MAY 1982 - VOLUME 3 - NUMBER 5
South African Investments Dropped by McGill University
The South Africa divestiture issue is alive and kicking.
McGill University recently became the first Canadian university to join the ranks of North American academic institutions that have sold their stocks or bonds in corporations doing business in South Africa. Schools have divested on the grounds that corporations operating in South Africa support the government's policy of apartheid, or legalized racial discrimination.
Mobil corporation and Royal Dutch Shell were singled out by McGill for divestiture treatment. On March 15, McGill's board of governors announced that o all of its holdings in the two companies had been sold, claiming that Mobil and Shell were "providing substantial comfort and support to the South African military and police by supplying them with petroleum products, thereby assisting the policy of apartheid," the McGill announcement stated.
McGill invests in 102 companies, says Betsy Hirst, the school's public relations director, and 30 of these operate in South Africa. "Further divestments are possible," she says, "but only in cases where the companies are specifically supplying strategic materials to the armed forces," or aren't meeting nondiscriminatory employment standards. "
Mobil, with $450 million of direct investment in South Africa, defends its practice of refining and selling petroleum products to the police and military.
"Total denial of supplies to the police and military forces of a host country is hardly consistent with an image of good citizenship in that country," Mobil's South African policy statement reads.
But Mobil may have self-interest in mind when it outfits the South African police and military with oil products. Not selling the goods to the security forces, the company statement says, "would deny resources.. .for the protection and security of all individuals and property, including that of the corporation."
Shell's U.S. offices refused to comment on the divestiture.
"The movement for divestment is definitely gaining momentum," says Joshua Nessen, college coordinator for the American Committee on Africa. "Eight million dollars has been divested by universities across the country."
Michigan State, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Massachusetts, New Hampshire University, Antioch, Ohio State University, Indiana Central University, and the entire California University system have divested entirely of their holdings in corporations and banks doing business in South Africa. Those institutions that have divested partially are: Amherst, Harvard, Boston College, Yale, Williams, and now McGill.
On the campuses, March 21-April 3 was a two week period of "national action" says Nessen, when "a series of rallies, teach-ins, and seminars were held at universities across the country."
The issue is not confined to college campuses, Nessen adds. It "is going beyond campus divestments to state legislatures. Currently there are bills in a dozen states to ban investment of state funds in corporations doing business in South Africa."
- Shelley Brubaker