Maria van Driel* reports on the participation of Southern Africans at the Activist School in Sweden.
Khanya College participated in the Activist School in Sweden with our solidarity partner, Afrikagrupperna, the Afrika Group of Sweden (AGS), from 7 to 14 November 2012. The Swedish School is based on the participation of local members of AGS and the public. The AGS has its roots in the anti-apartheid movement and currently works with solidarity partners in Southern Africa.
This was the second year that Khanya College participated in the Swedish Activist School, first set up in 2011. The Swedish Activist School was from 7 to 15 November 2012. The aim of Khanya’s work with Afrikagrupperna (AGS), its solidarity partner, is to build solidarity, raise awareness and exchange experiences from ‘South to North’ (an inversion of the norm!). The focus of the Activist School was on Marikana and its significance. A delegate from Khanya College (Maria van Driel) and the ‘We are All Marikana’ Campaign (Maria Maluleke) attended the School. There were also inputs and discussions on housing from Abahlali Mjondolo, from KwaZulu-Natal; and on HIV/Aids with Pots of Hope, from Namibia. Altogether this was a delegation of five (3 women and 2 men) from Southern Africa. The focus on Marikana facilitated a broader discussion on the social, political and economic conditions in South Africa as a whole, and contextualised the discussion on housing and HIV/Aids.
The school included four activities in three cities in Sweden, and included the participation of about 130 people. In Stockholm, two activities were held: a seminar with the Afro-Swedes (25 people) and a weekend workshop with AGS members at the YMCA (35 people). The third event was held in Malmo, with a largely student audience of about 50 people. The fourth event was held in Gothenburg with about 20 people.
The school was successful on a number of levels: the interest in Marikana and Southern Africa was evident in the debates and a number of interviews were held with local newspapers. Two members of Parliament attended the events in Stockholm. Common issues for debate included: what is solidarity and what does it mean in practice? Neoliberalism has had similar effects in Sweden, such as the increase in the casualisation of work and the use of labour brokers, even though this is not as pronounced as in Southern Africa. This was also an opportunity for the delegation from Southern Africa to work with their Swedish counterparts and to experience different cultures and make new friendships.
With the extension of the neoliberal agenda to all parts of the world, it is possible for us to build solidarity internationally. For this reason the AGS runs an activist school in Sweden and draws on the support of partners such as Khanya College. The struggle for social justice is an international one, and therefore we do need to find ways to build solidarity.
In Sweden we were exposed to the Fair Trade movement that supports workers’ rights to earn a living wage, irrespective of where they come from, or what they produce. In Sweden, the Fair Trade movement is supportive of especially farmworkers who produce wine in South Africa. We were also impressed by some of the solidarity work that takes place in Sweden, especially the participation of young people. During the activist schools, we learnt more about, amongst others, Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara and Shell’s continued exploitation of the oil, the land and the people in the Niger Delta, in Nigeria. The activist exchange in Sweden was thought provoking and also raised the importance of actively showing solidarity with struggles for social justice in the rest of the world. Thanks to all at AFrikagrupperna for their solidarity!