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South African Diamond Trade: Enforcement And Perpetuation Of Apartheid, Past And Present

4539 words - 18 pages

South African Diamond Trade: Enforcement and Perpetuation of Apartheid, Past and Present

I. Introduction

South Africa was a rich country with a beautiful landscape and a rich culture. There were tremendous natural resources in South Africa and spectacular beauty. South African society was fluid and accepting, allowing people to move from one tribe to the next, without discrimination. This accepting and truly benevolent moral system, perhaps turned out to be a fatal flaw, manipulated and abused by European colonists who arrived in 1652 and have left an indelible legacy on the nation of South Africa (Thompson, 33). Upon their arrival, the Dutch and then the English systematically exploited black South Africans, taking advantage of their welcoming demeanor. Blacks began to be pushed off their land and natural resources monopolized by whites. Then on a fateful day in 1866, a new discovery by Erasmus Jacobs took the manipulation and exploitation of South Africa to all new heights.

On this day, the Eureka diamond was discovered on the banks of the Orange River. The Eureka was 21.25 carats rough and confirmed earlier rumors of diamonds in South Africa and ignited the diamond rush (debeers.com). With this rush came the advent of large mining corporations such as Anglo American Corporation and DeBeers, who created an intricate system that kept the Africans they employed in poverty, while destroying traditional African society, all the while earning tremendous amounts of money. These companies, De Beers in particular, are depicted today as the benevolent liberal foreign company, but in reality they systematically exploited South Africans and their resources. They are applauded throughout the world for their current efforts to provide jobs and the benefits and support provided to workers and employee spouses who suffer from AIDS. However what is often overlooked is the fact that these corporations played a central role in the perpetuation of lingering economic aspects of apartheid and the AIDS epidemic that plagues South Africa today. The view from the outside, the information published by De Beers, differs dramatically with the reality and all that goes into that finished diamond.

II. A Brief History

Diamonds have become the ultimate symbol of luxury and money and are highly valued throughout the world today. However, in the spectrum of time diamonds have served a variety of other purposes. Diamonds were formed 3.3 billion years ago by extreme heat and pressure within the earth and are formed entirely out of carbon, making it the hardest natural surface known to man (debeers.com). Archaeologists believe that early humans actually used diamonds as spear heads and other tools. However, over time diamonds have become a luxury good, connected with much prestige. The high status of diamonds helped create the diamond rush that would forever alter the fate of South Africa.

The discovery of the Eureka diamond in...

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