Letter from Cape Town, 19th November 2014


Mandela's cell, Robben Island

I am having a week’s holiday in Cape Town.   On the day I arrived, the South African Parliament descended into chaos.   This was entirely coincidental.   It was obvious that the vote on the Nkandla report in the Parliament would be controversial.   It was entirely predictable that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would use the occasion to make a vocal protest.   It should not have been difficult to have planned the response.   The Speaker should have suspended the sitting, called all the party whips to her office and found a way of taking parliamentary business forward with the consent of as many of the parties as possible.   She did not do this.   The police were called into the Parliament in a scene reminiscent of Pride’ Purge.   And no-one is admitting responsibility for doing this.

None of this is anything to do with solidarity work.   We are in the fortunate position of being able to continue with our people to people solidarity work, and we do not have to deal with the distasteful scene in Parliament or the chaos currently taking place in COSATU.   These things are not within our remit.

What is within our remit is some of the very practical things.   We are in a position to ensure that school and public libraries, and especially those in the remote and desperately poor rural areas, have enough books on their shelves.   Community HEART (www.community-heart.org) has done sterling work in this area, sending some 3,000,000 books over the last 20 years, but more books are needed.   There are still school libraries in places like Elliotdale that do not have a single book on the shelves.

We are in a position to lobby against funding being withdrawn from organisations like the Treatment Action Campaign (www.tac.org.za), so that they can continue their work around HIV and AIDs.   We are in a position to help the Donald Woods Foundation (www.donaldwoodsfoundation.org), the Health Train of Hope (www.trainofhope.org) and similar organisations in delivering health programmes to the rural poor.

We are in a position to help organisations like the Kronendal Music Academy of Hout Bay (www.kmahoutbay.org), the Msanzi Youth Choir of Soweto (www.mychoir.co.za) and others that encourage young people to develop their musical skills.

We can do all these kinds of things and so much more by giving financial support and by giving support in kind.   The financial support, of course, includes encouraging others much richer than ourselves to make donations.   I have learned over the last few months that Donald Woods was an expert at this, and he did not worry about making approaches to the rich and powerful.   He reasoned that the worst they could do was say “No”.   And the benefits, if they said “yes” would be enormous.

So, with Christmas approaching, identify your local celebrities and send them a begging letter asking them to support the cause in Southern Africa of your choice.   And don’t forget that you should include ACTSA as one of your beneficiaries.


Table Mountain from the Marina, Cape Town


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