In a shocking move a major European company, Barclays Bank, announced that it was selling its remaining 40 per cent holding in its South African associate, Barclays National Bank Limited of South Africa (also known as Barnat). Sir Timothy Bevan, chairman of Barclays, admitted that while the decision to pull out of the South African market was a commercial one, the pressure exerted against the bank by anti-apartheid protesters had a detrimental effect on the bank's business in other areas. Student campaigns against Barclays Bank, initiated in the 1960s, were carried on year after year, especially at the beginning of every academic year, to persuade students not to open accounts with that bank.
A major company in the United States (US), General Motors Corporation, sold its shares to the local management and pulled out of the South Africa market in a similar move on 6 November 1986. The Free South Africa Movement in the US was launched mainly by Black and church groups in November 1984. Early in 1985 it became a mass movement by mobilising many thousands of students who participated in demonstrations. Hundreds courted imprisonment. This contributed to the enactment of partial sanctions by the United States Congress in 1986, overriding the veto by the President.
The withdrawal of international companies came amidst speculation of strong political pressure against ties with the apartheid government.
Click here to read more about international disinvestment during apartheid.