Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act
|International opposition to
apartheid in South Africa
|Instruments and legislation|
|UN Security Council Resolutions|
The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was a law enacted by the United States Congress. Sponsored by U.S. Representative Ron Dellums in 1972 with support from the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. Howard Wolpe, chair of the House Africa Subcommittee, the law was the first United States anti-apartheid legislation. The act was initiated in reaction to the plight of blacks in South Africa and demanded the end of apartheid. The legislation was passed in 1986 and imposed sanctions against South Africa and stated five preconditions for lifting the sanctions, including establishing a timetable for the elimination of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoner Nelson Mandela.
The legislation banned all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and was a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. Direct air links were also banned, including South African Airways flights to U.S. airports. The withdrawal of operations from major corporations and the loss of confidence by the global banking community caused South Africa's economy to go into a deep recession. The act also required various U.S. departments and agencies to suppress funds and assistance to the then pro-apartheid government.
President Ronald Reagan vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress (by the Senate 78 to 21, the House by 313 to 83). Reagan stated that he believed that the law's punitive sanctions would lead to more violence and more repression in South Africa. In the week leading up to the vote, President Reagan appealed to members of the Republican Party for support, but as Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. would state, "For this moment, at least, the President has become an irrelevancy to the ideals, heartfelt and spoken, of America". This override marked the first time in the twentieth century that a president had a foreign policy veto overridden.
When President Ronald Reagan's veto was overridden, he made the following statement:
"Today's Senate vote should not be viewed as the final chapter in America's efforts, along with our allies, to address the plight of the people of South Africa. Instead, it underscores that America—and that means all of us—opposes apartheid, a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals. The debate, which culminated in today's vote, was not whether or not to oppose apartheid but, instead, how best to oppose it and how best to bring freedom to that troubled country.
I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Punitive sanctions, I believe, are not the best course of action; they hurt the very people they are intended to help. My hope is that these punitive sanctions do not lead to more violence and more repression. Our administration will, nevertheless, implement the law. It must be recognized, however, that this will not solve the serious problems that plague that country. The United States must also move forward with positive measures to encourage peaceful change and advance the cause of democracy in South Africa.Now is the time for South Africa's Government to act with courage and good sense to avert a crisis. Moderate black leaders who are committed to democracy and oppose revolutionary violence are ready to work for peaceful change. They should not be kept waiting. It would be tragic to lose this opportunity to create a truly free society which respects the rights of the majority, the minority, and the individual. There is still time for orderly change and peaceful reform. South Africans of good will, black and white, should seize the moment."
See also 
- Pub.L. 99–440, H.R. 4868
- Norment, Lynn (1994-08). "How African-Americans helped free South Africa - Special Issue: Nelson Mandela and the New South Africa". Ebony (Johnson). Retrieved 2008-04-19.
- Roberts, Steven V. (October 3, 1986). "Senate, 78 to 21, Overrides Reagan’s Veto and Imposes Sanctions on South Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
- Statement on the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, October 2, 1986. http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1986/100286d.htm
Further reading 
- Thomson, Alex (2012). "A More Effective Constructive Engagement: US Policy Towards South Africa after the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986". Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 39 (3): 371–389. doi:10.1080/02589346.2012.746186.