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Life under apartheid has not changed enough to lift sanctions yet

The issue of MIT's divestment is more crucial now than a purely moral argument would allow. Recent events indicate that various governments around the world -- including the Bush administration -- are responding to pressure from big business and de Klerk's call to lift sanctions on the false pretense that irreversible steps have been taken to end apartheid.

However, the mass democratic movement in South Africa and its leaders are calling for continued sanctions until a truly irreversible change is constituted in South Africa.

In a letter dated Feb. 1, l991, Bishop Desmond Tutu appealed to the world community to continue their isolation of the South African government. "I am as eager as anyone to have sanctions lifted," Tutu said.

But "[apartheid] is the denial of political power to people on the basis of their race. This will be ended only when black South Africans have the vote, and this central thrust of our struggle against apartheid continues."

Many things about South Africa remain the same: Life under apartheid has not changed.

As of today, more than 3000 political prisoners are being held in South African jails; the South African government still spends almost four times as much for a white child's education as it does for a black child; there is still only one doctor for every 12,000 black persons; and as of today a black infant is still 12 times more likely to die than a white infant. This side of apartheid has not changed.

These kinds of living conditions will only be eliminated when the political power to change them is based on democratic rule and not minority privilege.

However, heads of western corporations and de Klerk feel that apartheid is already history and they believe it is time to lift the sanctions. Some MIT Executive Committee members, who are also CEOs of companies which invest in South Africa, have even gone as far as to state that their opposition to divestment is partly because it will hurt black South Africans the most.

The interest of big business and de Klerk are contrary to the interests of South Africa's majority population. It should not be difficult to figure out who holds a more credible view on the question of whether and when sanctions should be lifted.

When leaders of South Africa's mass democratic movement, such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, among others, call to continue the pressure on the apartheid system until there is true democracy in South Africa, we must listen to them; they are more likely to know what is good for the people they represent than the recently converted human rights advocate de Klerk.

They certainly know what is better for their people, who live in sub-human bondage in Soweto, than those who believe they feel the pains of apartheid from their corporate offices in New York.

The MIT Coalition Against Apartheid is currently engaged in a dialogue with MIT Corporation members on the issue of MIT divesting from companies doing business in South Africa.

The MIT community still has a vital part to play in bringing about the end of apartheid: Endorsing the divestment proposal currently being circulated by the MIT CAA would be a reaffirmation of MIT's commitment to a democratic South Africa.

Students, staff and faculty need to reaffirm their commitment for democracy in South Africa by endorsing CAA's divestment proposal. Until apartheid is consigned to South Africa's past, and democracy part of its present, the struggle against injustice in South Africa must continue.

Samuel Assefa G->

Sue Nissman G->