This will be my last letter from Hobeni. I have been here for nearly five months, and I will be heading back to East London tomorrow to catch my plane back to Glasgow via Johannesburg and Amsterdam on Sunday. In a remarkable piece of bad planning I will be travelling from South Africa at midsummer to Scotland in midwinter. I will have to do more than adjust to the cold.
I have been involved in something marvellous. Twenty years ago, I was in South Africa when people went to vote for the very first time. I helped to deliver that process, both in the anti-apartheid campaigning that preceded that wonderful day and in organising for the vote in the ANC Offices in Lancet Hall, Johannesburg. This year I have been involved in helping to transform the lives of ordinary South Africans by setting up the library and archive of the Donald Woods Foundation.
Donald and Wendy Woods were two of the most extraordinary people that I have ever known. The documents in the archive are a testament to their indefatigable campaigning for the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid government. Donald’s travel schedule across the USA and elsewhere is exhausting to read. Everywhere he went he called for sanctions. His contribution to that campaign was recognised by two Presidents – Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He gained support from Peter Gabriel and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, amongst many others. Governor Michael Dukakis wrote to inform him that a sanctions bill had been passed into law in Massachusetts. The significance of Donald’s contribution to the end of apartheid should not be overlooked.
Wendy was the solid rock for all these achievements. She provided the organisational support that was needed. She also worked with the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) and the Canon Collins Educational Trust for Southern Africa (CCETSA) to ensure that, when freedom came, there would be resources for the transformation of the country.
Donald and Wendy were a complementary team who played an important role in the destruction of apartheid, and then in the building of a country. They were two extraordinary people.
Dillon Woods has continued the tradition of his parents here at Hobeni. The Donald Woods Foundation, which he runs, is transforming the lives of the people of this area through health, education, care of livestock, culture and in so many other ways. Because of the health programme, people are alive who otherwise would not be. Because of the education programme, people have learned to read and write, and to build on those skills in their schooling. Because of the care of livestock, a farming community is improving its assets. Because of the promotion of culture, people are learning to respect their history and themselves. Most of all, through these programmes, people are gaining confidence, self-respect and dignity.
Dillon, by bringing me in to set up the library and archive, has allowed me to participate in something wonderful, in something that will have an effect for good from generation to generation, and in something whose benefits will spread from Hobeni, through the Transkei, through the Eastern Cape to the whole of South Africa.
I am so proud.
Mayibuye I Afrika!