In 1987, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — then a lobbyist for a Namibian uranium mine — testified before the Utah State Senate in support of a resolution backing the apartheid government in South Africa. Flake, a sixth-term GOP congressman and current Arizona senate candidate, opposed sanctions on the segregationist Botha government — largely to support U.S. interests in the mineral rich region. According to Flake:
FLAKE: If the government of South Africa falls, it depends on how it falls if it did fall. If it fell to radical elements from the left, then this could happen, and that is a fear of many people. We would be deprived of a share of an economic source of these vital minerals. As far as the economic sanctions having a … more direct impact on the black community, I overhear we tend to think of every black South African as a radical stone-throwing protestor who will stop at nothing until the government is overthrown. There are moderate elements there. There have been a lot of polls taken both ways. Most of them come out with about, that there are more moderates, considered moderate, than there are radicals. Those are funny terms and most of them aren’t moderate, they just don’t care one way or another or they don’t know about the situation. [Sanctions have] had a dramatic impact on the black population, the biggest impact is that the companies pulling out, the American companies pulling out…
A former Nazi sympathizer, P.W. Botha ruled apartheid South Africa as Prime Minister from 1978 to 1984, and then as state president until 1989. He oversaw state terrorism, war, and murder, once ordering police to blow up the Johannesburg offices of anti-apartheid groups. Hundreds of thousands of activists — including future President Nelson Mandela — were imprisoned during South Africa’s 40-year apartheid regime. Faced with the kind of U.S. economic pressure opposed by Flake in 1987, Botha’s apartheid regime eventually crumbled as the rand’s value collapsed.
Utah’s anti-sanctions resolution — which justified that its business-first position was meant to protect South Africa’s black population — supported Botha’s apartheid regime in order to ensure precious metal distribution continued without a hitch. The resolution read in part, “Without a dependable and economic source of these minerals, many industries in the United States and the free world would be severely impacted and the cost of these manufactured items is greatly increased.”
At the 1987 hearing, Democratic Sen. Karl Swan argued that the resolution Flake was lobbying for seemed to place American access to goods over social reform and human rights. This past weekend, Flake vehemently denied ever supporting apartheid, calling it “offensive” and an “awful system.” He has yet to comment on the matter since the transcript of this 1987 testimony surfaced.