By Phapano Phasha
Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966. Whilst Prime Minister in 1962, he was quoted in Parliament as saying, “Mr Oppenheimer with all that monetary power and with his powerful machine which is spread all over the whole country he can, if he so chooses, exercise an enormous influence against the government and the state”.
In 1969 a report which was commissioned in 1966 after Verwoerd’s assassination by Hertzog and led by Professor Hoek, was leaked after the state under B.J. Vorster refused to publish it. In his findings Professor Hoek, who had distanced himself from the report, went as far as to say that the Oppenheimers were so powerful that they could destabilise a country.
In 1951 all mining houses were controlled by the English and it was only in 1961 that a wholly owned Afrikaner mining company(Gencor now called BHP Billiton) was started with the assistance of Oppenheimer funding. In 1985 Barclay’s Bank now known as Absa gave Oppenheimer 30% of its shares before they delisted in South Africa. Today the Oppenheimers have control and shares in the top 20 listed JSE companies. Moreover, in the 1990s it was believed that the Oppenheimers controlled more than 60% of the South African economy which is not far fetched today – since more than 95% of the South African economy is still in white hands.
It was only in 1959 after the emergence of the Pan Afrikanist Congress of Azania (PAC) that both the Afrikaner and English communities came together to start a foundation meant to address “The Growing Black Militancy” and which decided to co-opt “civilised” blacks amongst the natives. Oppenheimer believed that a certain sector of the black people could be trained to become capitalist. In 1976 a housing conference called by the Oppenheimers ostensibly to address the housing crisis of blacks caused by urbanization, was turned into a very influential machinery to create a black middle class and prepare for a future led by whites outside of the Afrikaner government which was under immense pressure from investors
This initiative came to be known as the Urban Foundation – the Chair was Harry Oppenheimer and the Deputy Chair was Anton Rupert. In addition the Urban Foundation had more than 20 executives which included the likes of Clive Menell who went on to become the Deputy Chair of the Mandela Foundation and whose daughter is currently a trustee of the said Mandela Foundation. Through the Urban Foundation and its chairman’s trust, which included the trust of its white executives, negotiations were started with the African National Congress (ANC) in 1985. To this end, many black people were urbanised and civilised with organisations like the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ANC being funded by the Urban Foundation.
The Urban Foundation deployed the first Minister of Finance in 1993 who happened to be the first President of Gencor/BHP Billiton which in turn was financed by Anglo in 1963. The first Governor of the Reserve Bank and the first female banker, Maria Ramos, who was trained by Barclays in England in 1981, were also deployed. The black middle class or as we say the “Clever Blacks” today owes its being to Oppenheimer and the Urban Foundation. The Foundation has produced civilized blacks such as Dr Motlana and many other black millionaires as well as billionaires who as the founding fathers of the Foundation including the legendary Ernest Oppenheimer concluded, will preserve the legacy of white privilege.