sir

I write to say that I was the officer who hoisted the Union Jack over Pretoria, in consequence of which I have received an excellent cigar, which Lord Roberts gave me, having been forwarded by you. I thank you again both for the cigar and congratulations and remain,

yours truly

(ADC HQ Staff)

At the front with Lord Roberts Bendor came into his own…..carrying messages made their way back to his step-father at the War Office.

During this time he also became friends with a man who was to remain close to him for the next fifty years. He and Winston Churchill were companions……in Chuchill’s book on the Boer War, and the incident led to Bendor being mentioned in Despatches and receiving the Queen’s Medal, five clasps.

In Jun 1900 Bendor was sent south from Pretoria to Cape Town with Lord Robert’s mail. As he was travelling…..and escort, and Churchill….to accompany him……….to Cape Town with no further trouble……..

The twenty-two months spent away from England, having to shoulder responsibility and where his rank and fortune offered no excuse if he failed, turned Bendor from a boy into a man…………….

While Bendor was still serving in South Africa, Wyndham was to succeed AJ Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland. The post carried with it considerable privilege and enormous power………….

The Grosvenor Estate - ………When the 1st duke died, because so much was held in a trust, his Will was proved at less than £1,000,000 but estate duty of £600,000, more than ninety percent of which was on the London properties, was due. Bendor and his advisors decided that to raise this amount small plots of land in Victoria, Pimlico and Belgravia must be sold…….any daughters were to be the beneficiaries of £100,000 trust……….
While property was being sold to pay the 1st Duke’s death duties….n…improvement schemes were halted……….

Bendor had returned from South Africa convinced that the future of the Empire ly in it’s Dominions….position in the House of lords added prestige…..
South Africa…..For a while he visited the country every year……..and English settlers……

Bendor had been worried about Sheilagh’s health and took her to South Africa for October. Encouraged by Leo Amery and Lord Milner, he had bought 30,000 acres of pastural and arable land, close to the Basuto frontier. He planned to let it in 300-acre lots to farmers emigrating from England.The nearest town was Bloemfontein, and he named his Orange River estate, Westminster. Bendor saw his settlement on Crown land, as the first step in a long-term plan of Colonization, which would eventually rebalance the population and reduce the Boers, to a minority. The growth of the British Empire was the cause closest to his heart and, inspired by his new scheme, he told his friend Joe Laycock that here at least, was one man beating his sword into a ploughshare.

South Africa was as beautiful as he remembered and he commissioned Herbert Baker to design him a medium-size Dutch Colonial-style manor house with crow-stepped gables, white walls and high cool rooms. It was constructed of materials shipped from France, and was surrounded by colourful gardens. For a while, he visited the country every year, and he often sent out friends and employees whom he thought, needed a holiday. The first settlers, were eighteen families from the Eaton Estate, and a stud was established, with six thoroughbred stallions…………

Bendor went on his own to Naples early in July1906, and sailed from there to spend five months in South Africa…….
Churchill replied to Bendor on 18 October……………I hope you are enjoying yourself in S.A. & that your Land Settlements schemes are prospering finally.

Bendor was increasingly preoccupied with politics and, after the sudden death of Joseph Chamberlain, Milner became leader of the Tariff Reform and Neo-Imperialist Group.
In July the Imperial South African Association, which Bendor fervently supported, held a meeting at which Milner spoke not only on the ‘New Imperialism’, but also such inflammatory topics as the Transvaal, Chinese labour and resettlement of South Africa by British immigrants……….

On 5th November, the Westminster’s arrived at Sandringham to shoot. The King’s birthday was celebrated with a special ceremony four days later. Sir Francis Hopwood from the Colonial Office and Mr. Solomon, the London based Agent General for the Transvaal, travelled up to Norfolk, escorted by Scotland Yard detectives, to present his Majesty with the Cullinan Diamond. Afterwards……Solmon was presented with KCVO as his reward.
That same day the King bestowed on Bendor, the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order given for ‘personal services to the Crown.’
……..Bendor was presented with the insignia of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, First Class.

On 19th of May, Shelagh, accompanied by his uncle, Lord Hugh Grosvenor………..Three days later he hosted another meeting of the Imperial South African Association at Grosvenor House, and on 4th August he spoke at a meeting in support of Milner’s fiscal policy and the ‘crying need’ for national defence.

1908 was not good year for the ruling class. The Radicals were promising new legislation that would introduce unemployment insurance, capital gains tax, profits tax, a capital levy, licensing laws and educational laws, all of which would guarantee to increase support for socialism………

Bendor’s next move was a ‘gallop’ off to South Africa and he lent his yacht to George and Percy Wyndham who sailed it to Venice. Embarking with his private secretary Colonol Wilfred Lloyd on the Union Castle liner from Southampton on 5 September Bendor was full of enthusiasm for a scheme to grow cotton on low-lying land on his Orange River estate, and they spent busy weeks laying plans for the future. They sailed for home from Cape Town on 12 November……..

By coincidence, on 21st December in what was later referred to as the ‘Liverpool Speech’, Lloyd George let fly against all the things for which Bendor was battling: ~Lord Milner, national defence and South Africa. The Duke was recovered enough to fire off a letter to the Times, inveighing against Lloyd George and his Radical Party policies, but the Westminsters still……….

He entertained ex-servicemen who fought in South Africa, and the officers of the Queen’s Westminster’s were invited to a dinner… Grosvenor House………..

Bendor had decided, despite opposition from Cecil Parker, his Agent at Eaton, to reduce his holdings in Britain, so that he would have capital available to invest abroad. In addition, there were several very large mortgages still outstanding from the 1st Duke’s
Time as well as family obligations, and it was these responsibilities and his large African estates that made him decide to dispose of Halkyn properties in North Wales.
On 8th October he left for South Africa………..

Losing the political battle made Bendor even more resolved to instigate changes in the way the Grosvenor Estate was managed, and he was more anxious than ever to make a success of his African ventures……..
His uncles, Lord Gerald and Lord Hugh were in uniform; as was his half-brother Percy, who wrote their mother on 11 September………..

But another punishing blow came on 7th November, when it was reported that Bendor’s uncle, Lord Henry (Hugh) Grosvenor, a Captain in the Household Cavalry, was missing in action…….had been killed.

Bendor shrewdly set out to continue the process he had begun in 1900 when he returned from the Boer War – to diversify his holdings throughout the world, so that come fire , famine or flood, the family will survive………

On 2 June 1953 they attended the Queen’s Coronation, Nancy wearing the Westminster tiara; and exactly ten day’s later, the Grosvenor heir , Captain Robert Grosvenor, died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-eight. The next Duke would now be William Grosvenor, the invalid cousin, Bendor barely knew……….

Bendor’s twenty-five page Will was dated November 1952 and ensured that although William inherited the title, none of the property became his ……..
The eventual death duties on Bendor’s estate - £19,100, 000 – were the highest ever levied …..His executors raised £500,000 by sales of silver, carpets and furniture, and six lots of armour were sold privately to the Ministry of Works for exhibition at the Tower of London. The Westminster tiara was finally auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1959 for £110,000……..

Thirty years after Bendor’s death, the Grosvenor’s are the richest family in Great Britain – their wealth is estimated to be over £500,000,000. ……
Until 1979, when the present Duke succeeded, it was often said that there was a family curse that no son ever succeeded his father in the dukedom. The 3rd Duke was descended from the 1st Duke’s third son, and the 4th and 5th Dukes, who were brothers, were his ninth son’s sons.

Bendor had been born at the height of the British Empire’s Victorian prosperity, when it dominated the world………What ever his faults, he was a good landlord, a loyal friend, a loving father and a worthy heir to his grandfather who never forgot the family motto ‘virtue not ancestry’.

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor and family, Britain, 55, : $11, Billion + real estate

MULTI- BILLIONAIRES : founded on British Apartheid plundering-

De Beers has long given the perception that it exercises considerable control in the African countries in which it operates. The government of Botswana is often jokingly referred to as a division of De Beers, and in both South Africa and Namibia, De Beers has had close relationships with the government. Since the conflict diamonds debacle began, this reputation for control has ironically obliged De Beers to seek to underplay the company's strength or ability to peddle influence.

De Beers executives Nicky Oppenheimer (left) and Gary Ralfe (middle) with Tony Trahar of Anglo American Plc (Reuters)
The De Beers monopoly hinges on influence, knowledge and trust, and the sightholder network is a crucial part of this axis. Favoritism also plays a role. Benny Steinmetz, an Israeli diamond dealer, is now widely seen as De Beers' king among sightholders, according to industry insiders. He has historically been an important presence for the company in Angola and is believed to be involved in the company's plans to return there now that war has ended. He is also influential in South African politics, with close ties to African National Congress luminary-turned-businessman Tokyo Sexwale, whose Mvelaphanda Resources is now partnered with De Beers in South Africa. Sightholders of Steinmetz's caliber get to be part of the club, in part, because they use their political influence to look after the interests of the company. How much did Oppenheimer Bribe Tokyo with?????

He was Ernest Oppenheimer

He began by sorting rough diamonds, under the supervision of his brother Louis. Louis Oppenheimer not only managed Dunkelsbuhler in London but also coordinated the pricing and classification of diamonds in all the other firms in the syndicate. During this period, Ernest Oppenheimer read all the correspondence that came in from Dunkelsbuhler's representative in Kimberley. Almost from the beginning, he had his heart set on going to the diamond fields, according to a memoir by a diamond sorter who worked with him. "Ernest had bought a six-penny book, in which he carefully noted, meticulously ordered, everything that might be conceivably of some use to him," the sorter, Etienne Fallek, later recalled.

Oppenheimer's initial success in acquiring capital came, however, from gold rather than diamond mines. A group of German investors, who were clients of Dunkelsbuhler, wanted to invest in gold properties in the Transvaal, and Oppenheimer arranged for them to buy an interest in operating gold mines

HARRY OPPENHEIMER, 80 years of age, has dominated the South African economy for nearly half of this century. The C.S.O. is arguably the purest example of his monopolistic powers, but it is only part of a far-flung business empire known to his critics as ''the octopus.'' With some 600 corporations, covering six continents and employing more than 800,000 workers, Oppenheimer's diverse portfolio ranges from platinum to wood pulp, insurance to investment trusts, gold to daily newspapers. By some accounts, Oppenheimer's collection of multinationals is bigger than ITT, Nissan or Siemens.


Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet