ON THIS week's divestment referendum, undergraduates must choose between the policies of complete divestment, selective divestment and no divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. The Southern Africa Solidarity Committee believes the Harvard Corporation should adopt the policy of complete divestment.
The Corporation currently has a policy of selective divestment. This means that Harvard refuses to hold stock in some South Africa-related companies. In particular, these companies are those that do more than a small part of their business in South Africa, loan money to the South African government, sell significant goods and services used in the direct enforcement of apartheid by the South African government, refuse to disclose information about their business in South Africa or fail to meet the Harvard Corporation's conception of responsible ethical standards.
The fundamental problem with selective divestment is that it allows Harvard to continue to invest in companies that do business in South Africa. Selective divestment thus fails to stop Harvard from profiting from a system of institutionalized racism. Only by completely divesting will Harvard sever its links to apartheid in South Africa.
Further, the Corporation's policy of selective divestment has resulted in divestment from only 15 companies doing business in South Africa--revealing the limited scope of selective divestment.
The rationale behind the Corporation's policy is that some companies are doing more good than harm in their South Africa-related businesses. Although some companies do have programs to help Black South Africans, the ultimate result of their business is to help sustain the apartheid regime. No matter how progressive a company may be, it cannot end apartheid.
That is why the African National Congress, which 84 percent of Black South Africans support according to a recent poll reported in the New York Times, asks all companies to withdraw from South Africa. They realize that only through a combination of international isolation and internal struggle will apartheid be overcome.
In addition, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the largest federation of trade unions in South Africa, supports the continued economic isolation of South Africa. Thus even the organization whose members stand to lose the most from companies leaving their country supports the isolation of South Africa. They know that only with the possibility of short-term suffering will the goal of freedom be realized.
SOME argue that in a time of potential change in South Africa, we should not increase the isolation of that country. But although there has been some change, the most fundamental aspects of apartheid remain in place. Blacks are still not citizens and cannot vote. Further, the demand for Harvard's complete divestment from South Africa is a longstanding one. Only when the process of transforming South Africa into a non-racial democracy is irreversible should we give up this demand.
Another common argument against complete divestment is that if the Corporation adopts this policy, it will not make as much money, resulting in higher costs for students. This argument is simply wrong; Harvard can transfer its investment in South Africa-related businesses to firms that do not deal with South Africa. Losses resulting from the transfer of funds would be minimal--far less than what Harvard loses on a bad day in the stock market.
Harvard's endowment, worth more than $5 billion, increases a few hundred million dollars each year--almost twice the total value of all Harvard holdings in South Africa-related businesses. Any loss from divestment would be made up in a matter of days by interest accrued to the endowment.
The Corporation took ethical issues into consideration when it decided to divest from tobacco companies. We believe that investing in South Africa is at least as reprehensible as producing cigarettes.
South Africa remains the only country in the world with the principles of racism embedded in its constitution. Only by completely divesting will the Corporation sufficiently distance Harvard from the racism of apartheid.
Randal S. Jeffrey '91 is a member of the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee and was chair of the Undergraduate Council Ad-Hoc Committee on Divestment last year.