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The Oppenheimer Empire: How South Africa Inc. Shaped the Country's History (PDF)


South Africa Inc. The Oppenheimer Empire: A Book Review




If you are interested in learning more about one of the most powerful and influential families in South African history, you might want to read South Africa Inc. The Oppenheimer Empire by David Pallister, Sarah Stewart, and Ian Lepper. This book examines the economic and political power of South Africa's Oppenheimer dynasty, which has dominated the mining industry for over a century and has shaped the country's destiny in many ways. In this article, we will provide a summary, an analysis, and a conclusion of this fascinating book, as well as some frequently asked questions.


Introduction




South Africa Inc. The Oppenheimer Empire was first published in 1987 by Simon and Schuster, a year before Nelson Mandela was released from prison and four years before apartheid officially ended. The authors are three British journalists who have extensive experience in covering South African affairs. David Pallister is a former correspondent for The Guardian, Sarah Stewart is a former editor of The Observer, and Ian Lepper is a former reporter for The Financial Times. They have conducted extensive research and interviews to produce this comprehensive and revealing account of the Oppenheimer family and its business empire.




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The book is relevant and important because it sheds light on one of the most influential forces in South African history, which has often been shrouded in secrecy and controversy. The Oppenheimers have been involved in almost every aspect of South African life, from mining to banking, from media to politics, from education to philanthropy. They have also been involved in global affairs, from trade to diplomacy, from war to peace, from sanctions to investments. The book explores how they have used their wealth, power, and connections to shape South Africa's destiny, for better or for worse.


Summary of the book




The Oppenheimer dynasty and its origins




The book traces the origins of the Oppenheimer dynasty to Ernest Oppenheimer, a German-Jewish immigrant who arrived in South Africa in 1902 at the age of 22. He started as a diamond buyer for a London-based company, but soon rose to prominence as an astute businessman and entrepreneur. He founded Anglo American Corporation in 1917, which became one of the largest mining companies in the world. He also acquired a controlling stake in De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1929, which gave him a monopoly over the global diamond trade. He became known as "the king of diamonds" and one of the richest men in the world.


Ernest Oppenheimer was also involved in South African politics and society. He was elected to parliament in 1924 as a member of Jan Smuts's South African Party, which supported a moderate and conciliatory approach to racial issues. He advocated for the economic and social development of the black majority, as well as the protection of the rights and interests of the white minority. He also supported the British Empire and its role in world affairs. He was a close friend and ally of Winston Churchill, who praised him as "the greatest man South Africa has ever produced".


Ernest Oppenheimer died in 1957, leaving behind a vast fortune and a powerful legacy. He was succeeded by his son Harry Oppenheimer, who inherited his father's business empire and political influence. Harry Oppenheimer expanded and diversified the family's interests, investing in sectors such as banking, media, retail, and manufacturing. He also founded the Anglo American Chairman's Fund in 1958, which became one of the largest corporate philanthropic foundations in Africa. He supported various causes such as education, health, arts, culture, and conservation.


Harry Oppenheimer was also a prominent figure in South African politics and society. He was elected to parliament in 1948 as a member of Jan Smuts's United Party, which opposed the apartheid policies of the National Party. He became the leader of the opposition in 1957, but resigned in 1958 to focus on his business affairs. He continued to be an outspoken critic of apartheid and a supporter of democracy and human rights. He also played a key role in the formation of the Progressive Party in 1959, which advocated for a non-racial and liberal democracy in South Africa. He was a mentor and patron of Helen Suzman, who was the sole representative of the Progressive Party in parliament for 13 years.


The Oppenheimer empire and its global reach




The book also explores how the Oppenheimer family expanded its business interests beyond South Africa and became a global force in the mining industry and beyond. The family established a network of subsidiaries, affiliates, and partnerships around the world, operating in countries such as Australia, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and Russia. The family also diversified its portfolio of commodities, producing not only diamonds, but also gold, platinum, coal, iron ore, copper, nickel, uranium, and manganese.


The book also examines the challenges and controversies that the Oppenheimer family faced in its global operations. The family had to deal with various political risks and uncertainties, such as nationalization, expropriation, civil war, corruption, sanctions, and terrorism. The family also had to cope with various ethical dilemmas and criticisms, such as environmental degradation, human rights violations, labor disputes, tax evasion, monopoly practices, and illicit trade. The book reveals how the family navigated these complex and often contradictory situations with pragmatism and diplomacy.


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The book also analyzes how the Oppenheimer family adapted to the end of apartheid and the transition to democracy in South Africa. The family supported the negotiations between the National Party and the African National Congress (ANC), which led to the peaceful transfer of power in 1994. The family also embraced the new political and economic order in South Africa, which promoted black empowerment, affirmative action, social justice, and reconciliation. The family sold some of its assets to black-owned companies and invested in new ventures that benefited previously disadvantaged communities. The family also maintained good relations with the ANC government and its leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma. The family also supported the country's integration into the global economy and its role in the African continent and beyond.


Analysis of the book




The strengths of the book




The book has many strengths that make it a valuable and informative read. Some of the main strengths are:


The book provides a c


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