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British Business in South Africa Grows, So Do Calls for Boycotts

August 9, 1989

LONDON (AP) _ British investment in South Africa is still thriving, according to a study released amid renewed international pressure on athletes and businesses to protest apartheid.

More than 200 British companies have subsidiaries in South Africa, despite substantial disinvestment in the past three years to protest the government’s rigid policies of racial separation, says the report released Tuesday by the Labor Research Department.

The 20 largest of these companies employ a total of 230,000 people in South Africa, according to the department, a leftist trade union research organization.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government opposes mandatory economic sanctions, saying they would hurt the majority black population and neighboring black states more than South Africa’s white governing minority.

But a group of foreign ministers from the Commonwealth agreed Tuesday to recommend the 48-nation organization of Britain and its former colonies adopt a new package of financial sanctions against South Africa.

The ministers also condemned renewed sporting contacts with South Africa which threaten the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand.

Sixteen English cricket players have accepted invitations to play in South Africa in the next two years, and Australian and British rugby players have been asked to compete there later this month.

According to the investment report, the biggest British interest in South Africa is the diversified mining company Consolidated Gold Fields PLC, which has a 38 percent stake in Gold Fields of South Africa. The gold and coal mining concern employs more than 102,000 workers.

However, Hanson PLC said Monday it had completed a takeover of Consolidated Gold Fields and has said it will sell the mining company’s South African interests.

That would leave Imperial Chemical Industries PLC in top place with a 38 percent stake in AECI, the South African chemicals company which employs 26,500 workers, the report said.

Lonrho PLC ranks third, with interests in platinum, coal and gold mines, employing 9,428 workers.

The report said Lonrho apparently has twice ignored voluntary European Economic Community codes which seek to prevent new investment in South Africa. Since 1986, Lonrho has raised its stake in Western Platinum from 50 to 99 percent and revealed its 100 percent ownership of Eastern Platinum.

Other major British employers in South Africa include Trafalgar House, Unilever, Pilkington, BOC Group, BTR, BAT Industries, Rolls-Royce, RTZ, Blue Circle Industries, Great Universal Stores and Cadbury Schweppes, the report states.

Rolls-Royce recently joined the list by acquiring Northern Engineering Industries, which, the report says, profits from international sanctions by manufacturing car engines that are no longer built locally because other American and British car makers have left.

Several major British companies have pulled out of South Africa in recent years, the report says, including the two big banks, Barclays PLC and Standard Chartered, the packaging firm Metal Box, cable company BICC and engineering firms IMI and Glynwed.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement estimates total direct and indirect investment in South Africa by British companies was about $10.24 billion, down from about $12.6 billion in 1987. Britain is South Africa’s third-largest trading partner behind Japan and West Germany.

Tuesday’s report says the disinvestment campaign has had more success in the United States than in Britain in part because municipal and educational bodies have threatened to cancel large contracts if companies did not sever their South African ties.

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