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Students Join Divestment Coalition

An undergraduate anti-apartheid group has joined forces with student groups from other Boston universities to increase pressure on their schools to divest, said Debbie Gurner '91, a member of Harvard's Southern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC).

The new coalition group--called Students United for Justice in Africa (SUJA)--brings together pro-divestment activists from Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, Boston University and other area colleges, Gurner said. SUJA was formed in January to be a forum for sharing protest strategies, coordinating campus activities and providing support for student activists, she said.

By staging massive intercollegiate demonstrations on targeted campuses, SUJA members said they hope to prod the universities to divest their South African holdings.

"If you have 300 people showing up at a rally, that sends one message," said Ron Francis, leader of Coalition Against Apartheid at MIT. "But if you have 600 or 1000, that's another statement altogether.

Harvard and MIT will feel the brunt of the protests, said Gurner.

They are the "two grandest villains... with over $300 million and $140 million, respectively, still invested inSouth Africa," she said. Harvard currently followsa policy of selective divestment, which involvesselling its stocks in South Africa relatedcompanies with poor records in dealing with Blackemployees.

Gurner and Francis said they anticipated thatSUJA's activities would be confrontational.

Disruption

"One thing that has always been an integralpart of the divestment struggle is disruption,"said Francis, pointing to last Friday's rally atMIT in which activists pushed back police barriersand occupied several elevators at Sloan BusinessSchool in an attempt to influence the MITCorporation.

SUJA activities at Harvard will begin next weekwith a fund-raising and educational outreachcampaign, said Gurner. Students will circulate apetition in support of Archbishop Desmond M.Tutu's call for complete divestment unless theSouth African government follows through onpromised reforms and dismantles apartheid, shesaid.

Tutu, who is a member of Harvard's Board ofOverseers, made his proposal last month inCambridge.

SUJA's Harvard branch will also sponsor a rallyin commemoration of the 30th anniversary of theSharpeville tragedy--in which 26 Black SouthAfricans were killed by police--on Wednesday,March 21, Gurner said.

"We're taking a confrontational towards theadministration," Gurner said, adding that SUJAmight target the March 19th meeting of the HarvardCorporation for a demonstration.

SUJA may also occupy administration buildingsat area schools in an attempt to emulate atwo-week-long Tufts protest of several years agothat won limited divestment, Francis said.

The commitment to divestment, said Francis, is"more urgent now that Mandela has been released,"referring to last month's freeing ofanti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

The success of international pressure givesdivestment activists a "sense of empowerment" thatwill fuel SUJA's efforts, Francis said.

Funds raised by SUJA will be sent to SolomonMahlangue Freedom College in Tanzania to purchasebooks and supplies, Gurner said