Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974
Southern Africa Special — The struggle for liberty
Southern Africa Special
The struggle for liberty
The National Anti-Apartheid Committee's two man delegation to Tanzania and Zambia returned to New Zealand in late January. Here are some of the articles they wrote as a result of their experiences.
In Southern Africa there are about 38 million Africans who live under white minority Governments. They are to be found in the five countries of Southern Africa that have not yet attained independence, and in which the ruling colonial administrations steadfastly refuse to give political rights to the African majorities.
In these countries of the Republic of South Africa, Rhodesia, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola, there are now wars of liberation in progress, for despite every endeavour by the Africans for basic human and political rights, every petition, every demonstration and every strike has been met with ruthless oppression by the ruling authorities. For instance at Sharpeville in 1960 over 60 Africans were shot down when protesting. At Mueda, in Mozambique where Africans outnumber white Portuguese by 40 to 1. there was a massacre in 1961 when 600 Africans were shot by Portuguese troops. And so one could go on in each of the five territories.
Recently the writer visited Tanzania and Zambia, two independent African countries where exiled Africans, refugees from the oppression of the white regimes, are fighting back; fighting wars of national liberation to try to free their people as all their other efforts have been rejected. These Liberation Movements are facing some of the best equipped armies in the world. The Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique are using military supplies that are obtained by them under their NATO treaty; and the Africans have come up against the use of napalm, phosphorous, aerial bombing and chemical defoliants. The South Africans who are sending troops to assist the Portuguese in Mozambique, and to help Smith in Rhodesia are also supplied with aircraft and equipment given to them by Britain, France, and the USA. Only Sweden and the socialist countries have seen the moral justification of the war and aided the African liberation movements. Some western countries have however sent medical aid, notably Holland, and others have aided with food, clothing and funds for refugees and in the areas liberated by the freedom fighters, especially the Scandinavian countries and Canada.
The fact that over 50% of its borders are fronted by hostile regimes has placed Zambia, a land-locked country, in a difficult position. Under colonialism all its trade was directed in a southerly orientation through Rhodesia and Mozambique. Since Smith closed the border in January 1973, Zambia has had to re-orient her trade and is receiving help in this from many United Nations countries. But until the Tanzam railway now under construction from the Zambian copper belt to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, is completed, Zambia's economic position is in jeopardy. [unclear: I] found there shortages of many commodities which we accept as everyday shopping items, for example coffee was quite unobtainable when I was there prior to Christmas.
A worse problem concerning Zambia's border was the sabotage that is occurring. White South African and Rhodesian guerrillas cross the border and plant landmines inside Zambia and last year something like 53 Africans were killed by these inside their own country. What makes the Africans bitter, is that the whole world sees news headlines about two Canadians who were killed at Victoria Falls, but do not hear of the Zambians who are being killed every month. While I was in Zambia, two mines exploded killing and maiming a number of Zambian villagers.
I visited refugee camps, for Angolans and Moambiquans, driven out by war, and I saw children whose parents had been killed by massive Portuguese carpet-bombing of rural areas—bombing that is indiscriminate and aimed at terrorising the rural African population. I saw too, many who had been imprisoned in Rhodesia, South Africa or in the Portuguese territories, simply because they had refused to yield to pressures to betray friends who had belonged to 'illegal' political parties. I remember vividly talking to Jane, a woman of my own age, who had been confined to solitary isolation in a cell six foot long, with no bed, for over six years. At night she was given a blanket, and then buckets of water were thrown on the floor so that she could not lie down. She now permanently suffers from swollen feet and ankles, and she had to flee quickly from her homeland after her release, leaving two of her children behind, to avoid being re-arrested. There were many others, but I do not think that stories of inhumanity are really the answer to the problem.
The struggle for liberty in Southern Africa is one for the whole world, and it is a struggle between vested interests and cheap labour supplies for the white races on the one hand, and the dignity, liberty and human rights of Africans who desire self-determination, on the other. New Zealand can assist the Africans in so many ways, but above all by making it absolutely clear, without any reservations whatever, that we stand for human dignity, for the African right to self-determination, and that until such time as that is achieved, we will have nothing to do, neither in sport, trade nor in diplomacy with the racist regimes who are the cause of suffering to so many black Africans.