Tag Archives: scottish anti-apartheid movement

Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial

Unlike last year, there have been no adventures and no surprise trips anywhere.   This does not mean that I have not been busy.   Planning has been going ahead for the celebration of the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth next year.   We have set up the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation, and I am one of the trustees.   We have now secured charitable status, under Scottish law, and permission from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to collect gift aid on any donations that we receive.   We have also received planning permission from Glasgow City Council to put a life-size statue of Nelson Mandela on a plinth in Nelson Mandela Place in the city centre.   It will be in the northeast corner of Nelson Mandela Place directly opposite the building that used to house the apartheid South African consulate in Scotland.   We have also secured Sir Alec Ferguson, Kenny Dalgleish, and Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden, all of whom are Freemen of the City, as patrons, and also Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni who are the last survivors of those who were tried alongside Nelson Mandela and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial in 1963.   So, from that point of view we are doing well.

We have also done the costings for the statue, and that will be £250,000 including the cost of the publicity and educational materials.   We are committed to raising this money by public subscription, which I have worked out is a donation of £5.00 from everyone in Scotland.   I have already drawn up a list of rich and famous Scots to approach, asking for them to support the project either by a donation or a gift.   We are also going to hold a fundraising dinner, hopefully at the Hilton Hotel which is where Mandela stayed when he visited Glasgow in 1993 to receive the Freedom of the City of Glasgow and eight other UK cities and boroughs.

Creating the statue will have to go out to public competition and we have to be very specific about the rules.   For instance, I think that the statue will have to be cast in Scotland, so that we do not have to pay the transport costs to get it to Glasgow.   Also, we have to be very specific about the weight, because that can only be what the pavement is able to cope with.    Fortunately, one of our members is an architect and he has been able to advise us about these things, at no cost.   This is one of the reasons that we were able to get planning permission.   The statue will not fall through the pavement into the subway.   As you can imagine, this is very important.

We have also been involved in producing videos.   I have been interviewed by Freedom TV for an online video called “Struggle” and I have also been interviewed by the Liliesleaf Farm Project.   Liliesleaf is where most of the ANC leadership were arrested prior to the Rivonia Trial.   Mandela was not one of them (despite what the film “Long Walk to Freedom” would have us believe) because he was already in prison.   I have no idea what that video will be called on even when it will be made available, but I suspect that it will be in July next year.   Mandela was born on 18th July 1918.

I have also been asked to go back to Hobeni in South Africa and to Kakina in Bangladesh at some point, but there is nothing definite as yet.   Both will depend on the availability of funding so we shall have to see.

So it has been a quiet year in comparison with some of the others, but it has been very busy and I know that next year will be even busier.   It is, however, much better than being bored and wondering what I am going to do.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

 

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For the Joy of Reading: It’s Me, Marah

For those of us who were there on the day, it was an iconic moment.   It is something that we will never forget.   Indeed, songs have been written about it.   It has entered into the folklore of Glasgow.   Tour guides show people where it happened.   On 9th October 1993, Nelson Mandela came to Glasgow to receive the Freedom of 9 cities and boroughs in the UK.   It was pouring with rain.   Marah Louw came onto the stage to sing, and Mandela got up and danced with her.   It was the day Mandela danced in the Square.   It was part of his welcome to Glasgow.   It was extraordinary.   It will never be forgotten.   It was the day that Marah Louw entered into the world’s consciousness.   So who is she?  That is what this book is about.

This is the life story of a remarkable woman.   Growing up black and a woman in apartheid South Africa was a double disadvantage, and it took considerable courage to take on the apartheid state.   Marah chose to do this by making a career for herself as a singer, actor and entertainer, and by challenging the laws that attempted to deny her the career path that she had chosen.   She also challenged the apartheid state at the very heart of its ideology by marrying and living with a white, Scottish man inside the country.

As if all this was not enough to deal with, there is a mystery surrounding her birth, which her family are very unwilling to deal with.   This is a theme that haunts the book from the opening to the closing pages.   Marah puts this down to her family abiding by African custom, which is true but it is not just an African custom.   I can assure her of this.   My mother had the same experience and we are a Welsh family.   The common factor, I think, is the Methodist tradition, but I have no evidence for that.

There is much in this book that is a revelation, even to those of us who are well versed in the horror of apartheid.   It is the telling details about the petty spite that hit home the most.   There is one story about how it was assumed that Marah had to be the maid because she was black and she answered her own door.   By that stage, the Group Areas Act had been abolished and she was living with Bill in a comfortable area.   Marah opens the door and is asked to fetch “the madam”.   When the visitor found out that the “madam” was black, she ran away.   And then there are the insults – calling her a “kaffir”.  [It has always struck me that “Kaffir” is an Arabic word, and was probably introduced to South Africa by Moslem slaves from what is now Indonesia.   It is certainly not a Dutch word.   This is perhaps one of the ironies of history].

As this book reveals, Marah has not had the easiest of lives.   Her personal life has been fraught with difficulties and tragedies, as well as with joy and hope and success.   The point is that she has overcome it all.   She has survived divorce, betrayal, shipwreck (literally) and she has had her triumphs.   She was a friend of the great singer Miriam Makeba.    She has performed on stages across the world.   She has sung at Presidential inaugurations, and she has danced with Nelson Mandela.

This book is a celebration of life.   It tells how she has sweetened the waters of our lives.   It tells the wonderful story of the woman who took Glasgow by storm the day that Mandela danced in the square.