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Experts examine apartheid

The apartheid situation in South Africa is "very simple -- a power struggle between blacks and whites," according to Robert I. Rotberg, MIT professor of history and political science, and expert on South African affairs.

"The major components of apartheid are denial of voting rights to blacks," Rotberg continued, "denial of the freedom to live and work where they want, and denial of mobility. Blacks are forced to live in segregated townships or segregated sections of cities."

Thirteen percent of the South African population is white, and eighty-seven percent is non-white, according to Rotberg.

The 1982/1983 Political Handbook of the World states that ten percent of South Africa's population is "colored" [mixed race], while the rest of the non-whites are Bantu, or black, with African decent.

The Political Handbook reports that three-fifths of the white population are Afrikaaners [whites of Dutch, German, or French descent]. The remainder primarily comes from Great Britain. The Afrikaaners speak Afrikaans, a language related to Dutch, while those of British origin speak English.

A professor of history at Harvard University, who wished to remain unnamed, said that South Africa implemented the legal apparatus for apartheid after the 1948 elections, in which the National Party took control of South Africa's legislative body.

The Harvard professor described how the South African government gradually transformed apartheid into the law in South Africa. In the early 1950's, the new government passed laws making each residential section either entirely black or white. It introduced "colorbound legislation" which stated that no white could work for any black. Blacks therefore held all poorly paid jobs.

In the late '50s, the government mandated the separation of public places, followed by a pass system. Today, blacks are allowed into white areas, but only if they carry special passes distributed by the government. Blacks are subject to arrest if they have either no pass or a slightly different version than is accepted.

Approximately 500,000 to 600,000 blacks are arrested each year as a result of the pass laws.

The South African government practices apartheid for two basic reasons, Rotberg explained. First, the government believes blacks are a threat to white rule, he said. Secondly, the government believes that the blacks are neither ready nor capable of governing themselves.

The official government position is that the situation in South Africa is very tense, and that the blacks threaten the reform which is already in motion, Rotberg added.

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Divestment attempts

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College protests called for schools to divest interests in South Africa in 1967-68 and in 1977-78, according to John Parsons, assistant professor of finance at the Sloan School of Management.

Since 1978, according to Parsons, some states and pension funds divested their interests in both South Africa and corporations that invest heavily in South Africa.

"No one expects corporations to move their plants out of South Africa," Parsons said, "but it doesn't make any difference if American corporations fail to continue to license their products or stop sending parts to South Africa" because of a South African law nationalizing assets of corporations that pull out of South Africa.

Most foreign products produced in South Africa are actually only assembled there, Parsons said, and require shipments of parts from other countries.

Certain corporation's divestment would have considerable affect in South Africa, Parsons said. Westinghouse, for instance, licenses all products for nuclear power plants in South Africa. Also, according to Parsons, IBM sends many parts to South Africa for computer systems.

Two other South African laws relate to the US-South African business relationship, according to Parsons. The first one requires all foreign plants in South Africa to produce military supplies for the South African government in the event of a government-defined "civil emergency."

Foreign corporations must also cooperate completely with the South African government in the same situation. All foreign plants must be designed to be secure against possible violence, Parsons said.

The second law is a tax treaty the United States has with South Africa. Profits that US corporations make in South Africa are subject to tax paid directly to the South African government, providing revenue.