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Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA)


Historical Note

The Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA) was formed in 1977 as the Committee to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa. The committee was initially organized and sponsored by the American Committee on Africa and the Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC), but become an independent organization soon after. The formation of COBLSA reflected a new phase in the movement to support the efforts of grassroots, local, and national anti-apartheid groups in working to end all United States loans, direct or indirect, to South Africa. With this purpose in mind, the campaign work was initially directed by ACOA staff member and first national coordinator of COBLSA, Prexy Nesbitt, and CALC member Gene Jones, and involved over 48 cooperating organizations, including churches, unions, university and colleges, and community groups.

Since 1977, COBLSA's campaign activities included conferences and tours, production of resources for affiliates and organizers, and research on United States financial links to South Africa. The campaign addressed local issues such as legislature actions against tax moneys being put by cities or states in banks that lend to South Africa; convincing anti-nuclear groups to divest and oppose bank loans to South Africa; teaching local groups how to research and present alternative investments and banking options; and providing better opportunities to increase outreach with their communities, including media work. These efforts were built on the pioneering divestment work by United States churches in the mid-1960s.

By 1979, Dumisani Kumalo became the second national coordinator of COBLSA. That same year, COBLSA became an independent organization and moved from its original office and sponsors in New York to Washington, D.C. Although, most of the member organizations of COBLSA were local groups based in one city or state, one of these affiliates was the District of Columbia (D.C.) Bank Campaign, which covered a coalition of organizations and individuals who worked to change the repressive apartheid system abroad. Launched in June 1979, the campaign focused on changing the operations of local banks which financed loans for the repressive governments in Chile and South Africa. Other political demands from the campaign members included efforts to end red-lining and mortgage loan discrimination in the District of Columbia.

Additionally, the D.C. Bank Campaign targeted Riggs National Bank because of its involvement with financing loans to South Africa and Chile and its poor record of services and loans to the D.C. community. The Riggs National Bank project involves the challenge to Riggs Bank over its international and domestic lending practices. As an initiative of the District of Columbia Bank Campaign, the Riggs National Bank project focused on ending all of the bank loans, investments, and credits until apartheid was abolished and full political, economic, and social rights were established for all people of South Africa. Chile also became a target for the campaign.

In May 1981, Carole J.L. Collins became the national coordinator of COBLSA and continued the campaign efforts of COBLSA. By 1983, COBLSA's affiliates and national staff had conducted bank campaign activities, which contributed to over $325 million of deposit withdrawals from Canadian and United States banks that had continued lending to South Africa.

Author: Felicia Render

Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa records

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA) records

Identifier: 736
Scope and Contents The records of the Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA) consist of research files, collected news clippings, presentation papers, publications, periodicals, and reports (1977-1983), as well as files generated during the tenure of National Coordinator Carole Collins (1981-1983). A smaller amount of material that the organization created includes correspondence, occasional minutes of meetings and reports, lists of bank lenders to South Africa and networking contacts. Of...
Dates: Created: 1967-1995; Other: Majority of material found in 1979-1983; Other: Date acquired: 07/01/2000