[Dear friends, comrades and colleagues, We are writing to inform you about our trip to South Africa.]

by Kathy Devine
Forest Park, Illinois, United States
February 20, 1995
4 pages
Type: Mailing
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
Mailing reporting on the trip to South Africa by Cole Wright and Kathy Devine. The letter begins with a description of South Africa’s natural resources, including gold, diamonds, and land, and its industrial development, including arms production. It is generally self-sufficient, but it lacks is oil. The letter outlines South Africa’s history, beginning in the 1600s with the arrival of Dutch, and later British, immigrants who, over time, took the land by force and turned local farmers into sharecroppers. Like Europeans who came to America for freedom, most Europeans in South Africa didn't believe that Africans were 'human'; they built a dual system based on race and religion, as was slavery; blacks at times took up arms against this, but could never match the fire power. The letter explains the unique constitutional system of apartheid that was developed in the 1940s, with its roots in this 300-year history. “Apartheid” came from a Dutch term meaning separateness. The racism – suppression of one race over another – upon which it was based is no stranger to the world. There was repression of opponents of apartheid. Thousands were locked up in apartheid jails, where many like Steve Biko died; others were assassinated; thousands fled into exile. In the 1950s, when Nelson Mandela was convicted of treason for opposing apartheid, he was sent to Robbin Island prison and banned in SA. But in townships, where the African National Congress (ANC) and other banned entities were part of the 'underground' opposition, the 'idea' of Mandela lived on in people's imaginations, as did the Freedom Charter, which had been adopted in the 1950s as the vision of the liberation movement to create a new democratic, non-racial South Africa. The vision, courage and determination of SA freedom fighters inspired millions of people around the world that their cause was just. The freedom struggle inside SA came to be called the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), and it proved the match of the regime. International supporters had to be quick learners; when an organization was banned, we knew it would rise under a new label. The MDM made the regime unable to govern urban townships, using such tactics as school, sanitation and rent strikes (rent was paid to the regime), and most importantly sanctions. The theory was that if you make the economic system collapse and whites pay for apartheid, they would eventually let go. Only eight years ago the regime eliminated a few laws, giving President Reagan again an excuse to take apartheid's side and oppose sanctions in the United Nations. The February 1988 crackdown turned out to be apartheid's last-big gasp. The regime could not foresee that the MDM would make SA ungovernable except through alternative democratic structures, which in effect ran large parts of SA while risking police brutality and military tanks. The MDM inspired the international community, through organizations such as the World Council of Churches and International Metalworkers Federation, to increase pressure on apartheid. Inspired by 350,000 striking SA miners in 1987, many U.S. unions formed the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid to aid SA workers throw off the brutal labor system and to support their political objectives to end apartheid. The mailing discusses the on-the-ground opposition of democratic structures, students, churches, COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions), Rev. Martin Luther King, Arthur Ashe, California Cong. Ron Dellums, United Mineworkers, Richard Trumka, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Bill Lucy, trade with South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, mining companies, male-only hostels, U.S. and other western companies, Ford, Caterpillar, Alexandra, treason, death by hanging, political prisoners, Moses Mayekiso, the UAW (United Auto Workers), the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCWU),  Soweto, the 'homelands', Gatsha Buthelezi, and democratic elections. [Note: The report was apparent written by Kathy Devine. By the time Cole Wright and Kathy Devine went to South Africa, the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid no longer existed.]
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers