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Bill Gates divests from G4S

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Following calls from Palestine solidarity and BDS activists, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has began divesting from the controversial security company G4S. G4S is complicit in Israel’s illegal detention, torture and incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners.

The world’s richest man Bill Gates held a stake of more than 3pc in the FTSE 100 group through his private investment vehicle Cascade Investment and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The stake amounted to more than R1 billion worth of shares in G4S.

However, according to a stock exchange filing on Wednesday 28 May 2014, the holding in G4S has been sold down to less than 3pc, the lowest threshold at which investors have to declare stakes. The filing does not say how many, if any, G4S shares Gates still holds.

Bill Gates and his charity organisation the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest charitable foundation in the world, has come under increasing international pressure from Palestine solidarity activists in recent months for investing in G4S.

Earlier this year in April, to mark the international Palestine Political Prisoners Day on 17 April, human rights campaigners, Palestine solidarity members and BDS activists held protests at the various offices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – including at the Johannesburg offices of the Gates Foundation. The protests called on the Foundation to divest from the controversial security company G4S due to G4S Security’s complicity in Israeli human rights abuses. A petition with more than 11 000 signatories was also handed over to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mthunzi Mbuli, a campaigner at BDS South Africa welcomed the decision by Bill Gates and the Bill Gates Foundation to divest from G4S.

“As South Africans we painfully identify with the plight of the Palestinians in general and Palestinian prisoners in particular. When we see the Israeli imprisonment, facilitated by G4S, of our Palestinian comrades, we are reminded of how our mothers and fathers were imprisoned during Apartheid,” she said.

“We found it disturbing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had in the first place invested in the notorious security company G4S which is complicit and is basically profiteering from Israel’s imprisonment, detention and torture of Palestinians – including Palestinian children. However, we are glad that following our protests and calls Bill Gates and his Foundation have began divesting from G4S.”

Mbuli also thanked the various organizations that had joined the protests against the Bill Gates Foundation earlier in the year.

“We would like to thank all organisations including SASCO, YCL, Swaziland Solidarity Network, WFTU and others that had joined BDS South Africa earlier this year in calling on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S. In particular we would like to thank the Ex-political Prisoners Association of South Africa led Comrade Mpho Masemola.”

Rafeef Ziadah, a UK-based human rights campaigner with the British anti-poverty group War on Want also participated earlier this year in the worldwide protests.

Ziadah commented: “We are glad the pressure on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S is starting to work. We urge the foundation to sell any remaining shares it still holds.” VOC

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