Remembering Nelson Mandela
UCLA and South Africa
by African Studies Center staff
In the 1970s UCLA was home to a number of students from Africa and they brought with them their hopes and dreams for their country. One such contingent came from South Africa. UCLA's relationship to South Africa spans over 40 years. South African intellectuals have called UCLA home and South African history, culture and languages courses also found a place on campus. This relationship reached new heights as the campus became the epicenter for a large and sustained action to delegitimize the apartheid regime. As early as 1968, students at UCLA protested the financial relationship between US corporations and the South African government. The primary aim of these nationally coordinated activities was to pressure universities to divest from banks and corporations doing business with firms there. The campus movement quickly gained strength and beginning in the mid-1970s, the UCLA community was engaged in a divestment campaign aimed at pressuring the University of California system to divest from American companies doing business in South Africa.
In the 1980s the campaign was fully engaged with escalations in actions. Perhaps one of the most noted anti-apartheid demonstrations was the 1985 sit-in, "Mandela City", a tent encampment students had set up adjacent to the administration building. At the time students throughout California were engaged in an aggressive campaign to force the UC system to withdraw the huge financial investments made in the apartheid regime of South Africa. Activists believed that UC system's estimated 30% investment in corporations and financial institutions that conducted $1.7 billion worth of business transactions in South Africa was explicit support of apartheid. Finally in 1986, the UC Regents authorized the full withdrawal of its three billion dollars' worth of investments from companies linked to South Africa in 1986. Through unrelenting struggle the students eventually forced the UC system to divest their holdings in South Africa, helping to pave the way for the total collapse of the apartheid regime. Many UCLA faculty and students were engaged in this movement and some share their reflections on Mandela on this page.