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Black South Africans Say Disinvestment Would Hurt Populace

March 26, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Minority South African businessmen said Tuesday the American disinvestment campaign is an effective tool in focusing attention to their country’s discriminatory racial policies.

But, they said, blacks in their white-ruled country would suffer if American companies there pulled up stakes.

The businessmen appeared at a luncheon sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a group that recently published a study opposing disinvestment as a means of changing the system of legal segregation known as apartheid.

″The fact of the matter is that this disinvestment campaign is bringing results,″ said furniture manufacturer Habakuk Shikwane.

He added: ″The best method should be used to try to force South African to bring about change. I know changes are coming. I have seem them coming. But if you stop, then they (the white government) stop.″

The businessmen came to the United States at a time Congress is weighing legislation that would impose punitive sanctions against the government in South Africa, where 5 million whites deny political rights to 22 million blacks.

At least five states and 20 cities have adopted measures to divest themselves of financial interests in companies doing business in South Africa.

Lawmakers are considering bills that would bar new U.S. investment in South Africa and end the sale of Kruggerand gold pieces, among other things.

Opponents, including the Reagan administration and ethics center president Ernest W. Lefever, maintain disinvestment would do little to bring reforms in South Africa’s racial system.

The center is a conservative think tank dealing with human rights issues.

One businessmen, Mahomed Kajee, who is of Indian descent, said he feared full-scale disinvestment could create widespread unemploymen, resulting in violence and ″possibly a bloodbath.″

The schisms among the non-whites were noted by Peter Davidson, a hotel executive from Durban. ″There is no unanimity in South Africa on this issue,″ he said.

Carried to its furthest extension, Davidson said disinvestment could ultimately lead to a blockade of South Africa, a move that would hurt everyone.

Yet Willie Ramoshada, a black banker, said he knew of no alternatives to the disinvestment campaign as a means of putting pressure on the whites.

″Blacks would openly say disinvestment ... is the only tool available in 1985,″ he said.

Ramoshada also said the the blacks’ top priority was education, including integrated schools.

South African firms contributed money to pay for the businessmen’s trip.