Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The business activities of the Polaroid Company in South Africa came under attack in October of 1970, when a small group of Polaroid workers who called themselves the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers' Movement received wide publicity for their protests concerning an alleged anomaly in the company's annual report. According to the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers' Movement, the report, while alluding to the company's role in combating racism and in providing equal opportunities for all employees, described its expanding field of operations and increased profits in South Africa, a country in which racial discrimination is widespread. The Movement further pointed out that part of the Polaroid profit in South Africa was earned from the sale of photo-identification units to the South African Army, Air Force and Non-European Affairs Department. The sale of these units to the last-mentioned group constituted the most serious indictment of the company's policies because the equipment was being used by the department to photograph Black South Africans for the much hated "reference" books or "passbooks," which control the movements of Blacks into urban areas in the Republic of South Africa. If a Black is without one of these documents he is subject to imprisonment, a fine, or deportation from the urban area in which he was found. A further criticism of the Polaroid Company made by the Movement concerned alleged racially discriminatory employment practices by Frank and Hirsch Pty. Limited, the South African company that is the exclusive distributor of Polaroid products in South Africa.