The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 51.0°F | Overcast

MIT group fights Apartheid

By Michael J. Garrison

The MIT Coalition Against Apartheid protested the South African government's Apartheid policy on the Student Center steps Wednesday.

After several introductory speeches, Willard R. Johnson, MIT professor of political science and the head of Trans-Africa, delivered his featured address to a crowd of over 100 people.

It is time for MIT to divest itself of "any connection to South Africa," he said. MIT has approximately $65 million invested in companies with South African holdings, according to Shiva Ayyadurai '85, one of the earlier speakers.

Johnson asserted, "Our job is to put the kind of moral and financial pressure on South Africa" which will force South Africa to end Apartheid. "There is no word we could use here today which would be as obscene or troubling as the reality in South Africa itself."

Johnson referred to a 14-year history of student protest against Apartheid. The protests began, according to one of the speakers, in 1971 as a part of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The original result, Johnson said, was a policy which foreshadowed the current Sullivan principle. That principle calls for corporations which operate in South Africa to work to improve conditions within that country.

Johnson denied divestment would be an immoral act of "washing our hands" of responsibility. "It is not a matter of walking away from the problems, it is a matter of seeing these problems," he said.

Massachusetts, Johnson said, was the first state to divest its pension funds from South African investments. "Since that time four other states have joined" Massachusetts, he said.

"Since I began [this speech]," Johnson added, "one [South African] has been arrested ... and two have died of malnutrition.... People are dying in jails again.... Divestment has been the only thing that makes South Africa worried."

Johnson urged MIT students to support the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985, which is one of many Congressional bills concerning South Africa. He cited the recent passage of a measure designed to restrict aid to Nicaraguan rebels.

Protests elsewhere

At Harvard University, protesters forced their way into 17 Quincy Street on Wednesday morning, according to Mike Hirschorn, managing editor for the Harvard Crimson. He added that the protesters made no demands. The protesters left the building at 5 pm.

The building serves as the Harvard Corporation Headquarters, according to Cynthia Palmer, a freshman at Harvard. She said there were about fifty protesters in the building.

"Inside, they're just quietly reading books and articles on South Africa because it's supposed to be a learning experience," she continued. "We don't think there will be any arrests, but it's still uncertain."

Harvard President Derek Bok was in Washington Wednesday. The demonstration was held in spite of this because Wednesday was the National Day of Student Protest Against Apartheid, Palmer said.

At Columbia University in New York, leaders of a three-week blockade of Hamilton Hall announced the blockade would end Thursday, according to a New York Times article on Apr. 23. The decision was made before an injunction was issued against the protesters on Monday.

Justice Burton S. Sherman of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ordered all locks to be removed from the front doors of Hamilton Hall, but also set aside an area where the students could continue their protest.

The demonstrators demanded that Columbia divest itself of over $30 million of stock in companies which deal with South Africa.