BerkeleyMontoya - apartheid divests
from South Africa

Lincoln Cushing 8/31/2021

Can a city influence social justice in a far-away country? This was exactly the question citizens answered in 1979, when Berkeley became the first city in the United States to add municipal weight to support the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Posters about such solidarity work in this country first began appearing in the early 1970s, such as a Berkeley rally with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.

I'm helping to process a huge archival collection built by Berkeley election activist David Mundstock and donated to the Berkeley Historical Society, some of which will be displayed at an exhibition opening in late 2021. Divestment from South Africa is one several Berkeley progressive campaigns, as well as decriminalization of marijuana and community control of police.

From Mundstock's notes:
In 1979 four Berkeley Citizens Action candidates were elected to the City Council: Mayor Newport, John Denton, Florence McDonald, and Veronica Fukson.  Together with Councilwoman Carole Davis, who switched sides, there was now a progressive majority on the Berkeley City Council. The ballot also included a pair of initiative ordinances which BCA thought would help the campaign by fostering greater voter interest and turnout. These were Measures A & B, the Responsible Investment Ordinances.
Minkler - Apartheid
Concern about City of Berkeley investments that supported white-ruled South Africa had been voiced for years, leading to various unsuccessful City Council motions.  In l978 students at the U.C. chapter of California Public Interest Research Group (CAL-PIRG) decided to address this issue with an initiative. The Campaign for Economic Democracy and BCA people from the campus community joined in the effort.

The Responsible Investment Ordinance condemned apartheid and required the withdrawal of City of Berkeley funds from banks doing business with South Africa. A Citizens Committee on Responsible Investments would help the Council implement this policy.

City staff people were concerned about clarifying the ordinance's scope so that it would be possible to find acceptable banks for the deposit of municipal funds. Absent such a clarification, the City Attorney's proposed analysis for the Voters Handbook claimed the initiative would result in an annual $400,000 interest loss. For once the City Council added to the ballot a friendly amendment to the initiative defining "indirect loans" to South Africa. That became Measure B, and the City Attorney's analysis was changed to reflect a "minimal" adverse financial impact if both measures passed. BCA endorsed A & B as a package. There was no campaign against them.Cushing - Apartheid

Eventually, massive international pressure - including student activism and community support - successfully backed South African demands to dismantle the apartheid system. Nelson Mandela was freed on February 11, 1990, and negotiations to end apartheid formally began that year. These negotiations lasted for four years, ending with the election of Mandela as president. In 1996, the country initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reckon with the gross human rights violations during apartheid.

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For more resources on this subject see the African Activist Archive.

Berkeley campaign, 1979, by Malaquias Montoya, printed at Inkworks Press
"Isolate Apartheid regime profiteers," 1985, by Doug Minkler
"End Apartheid," 1985, by author, published by Inkworks Press