Westminster diocese is going ahead with its decision to sell its 11,211 shares in Consolidated Goldfields, the mining company with extensive operations in South Africa.
The diocese, whose holdings will realise nearly £15,700, has been pressurising the company for more than two years to give greater support to racial equality in South Africa.
Although it is maintaining one share to be able to continue this pressure, the diocesan trustees feel that they are unlikely to make any further progress by this means. In particular, the Westminster trustees are not satisfied that Consolidated Goldfields has done enough to help set up trade unions for black workers, to end the migratory labour system, and continues to pay unacceptably low wages.
A statement issued from Archbishop's House this week said that the trustees were aware that they were not directly helping black South Africans by selling the shares, and they were also aware of the moral complexities involved in investment policy. The trustees have given £500 to Christian Concern for Southern Africa, an ecumenical organisation which monitors the social performance 'of British companies operating in Southern Africa.
The rest of the money will probably be invested with a development bank or a fund called Third Force for the Third World, a joint CA FOD Ministry of Overseas Develop
ment project designed to attract investment to poorer countries. The trustees have also urged other investors to reconsider their policies with regard to investment in South Africa.
Westminster's shares in Consolidated Gold Fields have had a lively history. They were bought over a number of years but in 1975, shortly before he died, Cardinal Heenan asked Mgr Bruce Kent, chaplain to Pax Christi. to act on his behalf at company meetings.
At the 1975 meeting, Mgr Kent asked questions about trade unions, wages and conditions of the company's black South African employees. Later, after Cardinal Heenan's death, the Westminster finance committee decided that they would achieve more by a private approach and Bishop Mahon took over the discussions with the company.
In July 1976 the diocesan advisory panel, thinking that the shares were falling fast, sold them. The same day the trustees realised that they couldn't act as a pressure group without the shares and ordered them to be bought back again.
The loss incurred was £337 and the shares were bought back at £17,377. The diocese is now selling them at £1,682 below that figure.
Mr Mike Terry, general secretary of the Anti Apartheid Movement said that the decision to sell the shares would be welcomed by all those opposed to apartheid in South Africa. He said that the Anti Apartheid Movement looked forward to other church investors following the example of Westminster.
Al the annual meeting of bankers Hill Samuel, Rev David Haslam, the general secretary of End Loans to South Africa, asked Sir Kenneth Keith, the bunk chairman, to give serious consideration to ending loans to South Africa. Mr Haslam questioned the advisibility of support of the present regime in the light of the killings at Sowcto and the brutal activities of the police, Sir Kenneth said that Hill Samuel had no intention of withdrawing from South Africa. Loans to the South African government were in the in terests of exports and by promoting exports, the hank was doing a service to England. By staying in South Africa, the bank was benefiting both black and white, he said.
• The Methodists have formally welcomed Westminster's decision to sell their shares in Consolidated Gold. Rev Derek R. Farrow, General Secretary of the Methodist Church's Division of Finance said, "The course taken by the Trustees was the only way open to them after their efforts to persuade Consolidated Gold Fields Ltd. to develop more humane policies had failed. It was a courageous decision and we applaud it.