South Africa Conference Brings 100 to K-School

A Harvard graduate and writer who made a secret four-year journey through South Africa was among the more than 12 speakers who addressed a Saturday conference at the Kennedy School of Government on political and economic issues in the apartheid state.

About 100 students trying to find out exactly "what's going on inside South Africa" attended lectures and workshops at the all-day conference sponsored by the Students Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Institute of Polities, said event organizer Leah A. Dickerman '86.

The day-long event featured lectures on South Africa history and economy, followed by afternoon workshops on the role of U.S. corporations in South Africa and the prospects for change in the white minority-ruled country.

Divestment Question

Most recent debate over South Africa has focused on the question of whether the U S--and Harvard in particular--should divest of its holdings in companies which do business there. Organizers of Saturday's event said they wanted to present a forum that could provide background information for the "average student who has heard of the issue but doesn't know that much about it." SAC Chairman Peter T. Gelfman '85-'86 said.

"Harvard students may not be as committed as people think but at least there were some who were interested enough to come down and learn about the issue. There's more to South Africa than standing in front of [President] Derek Bok's office and calling him names." Gelfman said.

But while the conference focused on factual information about South Africa, the issue of divestiture surfaced frequently during the day's events, including the final panel discussion.

Participants in the panel were: Michael McEthe, a Harvard gradate student who led a Black trade union in South Africa; Daniel A. Swanson '74, a reporter who traveled in South Africa while writing under the pseudonym James North; Donald Norland, former U.S. Ambassador to four African nations; and Kenneth Carstens, a South African academic who now heads a fund to provide legal aid to political prisoners in South Africa.

Swanson advocated divestment as well as economic sanctions, and Carstens refuted the argument that the withdrawal of American investment would necessarily hurt South African Blacks.

Citing the impact of sanctions on Rhodesia in the 1970s, Carstens said the withdrawal of capital-intensive American investment might force the South Africans to increase labor-incentive investment, craning more jobs for the country's 22 million Blacks.