The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was a law enacted by the United States Congress. The law imposed sanctions against South Africa and stated five preconditions for lifting the sanctions that would essentially end the system of apartheid, which the latter was under at the time. Most of the sanctions were repealed in July 1991, after South Africa took steps towards meeting the preconditions of the act, with the final vestiges of the act being repealed in November 1993.

Legislative history

Initial introduction in 1972

Sponsored by Senator William Roth, the CAAA was the first United States anti-apartheid legislation. The act was initiated by Congressman Ronald V. Dellums in reaction to the plight of blacks in South Africa and demanded the end of apartheid. The legislation aimed to ban all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and would be 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 act also required various U.S. departments and agencies to suppress funds and assistance to the then pro-apartheid government.

Initial attempt at passage in 1985

Democrats in the Senate initially tried to pass the Anti-Apartheid Act in September 1985, but could not overcome a Republican filibuster. President Ronald Reagan viewed the act as an intrusion on his authority to conduct foreign policy and issued his own set of sanctions, but Democrats considered them to be "watered down and ineffective."

Passage in the House and Senate in 1986

The bill was re-introduced in 1986 and brought up for a vote despite Republican efforts to block it to give Reagan's sanctions time to work. It initially passed unexpectedly in the House in June 1986 after Republicans agreed to a voice vote in the hope that the bill would die later on in the process, thus ending any possibility of sanctions. Reagan publicly opposed the bill In August 1986, the Senate passed a version of the Anti-Apartheid Act with weaker sanctions by a veto-proof margin of 84–14. Democratic leaders in the House agreed to accept the weaker Senate version of the bill for it to have sufficient bipartisan support to over ride any attempt to veto.

Veto by President Reagan

Reagan vetoed the compromised bill on September 26, calling it "economic warfare" and alleging that it would mostly hurt the impoverished black majority and lead to more civil strife. He again offered to impose sanctions via executive order, while also working with Senate Republicans on concessions to avoid them overriding his veto. Reagan's veto was attacked harshly by anti-Apartheid leaders like Desmond Tutu who said Reagan would be "judged harshly by history". In the week leading up to the subsequent vote, President Reagan enlisted South African foreign minister Pik Botha to call Republicans on the fence, though this was seen to backfire.

Veto override

Republican Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), then chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, led the charge to override the veto, turning against a president that he had typically supported. Despite denunciations from his fellow Republicans, Lugar declared on the Senate floor, "We are against tyranny, and tyranny is in South Africa!" Reagan's veto was eventually overridden by Congress (by the Senate 78 to 21, the House by 313 to 83) on October 2. In the House vote, taken on September 29, 1986, 232 Democrats and 81 Republicans voted to override the President's veto while 4 Democrats and 79 Republicans voted to sustain the President's veto. In the Senate vote, all 47 Democrats were joined by 31 Republicans to override the President's veto while 21 Republicans voted to sustain the President's veto. This override marked the first time in the twentieth century that a president had a foreign policy veto overridden. Apartheid opponents in the United States and South Africa applauded the vote, while critics argued that it would be either ineffectual or lead to more violence. President Reagan made the following statement after the override: The override was seen as a major defeat for Reagan, coming at the hands of his fellow Republicans in Congress. It was subsequently revealed that there was significant debate within the White House between Reagan's political advisors advocating more compromise and those like Pat Buchanan and Donald Regan who supported Reagan's hard line against sanctions.


After two years of sanctions under President Reagan, the head of South Africa's central bank argued that the nation had adjusted to financial sanctions. In 1989, the General Accounting Office said in a report that the sanctions against South Africa had been only partially enforced by the Reagan administration. In 1989, the newly elected President George Bush enacted "full enforcement" of the Anti-Apartheid Act, a departure from the Reagan administration's policy. In 1990 and 1991, South African President F. W. de Klerk made steps towards meeting the preconditions of the Anti-Apartheid Act. In 1991, following de Klerk's repeal of Apartheid laws and the release of Nelson Mandela and other (though not all) political prisoners, President Bush issued an executive order lifting virtually all bans against doing business with South Africa. The degree to which the sanctions were responsible for ending apartheid was a matter of debate as those opposed to the sanctions argue that the South African economy was already struggling before the sanctions were enforced and that it was the political process on the ground that led to the changes. Despite the repeal of most of the sanctions imposed by this act, many companies were still restricted by laws within individual states and cities in the United States that imposed sanctions. In September 1993, Nelson Mandela called for these sanctions to be removed as well and for investment to return to a still-struggling South Africa. The last of the sanctions stemming from this act was repealed in November 1993.

Declaration of the Act

The Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was drafted as six titles establishing United States policy towards the government of South Africa with emphasis on the economic, political, and social jurisdictions in South Africa. The Act of Congress is codified in Title 22 within Chapter 60 entitled Anti-Apartheid Program sections five thousand and one through five thousand one hundred and seventeen. The anti-apartheid legislation was repealed by the United States Congress during November 23, 1993 and October 1, 1995.

Title I – Policy of the United States With Respect To Ending Apartheid

:Sec. 101. Policy toward the Government of South Africa :Sec. 102. Policy toward the African National Congress, etc. :Sec. 103. Policy toward the victims of apartheid :Sec. 104. Policy toward other countries in Southern Africa :Sec. 105. Policy toward "frontline" states :Sec. 106. Policy toward a negotiated settlement :Sec. 107. Policy toward international cooperation on measures to end apartheid :Sec. 108. Policy toward necklacing :Sec. 109. United States Ambassador to meet with Nelson Mandela :Sec. 110. Policy toward the recruitment and training of black South Africans by United States employers

Title II – Measures To Assist Victims Of Apartheid

:Sec. 201. Scholarships for the victims of apartheid :Sec. 202. Human rights fund :Sec. 203. Expanding participation in the South African economy :Sec. 204. Export-Import Bank of the United States :Sec. 205. Labor practices of the United States Government in South Africa :Sec. 206. Welfare and protection of the victims of apartheid employed by the United States :Sec. 207. Employment practices of United States nationals in South Africa :Sec. 208. Code of Conduct :Sec. 209. Prohibition on assistance :Sec. 210. Use of the African Emergency Reserve :Sec. 211. Prohibition on assistance to any person or group engaging in "necklacing" :Sec. 212. Participation of South Africa in agricultural export credit and promotion programs

Title III – Measures by the United States To Undermine Apartheid

:Sec. 301. Prohibition on the importation of krugerrands :Sec. 302. Prohibition on the importation of military articles :Sec. 303. Prohibition on the importation of products from parastatal organizations :Sec. 304. Prohibition on computer exports to South Africa :Sec. 305. Prohibition on loans to the Government of South Africa :Sec. 306. Prohibition on air transportation with South Africa :Sec. 307. Prohibitions on nuclear trade with South Africa :Sec. 308. Government of South Africa bank accounts :Sec. 309. Prohibition on importation of uranium and coal from South Africa :Sec. 310. Prohibition on new investment in South Africa :Sec. 311. Termination of certain provisions :Sec. 312. Policy toward violence or terrorism :Sec. 313. Termination of tax treaty and protocol :Sec. 314. Prohibition on United States Government procurement from South Africa :Sec. 315. Prohibition on the promotion of United States tourism in South Africa :Sec. 316. Prohibition on United States Government assistance to, investment in, or subsidy for trade with South Africa :Sec. 317. Prohibition on sale or export of items on Munition List :Sec. 318. Munitions list sales, notification :Sec. 319. Prohibition on importation of South African agricultural products and food :Sec. 320. Prohibition on importation of iron and steel :Sec. 321. Prohibition on exports of crude oil and petroleum products :Sec. 322. Prohibition on cooperation with the armed forces of South Africa :Sec. 323. Prohibition on sugar imports

Title IV – Multilateral Measures To Undermine Apartheid

:Sec. 401. Negotiating authority :Sec. 402. Limitation on imports from other countries :Sec. 403. Private right of action

Title V – Future Policy Toward South Africa

:Sec. 501. Additional measures :Sec. 502. Lifting of prohibitions :Sec. 503. Study of health conditions in the "homelands" areas of South Africa :Sec. 504. Reports on South African imports :Sec. 505. Study and report on the economy of southern Africa :Sec. 506. Report on relations between other industrialized democracies and South Africa :Sec. 507. Study and report on deposit accounts of South African nationals in United States banks :Sec. 508. Study and report on the violation of the international embargo on sale and export of military articles to South Africa :Sec. 509. Report on Communist activities in South Africa :Sec. 510. Prohibition on the importation of Soviet gold coins :Sec. 511. Economic support for disadvantaged South Africans :Sec. 512. Report on the African National Congress

Title VI – Enforcement and Administrative Provisions

:Sec. 601. Regulatory authority :Sec. 602. Congressional priority procedures :Sec. 603. Enforcement and penalties :Sec. 604. Applicability to evasions of Act :Sec. 605. Construction of Act :Sec. 606. State or local anti-apartheid laws, enforce

See also

* African National Congress * Constructive engagement * Disinvestment from South Africa * Free South Africa Movement * TransAfrica


Further reading



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