History – News that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on Thursday at the age of 95 has sparked an outpouring of remembrance in Sweden and around the world. In a collection of historic images, The Local looks back at Mandela’s ties to Sweden. “We have come to once more thank Sweden from the bottom of our hearts for what you did – the labour movement, NGOs, churches and others, and the millions of ordinary Swedish men and women who insisted that the rights they enjoyed should be enjoyed by all people everywhere,” he said in a 1999 speech to the Riksdag.
October 19, 1996 – Security agents of the “apartheid” period have a long record of doing away with opponents, but whether their efforts were ever directed at a foreign head of government has yet to be proven. Johan Brisman, of the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria, said his government was treading cautiously in its investigation. On a visit to Cape Town, Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen revealed that her government gave about $400 million in humanitarian assistance to anti-apartheid activists between the mid-1970’s and the early 1990’s. Much of that aid went to the African National Congress — then the main liberation movement and now the majority party in Parliament.
Not even the Swedes had been told that the level of aid was that dramatic. Although leading South African figures knew of Sweden’s assistance because many of them benefited from it, even some here expressed surprise at its magnitude.
Sweden provided stipends and scholarships for South Africans living in exile, Brisman said, as well as humanitarian aid for ANC exile camps in Zambia, Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique. It also funded ANC development projects such as farms, handicraft and educational centers. Brisman said Sweden did not provide military assistance to the ANC’s armed wing, which waged a sporadic, low-grade sabotage campaign to dislodge the apartheid system.
Inside South Africa, Swedish funds supported families of detainees as well as a host of human rights, cultural, legal aid, religious, labor and civic groups. Under white-minority rule, such groups received no government support. In many cases, their leaders were banned because of their affiliation with outlawed liberation movements, including the ANC.
Brisman said that Sweden’s development and aid agency disbursed funds, which were smuggled into South Africa, sometimes in envelopes, by a large network of anti-apartheid activists and sympathizers.
Sweden’s social democratic governments were more generous to the anti-apartheid movement than perhaps any other country in the world. As a result, South African security agents frequented Stockholm to snoop around. In one infamous case, an agent infiltrated the Swedish office of an international educational aid fund that assisted South African exiles. That agent, confessed killer Craig Williamson, was in Stockholm at the time of Palme’s murder, Swedish police have said. And last month in the Pretoria Supreme Court, one of the apartheid era’s most notorious hit men, Eugene de Kock, testified that Williamson or agents working with him carried out the Palme assassination. De Kock made the claim to mitigate his sentence on 89 criminal convictions, including six for murder.
Two other agents made subsequent allegations of South African involvement in the Palme killing, prompting a Swedish prosecutor and a police investigator to travel here “to evaluate whether there is any truth in the allegations,” Brisman said. Williamson is in jail in Angola; the murky case against him there may be related to his immigration status or the nature of his Angolan business dealings. Brisman said Sweden, despite its considerable influence in Angola, had no hand in Williamson’s detention.
Although he has confessed in the press to three bombings that killed anti-apartheid activists, Williamson never has been prosecuted. His case may be heard by the truth commission here that is investigating human rights abuses during the apartheid years.
Dr. Dan Roodt, from PRAAG lecture in Stockholm on the Swedish (ANC)South African relations during Apartheid. Sweden played a big role to destroy our people in South Africa.
Sweden and the e-toll
The Swedish government would pay all outstanding debts in South Africa incurred during the Sweden-South Africa Partnership Week last week, Anna Lindh, the foreign affairs minister in Sweden, said on Friday. The step would probably save the public relations company Rikta, which many suspected would go bankrupt. The announcement is also welcome news to about 30 South African companies which are still owed money by Rikta.
Now supporters of the government are striking back, saying that contrary to headlines of disaster and mismanagement, many more positive events, with which the highly criticised Swedish agency Rikta had nothing to do, did indeed take place. A high-level bilateral commission had been established between the South African and the Swedish governments. Jacob Zuma heads the commission in South Africa and Lena Hjelm Wallen, the Swedish deputy prime minister, heads it in Sweden.
The first important point on the commission`s agenda was that Sweden would speak on behalf of South Africa in the European Parliament. It would also work for the abolition of the trade restrictions which were causing South Africa numerous export problems. According to South African sources in Stockholm, the trade fair at Gallagher Estates, which was the centre of accusations over the misuse of development aid money, quickly generated some direct results.
The South African information technology (IT) industry in particular had shown specific interest in developing the Scandinavian market. IT companies specialising in banking would probably use Sweden as a springboard to enter Europe. As the Swedish prime minister returned to Sweden and the headlines in the Swedish media calmed down, the work of finding out what went wrong with the aid funds had already started. Ulla Strom, Sweden`s ambassador to Namibia, has been appointed to form a commission of inquiry into the process of tender, the contracts and the funding. The commission is expected to determine who and what was responsible for the disastrous concert arrangements. Rikta, the public relations agency in charge, accepted the blame at the time of the prime minister`s return.
But Rikta, a rather trendy public relations agency, not knowing very much about South Africa, worked with TWA Simeka, a local public relations company which will also be questioned by the commission of inquiry. Sources in development and former anti-apartheid circles are now asking why the foreign affairs ministry did not ask for help and advice from the hundreds of people and numerous Swedish organisations which had worked with South Africa over many years. – Independent Foreign Service.