The South African Council of Churches, in a major position statement, has urged foreign corporations to "revise radically" their investment policies so that they no longer assist racial segregation.
The SACC statement, issued after a day-long debate at the group's recent annual conference, asserted that "foreign investments and loans have largely been used to support the prevailing pattern of pwer and privilege" in the country.
In light of this, said the statement, "We urgently call on foreign countries and organizations, for the sake of justice, to revise radically their investment policies and employment practices in regard to South Africa, in such a way as to benefit the total population.
There has been intense debate in lchurches in the United States over whether U.S. businesses should pull out of South Africa entirely, make no further investment in the country, or continue business with an eye toward reforming the system from within.
The SACC a group of Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox churches claiming to represent 15 million members, does not include South Africa's most powerful Ditch Reformed Church, the all-white Nederuitse Gereformeerde Kerk, which supports the government's racial policies.
A spokesman for the SACC said that despite strong pressures from some of the 70 delegates, the group decided to rule out a demand for an outright halt to foreign investment in South Africa. The decision, he said, was made on the ground that the issue was a moral one, and should be left to individual nations and corporations.
Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, the black who is general secretary of the SACC, acknowledged at a press conference that the SACC resolution was influenced by laws barring advocacy of political change by means of economic pressure.
If the SACC had advocated suspension of all foreign investment in the country, it would have been liable to severe penalties under the law.
Churches are not the only forum for the debate over investment in South Africa. Increasingly on American campuses, student are demanding that university boards withdraw investments in companies doing business in the country.