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On Divestiture



To the Editors of The Crimson:

It now appears that the Harvard Corporation is reneging on even the smallest concessions it made in last spring's decision on Harvard's South Africa-related investments-concessionswon by the voices and actions of thousands of members of the Harvard community. Specifically, Harvard continues to own bonds in Manufacturers Hanover Trust, a bank whose policy is to loan money to the South African government, despite Harvard's promise to divest itself of bonds in banks that have such a policy. The contradictions are as follows.

President Bok's April 27 report states that "a general policy of making loans for projects that advance the welfare of the whole population (of South Africa)' are often too difficult to apply in practice"; the report goes on to say that Harvard therefore opposes all loans to the South African government. Yet Manufacturers Hanover's policy is to continue making loans to the government which will, "in (their) judgement, generate improved circumstances for the whole population of the nation." The bank has not made any such loans recently because of "risk factors", but its policy is clearly to continue making such loans.

The April 27 report also accepts the recommendation that Harvard divest itself of bonds "in banks which make renew, or extend" loans to the South African government. Yet Manufacturers Hanover continues to renew and extend such loans. Hugh Calkins, a member of the Harvard Corporation, has tried to wriggle out of this contradiction by claiming that "We don't mean our statement to mean that renewals can't be made...we will be satisfied if (the banks) work their way out of their loan situation in a responsible business-like a reasonable time and in a reasonable way."

This means that if the South African government is pressed for cash, Manufacturers Hanover will obligingly give them all the time they need to repay their loans. Surely the bank could insist that the government repay on schedule--the government would not dare default. Yet Manufacturers Hanover, rather than putting pressure on the apartheid regime by withholding loans, helps that regime out of a tight spot--a role that U.S. banks have played for far too long in South Africa. The University claims to oppose such behavior by banks--yet now we find members of the Corporation trying to justify the banks' role and directly contradicting their own decision in the process. Yes, Harvard favors the elimination of apartheid--but only if it is done in a business-like manner, over a reasonable period of time.

The whole question sounds very complicated, and no doubt the administration will try to delay and defuse the issue by emphasizing its complexity. In fact, the contradictions are crystal-clear. Manufacturers Hanover's policy is to make, renew and extend loans to the South African government. Harvard has promised to divest itself of bonds in banks that have such a policy. Yet Harvard continues to hold $11 million in Manufacturers Hanover bonds.

The administration has already delayed further statements on this issue for several more weeks. By this time, many of the bonds will have matured, and we fear that the University will then say the question is moot and decline to take any stand at all against Manufacturers Hanover's policies. If President Bok really does "abhor apartheid," he will not allow this delay to occur, and we will soon be reading in The Crimson that Harvard has sold these bonds. Otherwise, we will know that his statements on apartheid are merely hollow rhetoric. We hope everyone will be watching. --Southern African Solidarity Committee

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