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Southern Africa Report Archive

The tasks of southern Africa-related political work continue in Canada, as Sue Sutton finds in her survey of what's left of the erstwhile anti-apartheid movement in Canada. It's true that the loss of the political focus that apartheid's evil system provided has reduced the salience of South Africa in Canada, and the issues of equitable development and democratic empowerment that remain are less easy to get a bead on for many Canadians.

vol 11 no 1

Canadian solidarity: after anti-Apartheid
Sue Sutton


Printable Version
Southern Africa Report

SAR, Vol 11, No 1, November 1995
Page 10
"Solidarity"

CANADIAN SOLIDARITY: AFTER ANTI-APARTHEID

BY SUE SUTTON

Sue Sutton, prepared this report for SAR on behalf of the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF).

The height of the anti-apartheid movement in Canada saw passionate public engagement, focused on a highly identifiable and straightforward evil. The institutionalized racism of the South African regime was an easy rallying cry for fundraisers, donors, and solidarity groups.

But as many Canadians who laboured in the struggle against apartheid quickly point out, its abolition is the tip of the iceberg. Black South Africans may be able to vote now, but the vast majority still live under the conditions that obtained prior to the elections. What has happened to all that activist energy since the collapse of apartheid and the elections last spring?

In Canada, some organizations have moved on to address the new challenges in South Africa, while others have folded. Some have undergone considerable changes, either devoting less energy to South Africa or broadening their focus to include all of southern Africa. Most are engaged, alone or in partnership with other Canadian groups, in the critical issues of gender, housing, agriculture, and the rebuilding of civil society.

Broadly speaking, agencies which came into being with apartheid as their sole focus have either disappeared or turned their attention to the parallel issue of racism within Canada. The anti-apartheid groups which proliferated on Canadian campuses, with a heavy focus on disinvestment and benefitting from the considerable energy of youth, are gone. A number of Canadian universities are linking with South African universities and conducting student exchanges, but there are few, if any, campus groups still absorbed with South Africa. The same holds true for many of the provincial committees and coalitions against racism and apartheid, which are either addressing issues closer to home, such as the Aryan Nations in Alberta, or have disbanded altogether.

Ongoing efforts in Canada have not been helped by the changes in Canadian government policy. Virtually all groups which are still engaged have been damaged by cuts in Canadian government funding - some of them severely - and hard choices are being made. The recent slashing of CIDA's Public Participation Program and drastic cuts to other development education programmes have hurt or killed at least ninety development education and advocacy groups. The vast majority of such organizations outside the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto axis have been eliminated, denying communities across the country real access to information.

The Canadian government's focus has clearly changed, from indirect support for South African NGOs through Canadian groups, to direct government to government support. The South Africa Educational Trust Fund, the Defense and Aid Fund, Canada-South Africa Cooperation, and the South Africa Special Fund are all gone. While there's a certain logic to this, given that the new South African government is largely composed of former NGO partners, Canadian organizations are concerned that this severe cut in funding to South African NGOs will harm efforts to rebuild the NGO sector there.

The government is also encouraging increased involvement through private enterprise, such as former Minister of Foreign Affairs Joe Clark's efforts to encourage private investment. (EXPAND) It appears to be a hands-off approach. For example, the government has refused to promote the Business Code of Ethics proposed by the South African Council of Churches (SACC). According to Bill Davis, Coordinator of the Task Force on Churches and Corporate Responsibility (TCCR), Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs André Ouellet said in a letter that Canada saw no role for itself in helping to set standards for ethical investment in South Africa.

South African groups are seeing funding from other sources dry up as well. The European community has all but abandoned many of its former partners. The funding for the Committee for South-South Relations has dropped from 800,000 rand to less than 300,000, and the Committee will probably fold. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has been decimated by cuts from international partners, and has been further affected by structural changes which will see the national body divided and decentralized.

Of course, there is money available for South Africa - from the international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Indeed, Dennis Howlett of 10 Days for World Development worries that South Africa is in danger of taking on too many loans from the IFI's. The World Bank is offering massive loans directed at land, agriculture and housing, but these loans are highly conditional. There is concern that the IMF and the World Bank are skewering the government's Reconstruction and Development Plan, and that the results will benefit lower and middle income groups, but not the majority of the country's poor. The World Bank, for example, is discouraging communal farming, while the IMF says the government needs to "dampen" wage increases, which Howlett likens to economic apartheid.

Canadians have lost much of their partner base in South Africa itself. Most of the individuals who were most heavily engaged in the anti-apartheid movement are among the best qualified to help run the country, having learned valuable leadership skills over their years underground. Not surprisingly, they have been quickly snapped up by both government and private enterprise.

While this is of tremendous benefit to the fledgling government, it has also meant the loss of skills for the churches and NGOs which are so important as a counterfoil to government power. While some Canadians who have been involved for many years in South Africa are reluctant to state it on the record, access to power and money, after people have spent years underground, can be seductive. Some are bound to succumb. There is therefore a serious interest in supporting those in South African unions, NGOs and other advocacy groups who are strongly for true democracy there.

There is therefore a serious interest in maintaining a true democracy that is manifest in unions, NGOs, and other advocacy groups. New elections loom, and with them voter registration and the need to educate and inform newly empowered South Africans. While South Africa probably has the strongest civil society in sub- Saharan Africa, there is still much work to be done in the areas of democracy, elections, and the restructuring of civil society in light of the recent changes.

But even if apartheid is gone, basic human rights remain a very real concern. The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF), which for many years was a locus for much of the churches' anti-apartheid work, has shifted its focus from liberation politics to human rights. As part of a more general interest in developments across the continent in the human rights sphere, ICCAF monitors the human rights record of the new South African government, especially its activities in the area of socio-economic development. Briefs are submitted annually to the Canadian government, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the Organization for Africa Unity.

In addition to the monumental task of rebuilding an effective civil society within South Africa, there are immediate practical concerns around housing and land reform, women's issues, and the arms industry which are engaging Canadians.

Housing for the close to eight million black Africans living in townships is of critical importance. The ANC pledge to create one million new housing units by the turn of the century has been set back somewhat by the death of Housing Minister Joe Slovo, and to date only a fraction of that number has been built. Some Canadian groups, particularly unions and cooperatives, are assisting with this urgent problem.

Others, such as OXFAM, are devoting considerable energy to gender issues, particularly in the areas of income equity, violence against women, family health, and rural and agricultural development.

The massive arms industry is also of concern, and the related rise in crime due in part to the availability of weapons from the various regional wars. Within the arms industry itself there is a large faction amongst middle management and workers advocating conversion to non-military goods production using, for example, fibreglass and carbon technology to make bridge trusses, water pipes, and different kinds of vehicles; these ideas are being blocked by senior management.

These are complex issues - far more complex than the monumental but straightforward task of eliminating official apartheid. The loss of media attention, which has moved on to other hot spots, has not helped.

Apart from occasional progress reports, South Africa is suffering from the same lack of attention as any other African country: if it's not going up in flames, it's not a story. Ongoing issues of development, the building of a civil society, social justice: these are complex issues that don't easily translate into sound bites, and they are not subjects in which the mainstream media excel. Given the loss of development education groups, the news media is where the vast majority of the public gets its information. Thus ICCAF, for example, is beginning to address this particular problem with its media monitoring project, which hopes to pinpoint deficiencies and also provide the media with a broader base of sources and accurate information.

On a positive note, if the work of Canadians concerned about South Africa has been harmed by funding cuts, media abandonment, and the attendant increased difficulty in engaging the energies of the general public, for those who remain involved in the issue, their passion appears undiminished.

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LIST OF CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS

While attempts were made to contact as many organisations as possible, some proved difficult to track down. The following is a preliminary list. We would welcome hearing from any groups we've missed.

ALBERTA YOUTH ANIMATION PROJECT ON SOUTHERN AFRICA (AYAPSA): continues the work it began 1989, including presentations and workshops with youth, the "Cry Freedom" newsletter, hosting speakers and visitors from South Africa, skills training for youth involved in solidarity work, and development of linkages with partners, including youth tours to Southern Africa. Contact: Lynn Caldwell (403) 277-8718

ALTERNATIVES: formed about a year ago in Montreal, and includes the Centre for Information and Documentation for Mozambique & South Africa (CIDMAA). CIDMAA was chiefly a resource centre for community organisations, trade unions & churches concerned with South Africa; they continue to support development projects in South Africa and the region, funding projects by local organisations involved in civics, community radio & newspapers. Contacts: Stephane Corriveau, Pierre Beaudet (514) 982-6606

ANGLICAN CHURCH: continues to work with partners on issues of tolerance, reconciliation, racism, gender, and reconstruction and development. Contact: Charlotte Maxwell (416)924-9192

ARUSHA: continues to operate as a learner centre and develop anti-racist education programs; co-operating with CUSO and OXFAM. Contact: Rosemary Browne (403) 270-3200

ASSOCIATION OF CANADIAN COMMUNITY COLLEGES: working with Community Outreach Through Institutional Linkages (COTIL) on outreach and adult education programs; also with PROTEC, helping youth in disadvantaged areas; both programs focus on upgrading skills in science and technology. Contact: (613) 733-2362

BRITISH COLUMBIA TEACHER'S FEDERATION: working with the South African Democratic Teacher's Union (SADTU), organising & developing a membership and financial base, and funding training programs. Contact: Larry Kuehn (604)871-2283

CALGARY COMMITTEE AGAINST RACISM: has disbanded South African subgroup; most participants have gone on to other areas, particularly native issues & local opposition to the Aryan nations. Contact: Don Dale (403) 285-3249

CANADIAN COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION: has a three-year project providing technical assistance and credit union specialists to the Savings and Credit Co-op League of South Africa; helping develop credit unions across the country, particularly in the townships, and helping to develop links between the co-op and agricultural sectors. Contact: Rick Weger (613) 238-6711

CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS: has been working with COSATU and NACTU & SA service organisations, and continues to support educational projects, such as COSATU's summer & winter schools, as well as exchange programs. Contact: Paul Puritt (613) 526-7435

COOPERATION CANADA MOZAMBIQUE (COCAMO), a coalition of 20 Canadian NGOs, church groups, labour unions' humanity funds and solidarity groups has been working collectively since 1988 to support community groups and popular organizations in Nampula, Mozambique. COCAMO has provided technical assistance and training to local groups that provide adult education, support to family sector farming, small income generating activities and credit facilities for women. With the arrival of peace, COCAMO-supported groups are beginning to move into previously contesteed areas where the landmine problems are more acute. Currently, COCAMO is exploring ways to support programmes to develop de-mining expertise in Nampula province. Contact: Michael O'Connor, (613) 562-3930

CONFEDERATION DES SYNDICATS NATIONAUX (CSN): from the mid-80s until last year was involved with COSATU and member unions in educational activities, summer schools, health & safety issues, gender equality, and organising. To date, partners in South Africa have not renewed their demands, and CSN is therefore uncertain of any future involvement. Contact: Peter Bakvis (514) 598-2273

CUSO: working chiefly on land, housing and literacy projects with South African NGOs and various Canadian partners. Contact: John Van Mossel (613) 829-7445

DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: working with the National Land Committee; with the National Language Program, which is looking at reform based on language and linguistics programs; and with a network of advice centres in Orange Free State, concerned with ensuring that citizens know their rights and how to get access to the services to which they are entitled. Contact: Trevor Cook (514) 257-8711

INTER-CHURCH COALITION ON AFRICA (ICCAF): Southern African Working Group (which included a major focus on South Africa) has been replaced with the Human Rights Working Group. South Africa remains one of the groups eight countries of focus, with special attention paid to civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights; gender and land issues are also monitored. ICCAF continues to publish South Africa Update, which provides news and analysis of human rights-related issues and responses to those issues by church partners in South Africa. Contact: Gary Kenny (416) 927-1124

INTER-PARES: has worked with partner organisations around SADCC issues; continues to be active in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Tanzania but has little to do with South Africa. Contact: Lise Latroumille (613) 563-4801

THE MICAH INSTITUTE OF SOUTHERN ALBERTA: continues to work on third world educational issues, with a focus on Africa. Was almost entirely funded through the PPP; is looking at new ways to continue its work with limited funding, including the KENYA CONNECTION, a fair trade group launched by Joy Duncan in Calgary to bring African crafts to Alberta, which is looking at expanding into southern Africa. A portion of the profits are being used to fund cooperative efforts such as market gardens and the digging of wells. Contact: Denise Christopher (403) 262-5111

OXFAM: Gender and Development Programme currently supports over a dozen women's organisations, addressing violence against women and income equity, mobilizing rural women to take economic and political control of their lives. Funds for staffing office costs, communications systems, research and networking are provided for women's groups. Funding is also being provided for information sharing, exchanges, and internships between women's groups in South Africa, other Southern African countries, and Canada; projects for 1994-95 are bringing Canadian and South African groups fighting violence against women in both countries. OXFAM is also working on development and training for urban community-based organizations, and issues around civil society, democracy and elections. Contacts: Lola Fabowalé, Jim McKinnon (613) 237-5236

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: has a staff member in Johannesburg working on land re-allocation; also working with partners in Lesotho on visitor exchanges and assistance with nursery schools, and in association with the Presbyterian World Service and the Sharpeville Women's Association on their community centre, focusing on job retraining and skills such as sewing and trading. Contact: Rick Fee (416) 441-1111

ROOFTOPS: international development arm of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, with strong assistance from CUSO; is helping South African partners like the Housing Department of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and UMZAMO in the conversion of single-sex hostels to family accommodation for migrant labourers in mining areas. Also working with Planact, a planning and urban policy group, and the National Housing Forum, to establish sustainable housing policies and deal with housing standards, financing, state subsidies, and land allocations. Contact: Barry Pinsky (416) 366-1445

TASK FORCE ON CHURCHES AND CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY (TCCR): addressing the corporate agenda in other areas and now has little to do with SA. Supported the SACC proposal for a "Code of Business Ethics," largely ignored by the Canadian government, out of concern that South Africa would be under intense pressure to set lower standards and cut corners. Contact: Bill Davis (416) 923-1758

TEN DAYS FOR WORLD DEVELOPMENT: has no active campaign related to South Africa; continues to focus on economic justice, mobilizing the churches to advocacy, popular education approaches, and policy issues; maintains e-mail contact with organisations in South Africa. Contact: Dennis Howlett (416) 922-0591

TORONTO COMMITTEE FOR LINKS BETWEEN SOUTHERN AFRICA AND CANADA (TCLSAC) is entering its 11th year publishing Southern Africa Report magazine and continues its work in the South-South-North Network. An index of the first ten years of SAR will be available shortly. TCLSAC is a founding member of Counterpoint: the Resource Centre for Global Analysis through which the library of the Southern Africa Resource Centre is maintained. Contact: (416) 967-5562

UNITED CHURCH: continues to support its partners, particularly the SACC and related sub-groups, in justice work, issues relating to women and youth, Reconstruction & Rehabilitation, environmental groups, academic and trade unions, publications, and the training of new leadership to replace those lost to government and private enterprise. Contact: Omega Bula (416) 231-5931

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA (Humanities Fund): working on health & safety issues, pension funds, and workplace reorganisation, and with the English Literacy Project and its publication, Active Voice, which deals with human rights, democracy, civil society, and voter education. Also working with the International Labour Resources and Information Group (ILRIG) on regional integration themes, as well as the Canter for Adult and Continuing Education (CACE), providing training around race & gender issues, and developing a curriculum for trade unions and community groups. CACE has links with George Brown College, COADY Institute, and Ontario District of Steelworkers. Contact: Judith Marshall (416) 487-1571

YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (YWCA): maintains relationships with regional YWCA; looking for funding for anti-violence activities. Contact: (416) 593-9886

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