Recent history leads business to reinvest

by Colin Grey | 11/16/93 6:00am

Dartmouth's reinvestment in companies that do business in South Africa, which was announced by the Board of Trustees after their fall meeting this weekend, was spurred by dramatic changes in the policies of the South African government over the past several years.

After enduring years of international economic sanctions, the South African government officially ended apartheid and began to take steps towards fair representation of blacks. Now foreign investors, like Dartmouth, are starting to return.

Following recent sweeping reforms and an address to the United Nations by Nelson Mandela, the chairman of the African National Congress, several countries have reopened economic ties to South Africa.

Mandela, speaking Sept. 23, urged companies to remove their economic sanctions and reinvest after some two decades of refusing to do business in South Africa.

"South Africa has rampant unemployment right now and is in dire need of investment capital. It is very crucial," said Hetean Kalan '92, a government major who visited South Africa earlier this year. "I think it's very important to do this at this time."

The invested money could improve the conditions of the black majority, or it could reinforce the social and economic stratification that exists because of decades of apartheid, Kalan said.

"Apartheid laws were merely the scaffolding to build the building. Now the scaffolding has come down, but the building still remains," he said.

On April 27, 1994, South Africans will vote in the first election that grants suffrage to all citizens.

The National Party, representing the white minority population, instituted apartheid in 1948.

But experts on South Africa said rapid change may cause widespread problems for the nation.

"How much change can they make? How fast can they make it? As they begin to make changes there will be tremendous problems," said Government Professor Nelson Kasfir.

International protests against South Africa soared in 1984 when the constitution was altered to include both Indian and the mixed-race population in the government, but not blacks.

At the same time, the white government insured its power by reserving a set number of seats for themselves in the parliament.

Blacks were neither represented in the new parliament, nor allowed to vote in the nationwide referendum asking for the public's approval.

In 1985, the United Nations imposed an international embargo against South Africa.

"It is an indictment of our times that such an iniquitous policy as apartheid should have been allowed to prevail for so long against the current of world opinion," said Javier Perez De Cuellar, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a meeting of the Special Committee Against Apartheid on May 6, 1988.

The following year, F. W. de Klerk replaced P. W. Botha as president of South Africa.

In 1990 and 1991, de Klerk lifted the ban on the African National Congress, repealed basic apartheid legislation and persuaded many countries to lift sanctions.

In February 1990, de Klerk also unconditionally released Mandela, who had been serving a lifetime prison sentence since 1964 for protesting apartheid.

Mandela became head of the African National Congress that month and has since negotiated with de Klerk for the inclusion of blacks in South African politics.

Last month, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for laying the foundation for a new, democratic South Africa."

Although many official improvements have been made, a great deal remains to be done, according to Kalan.

"Very little has changed on the ground," Kalan said. "South Africa is engulfed in a climate of violence which places a lot of fear into people there."

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