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As undergraduates prepare to vote this week on a referendum about the University's South African investment policy, the African National Congress (ANC) reissued its call yesterday for Harvard to divest completely from companies that do business in the racially divided state.
"At a time when elements of the South African security forces have brought a reign of terror on South Africa's black population and the South African government seems unwilling or unable to rein these forces in," the statement reads, "we call on Harvard University to completely divest its portfolio of companies doing business in South Africa."
The statement, which was released yesterday by the ANC's American affiliate, takes note of recent reforms by the Pretoria government but advocates that Harvard divest in order to accelerate change.
"Apartheid has not yet been abolished. The need to maintain pressure on the South African government remains," said the statement, which was written by Themba Vilakazi, chairperson of the ANC's Executive Committee in the U.S.
The Southern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC) on campus requested that the ANC release a statement in order to raise undergraduate awareness, according to SASC member Randal S. Jeffrey '91. SASC has also begun distributing a newsletter to remind students that divestment from South Africa continues to be an important issue, he said.
"Lots of things are happening in South Africa and a lot of Americans don't know what's going on so this will keep the community aware," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey, who is the former chair of the Undergraduate Council's Ad Hoc Committee on Divestment, said he and other SASC members hope to get at least 50 percent of undergraduates to vote for total divestment.
The last time a similar referendum was issued, 65 percent of the student body voted for complete divestment from South Africa. Jeffrey projected that divestment advocates will come up short of that figure this year, in part because of concern over continuing ethnic unrest in South Africa.
According to Jeffrey, the factional fighting has distracted some people from the effort to keep up international pressure.
Better Late Than Never
In an interview yesterday, Vilakazi said the University should have dropped its South Africa-related holdings long ago. "If we can get Harvard to move, it's better late than never," he said.
Vilakazi acknowledged that even if undergraduates again back complete divestment, the Harvard Corporation is unlikely to change its selective divestment stance. However, he said that the committee would continue its efforts at Harvard because it could finally have a psychological effect.
"If you locate the role [of Harvard] as the leading academic institution in the world whatever they do will have an effect. It's imposible to ignore," Vilakazi said.
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