50 years ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 February, 1999, 12:00am

JOHANNESBURG (March 6): WITH one stroke of the pen the South African Government has created the biggest black market the country has ever known, commercial men in Johannesburg declared yesterday.

They were watching their shops being skinned bare of luxuries following the publication of a list of banned imports designed to save Sterling and more dollars for the Union's quaking economy.

Whisky of any kind was unobtainable yesterday while shopkeepers declare that stocks of imported cosmetics will not last a month at the present rate - one woman paid $200 in cash to a chemist yesterday for his entire stock of her favourite brand.

The Government has announced stern measures against black marketeers, but traders with experience of ineffectual wartime measures are skeptical.

Politicians are debating the possible effect the drastic new import bans will have on the provincial elections next Wednesday which the Premier has called to test the popularity of his Nationalist policy.

For instance, South African women are certainly most annoyed at the ban on hairpins, which have only just regained popularity with the new hair styles. Previously, they had been considered defunct.

A bigger and more effective blow at the Nationalists, however, is the restriction of bank credits. This will hit the farmers badly and most of them are Nationalist supporters.

To conserve resources the Minister of Finance and the South African Reserve Bank have appealed to commercial banks to restrict all but essential advances.

The official Land Bank itself has cut maximum loans to nearly half while other banks have started calling in overdrafts. As a result, farmers everywhere have been caught in the middle of expensive postwar mechanisation and are being driven to private money-lenders.

This is another factor which may affect Wednesday's voting.

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