Legislative retaliation against South Africa’s policy of apartheid gained momentum Tuesday as an Assembly budget subcommittee voted to withhold more than $1 billion until the state pension systems adopt plans to sell investments in companies linked to South Africa.
And a second Assembly subcommittee voted to prohibit the University of California from entering into construction contracts with companies that do business in South Africa--the first legislative move toward a boycott.
Debate over the state of California’s $10.2-billion investment in companies that do business with South Africa reached a new level of intensity following South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu’s stirring address Monday to the Legislature.
In a rare confrontation at a subcommittee hearing, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown clashed Tuesday with UC President David P. Gardner on the investment issue and questioned Gardner’s opposition to apartheid, South Africa’s policy of racial separation.
Gardner was called by the legislative panel to discuss the issue of UC divesting itself of stock in companies that do business in South Africa. He said he had not yet made up his mind and is seeking detailed studies of the issue for the UC regents.
But Brown told Gardner: “Until such time as there is one scintilla of evidence that that (South Africa) regime presents a problem for you as a human being, it’s awfully difficult for us to accept, ‘I need an analysis.’ Your responses leave us empty.”
Regents to Meet Friday
The board of regents, of which Brown and Gardner are both members, is scheduled to meet Friday in Berkeley to debate whether the university should sell its $2.4-billion pension fund investment in 33 firms that do business in South Africa.
With Brown’s backing, actions by the subcommittees are virtually certain to wind up in the Assembly’s version of the state budget. However, the proposals must be approved by both the Senate and Gov. George Deukmejian before they can become law.
While the UC investments have caused the loudest protest among students, the Assembly subcommittee actions are aimed at all three of the state’s pension funds: the UC Retirement System, the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).
Under the budget provisions adopted on a party line 3-2 vote by the Democratic-dominated Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee on employee compensation, all three retirement systems would have to approve plans to divest themselves of investments in companies doing business in South Africa.
Until they do so, the retirement systems would not receive the state’s “employer” contributions for the fiscal year 1985-86.
The Public Employees Retirement System has $5.2 billion invested in companies doing business in South Africa and would face having next year’s state contribution of $530 million withheld. The teachers fund, with investments of $2.6 billion linked to South Africa, would not receive its $400-million allocation.
The UC retirement fund, with $2.4 billion invested in firms doing business in South Africa, would not receive its $90 million contribution.
Meanwhile, the Ways and Means subcommittee on education tackled the investment issue from a different angle. Late Monday night, the panel voted to give UC $150 million in construction funds but prohibit the university from spending it or investing it with any company that does business with South Africa.
Until now, opponents of firms with investments in South Africa have not actively pursued the strategy of boycotting their services or products.
For the university, Gardner pointed out Tuesday, this would mean not buying a variety of standard items, such as light bulbs made by General Electric, one of 320 American firms that do business in South Africa.
“I don’t know how feasible that is,” Gardner said. He then asked Brown, “Will you apply the same standard to all contracts issued by the state?”
“I would hope so,” the San Francisco Democrat replied. “I’d like to apply it to all contracts issued in the world.”
Notes Personal Opposition
Brown made an extremely rare appearance at the subcommittee hearing so he could question Gardner.
Gardner, pressed by Brown for a statement on his personal opposition to apartheid, responded heatedly that he and his family had known discrimination as members of the Mormon faith. His ancestors, he said, were forced to leave Canada before settling in Utah.
“I’ve experienced prejudice in my life just as you have in your life,” Gardner told Brown, who is black. “Anyone, whether it’s in South Africa, or in Iran or in Russia, who is oppressed because of their race, or their religion or their creed . . . has both my sympathy and my understanding.”
But Brown shot back: “Any day you choose to say you’re not a Mormon, the color of your skin gives you full license. Gwen Moore (a black assemblywoman from Los Angeles) does not not have that option.
“There are no Utahs for Gwen Moore or Willie Brown. There are no Utahs for Bishop Tutu.”