The 1985 Pro-Apartheid Comic by Disney Cartoonist Vic Lockman

It is sometimes easy to forget that apartheid South Africa had its supporters.

In the mid-1980s, as the anti-apartheid movement was generating strong momentum across North America, friends of South Africa engaged in a frenzy of propagandistic activity, contributing to a proliferation of misinformation and talking points defending the apartheid regime. Pro-South African magazines, fact sheets, and documentary videos were funded and produced by private sector lobbyists, right-wing think tanks, far-right organizations, and by the South African government itself.

One interesting piece of propaganda from this time, which I recently discovered while doing archival research, is a pamphlet featuring a comic strip penned by veteran Disney cartoonist Vic Lockman. Lockman had worked on countless comics for Disney, featuring characters including Donald Duck, Goofy, and Little Hiawatha. He also had a series of his own Christian comics, including a right-wing free-market tract on “Biblical Economics.”

Titled “Who’s Behind the South African Crisis?”, the pro-apartheid comic was distributed in June 1985 as a supplement to newsletters published by the Canadian League of Rights, a far-right organization with Neo-Nazi ties. You can read the comic in full below.

While the blatant racism expressed by the cartoon is shocking, it is worth noting that it outlines many of the tropes which were commonly articulated by right-wing and even liberal commentators sympathetic to South Africa, including: allegations of liberal media bias; the strategic importance of South Africa, both in geopolitical terms and because of its mineral resources; the argument that blacks were better off in South Africa than anywhere else on the continent; depictions of liberation movements including the African National Congress as terrorists, Communists, and stooges for the Soviet Union; the moral and political failings of independent African regimes; the idea that black South Africans are divided among separate tribes which do not and can not mix; the idea that the South African government is engaged in reform; and the idea that disinvestment is a Soviet scheme which will only hurt black workers, for example.

Furthermore, the most violently racist of the tropes produced below — including the idea that Africans are incapable of governing themselves, and the threat of black violence against young white women — were contemporaneously being repeated by newspaper columnists in places like the Toronto Sun.

In sum, the cartoon encapsulates the main arguments in defence of South Africa at the time, which had wide purchase in Canada and elsewhere, especially across the right-wing of the political spectrum.

Read for yourself below, if you can stomach it.

Source: Box 452, Folder 5, Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection. Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library.