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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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.