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Divestment Forces Say Pressure Paid Off : South Africa: Advocates of economic sanctions count Mandela's visit a victory.

July 01, 1990|DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So far, authorities say, divestment has taken place with little or no loss to the pension funds. One reason is that many blue chip firms decided to sell their South African holdings, so California can continue to invest in them.

"We essentially have divested without penalty," Controller Davis said.

When California adopted its policy, the State Teachers Retirement System fund had roughly $1.8 billion invested in firms that did business in South Africa. The Public Employees Retirement System had another $2.3 billion in the firms. UC had $3 billion invested.

As of December, 1989, a document dated last month shows, the state teachers' pension fund had cut its holdings to $33.5 million in 19 firms doing business in South Africa, including Bristol-Myers, Chevron and Caterpillar.

Now, the teachers' fund has $23 million invested in firms with direct ties to South Africa, said Sandra Parker, an executive of the fund. The final $23 million in roughly 18 firms will be sold off by December, she said.

The state Public Employees Retirement System has $333.5 million left to unload in firms still in South Africa, said Dale M. Hanson, executive officer of the pension fund. The fund will have sold its "South Africa-tainted" stocks and bonds by the end of 1990.

The number of shares left to be sold is considerable. Within the last month, the fund has sold 150,000 shares in Texaco, and must sell its remaining 350,000 shares in the oil giant by year's end. The fund also is holding large amounts of shares in Bristol-Myers, Abbott Labs, Du Pont and lesser amounts in 33 other firms.

The university pension fund retains the largest stake in companies with South African ties of any California state pension fund. UC spokesman Rick Malaspina told The Times earlier this week that the $13-billion pension fund for university employees held $763 million in three firms with direct South African holdings.

Citing updated figures, Patricia Small, UC's associate treasurer, said later in the week that the university pared down its holdings in recent months to $450 million, including $134 million worth of shares in Bristol-Myers, $136 million in Johnson & Johnson and $180 million in 3M International. The shares in the companies will be sold by the year-end deadline, Small said.

In coming months, pressure is expected to build to increase economic action aimed at South Africa's racist government. But for now, people who fought for divestment basked in their victory, and recalled the fight.

"We were making it up as we went along," recalled Loni Hancock, mayor of Berkeley. In 1971, Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Berkeley) introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the United States to pull investments out of South Africa. In 1979, Berkeley became one of the first local governments to put its dollars where its principles were, refusing to bank at institutions that loaned to South Africa.

Now Berkeley's policy goes much further. The city won't buy an IBM computer, for example, or invest in IBM, in part because though IBM sold its South African subsidiary in 1987, the firm sells computers there.

In the early years, the 1970s, a free South Africa "seemed so far away it was unimaginable," said Hancock, who as a councilwoman introduced divestment resolutions as early as 1973. Seventeen years later, Mandela arrived. That, said Hancock, "is a powerful and moving thing."

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