HARVARD LAST WEEK divested of $1 million of its, $565 million investment in corporations doing business in South Africa. Harvard decided to divest because the corporation in question had failed to comply with the University's system of moral guidelines based primarily on the Sullivan and Tutu Principles.
Harvard made a laudable decision in this instance, but through its investments in companies doing business in South Africa the University continues to foster and support the apartheid government of South Africa. For this reason we urge Harvard to divest totally and immediately of all such stock.
As Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu said, during his recent visit to Harvard, all American companies in South Africa are to some degree legitimizing apartheid. This legitimization is sometimes appallingly direct. American firms supply the computers that monitor the movement of Blacks and "coloreds" or the automobiles and petroleum that the military and police forces use to suppress the majority. But more important, the legitimization is indirect, because American corporations in South Africa cannot help but lend moral and economic support as well as credibility to the apartheid regimes simply through their physical presence.
The University is hypocritical in caring for an end to apartheid, while deriving economic benefits from the profits American companies make because of the apartheid laws. Thus, the University lacks credibility when it calls for reform. One must also wonder how hard Harvard is willing to push for reforms, if those reforms will ultimately limit the return on its investments.
Divestiture will not immediately end apartheid, but continued attempts by the University to influence corporate behavior as a shareholder are futile. History shows that apartheid has not weakened as companies have pressed for reform. Shareholder responsibility has failed and the time has come for Harvard to respond to a higher moral imperative.
Divestiture might bring slightly greater hardship to the already suffering minorities in South Africa, but it serves their best interests in the long run by harming the legitimacy of apartheid. As Steve Biko, a Black leader killed in police custody in 1977, said before he died, "We Blacks are perfectly willing to suffer the consequences. We are used to suffering."
Genuine divestiture takes two real steps toward ending apartheid, steps which will not bring the minority government to its knees, but which will bring the full weight of the University behind the struggle to end the inhumanity in that nation. First, Harvard will directly deprive South Africa of the commerce and trade dollars it so desperately needs.
Second, and more important, Harvard has an opportunity as one of the most respected institutions in the world to make a bold public statement against apartheid. By putting its money where its mouth is, the University can demonstrate that as an institution devoted solely to the relentless search for and dissemination of truth, it stands for an end to the immoral, racist policies of South Africa.