Virginia Agencies Told to Sever Links to S. Africa
Gov. L. Douglas Wilder on Saturday urged all state agencies and institutions to divest themselves of companies with interests in South Africa.
Wilder, speaking at commencement ceremonies at Norfolk State University, said the freedom sought by blacks in South Africa “is no different from the freedom sought in East Germany, Poland and Lithuania. Our support can be no less.”
Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor, chose predominantly black Norfolk State to make the divestiture announcement. It followed reports earlier in the week that his Administration was quietly urging University of Virginia officials to sell the school’s holdings in companies with South African interests.
“I am directing all state agencies and institutions to implement a policy of divestment in South Africa, to implement a policy that will allow no further investments in companies that are not substantially free of interests in South Africa,” the governor said.
“In addition, I am directing those state agencies and institutions with present interests in such companies to immediately take steps to begin the divestment of those interests,” he said.
In addition to the university, the Virginia Supplemental Retirement System has between $400 million and $700 million in investments in companies operating in South Africa, according to system officials. Overall, the retirement system has almost $9 billion in assets.
Wilder does not have the power to order the university or the retirement system to divest, but the governor makes appointments to the trustee boards of both.
Recent progress in South Africa against apartheid, the policy of keeping whites and blacks separated, is a result of international indignation and sanctions, the governor said.
“If we are to participate in the extension to all people freedoms and liberties which we hold dear, we must take concrete actions which reflect our support,” he said.
The University of Virginia, where students have staged protests in recent weeks to push for divestiture, has reduced the South African holdings of its endowment from $37 million to $15.5 million. The university’s total endowment is $460 million.
The finance committee of the school’s board of visitors plans to meet this week to decide whether to recommend elimination of the remaining holdings.