Harry Oppenheimer biography shows the South African mining magnate’s hand in economic policies – by Roger Southall (The Conversation – June 1, 2023)


In Harry Oppenheimer: Diamonds, Gold and Dynasty, his outstanding biography of the South African mining magnate who died in 2000, Michael Cardo shows that there is still mileage to be made in the study of dead white males who played a role in the making of South Africa. Based on a remarkable depth of research, it is written in an elegant style which makes for a delightfully easy read.

It is rendered the more impressive by the author’s deep conversance with the debates over the relationships between mining capital, Afrikaner nationalism and apartheid. Cardo is an opposition MP.

Cardo’s reckoning is that Oppenheimer transcended his country’s parochial political arena to become a significant figure on the world stage. As chairman of both Anglo-American Corporation and De Beers Consolidated Mines, he expanded their global reach and dominion.

In South Africa, the Anglo powerhouse came to dominate the economy, which by the 1980s accounted for 25% of South Africa’s GDP and an estimated 60% (or more) of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, for all the limitations of his liberalism – and there were many – Oppenheimer made a vital contribution to political and economic progress in a country hamstrung by rival racial nationalisms. (pp.442-43)

For the rest of this article: https://theconversation.com/harry-oppenheimer-biography-shows-the-south-african-mining-magnates-hand-in-economic-policies-205494