Apartheid is the most vicious and morally reprehensible form of institutionalized racism in the world today. On May 7, I announced a six-point program of sanctions by the City of Los Angeles against South Africa’s apartheid regime. One of the key elements of my program is the divestiture--in a timely and fiscally prudent manner--of all city pension funds that are invested in companies doing business in South Africa.
No one who heard Nobel Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu speak last week in Los Angeles could possibly oppose divestiture--as you did in your editorial (May 9), “Wrong Answer to Outrage"--on the ground that American investment somehow “helps” oppressed blacks. As Bishop Tutu said, “I would much rather live in control of my destiny than live in clover.”
Of course, as Bishop Tutu also emphasized, South Africa’s blacks do not live in “clover.” On the contrary, all South African blacks are denied the most basic human rights, and tens of millions of blacks have been forced to relocate to so-called “homelands” where they live in poverty and despair.
Indeed, your editorial paints a misleading picture of the impact of American investment of South Africa’s oppressed black majority. You ignore the fact that American corporations employ less than 1% of all the working people in South Africa. Thus, the overwhelming majority of the black population is untouched by the efforts of American corporations.
The deplorable history of apartheid Africa proves beyond any doubt that American investment has not caused progressive change in South Africa. On the contrary, the conditions for blacks in South Africa have worsened even as American investment has increased in recent years. To take just one example, the number of blacks living in poverty in the so-called “homelands” has doubled in the last 20 years.
Even though American firms employ very few blacks, these companies are vital to the continued existence of the apartheid regime. American firms control key sectors of the South African economy, from computers to automobiles, from oil to electronics. In short, American investment is essential to the foundation of the apartheid regime.
That is why virtually every important black South African leader who has the freedom to speak out supports divestiture. As Bishop Tutu has said, “Those who invest in South Africa should not think they are doing us a favor; they are here for what they get out of our cheap and abundant labor, and they should know that they are buttressing one of the most vicious systems.”
The people of Los Angeles refuse to support South Africa’s repugnant apartheid regime. We refuse to prolong in any way the suffering of South Africa’s black majority. We refuse to allow the travesty of justice and human rights that is apartheid to exist any longer.