Luanda between wars

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In 1992 the Swedish Social Democratic party was asked to hold, election workshops in Luanda the Angola capital.

After pressure from the international community it was finally established that multi- party and presidential elections would be held to put an end to a war that was just dragging on since independence from Portugal in 1975.

I was assigned to be part of a delegation that also included Julio Flores, the party treasurer Inger Mähler and elections expert Hans-Erik Holmqvist. My knowledge of the Portuguese language was useful, once again, when our party the Swedish Social democrats were asked to assist another member of the Socialist International family.

Our previous work in South Africa with The ANC had echoed in southern Africa and the MPLA were eager to learn what we could share as important issues in order to run a successful campaign. After all we had a long experience of running elections.

Our stay was very short. We arrived on 5th July and left on the 10th. During this time we managed to meet election general Daniel Chipenda at MPLA headquarters, we paid a visit to the Swedish embassy and held workshops on some basic principles of multi-party elections. Throughout the visit we were taken care of, by MPLA historic leader Mr. Lopo do Nascimento.

We stayed at the hotel Trópico in Luanda and it was easy to feel the tension in the city in a period where the war had just taken a break and hopes were high among the population to get a peaceful solution and an end to the conflict.

Election were held in September with a turnout of 92 %. Angolans had voted and they gave the MPLA 54% of the vote for the national assembly while UNITA got 34%. We were to learn that election results were not accepted and that war broke out again as a second civil war lasting until 2002 just after Unita leader Jonas Savimbi’s death.

This long conflict cost the country much suffering as it forced millions to a life as refugees, escaping the countryside and looking for shelter in the cities.

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O Eusébio

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Quando estávamos a viver na Rua A às Amoreiras era aquilo um beco sem saída no fundo da Rua Aviador Plácido de Abreu. Ao lado havia apenas um campo abandonado nas traseiras do quartel da Artilharia 1. Este campo onde brincava era conhecido como Campo da Aliança. Tinha-se lá jogado à bola e ainda havia havia restos de uma bancada de cimento. Foi aí que se organizou durante um par de anos uma feira popular e foi tambem aí que uma noite correu a noticia que estariam lá uns jogadores do Benfica, entre eles o tal moço que tinha vindo de Lourenço Marques, o Eusébio. Claro que o queríamos ver. Ganharam uma coisas nas rifas ou na tombola. Penso que o que iam ganhando ofereceram aos miúdos. Foi o meu primeiro encontro com o Eusébio.

Tambem visitava o meu vizinho Vicente Lucas na Praceta do Junqueiro em Carcavelos. Vimo-nos várias vezes na década se sessenta e sempre mostrou humildade e bons modos. Cacei durante esse período o seu autógrafo que aqui fica!

Ele tinha dez anos mais que eu. Durante muito tempo era Eusébio o único portugues que se conhecia fora das fronteiras de Portugal. Embora não tenha jogado naquele jogo amigável com a Inglaterra em 69 estava lá, e encontrei-o por casualidade numa loja do centro de Londres. Quando se lhe dirigia a palavra falava como se fossemos conhecidos.

Uns anos depois, já não jogava, veio integrado na comitiva do Benfica que fez o seu estágio pré época na Suécia. O treinador era o sueco Sven- Göran Eriksson. Organizou-se um jogo treino com a equipa local do Alnö. Foi e continua a ser um dos eventos desportivos mais importantes aqui realizados. Foi um agora funcionário do municipio de Sundvall que se encarregou da organização do evento. Segundo ele deu lucro e foi de facto um feito trazer áquele campito o grande Benfica. Infelizmente não estava cá por ter sido no período de férias. Tive pena e tenha a certeza que se assim não fosse teria tido a oportunidade de falar mais com o Eusébio.

Descansa em paz Eusébio!

Praceta revisitada

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Foi concerteza em agosto de 1974 depois de quase 6 anos de saudade que voltei a Portugal. Já tinha um filho de 9 meses, o John, e como não podia deixar de ser queria que conhecessem a Praceta de Carcavelos. Tinha sido a partir de lá que tinha iniciado a minha vida de emigrante no dia 11 de setembro de 1968.

Chegámos de carro e dirigimo-nos ao Café Atlantico. Não foi nenhuma chegada apotetótica. Muito simplesmente começaram a juntar-se uma série de jovens que não eram da minha “geração. Puxámos da camera de super 8 e ficou para a posteridade esta curtissima metragem de 10 segundos. Reconhecem-se no grupo o João Paulo Henriques, ainda hoje residente na Praceta e o António Pedro Veloso cujo contacto reatei agora através do facebook. O que está ao meu lado… poderá ser o Zé Borsatti?

A vossa missão( se decidirem aceitar) é de nomearam o maior número de participantes dessa  tarde na Praceta há quase 40 anos! Quem ajuda? Será mesmo uma Missão Impossivel que era aquela série que passava na nossa televisão lá por 1967/68?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCmIrEGwYp4

Indres in Sundsvall

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Indres Naidoo came to us in Sundsvall in 1987. I enjoyed seeing him and as he had lived in Mozambique we had some of the Portuguese connection there too. When the ANC delegation was completed (9 people) they attended a course at the Trade Union (LO) school of Brunnsvik where the theme was theory of local administration, the civil structures of Sweden, the laws, etc. Useful information as Indres later on would be elected as member of South African parliament.

These 9 ANC members were later allocated to different areas around the country. As they were an odd number one had to come somewhere alone. It was the ex Robben Island prisoner that came alone to Sundsvall. He was now 51 years old and I was a junior with my 35.

The local ABF office was in charge of setting up the program in the region. This is how Indres described his stay in Sundsvall. ”The people who were in charge of me drove me all the way to Sundsvall, where they rented a flat for me. A fully furnished flat, right in the centre of town. I got a daily allowance for food, but I never ate at home. The only thing that I ever had at home was breakfast, because I was out at lunch-time. I went to factories. I went to schools. I went to government offices, and I used to have my lunch there.”

And he continues to explain:

“The agreement between ANC and ABF was that we should spend time with all political parties, the Social Democrats, the Communists or Left Party, the Liberal Party and the Centre Party, and that agreement was kept. I was very busy. I sat in at meetings of the local council and they took me along to show me how the local administration worked. I spent two days with the police force.”

“I then spent two days with the Centre Party. I was taken to a farm and it was very impressive. On the farm there were a husband and wife and two adult sons and a daughter. Just the five of them controlled the entire farm. It was a dairy farm and they had fields of alfalfa. They worked very hard. They were up at five in the morning, milking the cows.” Whose farm was that? (Selléns?)

If you want to read more about Indres and his life you can acquire his book “ Island in chains” or look at these interviews.

http://www.liberationafrica.se/intervstories/interviews/naidoo/

http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/indrasena-elatchininathan-naidoo

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Prisoner 885/63

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I remember how excited we were when asked to host a comrade from the ANC in Sundsvall. It was in autumn of 1987. I had been involved in international work for the Social democratic party for some time. It was now just about one year since our Prime Minister Olof Palme had been murdered. What better way to honour his memory but to work politically and internationally.

It turned out that it was Indres Naidoo exiled ANC member that would come to stay with us in Sundsvall for a few weeks where he would participate and study different activities connected with our political life at the local and regional levels. Indres was a prisoner at the renown Robben Island  between the years of 1963 and 1973. There was a book published by Penguin in 1982 “Island in chains”. In it Indres describes to Albie Sachs what life was like when chained down by a rasist regime .

A flat was rented for him in Skönsberg and I followed him whenever I had the opportunity. Indres was here as part of a program of solidarity where Sweden stood firm when many other countries ignored the struggle against the system of apartheid.

This is how Indres described his sortie from Lusaka, Zambia where he was working at the time.” I got to Zambia and while I was there, I was appointed to go to Sweden. It was chaotic. Only two of us were on the plane instead of nine. There was chaos between ANC and the Swedish embassy in Lusaka. The two of us landed in Stockholm and a week later the others joined us. The Social Democratic Party was having a congress in Stockholm and Prime Minister Carlsson invited us to have lunch with him, all of us. But, unfortunately, because only two of us had arrived they had to cancel that. However, there was a big welcome for us. We also went to attend the Social Democratic Party congress. I looked around and the first thing that struck me was all the red banners and the letters SAP. I started to laugh and said: ‘Oh God, SAP—South African Police— everywhere’. But I realized that SAP was short for the Swedish Social Democratic Party.”

Indres and I in 1987.

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Freeing Nelson Mandela

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The struggle for justice and a better world relates for every generation, to special conflicts and events. One of these conflicts for me was the situation in South Africa and the implementation of the system of apartheid there.

Then as now, some people choose to intervene and be a part of the struggle for a better world.

I am remembering today the date of 17th july 1988. We were in London and had heard that a march had been organized and carried through by the AAM (Anti-apartheid Mouvement). This march started in Glasgow and ended in London, where more people could and did join up, to protest against apartheid and show their solidarity to those on the frontline of the struggle and resistance to this despicable system.

 This was the year when the leader of the ANC, a certain Nelson Mandela, became known to the world. It was the year of his 70th birthday and a concert was held earlier on, in Wembley, London.

This was the occasion when the world got knowledge that heading this long struggle there was a man locked up on an island off Cape Town. The anti-apartheid mouvement had finally a face.

 Nobody could then have known that this demonstration would help, not to release a man and a leader but also an example of humanity and leadership. Those there played a small part in freeing nelson Mandela and stamping out apartheid.

 

We have now lost Mandela. Why he became a landmark in a time that saw war and destruction worldwide, is not difficult to understand. Mandela showed by action and not words that humanity has a chance.

 I know, as I write these lines that there are many people and ideas locked up by oppression and the mechanisms of power and greed. I am happy that the world has the example Mandela to guide us on our most difficult times.

 

My contact with South Africa and South Africans would later materialize in a number of ways. I hope to be able to write about them at a later stage, on this blog.

The Umeå years (2)

 

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Umeå was not an inviting town in 1976. I felt lonely… My son has later described my homecomings at weekends as those of a stranger. I spent most of my time sitting in the library studying in order to get my teacher’s degree as fast as possible. It was a time for sacrifice. We did not have much money. The Swedish system with a study grant was important to our economy. In the summer I earned some money on summer jobs in Sundsvall.

There were some positive highlights that I will mention in coming texts concerning my years in Umeå. The first one I would mention was enrolling in the Social-Democratic Student Association. I learned on arrival that every student had to belong to the Student Union (kår). I also learned that students could elect their representatives to the student Parliament.

Umeå was still living the spirit of 1968. They were many discussions and debates concerning most things big and small. The SD students were radical and much on the left of the main party. The British “Militant” section of the Labour party was the inspiration. The ideas for the newspaper” Offensiv”, were based on Trotskij’s socialist defiance of Stalin Communism. When I enrolled I got involved in the matter at hand that had to do on whether or not a number of members of the club should be excluded. A decision was eventually taken and some of the “Offensiv” members were excluded and accused of infiltration. When I arrived most of these exclusions had already been carried through.

Maybe one should remember in what world we were living then with violent Vietnam war just ended after 20 years and quiet cold war dividing people and ideas.

The student club was a place to be welcomed in. The interest for international questions and politics engaged and excited me. I recall many of these colleagues and many interesting meetings we had. I was invited to travel to different towns in the north and Olle Westerlund’s old Volvo took us to places like Storuman in the Lapland interior. We travelled there through snowstorms and reindeer herds.

Here with Christer Holmgren and Christer Söderman in 1977

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The Umeå years (1)

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When I had completed enough subjects in the Adult education (Komvux) courses, I applied to the University. At that time we discussed the two nearest alternatives, Uppsala and Umeå. The latter was further up north and Sweden’s newest University. I managed to get in on a sort of trial as I had not managed the level of Swedish required. I enrolled for the English AB course. It was meant that this subject would take a year. Due to my previous knowledge of English I decided to speed up the course. I did most of it within the term.

My student life in Umeå was all, but glamorous. I rented a furnished room at a private home in Scharinsvägen. Once again I had an elderly landlady. There were no cooking facilities so I needed to plan my meals so as not to get hungry at night, which I did not succeed very well in doing.

I came home at weekends especially in the beginning. I did not know anyone so I enrolled at the Social-Democratic Student Association.  

I got to and from Umeå by bus. These buses took between three and four hours and some stopped quite often.

My life in Umeå during these first years circled around the University. It was the most left winged environment in the Swedish academic world and I will come back to this. On the 20th November 1976 I got my first 40 academic points. I could come home for Christmas with a sense of duty accomplished.

Uusitalo and Berthelard

Helge Helge Uusitalo

Where would I have been without adult education (Komvux)? When I realized that nobody was really very interested on what I had done, previously to moving to Sundsvall in 1973, it seemed that studying was one of the only paths open. I finished my Swedish course after the planned 9 weeks and decided to further my studies. As I already been to the schools as a substitute teacher, and survived, it seemed like the fastest way to get a job was to become a teacher. In that category, language teaching was down my alley.

I decided to contact the responsible director for adult education. I felt I was quite old to study at 22 years of age, but it was worth a try. I met a director called Helge Uusitalo. This gentleman backed me up and I enrolled for Spanish, French and English sometime in 1974.

I particularly enjoyed the French classes that were held in the evenings. The teacher was Monsieur Robert Berthelard. This Frenchman from the Lyon area was well established in the town and I was to become his friend and colleague some years later. He worked as did his wife Britt at the Åkersvik School.

Mr. Uusitalo encouraged me to study and later on I enrolled for History lessons with him. Mr. Berthelard was an older colleague that inspired with his pedagogical skills. These two men were important in the setup of the Swedish system of adult education. The system aims at  giving new opportunities to those who need to complete their studies. It is free of charge and has seen many in Sweden achieve higher goals thanks to it. Without it I would not have gone further.

After I completed the subjects I mentioned, plus language science ad psychology, did Swedish and some Russian I could and did apply to get into University in the autumn of 1976.

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Montijo e Sundsvall encontram-se brevemente

 

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Já aqui tive ocasião de referir o que foram os meus primeiros contactos com  os partidos Socialistas da Suécia e de Portugal. Logo após o 25 de abril de 1974 decidiu-se que uma germinação entre distritos de cá e lá se efectuaria. O partido Social Democrata da Suécia já era antigo enquanto que o PS de Portugal tinha práticamente acabado de nascer. Calhou-nos o distrito de Setúbal. Calhou-me a mim ajudar nas traduções e fazer de intérprete já que era o unico portugues falante em Sundsvall.

Terá sido em 1976 que recebemos cá a segunda visita. Veio o José Resina Bastos autarca do Montijo. Como tinha sido descrito que Montijo era uma vila com muita criação de suíno, visitámos uma unidade de produção de cá. Tambem visitámos a fábrica de peixe fermentado (surströmming) onde fomos recebidos pelo dono o Sr Oskar Söderström.

Mais tarde fomos excelentemente recebidos pela familia Bastos no seu próprio ambiente. Fomos lá a um sábado ou domingo, mas não me recordo já o ano, e após termos visto alguma coisa das actividades importantes do Montijo como a da cortiça foi-nos oferecido um  excelente almoço em familia.

Como era dia de tourada e o Vice-Presidente da Câmara, o José Bastos, seria o presidente do feito tauromático, fomos convidados para a tribuna de honra. Foi um evento muito caracteristico da região e muito especialmente as provas de valentia dos forcados ficaram-nos bem vincadas na retina.