Norway and National Liberation in Southern Africa

In this book, the Norwegians explain how they undermined the legitimate government of a sovereign state, South Africa, supporting the most radical Marxist movements, which has led to all the problems experienced in South Africa and Zimbabwe today.

Norway and National Liberation
in Southern Africa

Edited by
Tore Linné Eriksen

Nordiska Afrikainstitutet 2000

Indexing terms
National liberation movements
Trade unions
South Africa
Language checking: Elaine Almén
Cover: Adriaan Honcoop
© the authors and Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2000
ISBN 91-7106-447-8
Printed in Sweden by Elanders Gotab, Stockholm 2000
List of Acronyms ……………………………………………………………………………………………..4
An Introductory Note………………………………………………………………………………………7
1. The Origins of a Special Relationship:
Norway and Southern Africa 1960–1975………………………………………………….9
Tore Linné Eriksen
2. The Namibian Liberation Struggle:
Direct Norwegian Support to SWAPO…………………………………………………..90
Eva Helene Østbye
3. The South African Liberation Struggle:
Official Norwegian Support …………………………………………………………………134
Eva Helene Østbye
4. Norway and “Rhodesia”: 1965–1980…………………………………………………….181
Wolf Lorenz
5. “Fuelling the Apartheid War Machine”: A Case Study of
Shipowners, Sanctions and Solidarity Movements ……………………………..197
Tore Linné Eriksen and Anita Kristensen Krokan
6. The Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (NOCOSA):
A Study in Solidarity and Activism……………………………………………………..216
Nina Drolsum
7. The Freedom Struggle in Southern Africa:
The Role of the Norwegian Churches 1948–1994…………………………………271
Berit Hagen Agøy
8. Trade Union Support to the Struggle Against Apartheid:
The Role of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions……………….332
Vesla Vetlesen
9. Pioneering Local Activism: The Namibia Association of Norway………359
Eva Helene Østbye
10. An Ambiguous Champion: Some Concluding Remarks……………………..379
Tore Linné Eriksen
Statistical Appendix……………………………………………………………………………………..411
Contributors …………………………………………………………………………………………………418
List of Acronyms
AAM Anti-Apartheid Movement (United Kingdom)
AFL/CIO American Federation of Labor/Committee for Industrial
AGIS Africa Groups in Sweden/Afrikagrupperna i Sverige
AIS Arbeiderbevegelsens Internasjonale Støttekomité (International
Solidarity Committee of the Norwegian Labour Movement)
AKP Arbeidernes Kommunistparti (Workers’ Communist Party,
ANC African National Congress (South Africa)
ANC African National Council (Zimbabwe)
AOF Arbeidernes Opplysningsforbund (Workers’ Educational
AUF Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (Labour Party Youth)
BAWU Black Allied Workers Union
BCM Black Consciousness Movement
BPC Black People’s Convention
BOSS Bureau of State Security (South Africa)
CCN Council of Churches in Namibia
CEIR Council for Ecumenical and International Relations– Church of
Norway (Mellomkirkelig Råd)
CIA Central Intelligence Agency (United States)
CONCP Conference of Nationalist Organisations in the Portuguese
Colonies /Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das
Colónias Portuguêsas
COSATU Congress of South African Trade Unions
CUSA Council of Unions of South Africa
DANIDA Danish International Development Assistance
DKK Danish kroner
DNA Det Norske Arbeiderparti (Norwegian Labour Party)
DTA Democratic Turnhalle Alliance
EC European Community
ECA United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
EEC European Economic Commission
EFTA European Free Trade Association
ELCSA Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa
FAO Food and Agricultural Organisation
FINNIDA Finnish International Development Agency
FNLA National Front for the Liberation of Angola/Frente Nacional de
Libertação de Angola
FOSATU Federation of South African Trade Unions
FRELIMO Mozambique Liberation Front/Frente de Libertação de
FROLIZI Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe
ICFTU International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
ICJ International Court of Justice
IDAF International Defence and Aid Fund
IDASA Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa
ILO International Labour Organisation
IMF International Monetary Fund
IOC International Olympic Committee
IRCOZ International Refugee Council of Zambia
ISAK Isolate South Africa Committee (Sweden)
ISC International Student Conference
IUEF International University Exchange Fund
LO Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (Norwegian Confederation of Trade
LWF Lutheran World Federation
MK Umkhonto we Sizwe (South Africa)
MPLA Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola/Movimento
Popular de Libertação de Angola
MS Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (Danish Association for International
MUN Mineworkers Union of Namibia
MWASA Media Workers Association of South Africa
NACTU National Council of Trade Unions
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
NAMA Norsk Aksjon Mot Apartheid (Norwegian Action Against
NCA Norwegian Church Aid (Kirkens Nødhjelp)
NGO Non-Governmental Organisation
NEKSA Norsk ekumenisk komite for det sørlige Afrika (Norwegian
Ecumenical Committee for Southern Africa)
NMS Norwegian Missionary Society
NKIF Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers (Norsk Kjemisk
NKP Norway’s Communist Party
NOCOSA Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (Fellesrådet for det sørlige
NOK Norwegian kroner
NORAD Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation
NRK Norsk Rikskringkasting (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation)
NSA Norwegian Shipowners Association (Norges Rederiforbund)
NTUC Nordic Trade Union Council
NPA Norwegian People’s Aid
NUM National Mineworkers Union
NUNW National Union of Namibian Workers
NUSAS National Union of South African Students
OAU Organisation of African Unity
OD Operasjon Dagsverk (Operation Day’s Work)
OECD Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development
OPEC Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries
OPO Ovamboland’s People’s Organisation
PAC Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa)
PAIGC African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape
Verde /Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo
PCR Programme to Combat Racism of WCC
PF Patriotic Front (Zimbabwe)
PLAN People’s Liberation Army of Namibia
RENAMO Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Mozambique National
SACBC Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
SACC South African Council of Churches
SACP South African Communist Party
SACTU South African Congress of Trade Unions
SADCC Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference
SADC Southern Africa Development Community
SAIH Studentenes og Akademikernes Internasjonale Hjelpefond
(Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance
SASO South African Students Organisation
SATUCC Southern African Trade Union Co-ordination Council
SCAT Social Change Assistance Trust
SEK Swedish kronor
SIDA Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency
SOMAFCO Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (ANC/Tanzania)
SRB Shipping Research Bureau
SWANU South West Africa National Union
SWAPO South West Africa People’s Organisation
SWC SWAPO’s Women Council
UANC United African National Council (Zimbabwe)
UDF United Democratic Front (South Africa)
UDI Unilateral Declaration of Independence (Rhodesia)
UGEAN General Union of Students from Black Africa under Portuguese
Colonial Domination/União Geral dos Estudantes da África
Negra sob Dominação Colónial Portuguêsa
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
UNIN United Nations Institute for Namibia
UNITA National Union for the Total Independence of Angola/União
Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola
UNIP United National Independence Party (Zambia)
UNTAG United Nations Transitional Assistance Group
USD US dollar
WAY World Assembly of Youth
WCC World Council of Churches
WFTU World Federation of Trade Unions
WHO World Health Organisation
WUS World University Service
ZANU Zimbabwe African National Union
ZAPU Zimbabwe African People’s Union
ZCTU Zambian Congress of Trade Unions
An Introductory Note
In August 1994, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala initiated a
project to document and analyse the involvement of the Nordic countries in
the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. This decision coincided with the
demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa, which also marked an end
to the protracted struggles for national liberation in the Southern African region
at large. In this struggle for human rights and national self-determination,
Norway and the other Nordic countries rendered diplomatic support
and humanitarian assistance to the liberation movements in Angola,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
Largely financed through contributions by the Nordic governments, the
project on National Liberation in Southern Africa: The role of the Nordic countries
has been organised as a Nordic undertaking, with national research teams
set up in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The Norwegian Institute
of International Affairs (NUPI) agreed to coordinate the Norwegian part of
the project, with Tore Linné Eriksen serving as project leader and Eva
Helene Østbye as research fellow. While a more modest and limited work
had originally been envisaged, the project soon started to live a life of its
own. When it was gradually realised that such a demanding and time-consuming
task could not be undertaken by a core team with limited resources,
contributions were invited from scholars and activists in order to more fully
document the significant role played by the solidarity movements, churches
and the trade unions (see chapters 6–9). Although this outside assistance entails
some disadvantages in terms of coherence, we trust that it will result in
a study that covers wider ground and reflects the importance of popular involvement
in the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. Contributions
from outside the core team have also made it possible to include a chapter
on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe as a diplomatic issue and a chapter concerned with
the battle for economic sanctions.
Although our study is broad in scope, it is, of course, far from an allcompassing
presentation of the Norwegian involvement in the liberation
struggle. We have also had to base the study on the premise that there is a
general awareness of the main developments in the Southern African region
from 1960 onwards.
Chapters 1–4 focus on the formulation and implementation of official
policies, chiefly based on Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives and other unresearched
primary sources. Under different circumstances, we would also
have liked to look more deeply into the dominant political parties and the
mass media. In terms of data collection, a case could also be made for a more
systematic use of formal interviews with Norwegian diplomats, politicians,
researchers and activists who have been concerned with Southern African
issues over the years. While we offer separate chapters on the Namibia
Committee at Elverum, the churches, the trade unions and the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa, other important actors—such as the Students’
and Academics’ Assistance Fund (SAIH), the Norwegian People’s Aid and
Operation Day’s Work (Operasjon Dagsverk)—have only been mentioned in
passing. Another aspect that is outside the scope of our study is the substantial
economic assistance extended by the Norwegian government to the
Frontline States and the Southern African Development Community for regional
More importantly, the present study has only to a limited extent been
based on Southern African archival material. It is also very unfortunate that
a parallel project on the History of the National Liberation Struggles in
Southern Africa, to be conducted by the Southern African Regional Institute
for Policy Studies in Harare, has not so far materialised. However, in
February 1999 our draft manuscript was presented to a conference at
Robben Island (Nordic Solidarity with the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa
and Challenges for Democratic Partnerships into the 21st century). Since most of
the authors of our study were present at this important gathering, we were
given the opportunity to exchange views and receive comments and advice
from a great number of participants from the Southern African region, many
of whom had themselves played prominent roles in the liberation struggles.
In addition, we have made use of the unique collection of interviews with
representatives from the liberation movements conducted by Tor Sellström.
Liberation in Southern Africa. Regional and Swedish Voices (Uppsala, Nordic
Africa Institute, 1999) is thus to be regarded as a companion volume to our
We have over the years contracted many debts. From the very beginning
the Norwegian research team has greatly benefited from close cooperation
with our Nordic colleagues: Tor Sellström, Christopher Morgenstierne, Iina
Soiri and Pekka Peltola. (The titles of the accompanying Nordic studies are
listed in the bibliography.) Our special thanks also go to the Nordic Africa
Institute, Charlotta Dohlvik and Lennart Wohlgemuth in particular, and to
Elaine Almén who language-checked our draft manuscripts. The Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs also deserves our gratitude for their generous
funding (and patience!). Although the costs of the project have largely been
covered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it goes without saying that we do
not intend to present a hagiographic account or a self-congratulatory
Festschrift. Finally, it should be noted that each individual author is responsible
for his/her contribution to this volume.
Oslo, 15 March, 2000
Tore Linné Eriksen
Chapter 1
The Origins of a Special Relationship:
Norway and Southern Africa 1960–1975
Tore Linné Eriksen
Although the period from 1960 to 1975 only covers fifteen years, it is a period
which is marked by great changes in the Norwegian political attitude
towards Southern Africa. In the course of these years the Norwegian antiapartheid
movement emerged and saw to it that Southern Africa had its
place on the political agenda. It is also in this period that the liberation
movements made their first bonds with the Norwegian solidarity organisations
and the official authorities in Norway (in that order). The result of this
was that in the early 1970s the more sporadic forms of aid extended to
refugees and “victims of apartheid” developed into a regular and organised
form of support and co-operation. Even though in financial terms the
amount of the aid given in this period should not be exaggerated, and although
the support given to the liberation movements in Namibia and South
Africa in the main belong to the period after 1975,2 there is no other Western
country—apart from Sweden—which had such close relations to the
struggle for liberation in Southern Africa. However, in other fields such as
the question of economic sanctions, a long period of time was yet to pass
before the calls of the liberation movements were complied with. And even
then, as we shall see in chapter 5, the sanctions law adopted in 1987 had its
The aim of this chapter is to give a sketch of the main features both of
the Norwegian official policy and that of the development in the general
climate of opinion in Norway. Within the scope of a limited number of
pages there will, of course, be many important aspects, actors and nuances
which will have to be omitted. Instead of including a little about all sides of
1 Although the author of this chapter is a historian and therefore attempts to adhere to the
methodological principles laid down by his profession, it should also be stated—as a matter of
transparency—that he has since the middle of the 1960s been closely involved with the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa and other solidarity organisations supporting the liberation
2 See chapters 2 and 3.
the subject, only those themes have been chosen which throw interesting
light on some of the conflicting choices that had to be made, and on some of
the most important changes that took place. For this reason especially much
space has been given to the important UN/OAU conference in 1973, which
marked a diplomatic breakthrough for the liberation movements on the international
As attention is here directed primarily towards the official policy of the
Norwegian authorities, with the richly stocked archives of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs as a main source, the reader is recommended to read this
presentation together with the chapters dealing with the role of the solidarity
movements, the churches and the trade unions (see chapters 6, 7 and 8).
As most space is here devoted to describing the main developments, one
would also refer the reader to the concluding chapter which employs a more
analytical and critical approach.
The silent 1950s
Norwegian policies towards South Africa prior to 1960 (including the issue
of the legal status of South West Africa/Namibia) were not rooted in any
profound interest or involvement in the struggle against racial discrimination
and oppression. As is documented in a recent thesis from the University
of Oslo, which is concerned with “Norway and the South African issue
1945–1961”, the main reason why the question was put on the agenda at all,
was the need for the Norway to decide how to cast its vote in the UN
General Assembly.3
In the Norwegian Parliament, the South African issue was hardly raised
when foreign affairs were regularly debated, and as Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Halvard Lange, did not take any special interest in questions outside
the main Cold War arena.4 The reports by the Norwegian Consulate General
in Pretoria largely reflected the views of the white minority, and did not
contribute to any profound understanding of the intensification of the
apartheid system and the mass campaigns witnessed by South Africa in the
1950s. Based on a close reading of the consular reports, Ole Kr. Eivindson in
his thesis diplomatically concludes that the Consul General in the period
1950–1959 tended to “gloss over the racial issue”.5 (According to the Consul
General, the best solution for South Africa would be a kind of “moderate
apartheid” rooted in an amalgamation of the Nationalist Party and the
3 Ole Kristian Eivindson, Norge og raseproblemene i Sør-Afrika, 1945–1961. Thesis, Department of
History, University of Oslo, 1997.
4 Halvard Lange was—apart from a brief interval in 1963—foreign minister in the Labour Government
from 1946 to 1965.
5 Eivindson, op.cit., p. 19. August Fleischer was the Norwegian Consul General in Cape Town
from 1950 to 1959.
United Party.)6 At the outset of the massive Defiance Campaign in the early
1950s, it was, to give an example, reported that the African majority “is so
backward in political development that one does not hear much from
them”.7 When a new Consul General was appointed in 1959, he expressed
the view that demonstrations and revolts were difficult to explain as “the
natives act in a way which seems extremely illogical” and that “demonstrations
among culturally backward people give rise to meaningless and
hooligan-like forms of expression”.8
Compared to Sweden, the apartheid system installed in 1948 did not
attract any great attention in the Norwegian mass media or among the intelligentsia
in the 1950s.9 There were no prominent public figures and newspaper
editors who—like Herbert Tingsten—vigorously dissected the apartheid
system and campaigned for the promotion of the human rights of the
African majority. Nor were there any well publicised incidents like the
“Lidman affair”, in which the Swedish novelist Sara Lidman and a young
leader from the liberation movement were arrested for contravening the socalled
“Immorality Act”. Although some church leaders with experience
from South Africa voiced their opinion from time to time (see chapter 7),
there was no Norwegian to compare with the indefatigable campaigner
Gunnar Helander.
Together with the other Nordic countries, Norway had always agreed to
put the South Africa issue on the agenda of the United Nations, while South
Africa itself argued that the UN—according to Chapter 2, art. 7—had no
right to intervene in internal matters. When this issue was raised for the first
time in 1946, the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN—in opposition to
the instructions received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo—voted
in favour of a resolution stating that the treatment of the Indian minority in
South Africa was not consistent with the UN Charter.10 When the General
Assembly in 1952 for the first time discussed the apartheid system in
general, Norway strongly argued that South Africa’s racial policies were in
violation of the UN Charter, and, thus, fell within the competence of the
General Assembly. The fact that the United States sided against South Africa
and the major colonial powers made the issue much easier for Norway to
6 Memo from August Fleischer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 April 1953, quoted by
Eivindson, op. cit.
7 Memo from August Fleischer, 29 March 1952.
8 Erik Colban was Consul General in the period 1959–1963. The quote is from his memo to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 August 1959. For another view of the 1950s, see Tom Lodge:
Black politics in South Africa since 1945. London: Longman, 1983 and Nelson Mandela: Long Walk
to Freedom. London: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.
9 The Swedish experience is outlined in great detail by Tor Sellström: Sweden and National
Liberation in Southern Africa. Vol. I: Formation of a Popular Opinion (1950–1970). Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
10 Eivindson, op.cit., pp. 39–44.
handle, since it could be regarded as being above the overriding Cold War
dividing line which was so influential in determining the foreign policies of
Norway. It could even be argued, as Norwegian politicians often did, that it
was in fact in the true interest of the West not to confront the new nations by
joining forces with colonialism and white supremacy in apartheid South
With a few nuances, until the late 1950s the Permanent Mission of
Norway to the UN followed a consistent line in the 4th Committee and the
General Assembly. The general position, which was reflected in the voting
pattern, was to avoid denouncing the South African apartheid regime, since
this was assumed to make the regime less willing to work with the UN in
finding “constructive solutions” to the racial problems. In practice, this led
Norway—with the other Nordic countries—to abstain when resolutions
containing explicit references to South African discrimination and oppression
were introduced. The basic assumption was obviously that the regime
itself would only listen to friendly advice as to how to change its policies,
and that nothing further than general recommendations to member countries
to adhere to the UN charter was acceptable if this strategy of
“dialogue” was to yield results. The only noticeable exception was in 1954,
when the draft resolution introduced by India deliberately avoided expressing
harsh criticism in order to enlist support from the Nordic countries and
other Western powers.11
By abstaining, it could be argued that Norway was seeking to bridge the
gap between the more radical Afro-Asian camp on the one hand and South
Africa/the major Western powers on the other. But no initiatives were taken
in this early period, and no bridges were actually built. Perhaps passivity (or
complacency) seems a more fitting description than active bridge building.
Entering the 1960s: Students, the South Africa Committee and the
Nobel Peace Prize
The era of decolonisation
When more attention was focused on South Africa towards the end of the
1950s, the main reason for this was to be found in the interest and commitment
shown by more internationally inclined students and other members
of the (rather small) academic community. This was followed by the
launching of a Norwegian South Africa Committee, the awarding of the
Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli and the convening of an Afro-
Scandinavian Youth Congress in Oslo. These years also saw the first consumer
boycott of South African goods, initiated by the trade unions and the
major youth organisations. In this way, the public opinion and the activities
of dedicated anti-apartheid organisations compelled the Norwegian gov-
11 Ibid., p. 50.
ernment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to formulate a more “activist”
position in the UN. At a more general level, this observation leads the
author of a thesis on Norway and the “racial conflict” in South Africa 1960–
1978 to conclude that “my theory is that Norwegian engagement and involvement
was the result of pressure from various sources and not that of
any direct sense of engagement specifically related to the race conflict in
South Africa”.12
Internationally, this period coincides with the growing isolation of South
Africa (especially after the Sharpeville massacre and the South African
withdrawal from the Commonwealth) and the strengthening of the Afro-
Asian bloc in the UN following African decolonisation around 1960. For the
peoples in Southern Africa still living under the yoke of colonialism, the UN
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and
Peoples—adopted in 1960—was a major event. The Declaration called for
taking “immediate steps in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all
other Territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all
powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations,
in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire. …”13 The refusal
of the South African, Rhodesian and Portuguese regimes to comply
with the UN Declaration as well as resolutions specifically concerned with
apartheid, forced the liberation movements in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola,
Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau to launch the armed struggle in order to
achieve their independence.
Scholarships and the Beukes case
When racial discrimination in higher education was reinforced in South
Africa in 1953, the Norwegian National Union of Students (Norsk Studentsamband/
Norsk Studentunion) immediately decided to include South
African students in exchange programmes with three month scholarships.
Although this invitation formed part of a general exchange programme,
mainly funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the move was rightly seen
as an act of protest against South African apartheid in education. The International
Student Conference (ISC) also urged other countries to follow the
Norwegian example. The impact of the programme should, however, not be
exaggerated. Until 1959, only two students were invited to Norway under
the programme. (One of them, incidentally, was not from South Africa but
from Basutoland/Lesotho.)
In 1959 the scholarship system was extended from three months to three
years to give the students in question an opportunity to complete their university
education in Oslo. The first student to benefit from this extended sys-
12 Ragnhild Narum, Norge og rasekonflikten i Sør-Afrika, 1960–1978. Thesis, Department of History,
University of Oslo, 1998, p. 9.
13 General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV), 1960.
tem was Hans Beukes, who had been invited by the Norwegian National
Union of Students through the non-racial National Union of South African
Students (NUSAS). In addition to a grant received from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, the scholarship was sponsored by the University of Oslo
and the student societies of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Ås. Just before
leaving for Oslo, Hans Beukes, a 22 year old law student from Namibia, had
his passport and other personal documents confiscated by the South African
authorities while in Port Elizabeth waiting to board a Norwegian ship. The
reason given was that of “subversive activities” since it had become known
that he was to appear before a UN committee concerned with the South
West African/Namibian issue. Hans Beukes had also in his home country
been involved in political activities associated with the recent formation of
SWAPO, the liberation movement of Namibia. In 1960 he was in absentia
elected to the first national committee of SWAPO.
In the light of the reasons stated by the South African authorities, the
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw no legal basis for seeking to influence
the South African government to reconsider its decision. The
Consulate General in Cape Town was, however, instructed to inform the
South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs verbally about the publicity which
the incident had caused in Norway, which “has made an extremely negative
impression on public opinion in Norway, with a damaging effect on the
understanding of the problems facing South Africa.”14
What was soon known as “the Beukes case” understandably attracted
great public attention in Norway, especially within the vocal academic
community. Hans Beukes later managed to leave South Africa illegally, and
arrived in Oslo on 11 September 1959, carrying a US travel document.15 Two
days later he addressed a prominent debating society, the Norwegian
Student Society (Det Norske Studentersamfund), and then immediately left
for New York to give testimony to the UN South West Africa Committee. At
the student meeting a resolution condemning the apartheid regime was
adopted, and the Norwegian National Union of Students/Norwegian
Student Society jointly put pressure on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to
bring the Beukes case to the attention of UN 4th Committee as well as the
General Assembly.16 The confiscation of his passport was condemned by the
UN, considering it “an act of administration contrary to the mandate for
South West Africa”.17 Norway on several occasions appealed to South
Africa to grant Hans Beukes a new passport, but to no avail.
14 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4. Pol. Div., 15 September 1959.
15 Hans Beukes graduated in 1967 from the University of Oslo with a Master Degree in economics
and still resides in Norway.
16 Stortingsmelding nr. 36, 1959–60, p. 100.
17 General Assembly Resolution no. 1358(XIV), 17 November 1959.
As a result of the Beukes case and the increasing interest in South
African affairs shown by the student community, the Norwegian representatives
in the UN 4th Committee and the General Assembly were in the
following years especially concerned with the issue of education under
The Norwegian South Africa Committee
The initiative to form a South Africa Committee was taken by the Norwegian
Students Society. A resolution condemning South African racial
policies and calling for international assistance to the victims of apartheid
was passed on 12 September 1959, sponsored by representatives from all
over the political spectrum. Among the seven sponsors was Tron Gerhardsen,
the son of the Norwegian Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen.18 The
prime movers of the resolution served as the preparatory committee for the
Norwegian South Africa Committee, which was based on the following
political platform: “1) to organise information activities around South Africa;
2) to internationally oppose the South African government’s oppression of
the African majority; 3) to organise fund-raising campaigns for the victims of
apartheid; 4) to explore the possibilities of a boycott of South African
The committee was launched on 26 October 1959. The invitation was
signed by MPs from all political parties and other celebrities, including the
Bishop of Oslo (Arne Fjellbu) and the most prominent Norwegian author
(Tarjei Vesaas).20 Among the main speakers at the inaugural meeting was
Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee (and ex-
Governor of the Central Bank of Norway), who referred to the leaders of the
South African National Party as “nazi-inspired statesmen”.21 The general
principles formulated by the preparatory committee were endorsed, and
Gunnar Jahn was elected the first chairman of the board, which also consisted
of a group of celebrities of high standing in Norwegian society.
Among the members of the board were Didrik Arup Seip (Vice-chancellor of
the University of Oslo), Johs. Andenæs (professor of law, future Vice-chancellor
of the University of Oslo), Albert Nordengen (future mayor of the City
of Oslo, Conservative Party), Alette Engelhardt (The Norwegian Housewives’
Association), Jacob Sverdrup (future Director of the Nobel Institute in
18 Among the students actively involved we also find Mariken Vaa (who is today a senior researcher
at the Nordic Africa Institute), Torild Skard (later to become MP for the Socialist Left
Party, Speaker of the Parliament and Director General in the Ministry for Development Cooperation
) and Jan Helge Jansen (future MP for the Conservative party).
19 Quoted from a letter from Mariken Vaa, Vice-President of the Norwegian National Union of
Students, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 October 1959.
20 The invitation was also signed by John Lyng, a Conservative MP who later became Prime
Minister (1963) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1965–1971).
21 Dagbladet, 27 October 1959.
Oslo and professor of history) and Hans Jacob Ustvedt (professor of
medicine and future Director-General of the Norwegian Broadcasting
The Sharpeville massacre
The increasing awareness of the situation in South Africa, which has been
documented above, exploded in 1960/61. The Sharpeville massacre of 21
March 1960, in which 69 Africans were killed during a demonstration
against the hated Pass Laws, made the international community condemn
the South African apartheid regime. For the first time, the Security Council
of the UN vehemently denounced the Pretoria regime (France and the
United Kingdom abstained). In Norway, the Minister for Foreign Affairs
declared that “the heart-rending events which have recently taken place in
South Africa have shocked the Norwegian people”,22 and the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs received letters from a wide range of Norwegian organisations
urging the government to internationally condemn the South African
regime. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) made 28
March 1960—the day for commemorative ceremonies in South Africa—a
day of mourning. At many buildings, such as the headquarters of the
Norwegian Missionary Society in Stavanger, the flag was flying at half-mast.
(Neither the Parliamentary Building nor the Oslo City Hall, however, took
part in this symbolic act of solidarity.)23 Karl Brommeland (MP, The
Christian People’s Party) wanted the Speakers of the Parliament to express
their support to the African population in South Africa, but this initiative
did not succeed.24
The Nordic Ministers of Foreign Affairs at a joint meeting on 25 April
1960 instructed their diplomats not to attend the official celebrations of the
40th anniversary of the Union of South Africa, a decision that was not well
received by the Norwegian Consul General in Cape Town. In his report following
the Sharpeville massacre he admitted that the racial policies could
give reasons for unrest and protests, but he defended the behaviour of the
police at Sharpeville by stating that “when the natives have first been roused
and attack the police, they then murder them, unless the police are able to
defend themselves adequately”. In a later report he added that “there can be
no doubt that the activists among the Bantus systematically implement a
system of tactical intimidation against their fellowmen. This has been confirmed
by our own ‘boy’ who is himself a Bantu”. In an afterthought he conceded
that even if the police troops could not be criticised for using their
22 Quoted in Eivindson, op. cit., p. 74.
23 Ibid., p. 75.
24 Ibid., p. 74.
guns, the question could be asked if they “… perhaps could have managed
with a lesser degree of slaughter …”25
The Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli26
After the banning of the ANC in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre,
Albert Luthuli was officially nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Peace
Prize by 34 members of the Swedish Parliament. The initiative was taken by
the Swedish pastor Gunnar Helander, who worked with a British committee
led by Ronald Segal. In Norway, the bishop of Rogaland, Fridtjov Birkeli,
was one of the most active promoters.27 Others who supported the candidacy
of Albert Luthuli, among them the prominent Norwegian poet, Aslaug
Vaa, also emphasised his ideology of non-violence.28
As Albert Luthuli was descended from a long line of Zulu chiefs, he in
1935 was called on to assume his functions as a chief in Groutville, Natal.
Being on the payroll of the apartheid state, he was in 1952 presented with an
ultimatum of either leaving the African National Congress or renounce his
position as a chief. When Luthuli was elected President of the ANC in the
same year, he was immediately deposed as a chief. As president of the ANC,
he was most of the time confined to his place of residence and actually
banned from taking part in political meetings and activities. This did not,
however, stop him from staying in close touch with the ANC leadership in
the formulation of the overall strategy of boycotts, civil disobedience campaigns
strikes and other non-violent forms of struggle in the 1950s.
The announcement of the ANC President as prize-winner was very well
received in Norway. In the mass media, the decision was even compared
with the award of the Prize to Carl von Ossietzky in 1936 for his fight
against the Nazi regime in Germany. Most newspapers emphasised his belief
in non-violence as well as his strong Christian faith. The focus was
mainly concentrated on Albert Luthuli as an outstanding individual and
representative of his people, but some newspapers also raised the issue of
political measures to be taken against the South African apartheid regime,
such as economic sanctions and a possible Norwegian embargo on the supply
of oil.29
25 See memos from Erik Colban to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 March 1960, 31 March
1960 and 12 April 1960. In his memo of 14 April 1960 the Consul General concluded that “a very
large part of the Bantu population has hardly reached the educational level and the degree of
civilisation which must be demanded of a people who are to govern themselves”. It was also
the opinion of the Consul General that South Africa enjoyed “independent courts of law, with
judges who are ingrained with concepts of justice which have an inexpressibly high degree of
value in our civilisation. … The security of justice is enjoyed by all, irrespective of race”.
26 This section draws on a draft prepared by Karin Beate Theodorsen.
27 Stavanger Aftenblad, 25 February 1961.
28 Arbeiderbladet, 16 September 1961.
29 Vårt Land, 5 December 1961.
The fact that the ANC was outlawed and its president was actually
under house arrest all made headlines in Norwegian newspapers and raised
public awareness about the situation in South Africa. Albert Luthuli was
finally granted a passport, but was only allowed to stay in Oslo for eight
The news about the Peace Prize was also very well received in other
Western Europe countries and in the US. President John F. Kennedy sent his
congratulations, and the US Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, G. Mennen
Williams, urged the South African Government to allow Albert Luthuli
to travel to Oslo to receive the Prize. In the Nordic countries, one of the few
exceptions was the influential Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, which
carried a critical article arguing that the Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli
was an untimely intervention in a country’s internal affairs.30
The reactions voiced in South Africa followed—not surprisingly—traditional
political lines. Newspapers supporting the Nationalist Party, like Die
Burger and Die Transvaaler, vehemently attacked the Nobel Committee for
creating hostility instead of peace, whereas the liberal newspaper Rand Daily
Mail praised the choice of the committee.31 The South African Broadcasting
Corporation ran a hostile programme about Albert Luthuli, referring to his
arrest in 1959 and the charges of high treason brought against him. The
minister of “justice”, John B. Vorster, even refused to allow him to participate
in a reception planned for him in his home area.
During his stay in Oslo, the Church, the trade union movement and the
youth organisations, which held a well attended torch parade in his honour,
praised Albert Luthuli. He also addressed a service in Oslo Cathedral, encouraging
the people assembled to continue their fight against apartheid.32
When visiting the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions headquarters,
he was assured of trade union support both in Norway as well as by the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
In his speech at the Nobel ceremony, the chairperson of the Nobel Peace
Prize Committee—Gunnar Jahn—expressed his conviction that the choice of
Albert Luthuli would certainly represent a step forward in bringing about
changes in South Africa through non-violent means: “Should the non-white
population of South Africa ever rise from their position of humiliation without
having to recourse to violence and terror, then this will be due above all
to Luthuli, their fearless and incorruptible leader, who, thanks to his noble
personal qualities, has rallied his people in support of this policy, a man
who throughout his adult life has staked everything and suffered everything
without bitterness and without allowing hatred and aggression to oust his
abiding love of his follow-men. … His activity has been characterised by a
30 Dagbladet, 24 October 1961.
31 Aftenposten, 4 and 26 October 1961.
32 Vårt Land, 14 December 1961.
firm and unswerving approach: never has he succumbed to the temptation
to use violent means in his struggle for his people. Nothing has shaken him
from this resolve, so firmly rooted in his conviction that violence and terror
must not be resorted to”.33
The challenge of finding a peaceful solution to the race problem was
also the main theme of the Nobel lecture given by Albert Luthuli in the
presence of Oliver Tambo and other exiled ANC leaders.34 The Nobel Peace
Award was thus regarded as a “welcome recognition of the role played by
the African people during the last fifty years to establish, peacefully, a society
in which merit and not race, would fix the position of the individual in
the life of the nation”. But it was also recognised that “there can be no peace
until the forces of oppression are overthrown”, and that the basis for peace
and brotherhood in Africa was being restored through “the revolutionary
stirrings of our continent”. In his Nobel lecture, Albert Luthuli also made
references to the fight against fascism during the Second World War:
“People of Europe formed Resistance Movements that finally helped to
break the power of the combination of Nazism and Fascism with their creed
of race arrogance and herrenvolk mentality”. It was also made clear that the
freedom struggle, led by the African National Congress, would continue
until final victory: “The true patriots of South Africa, for whom I speak, will
be satisfied with nothing less than the fullest democratic rights. In government
we will not be satisfied with anything less than direct individual adult
suffrage and the right to stand for and be elected to all organs of government.
In economic matters we will be satisfied with nothing less than equality
of opportunity in every sphere, and the enjoyment by all of those heritages
which form the resources of the country which up to now have been
appropriated on a racial “whites only” basis. In the cultural sphere we will
be satisfied with nothing less than the opening of all doors of learning to
non-segregatory institutions on the sole criterion of ability. In the social
sphere we will be satisfied with nothing less than the abolition of all racial
bars. We do not demand these things for people of African descent alone.
We demand them for all South Africans, white and black. On these principles
we are uncompromising”.
Although it was underlined in the Nobel lecture that “freedom cannot
come to us as a gift from abroad”, Albert Luthuli did also praise the support
of the progressive people and governments throughout the world. While he
did not go into details as to how this support could be developed and
strengthened, the issue of economic sanctions was raised in several news-
33 Address of Gunnar Jahn 10 December 1961. It is, perhaps, somewhat ironic that the ANC a
few days later launched its armed struggle, to supplement its political underground activities at
home and its diplomatic activities abroad. For a discussion of this debate, see Nelson Mandela:
Long Walk to Freedom. London: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.
34 Africa and Freedom. Nobel lecture delivered in Oslo on 11 December 1961. (The full text is available
paper and radio interviews.35 The subject of sanctions was further elaborated
in his autobiography, Let my people go, where it was stated that “… I
have little doubt that it represents our only chance of a relatively peaceful
transition from the present unacceptable type of rule to a system of government
which gives us all our rightful voice”.36
One of the effects of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Albert
Luthuli was that representatives of the South African anti-apartheid opposition
approached the Norwegian Consulate General. In this way, the Consulate
gained access to new sources of information outside the official and
diplomatic circles that generally limited the perspectives of Norwegian
diplomats posted in South Africa.37 In 1963, the Norwegian vice-consul even
arranged for a meeting with Albert Luthuli, who was reported to be politically
isolated with all his close ANC friends either in prison or in exile.
According to the report, Albert Luthuli “had himself regarded it necessary
to renounce the ideal principle of ‘non-violence’ in favour of the principle of
‘a minimum of violence’”.38
At the funeral of Albert Luthuli in Groutville on 30 July 1967 the Scandinavian
governments, as well as the Nobel Committee, laid wreaths in their
respective national colours. The death of Luthuli also meant that one of the
very few channels to ANC inside South Africa was closed for many years.
The Afro-Scandinavian Youth Congress
The Afro-Scandinavian Youth Congress, which was held in Oslo in August
1962, also served to focus more attention on racial oppression and the liberation
struggle in Southern Africa.39 More than one hundred students from all
over Africa, representing either student organisations or liberation movements,
met for nearly three weeks with two hundred Nordic participants
across the political spectrum. Many bonds of friendship between future
political leaders in Africa and in the Nordic countries were made, and the
importance of the congress has later been emphasised by both parties.40 The
35 Aftenposten, 9 December 1961.
36 Albert Luthuli: Let my people go. London: Fontana Books, 1962, p. 186.
37 Memo from Erik Colban to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 January 1962. The practice of
not inviting “non-white” guests to official dinners and receptions was, however, not changed
for many years.
38 Report from Jon Aase to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 October 1963.
39 In spite of its name, the congress was a joint Nordic initiative from students in Norway, Denmark,
Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
40 See, for instance, interview with Joaquim Chissano in Maputo 2 May 1996 in Tor Sellström
(ed.): Liberation in Southern Africa. Regional and Swedish Voices. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet,
1999. The Mozambican President particularly recalled the discussion about whether
to support an armed struggle or not. “It was very interesting because in Mozambique we were
still trying to see if we could fight peacefully for independence, although we could already see
that the armed struggle was an alternative”. The congress is also discussed by Tor Sellström,
congress was also a rare example of bridge building between student organisations
that were usually divided according to their Cold War affiliations to
the International Union of Students and International Students Conference
The Southern African region was well represented with 35 delegates and
two members of the presidium: Raymond Kunene from the ANC of South
Africa and Rupia Banda from UNIP (Northern Rhodesia/Zambia). The
General Union of Students from Black Africa Under Portuguese Colonial
Domination (UGEAN) sent a particularly strong delegation of nine members,
including Joaquim Chissano (future president of Mozambique),
Manuel Pinto da Costa (future president of Sao Tomé e Principe) and Henrique
“Iko” Carreira (future Angolan Defence Minister). Sympathetic profiles
of leading delegates from Angola and Mozambique were also run by
the Norwegian press.41
When addressing the issue of “Racial problems in Africa”, one of the
key speakers at the conference, Vice-President Oliver Tambo from the ANC,
emphasised the fact that “the core of the race problem that faces Southern
Africa, the whole of the continent and, indeed, the whole world, is South
Africa”.42 Urging the participants to campaign for economic sanctions
against the apartheid, he also stated that “My problem in calling for pressures
on South Africa is to convince the youth to convince their governments
and people that it is not the South African goods that are cheap, but
the forced labour of the Africans (…) The enemies of Africa are those devoted
friends of apartheid and racial discrimination—governments, countries
and concerns—which have trade agreements with South Africa”.43 The
ANC Vice-President made the same appeal for sanctions when the Norwegian
Prime Minister, Einar Gerhardsen (Labour), received him—as the first
leader of a Southern African liberation movement—on 21 August 1962.44
(The congress participants were also treated to a reception hosted by King
Olav and Crown Prince Harald). From Oslo the ANC leader proceeded to
Stockholm and Copenhagen to have talks with the prime ministers of
Sweden (Tage Erlander) and Denmark (Viggo Kampmann). In the major
Western countries—USA and the United Kingdom—Oliver Tambo was not
received at government level until 25 years later.
op.cit., pp. 104–111, who underlines the role of the congress in establishing links between future
political leaders in Southern Africa and in Sweden.
41 Dagbladet, 18 and 21 August 1962.
42 Afro-Scandinavian Youth Congress, op.cit., 1962, p. 93.
43 Ibid., p. 96.
44 Aftenposten, 22 August 1962. See also report from Andreas Andersen, The Prime Minister’s
Office to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 August 1962. According to the report, Oliver Tambo
expressed his disappointment with the lack of Norwegian support for the initiatives taken at
the UN to implement sanctions.
In the Norwegian context, the Youth Congress is also remembered for
the ways in which the African participants challenged the Nordic students
belonging to the conservative camp. The latter had all assumed that the
Congress would restrict itself to the exchanging of views, but the African
delegates—with the support of their radical and socialist Nordic colleagues—
wanted to pass resolutions condemning apartheid and the major
Western powers, asking for economic sanctions and supporting the liberation
struggle. The right to adopt resolutions was confirmed with an overwhelming
majority (129 votes against 29 and 11 abstentions) during the constituent
session, leading the conservative daily, Aftenposten, to comment that
“the debate revealed very clearly the Africans had not come here to view the
Norwegian fjords”.45 The conservative students, who were in the minority,
declined to take part in the discussions which aimed at adopting resolutions,
and were themselves accused of being paternalistic and undemocratic.46
Procedural matters also made it necessary for a public rally in Oslo to take
place outside the formal structure of the Congress. The rally in the Main
Square of Oslo was attended by more than 1000, who listened to speeches by
Henrique “Iko” Carreira (Angola), Raymond Kunene (South Africa) and
Agrippa Mukahlera (Zimbabwe).47
The texts of the resolutions leave little doubt as to the political sympathies
of the African delegates and the great majority of their Scandinavian
colleagues. Thus, the main resolution on South Africa urged “the Scandinavian
Governments to support the struggle for freedom and basic human
rights in South Africa by 1) breaking off diplomatic relations with the Union
of South Africa, 2) asking the United Nations to organise world-wide economic
sanctions against South Africa”.48 In another resolution, the congress
called for 1) the abolition of all the oppressive laws designed against the
Africans, 2) the immediate granting of democratic rights and release of all
political prisoners, 3) the imposition of total economic, diplomatic and cultural
sanctions as called for by the African people in the UN, 4) and an unreserved
material and moral support for the liberation movements in South
Africa”.49 On Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, the Congress condemned “the continuous
existence of white supremacy maintained by military force” and called
upon Great Britain to “convene a conference with the view of granting a
45 Aftenposten, 11 August 1962.
46 The most prominent conservative student leader at the Congress was Fridtjof Frank Gundersen,
head of the Organising Committee and future MP for the right-wing Norwegian “Progress
47 Dagbladet, 24 August 1962.
48 The resolution was adopted with 134 for, 0 against, 8 abstentions and 24 recorded abstentions.
See SAYC, op. cit., p. 142.
49 Ibid., p. 143.
Constitution based on “one man—one vote”.50 The strong presence of students
from the Portuguese colonies was reflected in a resolution that denounced
“the military aid given to the fascist government of Portugal by
NATO” and appealed “to all progressive organisations in the world, especially
UN and the student organisations, to give concrete and effective help
to the nationalists in the Portuguese colonies”.51
To trade or not to trade (1960–64)
The call for a consumer boycott
In the late 1950s, the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC)
appealed to the world community to implement consumer boycotts and
economic sanctions as a means of putting pressure on the South African
regime. The call was first made at the All-African People’s Conference in
Accra in 1959, and in a letter to the international community signed by
Albert Luthuli, G.M. Maicker (South African Indian Congress) and Peter
Brown (Liberal Party).52 In December 1959 this request was supported by
the annual conference of the International Confederation of Free Trade
Unions, which was particularly concerned with racial discrimination in the
labour market.
As early as 20 January 1960, a meeting was convened by the Labour
Party and the Oslo women’s branch of the trade unions to focus on the
threat of racism in general, and on the situation in South Africa in particular.
The meeting, which attracted an audience of 350, was addressed by Hans
Beukes and Aase Lionæs (Labour MP and later chairperson of the Nobel
Peace Prize Committee), who called for a consumer boycott along the lines
already initiated by the British Labour Party. This was, according to Aase
Lionæs, a form of action in which every single Norwegian housewife could
take part: “In this way, we—the peoples who live in the far north (around
the polar circle)—can assist the oppressed peoples of South Africa”.53
Within the trade union movement, a joint decision at the Nordic level
was soon made to launch a consumer boycott in the period May–August
1960. The boycott campaign coincided with the great attention devoted to
South Africa and apartheid in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre.
While the expressed solidarity had previously been more or less restricted to
the academic community, the boycott campaign and the Labour Day rallies
brought the issue of South Africa more directly to a wider public, including
the organised labour movement. The Labour Party Norwegian government
50 Ibid., p. 145.
51 Ibid., p. 147.
52 Statement by Albert Luthuli appealing to the British people to boycott South Africa. The text is
available at http:/
53 Arbeiderbladet, 21 January 1960.
was, however, cautious not to support the campaign at an official level, and
the Norwegian diplomats in South Africa were instructed to make it clear
that this was a private action that the government could not influence. There
was also a fear of retaliatory actions directed against Norwegian exports,
which would then have affected the canned fish industry. Then—as later—
the fish canning industry warned against economic sanctions and a consumer
boycott, and even warned the Norwegian Confederation of Trade
Unions that the companies would claim economic compensation for the
losses incurred.54
Even if the Norwegian government did not want to become officially
involved in the campaign, the Labour Party itself expressed its commitment
through the 1960 May Day rallies, in which the consumer boycott occupied a
central position in the joint Labour Party/Norwegian Confederation of
Trade Unions declaration. This declaration, urging the labour movement to
take part in the boycott campaign, was co-signed by Prime Minister Einar
Gerhardsen and Konrad Nordahl (chairperson of the Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions).55 Konrad Nordahl was also a Labour MP, serving on
the influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament. The campaign
was fully supported by the daily newspaper Arbeiderbladet, which was regarded
as being the official mouthpiece of the government. Within the
Labour Party, the left-wing opposition (organised around the weekly Orientering),
expressed the view that the boycott was primarily of symbolic value
only since it was limited to four months, and instead called for a boycott
lasting until the apartheid system was crushed.
In his thesis covering Norwegian-South African relations in the period
1945–1961, Jon Kr. Eivindson concludes that the consumer boycott was
broadly accepted among the political parties and the Norwegian mass
media. The only exceptions were the right-wing newspapers Morgenbladet
and Norges Handels og Sjøfartstidende (today: Dagens Næringsliv), which had
shipping and export interests close at heart. According to Eivindson, the
main parliamentary opposition and the conservative press generally accorded
the campaigns their “silent recognition”.56 Berte Rognerud, the most
prominent female Conservative MP, supported an appeal from trade union
In the period May–August 1960, the import of South African fruit was
down by no less than 95%, from NOK 10.9 million to NOK 0.7 million. This
compares well with the effect of the campaign in Sweden, where the import
of oranges decreased by 25%.57 There was, however, a major difference since
54 Eivindson, op.cit., p. 108.
55 Konrad Nordahl was also a Labour MP, serving on the influential Foreign Affairs Committee.
56 Eivindson, op.cit., p. 101.
57 Sellström, op.cit., p. 145.
the Norwegian consumers hardly had a choice following the success of the
trade unions in persuading the association of wholesalers/importers
(Norske Fruktgrossisters Forbund) to cancel all agreements previously entered
into and desist from importing any South African fruits during the
campaign months. It is, therefore, not possible to measure the awareness
and commitment of the individual consumers. There is, however, a close
parallel to Sweden in the (lack of) long-term effect. According to the official
trade figures the boycott lingered on for a few more months, but in 1961 the
total amount of imports of fruit from South Africa was back to the 1959 levels,
or even slightly higher.58
In 1963 a new initiative to launch a consumer boycott was taken by the
political youth organisations. It was supported by 48 Members of Parliament
(all parties except for the Conservative Party and the Christian People’s
Party), who signed a petition calling on the government to “… impose an
embargo on the import of South African raw materials to our national companies
in the same way as the Norwegian Co-operative Society have done.
At the same time we appeal to the Norwegian Government to urge importers,
retail dealers and consumers not to import, sell or buy South
African goods”.59
The campaign was based on the recommendations from the World
Assembly of Youth (WAY) Council meeting in Århus (Denmark) in 1962, as
well as the statement by the ANC President that boycott campaigns were the
only possible actions to be taken by the international community to avoid a
bloodbath. The same argument had been used by ANC leaders meeting with
the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or when addressing press conferences
and public meetings during visits to Norway. When he was received
by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs on 25 July 1962, Abdul
Minty urged Norway to change its position and consider implementing
sanctions.60 This was also the main message of Raymond Kunene (ANC)
addressing a Norwegian Action Against Apartheid (NAMA) conference at
the Nobel Institute 14 February 1963.61 At a meeting with the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 9 March 1963 Duma Nokwe (ANC) emphasised
that foreign pressure was needed to avoid a disaster, especially in the
light of the worsening of the situation in South Africa after the Anti-Terrorism
Act had been passed.62
58 Eivindson, op. cit., table I, p. 104.
59 Aftenposten, 11 May 1963.
60 Memo, Arne Arnesen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 August 1962.
61 Dagbladet, 15 March 1963.
62 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 March 1963.
“Sympathy is not enough”
In view of the position of Luthuli as a Nobel peace prize laureate, the youth
organisations argued strongly that there was a special Norwegian responsibility
to adhere to his appeal. This joint effort by the major youth organisations
(17 in all) led to the formation in early 1963 of Norsk Aksjon mot
Apartheid—NAMA (Norwegian Action against Apartheid), since the Norwegian
South Africa Committee had chosen not to commit itself on the boycott
This time, the campaign also led to an extensive debate in Parliament
following an interpellation by Finn Gustavsen on 11 May 1963. The representative
of the small left-wing Socialist People’s Party, asked the Government
to instruct the state-owned companies (Vinmonopolet and Norsk Jernverk
in particular) to stop importing South African goods, and in other ways
support the boycott campaign led by Norwegian Action against Apartheid
(NAMA). The Foreign Minister, however, argued that Norwegian trade did
not amount to more than 0.2% of all South African trade and that the imposition
of unilateral Norwegian sanctions “would be a severe blow to the interests
of Norwegian enterprises and Norwegian workers.”63 According to
Finn Gustavsen, the pleasant words expressed by the Norwegian authorities
during the Luthuli visit to Norway were now put to the test. The Norwegian
decision to abstain during the vote in the UN General Assembly in 1962 was
strongly condemned, and although the resolution adopted by a great majority
was not binding in a legal sense, the government was urged to take the
necessary measures to implement sanctions. In this regard, the speaker
quoted from the address by Oliver Tambo to the Africa Youth Conference in
Oslo in 1962: “… The enemies of Africa are those devoted friends of
apartheid and racial discrimination—those governments, countries or concerns
which have trade agreements with South Africa. … And who are
these? Watch the votes at the next session of the United Nations General
Assembly … and you shall know them. The sun in which the White man has
been basking since the dawn of White domination in South Africa is setting
… But no sun can ever set on the African people for no sun has shone on
them these last three centuries. We have only dawn and daybreak to look
forward to … The boycott of South African goods, the application of economic
and other sanctions on South Africa and the enforcement of a strict
embargo on the supply of arms and military weapons and equipment to
South Africa, coupled with the unrelenting struggles we are waging in that
country, are the kind of pressures which would reduce South Africa’s Sabo-
63 The calculations were based on a confidential report prepared by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs that estimated the economic losses (including merchant marine) to approximately NOK
150–200 million. “Økonomisk blokade av Sør-Afrika og Portugal”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
10 September 1962.
tage Act to a dead letter and confront the Government with a simple choice:
to see sense or perish”.64
In addition to the proposals put forward by the Socialist People’s Party
(which has worked closely with the anti-apartheid activists and the liberation
movements since the party was established in 1961), calling on the
Norwegian consumers to boycott South African goods and urging the Government
to implement sanctions, both Reiulf Steen (Labour Party) and Karl
J. Brommeland (Christian People’s Party) at a more general level requested
the Government to consider Norwegian initiatives for international sanctions
and other steps towards a solution to the conflict in South Africa.
All three proposals were submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee of
the Parliament, which a month later presented a unanimous report.65 The
report was then debated in a plenary session on 15 June 1963, with more
than 20 speakers taking part. The Committee gave full support to the Norwegian
position at the United Nations, arguing that resolutions were useless—
or indeed harmful—if they did not get the support of the major trading
partners of South Africa. On the other hand, it was recognised that sanctions
in principle could be a valuable instrument for putting pressure on the
South African regime, and that the Government should work within the UN
system for a broad acceptance of a more positive attitude to sanctions
against South Africa. In order to further this goal, the government was also
requested to co-ordinate its further initiatives at the UN with the other
Nordic countries. Several speakers supported the idea that Norway—as a
member of the Security Council—should introduce a resolution on an arms
embargo. On the issue of immediate Norwegian trade sanctions, however,
the proposals put forward by Finn Gustavsen only got the two votes of the
Socialist People’ Party.66
Later in the year Norway was indeed instrumental in getting the support
of the major Western powers for a limited arms embargo (see below).
But—in spite of the wishes of the South African liberation movements and
the boycott campaigns initiated by the Norwegian solidarity movement—it
took more than 20 years before comprehensive trade sanctions were implemented.
As will be shown in chapter 5, neither the Labour Party nor the
Conservative/Centre coalition partners were willing to introduce legislation
prohibiting Norwegian trade with the apartheid regime until 1986. (And
even then, there were many loopholes and exceptions.) In upholding this
64 The quote from Oliver Tambo is based on the original text in Afro-Scandinavian Youth
Congress Report, op.cit., pp. 91–97.
65 Innstilling S. nr. 281 1962/63 (Socialist People’s Party had no seat on the Committee).
66 The proposal included the following paragraphs: “Stortinget [The Norwegian Parliament]
expresses its repulsion for the policy of the white minority in South Africa and its sympathy for
the struggle of the repressed. … Stortinget appeals to Norwegian consumers and companies not
to buy South African goods. … Stortinget requests the Government to take all the necessary
measures to prevent all import to Norway from South Africa, and if necessary to propose a bill
[concerning the matter] for Stortinget ”.
position, the political leaders of all parties—except for the Socialist People’s
Party—were supported by the higher echelons of the civil servants in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping and
the business community at large. The attitude of the Norwegian government
was aptly described by Freddy Reddy67—a South African student who had
arrived in Norway in 1961—when addressing the Labour Party First of May
Rally in 1963: “Sympathy is not enough. In the same way as you needed
help from without in your fight against Hitler’s regime of violence, thus we
need support from without in order to fight against Verwoerd’s police state.
… What have you done to transform sympathy into action? You have only
put forward empty excuses. The business world argues that they cannot implement
a boycott [of South Africa] because the Government has not given
its agreement to this. The Government says that its approach in the matter is
dependent on the action taken by the Great Powers … All the countries in
the world are collectively responsible for the situation in South Africa because
they all continue to trade with South Africa and thus keep Verwoerd
in power. … Is large-scale war and massacre necessary to make the countries
of the world understand the need to act? Are Ibsen’s words still the rule for
Norwegians: ‘To wish it, to think it, to want it, but to do it …’?”
Norway in the Security Council 1963–6468
Towards a limited arms embargo
While the Norwegian government vehemently decided against implementing
economic and diplomatic sanctions against South Africa, for reasons that
have been outlined above, the idea of appealing to the UN member states to
restrict their supply of arms and military equipment to the apartheid regime
seemed more attractive to the governments and its diplomats at the UN
headquarters. The issue had been raised during the 17th General Assembly
in 1962, when Aase Lionæs (MP, Labour) urged all member countries to stop
the supply of arms and other forms of military equipment to South Africa.69
This initiative had been encouraged by the announcement of the US repre-
67 Freddy Reddy had been involved in the establishment of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement
(AAM) in London in 1957, and arrived in Norway in 1961 to take up his medical studies.
He played an important part in the formation of an anti-apartheid public opinion in Norway,
and was much in demand as a public speaker at rallies, conferences and lecture trips sponsored
by the Norwegian Action Against Apartheid (NAMA) and the Crisis Fund for Southern Africa
(Krisefondet). He was in 1966 elected chairperson of the prestigious Norwegian Students’ Society
(Det Norske Studentersamfund), a public event which made some people on the far right
argue that an African student was not eligible for election to the highest position in a society
which—according to its name—was supposed to be a debating society for “Norwegian” students.
Specialising as a psychiatrist, Freddy Reddy worked in the ANC refugee settlements in
neighbouring countries in the period 1979–1990, and is presently involved in developing
“community psychiatry” in a post-apartheid South Africa.
68 This section draws on Narum, op.cit.
69 UN, The Special Political Committee, 16 October 1962.
sentative that Washington was considering a ban on all arms which were not
meant for “external defence”. The Norwegian initiative found its way to the
front pages of several South African newspapers, and an editorial in Die
Transvaaler (which was close to Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd) accused
Norway of “doing its best to bring about the victory of barbarism over
Western civilisation in South Africa”.70 The Consul General in Cape Town
reported that several trading partners had cancelled their import orders as
an immediate response, and—closer to home—the Norwegian Shipowners’
Association warned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the negative effects of
the exposure given to Norway by the intervention in the UN. A strongly
worded letter from the association concluded that “… Against the background
of the fact that Norwegian shipping in this connection is especially
vulnerable, we wish to underline that all Norwegian statements which serve
to put Norway’s name in the front line of criticism directed against South
Africa, will easily prove to have a damaging effect on Norwegian shipping”.
The 17th General Assembly (1962) also passed the first UN resolution
that appealed directly to all member states to implement economic, military
and diplomatic sanctions against South Africa.72 At the same time, the Special
Committee on the South African Government’s Policies of Apartheid
Committee (“The Apartheid Committee”) was established to closely follow
the developments inside South African and to report to the General Assembly
and the Security Council whenever appropriate. The resolution was
adopted with 63 votes against 23 votes, and with all the Nordic countries
among the 16 states abstaining. According to the statement of the Norwegian
Government as expressed by Jens Haugland (Minister of Law) in explanation
of Norway’s abstaining, the Norwegian reservations only applied
to the parts of the resolution dealing with economic sanctions and the expulsion
of South Africa from the UN. It was also stated that Norway this time
deliberately chose to abstain instead of casting a negative vote: “The change
we made in casting our vote is a result of the continued and intensified suppression
of the African majority during the past year in South Africa. This is
in conflict with the appeals which a unanimous world opinion have made
through the General Assembly to the South African Government”.73
The fact that Norway was willing to support the paragraphs concerned
with an arms embargo may perhaps seem somewhat inconsistent, since it
could also in this case be argued that voting for a proposal not supported by
major arms suppliers (France and United Kingdom) would undermine the
70 Aftenposten, 19 October 1962 (“Verwoerd-avis angriper Norge”).
71 Letter from the Norwegian Shipowners Association to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18
October 1962.
72 General Assembly Resolution 1961 (XVII).
73 Dagbladet, 2 November 1962 (“Kraftig fordømmelse av Sør-Afrika i FN”).
effectiveness of the UN. In her thesis, Ragnhild Narum explains the difference
by pointing out that “the difference for Norway between economic
sanctions and an arms embargo lay in the fact that Norway did not export
arms to South Africa, but that there were many Norwegian firms that traded
with South Africa. In other words, Norway was most positive to sanctions
which did not affect its own interests”.74
Irrespective of the motives of the government, it is a fact that the Norwegian
position raised the expectations of the Afro-Asian countries when
Norway took its seat in the Security Council for the period 1963–64. Since
Norway had always argued that the power to implement sanctions was
vested solely in the Security Council, and not in the General Assembly, there
were reasons to expect a Norwegian initiative as a Council member when
the South Africa issue was put on the agenda in August 1963. The main obstacle
was that Norway still did not judge the apartheid regime of South
Africa to constitute a threat to international peace and security, which is required
in order to adopt mandatory sanctions under Ch. VII of the UN
Charter. On the other hand, Chapter VI allows for a resolution that requested
all member states to take appropriate measures (including sanctions)
in the case of a “disturbance” to peace. After a resolution asking for a
comprehensive and mandatory arms embargo had been rejected by USA,
France, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil and Norway, a resolution restricting
itself to appealing to member states to implement a more limited
arms embargo was adopted—against the votes of the United Kingdom and
France.75 The main point of the limited embargo was to block further supplies
of equipment for South Africa’s own arms industry.
Before leaving the Security Council, Norway played a part in the formulation
of Security Council Resolution 5380 (31 July 1963), which requested all
states to refrain from offering the Portuguese government assistance enabling
it to conduct policies of repression against the peoples of the territories
under its administration, and to take measures to prevent the sale and
supply to the Portuguese government of arms and military equipment for
such purposes. In September 1963, the Norwegian Foreign Minister—together
with his Nordic colleagues—also declined an invitation from the
South African government to visit South Africa in order to “find the truth”.
According to the official response, the trip was not seen as serving “the purpose
of furthering progress towards a solution in accordance with the principles
of the United Nations Charter”.76
74 Narum, op. cit., p. 46.
75 Security Council Resolution S/5386, 7 August 1963.
76 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 September 1963.
The expert group and the sanctions committee
In preparing for the next round of discussions on South Africa in the Security
Council, the aim of the Norwegian government was clearly to avoid an
“extreme” resolution from Afro-Asian countries which was totally unacceptable
for the major Western Powers. After extensive consultations with
all parties concerned, the British UN delegation indicated that it this time
would seriously consider supporting a resolution along the same lines as the
one rejected in August 1963. The draft resolution presented by the Norwegian
government also included the appointment of a UN “Expert Committee”,
which would be asked to explore all possibilities for finding a peaceful
solution to the racial problems of South Africa. The idea was clearly to promote
a “dialogue” between South Africa and its main trading partners
(United Kingdom and United States of America) as an alternative to sanctions
and other form of pressure. The draft resolution was consistent with a
proposal introduced to the General Assembly by the Danish Foreign
Minister, Per Hækkerup, who acted on behalf of the Nordic countries. The
Vice-President of ANC, Oliver Tambo, told the Norwegian Ambassador to
the UN that he still considered economic sanctions to be the most effective
means to change the situation in South Africa. In his view, a British veto
would not necessarily be a bad thing, since it would demonstrate that the
Government of Great Britain was isolated. Neither did Oliver Tambo concur
with the idea of appointing an expert committee, which he suspected would
come up with compromises which did not serve the interests of the African
majority. He nevertheless regarded the Norwegian draft resolution as a step
forward if it could lead to a unanimous decision in the Security Council.77 In
the debate in the Security Council several countries, among them Ghana and
the Soviet Union, asked for more effective measures, such as the implementation
of an oil embargo. On the other hand, Great Britain and France made
it clear that they did not intend to stop supplying South Africa with arms for
“external defence”. In the end the Norwegian proposal was unanimously
adopted, and Alva Myrdal from Sweden was appointed head of the Expert
The Expert Committee submitted its report in April 1964. The main proposal
was to invite all sections of the South African society to a “national
convention”, with the aim of creating a new system based on equal rights for
all. If this proposal was not accepted by the South African regime before a
fixed date, the time according to the Committee would have come for implementing
more comprehensive sanctions. The Norwegian delegation to
the UN was not particularly happy with the report, and once again made it
77 Memo from the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, 22 November 1963.
78 For a more extensive of the Nordic UN initiative, see Tor Sellström, op.cit., pp. 198–201 and
Ragnhild Narum, op.cit., pp. 66–74.
clear that it was not ready to apply the sanctions weapon against the wishes
of South Africa’s major economic collaborators. In consultation with the US,
Norway was instrumental in getting a resolution accepted calling for a
“national convention”, the granting of amnesty to members of the opposition
facing death sentences during the Rivonia Trial and the appointment of
a “Sanctions Committee”.
The Sanctions Committee was appointed from among members of the
Security Council. It was thus working in close conjunction with the major
Western Powers, was mainly concerned with technical issues and served to
delay the debate until 1965, that is after the US presidential elections. In a
report from the Norwegian delegation to the UN, it was clearly stated that
“as is known, the main reason for appointing the committee was to gain
time so as to make room for the British and American elections, and for our
part, to ensure that we were not confronted by the question of sanctions
while Norway was a member of the Security Council”.79 When its final report
was presented, it was widely regarded in South Africa as a victory over
the most vocal proponents of comprehensive sanctions.80 The report was
never seriously discussed, nor was South Africa to be placed on the agenda
of the Security Council until 1970. Once again, South Africa’s major trading
partners could be relied upon to prevent meaningful sanctions. More than
20 years would elapse before the UN Security Council took firmer action.
Humanitarian action: Legal assistance and support for refugees
The Norwegian Crisis Fund/International Defence and Aid Fund
The Defence and Aid Fund was formed in London in 1959 as a successor to
the Treason Trial Defence Fund, established by Christian Action in 1956 to
assist in providing legal defence, bail for the accused and maintenance to the
families of the accused. The provision of adequate legal defence for the accused
led to the collapse of the South African Government’s case after more
than four years of trial proceedings. The origins may be traced even further
back in history; as early as in 1953 Christian Aid—led by Canon John
Collins—had collected large sums from the public for assistance to families
of those imprisoned in the “Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws”.
In South Africa, local branches of the Defence and Aid Fund (with
varying degrees of formal links to the British DAF) were formed in Cape
Town and Johannesburg in the aftermath of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre.
While several prominent leaders of the Defence and Aid Fund were banned
from the early 1960s, the South African branches were allowed to exist until
they were forced to dissolve in 1966.
79 Letter from Sivert A. Nielsen to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 December 1964.
(“Apartheid. Sikkerhetsrådets ekspertkomite”).
80 Narum, op.cit., pp. 78–79.
In 1963 the UN General Assembly appealed to all member states to support
internationally recognised organisations involved in providing funds
for legal defence and the maintenance of the families of defendants and
prisoners in South Africa. Among the organisations singled out in the General
Assembly resolutions for this purpose were the Defence and Aid Fund,
Amnesty International and the World Council of Churches.81 (In 1964 the
UN Apartheid Committee made the same recommendations.) Just a few
days before the UN resolution was passed, on 10 December 1963—the 15th
anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights)—Krisefondet for Sør-
Africa (The Crisis Fund for South Africa) was launched in Oslo. One of the
main purposes was to serve as a Norwegian branch of the Defence and Aid
Fund. The initiative to the Fund was taken by Dr. Fred Lange-Nielsen, who
was elected the first chairman. The Fund was based on an impressive range
of member organisations: The Norwegian South Africa Committee, The
Norwegian UN Association, Amnesty International, The Norwegian Students’
and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), Caritas-Oslo,
The Norwegian Refugee Council, The African Students Association, The
Norwegian Students Society (Det Norske Studentersamfund), World Federalists
(En Verden), youth organisations of all political parties, The Norwegian
Students Christian Movement, Jewish Youth Association etc. Among
the individual sponsors were the chairmen of both the Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions (LO) and the Norwegian Employers Association,
the vice-chancellor of the University of Oslo, the Speaker of the Parliament
and MPs from all political parties represented in the national assembly.
In 1964 DAF was reconstituted as The International Defence and Aid Fund
for Southern Africa (IDAF), in order to include legal and other forms of assistance
in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and other territories in the region as
a whole. In addition to the British Defence and Aid Fund, national branches
from Norway, Denmark and Sweden were also present at the first annual
conference. Fred Lange-Nielsen was elected vice-president of IDAF.
As a response to the UN appeal (see above), the Swedish government in
1965 made its first contribution—USD 100,000—to IDAF, together with a
similar amount to the World Council of Churches. This was the first step,
which eventually was to lead to a total grant of SEK 800 million before the
winding up of IDAF in 1991.82 In the same year the Dutch Parliament gave
its first grant to IDAF, a decision which caused great uproar in South Africa
as well as among the (not so few) Dutch friends of the apartheid regime. In
1965 IDAF received its first contribution from Denmark (DKK 200,000),
81 General Assembly Resolution 1978 B (XVIII), 16 December 1963.
82 According to Tor Sellström, op. cit., p. 140, of the approximately £100 million which were
channelled into South Africa through IDAF from 1964 to 1991 not less than 70 million came
from Swedish sources. A secret network of private correspondents was also set up to write
letters and forward money to the families concerned. From the Norwegian side, Kari Storhaug
was involved in these activities from the mid-1960s.
India and Pakistan. The need for assistance also increased as a result of
mounting suppression and the very broad definition of “sabotage” contained
in the Sabotage Act of 1962.
Compared to its Scandinavian counterparts, the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs was far more reluctant to develop close links to IDAF. During
his stay in Oslo in July 1965, Barnie Desai, a South African in exile working
for IDAF in London, was able to brief the Ministry about the financial
support received from other countries, as well as the legal assistance rendered
inside South Africa. He also conducted a press conference that was
given broad coverage in the Norwegian press. In the same month, the
National Council of the Young Conservatives (the youth organisation of the
Conservative Party) urged the Norwegian government to make funds available
to the International Defence and Aid Fund through its Norwegian
branch, the Crisis Fund (Krisefondet). In November the same year, Dr.
Lange Nilsen presented the activities—and the financial needs—of the
organisation at a meeting with the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.83
The chairperson of the Crisis Fund put emphasis on the relevant UN resolutions
as well as the fact that funds had already been made available from
other Scandinavian countries. On behalf of International Defence and Aid
Fund, the Crisis Fund a year later presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
with a formal application for £ 5,000 (NOK 100,000), while at the same time
expressing the hope for significantly higher contributions from future budgets.
In early 1967 the Government accepted to grant £ 1,500 (NOK 30,000) to
IDAF, to be channelled through the Crisis Fund. (As of April 1967, the total
contributions by Sweden were £ 17,859 and by Denmark £ 5,174.)84
In early autumn 1967, the Crisis Fund (Krisefondet) applied for a contribution
of NOK 200,000 on behalf of IDAF. The application was less than
enthusiastically received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the prevailing
position favoured channelling assistance through the UN Trust
Fund. But it was noted by the civil servants who were dealing with the application
that both the then Prime Minister (Per Borten, Centre Party) and
the Foreign Minister (John Lyng, Conservative Party) had been among the
initial sponsors of the Crisis Fund. In order to show at least some goodwill
towards “a worthy cause” it was proposed to grant NOK 50,000.85 (The
grants from Sweden and Denmark for 1968 were, respectively, NOK 350,000
and 550,000.) This proposal was accepted by the Government as the grant
for 1968. In the meantime the Crisis Fund had been dissolved and merged
with Norwegian Action against Apartheid (Norsk Aksjon mot Apartheid-
NAMA) to form the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (Fellesrådet for
83 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 18 November 1965.
84 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 27 September 1967 (“Bidrag til International Defence and Aid Fund”).
85 Ibid.
det sørlige Africa).86 Since the Council took over the function as the Norwegian
branch of IDAF, the NOK 50,000 were channelled to IDAF through the
Council for 1968.
On several occasions, the Council for Southern Africa complained about
the lack of interest shown in the activities of the IDAF by the Norwegian
government. For instance, the Norwegian embassy in London did not attend
the reception following the annual conference of IDAF in April 1968, while
the Swedish and Danish embassies were represented. Nor had the IDAF invitation
to mark the Human Rights Year and the South African Freedom
Day in the Albert Hall on 26 June led to any response from the embassy.87
This complaint by the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa fits well into a
more general pattern; the Norwegian ambassador to Great Britain (Arne
Skaug) even declined an invitation from the ANC to address a memorial
service in London in August 1967 to honour Albert Luthuli, the winner of
the Nobel Peace Prize. The decision was made after consultations with the
British Foreign Office, which “advised all foreign embassies against contacts
with the ANC”, which not only had been outlawed in South Africa, but
allegedly was under Communist influence.88 Similarly, the secretary-general
of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, Abdul Minty, also complained that
the AAM enjoyed cordial relations with many foreign embassies in London,
but that there were hardly any relations at all with Norway.89
For 1969 the IDAF asked for £ 12,000 directly from its London headquarters.
It received £ 8,000 (NOK 137,000), while no funds at all were made
available for 1970. The stated reason was that all funds had been spent in
Nigeria as a consequence of the civil war, since the IDAF grant had been
taken from the budget item covering “Natural disaster and humanitarian
assistance”. In 1971, however, two grants of NOK 150,000 each were made to
IDAF, followed by NOK 200,000 in 1972. The extraordinary grant of NOK
150,000 in 1971 came about as a result of a meeting between Abdul Minty of
the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
Thorvald Stoltenberg, in Oslo.90 For the period 1973–1975, the annual grant
was—to the great disappointment of IDAF as well as the Norwegian Council
for Southern Africa—kept at the same level of NOK 300,000. A major step
forward was taken in 1976, when the amount was increased to NOK
1,000,000. The activities of the IDAF had now been broadened to include an
86 See chapter 6.
87 Letter from Lars Borge-Andersen, chairperson of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa,
to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 16 June 1968.
88 Memo from the Norwegian Embassy in London to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 July
89 Arne Skaug to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 February 1966.
90 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 24 September 1971 (“Besøk i Utenriksdepartementet av herr Abdul
Minty, London”).
Information and Research Department, which published books, reports and
the bulletin Focus on Repression, while the demand for legal assistance to
Namibia and Zimbabwe had increased dramatically over the years.91 With a
Labour Party/Socialist Left Party majority in Parliament, there was in the
mid-1970s a strong political backing for the substantial increase.
The Special Committee for Refugees from Southern Africa
Apart from the funds granted for legal assistance inside South Africa, the
main attention of the Norwegian authorities was focused on refugees from
South Africa and other territories in the region, with special emphasis on
education for young refugees. A large share of this support was channelled
through the UN system. The Nordic countries were the principal contributors
to various UN funds for education and training programmes for
refugees from South West Africa/Namibia, the Portuguese colonies and
South Africa, which were set up in the 1960s. At the initiative of the Nordic
countries, in 1967 the funds were consolidated into the United Nations Education
and Training Programme for Southern Africa, which also benefited
Zimbabweans. If grants to the UN Trust Fund for South Africa, which was
mainly concerned with legal assistance, are included, the Norwegian government
from 1965 to 1973 contributed approximately NOK 9 million to
these funds.92 In addition, smaller amounts were given to the Christian
Institute in South Africa and the World Council of Churches’ Programme to
Combat Racism (PCR) from 1972 onwards (see chapter 7).
The Special Committee on Refugees from Southern Africa played the
key role in channelling official funds for educational purposes, disposing of
approximately NOK 20 million in the period 1963–1976. The Special Committee
had its origins in a unique initiative taken by the Foreign Affairs
Committee of the Norwegian Parliament in June 1963. (It should be noted,
especially for those interested in inter-Nordic rivalries, that Norway in this
regard was ahead of Sweden.)93 Independent of the budget proposals presented
by the Norwegian government, the Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously
granted NOK 250,000 to activities in support of young refugees
from South Africa (later Southern Africa). The initiative was taken by Aase
Lionæs (Labour MP), who had served as a member of the Norwegian UN
91 There are reasons to believe that the formal and informal links after 1973 between Abdul
Minty and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Labour government were instrumental in
securing this substantial increase. See report from a meeting between Abdul Minty and Secretary
of State for Foreign Affairs, Arne Arnesen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 August 1975.
92 The figure is calculated on the basis of information given by Olav Stokke in his “Norsk støtte
til frigjøringsbevegelsene”, Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Årbok 1973. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International
Affairs, 1973, p. 58.
93 The Swedish “refugee million” emerged from the Budget Proposals for the financial year
1964/65. The proposals were submitted in January 1964, and came into force from 1 July 1964.
See Tor Sellström, op. cit., pp. 70–71.
Mission which a few years earlier had been particularly concerned with the
issue of education under apartheid, and was met with support from all
political parties represented in the Parliament. It was also suggested that an
independent committee should be established to decide on how to distribute
the funds, consisting of three members representing a) the Norwegian
Refugee Council, b) the University of Oslo and c) the Norwegian South
Africa Committee. The amount of NOK 250,000 for 1963 was later in the
same year increased to 500,000, while a new budget line (Ch. 143–Aid to
South African refugees), was established for this purpose. Aid to refugees
was at this time not a part of the ordinary budget for development assistance,
and was consequently not administered by the Norwegian aid agency
(Norsk Utviklingshjelp).94
The Special Committee was expected to work in close consultation with
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Norwegian Refugee Council was
asked to serve as the secretariat. This construction largely survived until the
Special Committee (also known as the Committee of Three) was dissolved in
1982, although the secretariat was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in 1972. Thus, the administrative set-up was from the beginning to differ
from the procedures chosen in Sweden and Denmark in 1963/64, where the
parallel activities right from the beginning were to be more firmly situated
within the aid agency/Ministry of Foreign Affairs.95 Consisting of seven
members, the Swedish Consultative Committee on Education Support to
African Refugee Youth also reflected popular movements and the antiapartheid
public opinion to a larger extent. Although the Norwegian South
Africa Committee was already defunct in 1963, and had been replaced by
Norwegian Action against Apartheid /The Crisis Fund (later to merge as the
Norwegian Council for Southern Africa) as the leading anti-apartheid
movement, it was represented on the Special Committee by Lauritz Johnson
until its final days in 1982.96 The fact that no representative associated with
the Norwegian Council of Southern Africa was ever invited to join, served to
keep the Committee isolated from the solidarity movements and grassroots
activities. In striking contrast to Sweden few links to the liberation movements
were developed. When direct support to liberation movements was
institutionalised in Sweden in 1969, the Consultative Committee discussed
the allocation of grants.97 According to the guidelines, scholarships for stud-
94 Its name was changed to Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) in
1967 and to Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation in 1998.
95 See Tor Sellström, op. cit., pp. 70–79 and Christian Morgenstierne, Denmark: A flexible response—
humanitarian and political. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999 (draft).
96 Lauritz Johnson was a highly respected public figure, especially known for his radio programmes
for children and younger listeners.
97 Its name was, consequently, changed to the Consultative Committee on Education Support
and Humanitarian Assistance to African Refugees and National Liberation Movements (emphasis
ies in Sweden should as far as possible be restricted to persons with a particular
connection to African liberation movements.98 This fact also partly
explains why there was a vocal community of Southern African students
who acted as spokespersons of the liberation movements, while this was—
with a few notable exceptions—strikingly lacking in Norway. Direct Norwegian
support to the liberation movements was never handled by the Special
Committee, but was kept strictly within the domain of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and NORAD (after 1973).
Until the early 1970s, the Special Committee more or less lived its own
life, with little public interest and even less control or evaluation of its activities.
For practical purposes, it can also in this period more or less be
regarded as an offshoot of the International University Exchange Fund
(IUEF).99 In the period 1967–72, the secretary of the Committee was Øystein
Opdahl, who had been the first executive director of the IUEF up to 1966
and later was appointed to the IUEF board. Øystein Opdahl had also served
as a consultant to the Special Committee while heading the IUEF Secretariat,
working closely with Dr. Cato Aall who for the first two years was serving
on the Special Committee as the representative of the Norwegian South
Africa Committee.100
The Special Committee for Refugees from Southern Africa 1963–1975
Year NOK
1963 500 000
1964 –
1965 500 000
1966 500 000
1967 500 000
1968 1 600 000
1969 1 650 000
1970 1 650 000
1971 1 900 000 (+ 700 000 to the Mozambique Institute)
1972 2 300 000
1973 2 500 000
1974 3 500 000
1975 3 600 000
added). Its mandate was enlarged in 1978, and the Committee was later to be known as the
Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance.
98 Tor Sellström, op.cit., p. 478.
99 The IUEF was established in 1961 in Leiden by the International Student Conference, and
continued its work after the ISC was closed down in 1967 when its involvement with the CIA
had been exposed.
100 Cato Aall also took the initiative to Norske Skolers Afrikakomité, an organisation that collected
funds and made “twinning” links between Norwegian secondary schools and secondary
schools in Southern and Eastern Africa. The Committee was close to the solidarity movement,
and contributed in the mid-1960s to an understanding of the struggle against apartheid and
colonialism among the Norwegian youth.
The two main activities funded during the first years were educational institutions
in Africa (mainly secondary schools in Botswana, Lesotho and
Swaziland that catered for South African students) and scholarship programmes
administered by the IUEF.101 In the period 1964–66 the Special
Committee was closely involved with the International Refugee Council of
Zambia, of which Cato Aall served as secretary. The activities of IRCOZ was
mainly in favour of refugees from Zimbabwe. A limited number of South
African students in Norway benefited from the funds made available
through the Special Committee.102
As referred to above, there was little direct involvement with the activities
administered by the liberation movements themselves. The only major
exception is the single case of channelling two grants to the Mozambique
Institute in Dar es Salaam in 1969 and 1971 (see below). This was however
mainly a matter of procedure, since the grant was given by the Parliament in
addition to the regular budget of the Committee and earmarked for this
purpose. The first direct grant from the Committee itself to a liberation
movement seems to be a small amount of NOK 10,000 to a UNITA seminar
in 1970.103 In 1972, the Committee paid the expenses of an ANC delegation
visiting Oslo, led by Oliver Tambo. The Committee was presented with an
ANC Vocational Training Programme for South African refugees in Tanzania
and Zambia, but nothing came out of the visit.104 With the addition of
scholarship programmes, vocational training and other activities administered
by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the pattern set in the first
years was to endure through the whole life span of the Committee. There
was also a high degree of continuity in the composition of the Committee,
with Sigurd Halvorsen of the Norwegian Refugee Council serving as the
only chairman. In 1965 Lauritz Johnson replaced Cato Aall as a representative
of the already defunct Norwegian South Africa Committee, while the
University of Oslo was represented by Bjarne Waaler (1963–67), Torkel
Opsahl (1967–74) and Asbjørn Eide (1974–82).
101 A major part of the support to education institutions in Africa, such as Ephesus House in
Swaziland, was also channelled through IUEF.
102 Among the South African students were Isaac Mgemane, Zanele Sidzumo Mokgoatsane
and Maxwell Mlonyeni.
103 This decision originated from Øystein Opdahl, and was accepted by the three members outside
normal procedure. UNITA was at the time the only Angolan movement which was not
recognised by the OAU. Several UNITA leaders, among them Jonas Savimbi, Jorge Valentim
and Jorge Sangumba, are known to have had close links to the International Student Conference/
IUEF while Øystein Opdahl was Secretary General in the early 1960s. At that time they
belonged to the UPA/FNLA, which was affiliated to the ISC. Øystein Opdahl introduced Jorge
Valentim to the Scandinavian countries, and in 1968 IUEF assisted Jonas Savimbi in returning to
Angola. The UNITA/IUEF/Swedish connections are discussed in Tor Sellström, op.cit.,
pp. 196–398. See also the interview with Jorge Valentim in Tor Sellström (ed.), op. cit., p. 35.
104 A member of the ANC delegation, Martin Legassick, was invited for dinner at the residence
of the Crown Prince of Norway—the present King Harald—with whom he had made friends
during their student days in Oxford.
In 1971 the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Norwegian Parliament expressed
the view that a closer Ministry of Foreign Affairs involvement was
needed in the work of the Special Committee. From 1970 the Ministry had
an observer at all Committee meetings, and in 1972 the secretariat of the
Committee was moved to the Ministry. The secretary appointed from within
the regular staff of the Ministry made the preparations for the committee
meetings, including the presentation of the applications and the preliminary
assessments. (As from 1973 NORAD was also represented by an observer.)
This coincided with a growing scepticism in all the Scandinavian countries
concerning the role of the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF), as
expressed at common Nordic meetings discussing aid to refugees and liberation
movements. While it was recognised that the organisation had unquestionable
competence in the field of scholarships, the highly ambitious
move into new avenues (competing with ILO, UNDP, FAO and other development
agencies) was met with mounting resistance among the Scandinavian
aid agencies.105
Under the new administrative regime, the budget at the disposal of the
Committee increased from NOK 1.6 million in 1970 to NOK 3.5 million in
1975. At the same time, a significant degree of Nordic co-ordination was institutionalised
through regular meetings and exchange of reports. A system
of “framework agreements” with UNHCR and IEUF was also developed, although
individual project proposals still had to be worked out and presented
for consideration. In 1975 out a total budget of NOK 3.5 million each
of the two organisations had approximately NOK 1.4 million at their disposal.
After the “take-over” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian
Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH)—with close
links to the solidarity movements—was also accepted as a channel of funds
to Southern Africa, albeit at a modest level. SAIH had for many years been
involved in fund-raising activities and campaigns to raise the awareness of
the liberation struggle. It also had a long-standing working relationship with
Swaneng Hill School in Botswana, led by Patrick van Rensburg. Apart from
channelling a grant of NOK 170,000 from the Special Committee to Swaneng
Hill School in 1972, to be followed up in the following years, SAIH also received
smaller amounts to be distributed to organisations inside South
Africa itself: South African Students Organisation (SASO), Black People’s
Convention (BPC), Black Allied Workers Union (BAWU), all linked in one
way or another to the black consciousness tendency within the liberation
struggle. Through SAIH the Special Committee also gave a small amount of
NOK 60,000 to the SWAPO farm in Zambia. An application for NOK 120,000
105 Bjørnar Utheim, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 February 1975 (“Report from visit to
for an ANC Research Centre in Dar es Salaam was, however, turned down
by the Committee.
Following a decision by the Parliament to give direct assistance to the
development activities of FRELIMO, MPLA and PAIGC in 1973 (see below),
one could perhaps have expected the Special Committee to develop closer
links with the other movements in the region, in particular the ANC of
South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia. In 1975 it was agreed to set aside
NOK 300,000 for scholarships to SWAPO students, to be channelled through
the Lutheran World Federation, but the Committee did not receive the required
information. The same amount was, therefore, transferred to the recently
established UN Institute for Namibia (UNIN) in Lusaka. Direct links
to the ANC were never developed, except for a small grant of NOK 100,000
in 1975 for educational activities of the Luthuli Memorial Fund of South
Africa. The Fund was set up by the National Executive Committee of the
ANC in Addis Ababa in the late 1960s, and had already received financial
contributions from Sweden and Finland. In an information leaflet enclosing
the application to the Special Committee, it was emphasised “… that the
humanitarian aid programmes of the Fund are directly related to the liberation
struggle of our people. … Consequently, support for these programmes
is support for our freedom struggle”.106
The Special Committee more or less followed the established procedures
and priorities in its remaining years until 1982, when assistance to refugees
was integrated into the regular activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The annual grants had increased from NOK 4 millions in 1976 to 9 million in
1982. At this stage, the assistance given to refugees through the Special
Committee was much less controversial and much easier to handle than the
substantial support given directly to the liberation movements, and the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs saw no reason why a separate administrative and
decision-making structure should be maintained.
FRELIMO, Eduardo Mondlane and the Mozambique Institute: 1965–71
In her thesis on Norwegian-South African relations in the 1960s and 1970s,
Ragnhild Narum convincingly argues that the years 1963/64, when Norway
was a member of the UN Security Council, were followed by a “re-active”
period in which far less interest in the South African issue was expressed by
the Norwegian government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.107 To a
large extent, this also goes for the solidarity movements. The campaign for
sanctions was running out of steam with the negative vote in the Norwegian
Parliament in 1963/64, and the liberation struggle in South Africa itself entered
a dark period after the outlawing of PAC and ANC and the crushing
106 Luthuli Memorial Fund Appeal, p. 1. It should be noted that one half of the grant was for a
kindergarten project inside South Africa itself.
107 Narum, op.cit., ch. 5: “Passive years”.
of the opposition. Within the anti-imperialist sections of the youth of Norway,
the focus clearly shifted to other areas: Latin America, Indochina and
the Middle East. Unlike in many other Western countries, the Vietnam solidarity
movement was never allowed to completely overshadow the involvement
with the struggle in Southern Africa. Likewise, the fact that the
Norwegian Council for Southern Africa was mainly based on member organisations
instead of individual members, also served to keep it intact as a
broad, non-sectarian movement at a time when other progressive organisations
in the early 1970s were more or less taken over by activists associated
with a “marxist-leninist-maoist” line.
The only part of Southern Africa that succeeded in attracting a substantial
degree of attention was the Portuguese colonies: Angola, Mozambique
and Guinea-Bissau. The liberation movements themselves could claim a not
insignificant success on the ground, and the involvement of the NATO and
EFTA countries as backers of Portuguese colonialism understandably caught
the attention of many Norwegians. In the second half of the 1960s,
FRELIMO of Mozambique—under the able leadership of Eduardo Mondlane—
came to symbolise the struggle against racism, colonialism and social
injustice. As we shall see, the modest financial support given to the Mozambique
Institute was an important step along the road to a more extended cooperation
with the liberation movements in the 1970s. The case of FRELIMO
also illustrates the fact that the relations between the Norwegian government
and the liberation movements—without exception—were initiated by
the movements themselves, often acting in close co-operation with the Norwegian
anti-apartheid and solidarity organisations. The traditionally conservative
diplomats, whether based in Norway or in Portugal/South Africa,
showed—at best—little interest. In many cases the liberation movements
were met with outright hostility.
The first visit of Eduardo Mondlane to Norway took place in September
1965 as part of a Scandinavian tour sponsored by the World Assembly of
Youth. He had been elected President of FRELIMO at the inaugurating
congress in 1962, and also enjoyed an international reputation on the basis of
his academic merits as a university anthropologist in the United States and
as a UN official working for the Trusteeship Council. Although FRELIMO
was established in 1962, and the armed struggle was launched two years
later in the Cabo Delgado province bordering Tanzania, it is fair to describe
the struggles in the Portuguese colonies as “the unknown wars” as far as the
Norwegian public opinion was concerned in the mid-sixties.108 During his
brief stay in Norway in 1965, however, Eduardo Mondlane met with representatives
for youth organisations, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the
Crisis Fund for Southern Africa and the Council for Ecumenical and Inter-
108 Tore Linné Eriksen: “Glemmer vi de portugisiske koloniene?”, Arbeiderbladet, 24 March
national Relations of the Norwegian Church (Mellomkirkelig Råd). He was
also received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a rather junior level. The
fact that Mondlane was president of FRELIMO seemed to be unknown in
the Ministry. In the report written after his visit, it is stated that it was not
clear which position he held in the movement, but that it seemed as if he
was in charge of external affairs and “did a lot of travelling”.109 The
FRELIMO president also appeared on television and gave several interviews
to the national press. In contrast to the visit to Sweden, however, he was neither
received by cabinet members nor invited to lecture at the universities.
(The visit coincided with the final days of the Norwegian election campaign,
which led to a change in government from the Labour Party to a coalition of
the four “non-socialist” parties.)
According to the press reports, the FRELIMO president was far from
impressed by the Norwegian stand on Portuguese colonialism, which he
suspected was a consequence of Norway and Portugal being members of the
same military alliance. At the same time, it was emphasised that the membership
of NATO gave Norway an opportunity to raise the issue from
within the military alliance. Responding to the unavoidable question as to
the sources of their military equipment, Mondlane made it clear that he welcomed
support from all quarters: “We prefer West European arms, since our
soldiers then can use the bullets confiscated from the Portuguese”.110
Through the visit of Eduardo Mondlane, the Norwegian authorities as
well as the general public were also informed about the recent advances on
the battlefield and the need for material support for the education and
health projects inside Mozambique as well as in neighbouring Tanzania.
(“When the country is liberated after three to four years, we will have
enough skilled manpower to take over the administration”.)111 The more
specific needs in the field of education and health services were also presented
to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with special emphasis on the
Mozambique Institute in Dar es Salaam, which was headed by Janet Mondlane.
However, when the Portuguese Ambassador to Norway later approached
the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ascertain whether
the FRELIMO president had asked for assistance, the answer was negative.
Two years later, in October 1967, the next visit by Mondlane attracted
much wider attention. This may be seen as a reflection of a mounting soli-
109 Memo from a meeting with Eduardo Mondlane, written by Kaare Sandegren, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, 10 September 1965. According to the report, Mondlane “made a very favourable
110 Aftenposten, 9 September 1965.
111 Dagbladet, 6 September 1965.
112 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Einar Ansteensen, 13 September 1965. The Portuguese
Ambassador also deplored the fact that a representative of a “terrorist” movement, backed by
China, had been received by the Ministry.
darity campaign in Norway, which, of course, was not unrelated to a more
general radicalisation among youth organisations. Afrika Dialog, which was
the magazine published by the Norwegian Action against Apartheid
(NAMA) had also recently released a special issue on the Portuguese
colonies and the complacency of the Norwegian government, as witnessed
by the abstention in the UN General Assembly when a resolution condemning
Portugal and calling for an arms embargo and economic sanctions was
adopted during the 1966 session. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had bluntly
refused to answer questions—in writing—put to him by the NAMA magazine,
and had also made it clear that he did not want to instruct his Secretary
of State or any high-ranking civil servants to grant interviews.113
This time the president of FRELIMO was invited to address a public
meeting, which attracted an audience of more than 200 on a Saturday
evening. It was organised by an ad hoc committee—Møte med den tredje verden
(Encounter with the Third World)—which consisted of fifteen political
and cultural youth organisations, supported by the Trade Union Council of
Oslo. The committee was set up for the occasion, with the chairperson of the
Norwegian Action against Apartheid—Lars Alldén—as the prime mover
(see chapter 6). The address was followed by a panel discussion, with
prominent journalists, researchers and solidarity activists serving on the
panel. Several MPs were invited to take part, but the only one to accept was
Finn Gustavsen, Socialist People’s Party. Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, Frithjof Jacobsen (Conservative Party), declined an invitation, without
stating any reason.114 During his brief visit to Oslo, the FRELIMO president
also addressed the annual conference of the Socialist Youth League, the
youth organisation of the Socialist People’s Party.
The FRELIMO president was once more received at the level of civil
servants at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.115 According to the report, he
particularly raised the issue of material support to the activities of the
Mozambique Institute in Dar es Salaam, which at the time was already receiving
support from Sweden, Denmark and Finland.116 The request for assistance
was also one of the main points made in the address to the public
meeting the same evening, in which detailed information about the role of
the primary schools in the context of an economic and social transformation
113 Letter from Kjell Colding, the Secretariat of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, 8 April 1967.
114 Letter from Frithjof Jacobsen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 August 1965.
115 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 13 October 1967. See also the extensive report of the Eduardo Mondlane
address, written by Sverre Bergh-Johansen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 October 1967.
116 The Institute had, for instance, received SEK 150,000 from the Swedish “refugee million” in
1965. In the 1965–68 period, SEK 1,7 million had been disbursed. The early Sweden-FRELIMO
relations are covered in detail by Tor Sellström, op.cit., pp. 439–472. See also Iina Soiri and
Pekka Peltola: Finland and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet,
of the liberated areas was given. The need for textbooks and medicine was
also stressed when Eduardo Mondlane met with a group of Labour MPs.
As can be expected, the emphasis put by Mondlane on the links between
the Portuguese membership in NATO and its capacity to conduct wars in
three African territories, as well as the responsibility of Norway as a NATO
and EFTA member, was not favourably received by the political establishment.
Neither was his argument that Portugal was certainly encouraged in
its colonial wars by the voting patterns of Norway at the United Nations.117
The insistence of the Norwegian government that no such links existed, as
well as the general tendency to situate the liberation struggle in the Portuguese
colonies in a Cold War perspective, were recurrent themes in the
public debate. The press reports from the solidarity meeting also made the
highest ranking official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs state in a brief note
that what was reported from the address of the FRELIMO president “has
strengthened my doubts as to whether it is wise to receive representatives of
rebel movements in the Ministry”.118
In retrospect, the two visits by Eduardo Mondlane in 1965 and 1967 respectively,
must be regarded as the opening of a new chapter in the history
of the Norwegian support to the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. In
1969, the Mozambique Institute received NOK 200,000 through the Special
Committee for Support to Refugees from Southern Africa, following the example
set by Sweden four years earlier. This was the first time public funds
were granted directly to a liberation movement, although the Institute was a
separate legal entity.119 The Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament had
already in late 1967 proposed a grant to the Mozambique Institute,120 but
during 1968 the activities of the Institute was seriously affected by internal
In 1971, the Parliament made a decision to grant NOK 700,000 to the
Mozambique Institute by adding this amount to the budget of the Special
Committee. The decision was unanimous, and the recommendations from
the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs clearly indicated that the
support to the Mozambique Institute this time went beyond educational assistance
to refugees: “The committee has also noticed that the Institute has
now widened its activities to include the liberated areas of Mozambique. …
The committee assumes that the activities in the liberated areas will necessarily
be more difficult and more expensive to maintain than outside
117 Arbeiderbladet, 9 October 1967.
118 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thore Boye, 18 October 1965.
119 FRELIMO consistently maintained a critical stance towards the separation between humanitarian
assistance and the armed struggle, but taking into account the insistence by many
donors, FRELIMO had deliberately chosen to run the Institute’s education and health activities
as an independent unit. See interview with Janet Mondlane in Tor Sellström (ed.), op. cit.,
pp. 41–45.
120 Budsjettinnstilling S. No. 204, 1967/68.
Mozambique, and will underline the importance of Norwegian support to
the Institute being upheld and of the aid being increased under the changed
conditions”.121 The actual transfer was delayed for a year due to the internal
problems affecting FRELIMO in the aftermath of the assassination of
Eduardo Mondlane in early 1969. (These problems did, however, not restrict
the Swedish and Danish government from resuming their financial support
to the Institute in 1971.) During a visit by Janet Mondlane to Oslo in March
1972, the decision was made that the procurement of goods to be supplied
should be handled by the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa.
Lisbon–1971: A lonely voice in Nato?122
According to the standard academic texts on the history of the post-war
Norwegian foreign policies, a recurrent theme in the 1950s and 1960s was
the conflict between the UN principles of decolonisation on the one hand
and the expression of solidarity with Norway’s partners in NATO on the
other.123 In the 1950s, these conflicting interests came to the surface as a result
of the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria, while the US war
against the peoples of Indochina and the Portuguese colonial wars in Africa
were among the most contentious issues during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Apart from being partners in NATO from 1949, Norway and Portugal were
also both founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
in 1960. Since the principles of the UN Charter were frequently referred to as
a cornerstone in Norwegian foreign policies, the flagrant Portuguese rejection
of the 1960 UN Declaration on Decolonisation was met with sharp criticism
and outright condemnation from most Norwegian political parties.
In the United Nations itself, the Afro-Asian countries came to constitute
a majority of the members as a result of the decolonisation process. Following
the uprising and the Portuguese massacres in Angola in 1961, “the Portuguese
question” (as it was often euphemistically called) formed an important
part of the UN agenda, and resolutions calling for African independence
and strong measures to be taken to force Portugal to stop its colonial
wars were introduced to every single General Assembly. With some modifications,
the Norwegian position did not substantially change during the
1960s. Norwegian governments, irrespective of their political colours, did
not accept resolutions that called for economic sanctions, which were regarded
to run contrary to the principles of EFTA membership. Norway,
121 Innstilling S.20, 20 October 1971. See also the debate in Parliament 2 November 1971
(Stortingsforhandlingene, 2 November 1971, pp. 586–588.
122 Apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, this section is largely based on Jan E.
Grøndahl, Portugal-saken. Norge og Portugals kolonipolitikk 1961–1974. Thesis, Department of History,
University of Oslo, 1997.
123 Knut Einar Eriksen/Helge Øystein Pharo: Kald krig og internasjonalisering 1945–1965. Norsk
utenrikspolitikks historie, bind 5. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1997.
therefore, routinely abstained when the Afro-Asian countries introduced
resolutions at the UN that were passed with a large majority.124 It was also
totally unacceptable to a Norwegian government to support resolutions that
implied a NATO responsibility for the colonial wars or called for a military
embargo. From a Norwegian point of view, it was important to block any
measures that could make it difficult for Portugal to secure the necessary
equipment for the country to fulfil its obligations within the NATO collective
security framework. A change took place in 1968, when the Permanent
Mission of Norway to the UN decided to vote in favour of a Afro-Asian
draft resolution in order not to part from the other Nordic countries and
Canada. (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, on the other hand, had
originally found it “very unfortunate” to give its support to the resolution.)
During the 1960s, neither the Labour Party government nor the Conservative/
Centre coalition (1965–71) raised the Portuguese colonial issue at
NATO or EFTA council meetings, and it was officially stated on many occasions
that the UN was the only appropriate forum. The change of policy at
the official level did not take place until the beginning of the 1970s. In his
thesis on “The Portugal question 1960–1974”, Grøndahl is especially concerned
with the way in which this “move to the left”, especially among the
youth, in the end also came to be reflected within the Labour Party while in
opposition from 1965 to 1971. Seen in this perspective, which is also shared
by other recent studies of Norwegian foreign policies in the same period, the
shift towards a more hostile attitude to the regime in Lisbon was consistent
with a more strongly pronounced anti-colonial and anti-imperialist opinion
(Vietnam) and a mounting criticism of NATO partners on issues involving
democracy and human rights (Turkey, Greece).126 The question of the Portuguese
colonial wars combined the two issues. A detailed investigation of
the deliberations at the Labour party annual conferences and the minutes of
the Party Committee on international affairs, also reveals that the more
“conservative” sections of the Labour Party were increasingly worried that
the Portuguese colonial policy would increasingly become a liability to the
alliance, and that the frequent attacks on Portugal in the Norwegian mass
media might weaken the support enjoyed by the NATO alliance as such. It is
also reasonable to assume that the Labour Party wanted to attract younger
and more radical voters after losing the general elections in 1969.127 The
124 Portugal did not expect active support from countries like Norway for its colonial wars.
But, as it was put by Foreign Minister Franco Nogueira to his friend the Norwegian
Ambassador (Reusch): “We do not ask for your support, but we ask for your passivity”. Quoted
in Grøndahl, op.cit., p. 17.
125 Grøndahl, op.cit., pp. 36–37.
126 The standard text is Rolf Tamnes: Oljealder, 1965–1995. Norsk utenrikspolitikks historie, bind 6.
Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1997.
127 Grøndahl, op.cit., pp. 156–160.
need for reformulating the party position, therefore, was inspired by moral
challenges as well as by more opportunistic reasoning.
The breakthrough for a more “activist” position took place in 1970/71.
During the general debate on Norwegian foreign policy in Parliament in late
autumn 1970, prominent spokesmen from the Labour party urged the Conservative
Foreign Minister (John Lyng) to raise the issue of the colonial wars
in NATO and EFTA. In late 1970 the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Norwegian
Parliament unanimously adopted the same position.128 This debate
coincided with a visit to Norway by the FRELIMO leader, Joaquim
Chissano, who publicly criticised the Norwegian position at the UN.129 Before
the Parliament debated the issue in a plenary session on 22 April 1971, a
split in the conservative coalition over the European Common Market issue
led to a change in government. The Labour party urge for a more radical line
to be taken by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs within NATO and
EFTA was then accepted by all parties in Parliament, and had now to be followed
up in practice by the incoming Labour party government itself.
The first occasion was to be the NATO Ministerial Council meeting in
early June 1971, which—incidentally—was held in Lisbon. The Norwegian
decision to take this opportunity to appeal to the Portuguese government to
change its colonial policies, was—to put it mildly—met with little understanding
among the other NATO partners. Apart from differing opinions
held on the matter, the Norwegian intervention was widely regarded within
the alliance as a hostile act and an insult to the host nation. In order to soften
the reactions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made bilateral contacts with all
major NATO partners before the meeting to explain its position more fully.
Apart from underlining the universal principle of the right of all peoples to
self-determination, a major point in these talks was the need for the Norwegian
Foreign Minister to voice his opinion in order to show the Norwegian
public that being a member of NATO did not preclude the right to hold independent
positions. It was also reiterated that the colonial wars could jeopardise
the support for NATO in Norway as well as damage the standing of
the Western powers in the Third World in general.130
At the Lisbon Ministerial Council meeting, the Norwegian Foreign Minister,
Andreas Cappelen, ended his general intervention by asking the Portuguese
government “to reconsider its colonial policies”. Since this did not
come as a surprise to the other NATO partners, it was hardly commented
upon by other speakers. The speech was, however, given broad coverage by
the Norwegian mass media. Internationally, especially among the Afro-
128 Innstilling S. 126 (1970/71), 24 November 1970.
129 “To abstain from voting over resolutions against the colonial policies of Portugal is equivalent
to casting one’s vote for Portugal. All talk of formalities to excuse one’s vote cannot help
us”, Arbeiderbladet, 18 November 1970.
130 Grøndahl, op.cit., pp. 66–72.
Asian countries, the speech was hailed as a most courageous action. As we
will see below, a high-level OAU delegation visiting the Nordic countries in
the following autumn expressed its gratitude to the Norwegian government.
Seen in retrospect, the Norwegian effort to influence its major NATO
partners can hardly be described as a success. In the Kissinger/US National
Security Council Memorandum on Southern Africa (January 1970), it was
argued that the whites were destined to stay and that access to Angolan and
Mozambican ports was important in the name of “global realism” and US
strategic interests.131 In a recent study of the decolonisation process it is
maintained that from 1970 until the collapse of the Lisbon regime in April
1974 the United States aided the Portuguese colonial war by the supply of
aircraft, ammunition and defoliants and with the training of troops in
counter-insurgency techniques in US army camps in the Panama Canal
Zone. It is also concluded that “Western pressure on Portugal in the last
decade of the empire was most sustained among those with least leverage,
most notably Sweden and other Nordic countries. Those with greater potential
influence in Lisbon showed no obvious inclination to use it over
Support for national and social popular movements: The making of a principle
As we have observed, government funds had since 1963 been made available
for refugees from Southern Africa, later to be followed by funds for
legal assistance to the victims of apartheid. These activities were, however,
undertaken outside the aid budgets and outside the regular channels for
development co-operation. This was also the case when NOK 200,000 was
given to the Mozambique Institute in 1969. We have also seen that the calls
for humanitarian assistance and direct aid to the liberation movements were
made by the solidarity organisations around 1967/68. The debate was triggered
off by the visits of Eduardo Mondlane and other prominent representatives
of the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies, and was in
the beginning mainly expressed through the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa. In the autumn of 1968, Norway—together with Sweden and
Denmark—voted in the UN General Assembly for a resolution which called
on all member states to give assistance to the liberation movements in the
Portuguese colonies.133
131 The National Security Study Memorandum 39 was later published as The Kissinger Study on
Southern Africa. Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1975.
132 Norrie MacQueen: The Decolonisation of Portuguese Africa. Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution
of Empire. London: Longman, 1997, p. 55.
133 General Assembly Resolution 2395 (XXIII),“Question of Territories under Portuguese
administration”. A resolution to the same effect was passed by the General Assembly in 1969:
General Assembly Resolution 2507 (XXIV). The Norwegian position is explained in Stortingsmelding
nr. 27 (1969–70), pp. 108–11).
White Papers—known in Norway as Parliamentary Reports (Stortingsmeldinger)—
are instruments used by the government to introduce changes in
the principles guiding major policy areas. In the field of development assistance,
the Parliamentary Reports presented to the Parliament in the 1960s
were both formulated before the issues of development assistance to—or
channelled through—liberation movements had been raised. At the turn of
the decade, however, mounting pressure for aid to liberation movements
combined with administrative needs for effective guidelines served to put
the question firmly on the political agenda. The first opportunity emerged
when the Council of the Norwegian Agency for International Development
(NORAD) in 1969 was asked to prepare an extensive statement on the principles
guiding Norwegian aid policies. The process has been recorded in
great detail and analysed by Olav Stokke, who himself played a prominent
role as a member of the draft committee.134 The final statement, which was
passed after a heated debate on 13 April 1970, did to some extent reflect the
radicalisation of thinking about Third World issues and development assistance
which had taken place since the mid-1960s. The principles outlined by
the NORAD council have generally had a profound impact on Norwegian
aid policies, but what is important for our purpose is the fact that the statement
includes the following section: “The council is (… also) of the opinion
that support given to educational measures, etc. for citizens from countries
that have not yet gained their independence, or refugees from other countries,
must be given a flexible and workable form. The council maintains that
Norway ought to give active support to such measures, as has earlier been
done in the case of Norwegian support to FRELIMO’s Mozambique Institute
in Tanzania”.135 This paragraph was unanimously accepted. Although the
recipients for such assistance are defined as citizens and refugees, the
explicit reference to the Mozambique Institute clearly gives an opening for
aid to be channelled through liberation movements.
In addition, a more controversial paragraph (carried by a majority of 8
to 5) states that “formal demands (… that as a main principle aid must go to
a public authority in the receiver country) must not prevent Norway, as a
part of its development policy, from giving support to projects launched by
large popular organisations and movements working for national and social
liberation”. Since this paragraph did not specify that these popular movements
were restricted to countries which had not achieved independence, it
could be interpreted as favouring support to the development activities of
134 Olav Stokke: “Utviklingsbistand og frigjøringsbevegelser”, Internasjonal Politikk, no. 4, 1970.
Olav Stokke, who has written extensively on Norwegian aid policies in the capacity of Senior
Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, was as the time a member
of the NORAD Council. The other members of the Draft Committee were Finn Moe (Labour
MP), Sissel Rønbeck (chairperson of the Norwegian Labour Youth-AUF) and Rolf Roem Nielsen
(The Federation of Industrial Employers).
135 Ibid., p. 400.
movements involved in a struggle against their own governments. The
minority members of the Council regarded this as a contravention of the
principle of non-interference, a principle that however did not prohibit support
to liberation movements in non-independent nations.
The increased support for the principle of giving aid directly to the
liberation movements was also expressed through left-wing representatives
of the Labour Party while in opposition after the 1969 elections. Arne Kielland
(Labour MP) raised the issue in the Parliament on 19 June 1970 as well
as in several newspaper articles.136 In the period 1969–73, in which the
Socialist People’s Party was without any seat in Parliament, the Norwegian
Council of Southern Africa could always count on Arne Kielland. Apart
from promoting the interests of the liberation movements and the Norwegian
anti-apartheid public opinion, he also took part in the delegation of the
Council to the Rome 1970 Conference on support to the liberation movements
in the Portuguese colonies.137
In August 1970, the statement by the NORAD Council was discussed by
the NORAD Board of Directors, which noted—rightly so—that it contained
certain new principles, in passu support to social and national liberation
movements. Since it was not a prerogative of NORAD to decide on the main
principles for Norwegian assistance, the Board emphasised that changes had
to be made by the Parliament, following proposals for new guidelines formulated
by the Government.
The ball was now firmly set in motion, and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs soon started its preparations for a report to the Parliament. In the
Parliamentary Report no. 30 (1970–71)—Certain questions of a principle nature
related to Norway’s development aid—the Centre/Conservative coalition government
in principle accepted the recommendations of the NORAD Council,
but deliberately chose a quite narrow interpretation by restricting the assistance
to “humanitarian aid”.138 In other words, regular development assistance
directly to the liberation movements in control of liberated areas was
rejected. The Parliamentary Report was never discussed by the Parliament
until the incoming Labour Party government introduced another Report: On
certain key topics relevant to Norway’s co-operation with the developing countries—
Report no. 29 (1971–72).139 The new White Paper addressed itself to
several important issues, such as the selection of the main recipients of
Norwegian assistance (“partners in development”), the role to be played by
the private enterprise sector, the choice of different forms of assistance
(multilateral vs. bilateral aid) etc. While all these issues had also been dis-
136 “Frigjøringsorganisasjoner”, Arbeiderbladet, 10 July 1970.
137After the European Community referendum in 1972, Arne Kielland “crossed the floor” to
join the Socialist People’s Party, and was in 1973 elected MP for the Socialist Left Party.
138 Parliamentary Report no. 30 (1970–71), pp. 4–5.
139 The report was translated into English and published by NORAD, Oslo, 1973.
cussed at earlier stages in the development of Norwegian aid policies, the
questions related to the support for national and social popular movements
were for the first time brought up in a Parliamentary Report. The extensive
discussion of this new principle was deemed to be necessary by the Labour
party minority government in order to anchor the decision in a broad consensus.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, therefore, took as its point of departure
a wide range of resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly and
the Security Council. Particular emphasis was put on the General Assembly
Resolution 1514, which was unanimously adopted in 1960. (There were,
however, nine abstentions, among them South Africa, Portugal, France,
United Kingdom and the United States of America.) Containing the Declaration
on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, this resolution
lays down that the subjection of peoples to alien domination constitutes
an infringement of human rights, is in conflict with the UN Charter
and impedes the development of peace and co-operation in the world. The
“Decolonisation Declaration” also requires that immediate steps should be
taken to transfer all powers—without any conditions or reservations—to the
peoples in the areas in question.
The basis for the recommendation to make available “both humanitarian
and other forms of financial assistance to the peoples in dependent areas
struggling to achieve national liberation”, is also found in the General
Assembly resolutions urging member countries to provide moral and material
support for the peoples and the liberation movements. It is, furthermore,
emphasised that the UN, as well as the individual UN member countries,
has a special responsibility with regard to the situation in the remaining Portuguese
colonies, Rhodesia and Namibia. The fact was also mentioned that
Norway at the UN 24th General Assembly in 1969 had voted in favour of a
resolution which contained an appeal to the member countries “to increase
their moral support and material assistance to the people in the territories
under Portuguese domination who are struggling for their freedom and independence”.
Similar resolutions on Namibia had also been supported following
the decision by the UN in 1966 to revoke South Africa’s mandate and
to transfer direct responsibility for the administration of the area to the
United Nations. With regard to the illegal Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia,
Norway had both adhered to the Security Council mandatory sanctions and
supported resolutions urging member states to give material and moral
support to the liberation movements.
Since no references were made to the Republic of South Africa, the country
was obviously not included in the category of “dependent areas”. This
was later assumed to be the main reason why assistance to the ANC was not
introduced until 1977 (see chapter 3). This is in marked contrast to the 1969
principles guiding Swedish assistance to the liberation movements, which
had included assistance to “the victims of the policy of apartheid, stating
that such support could inter alia be motivated by the explicit condemnation
by the United Nations of South Africa’s policy”.140
Calling attention to the strict rules guiding the export of Norwegian
arms and military equipment, the Parliamentary Report also confirmed the
principle that support by way of arms or financing of armed warfare was
excluded from any Norwegian assistance. It was, at the same time, made
clear that no requests to this effect had been received from the liberation
movements in question.
With regard to projects initiated by liberation movements outside their
own countries’ borders, with the consent of the host country and primarily
intended for refugees, the Parliamentary Report stated that such support
had already been given to refugees from Southern Africa through the relevant
UN institutions as well as through the Special Committee for Aid to
Refugees from Southern Africa. Following the recommendations passed by
the NORAD Council, a special reference was also made to the aid which had
already been given to FRELIMO’s Mozambique Institute in Tanzania.
According to the Government, the question of channelling humanitarian aid
to national and social popular movements in dependent areas should,
therefore, not be regarded as a new principle: “It must be seen as a normal
internationally accepted duty for the world outside, on a humanitarian
basis, to give various forms of help if the aim is to ameliorate need and
human suffering. Humanitarian aid to national and social popular movements
is in keeping with the general view expressed on the part of Norway
in recent years in relation to the development of international humanitarian
rules of law. … In the light of this, it seems clear that aid for humanitarian
ends (in the widest sense), such as medicine, health care, clothing, food,
educational measures etc., is in accordance with our UN obligations and our
view of the principles of humanitarian assistance”.141 A reference is also
made to the initiative taken on a former occasion by Norway in the UN and
in the International Red Cross with the aim of ensuring that humanitarian
aid should be extended to civilian populations experiencing need and suffering
as a result of war, internal conflict and natural catastrophes. This initiative
was later carried further in the UN. As to the question of other forms of
economic assistance than strictly humanitarian aid and support for refugees,
it is argued that there is no clear division between development assistance
and humanitarian aid: “Whether the aid has a short-term emergency aid objective
or a more long-term objective aimed at promoting development, this
cannot be said to make any difference to the fundamentals of the case”.142
140 See Statement no. 82/1969 by the Appropriations Committee of the Swedish Parliament,
pp. 23–24.
141 Parliamentary Report no. 29 (1971–72), op.cit., p. 25.
142 Ibid., p. 25.
As regards the question of whether assistance should be given directly to
the liberation movements’ own institutions or through multilateral channels
(for instance the UN or the OAU), the government was of the opinion that
this must be deliberated in each separate instance. While UN programmes
are primarily intended to cover refugees from the territories in question, the
liberation movements themselves had requested assistance for social and
humanitarian programmes in the liberated parts of their territories. For
practical reasons—and to avoid aid being used for other ends than what was
intended—it was argued for assistance in kind (food, clothing, medicine,
and educational material). This did not, however, mean that the Government
wanted to exclude more direct development aid where organised
administrative authority was exercised.
As to the choice between several areas and “possibly also between several
liberation movements”, the most suitable course would, according to
the Report, be to base the choice on organisations which were recognised by
the OAU. This question had already been cleared with an OAU delegation
visiting Norway in the autumn of 1971 (see below).
Before Report no. 29 was debated in Parliament a new change in government
took place, as Prime Minister Trygve Bratteli had announced that
he would resign if a majority voted against Norway entering the European
Community in the referendum in September 1972. A new minority government
was formed, consisting of the Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the
Christian People’s Party. The new government accepted the Report of its
predecessor as the basis for the discussion in the Parliament on the future
guidelines for development assistance.
The normal procedure is for a Parliamentary report from the government
to be subjected to an extensive discussion in the Foreign Affairs Committee
of the Parliament, which then presents a recommendation to be debated
by a plenary session. Thus, the Recommendation to Parliament No. 135
for 1972–1973 is to be regarded as an authoritative document.143 While the
members of the Committee were split according to party lines on several
issues—such as the long-term target for aid budgets, a unanimous Committee
gave support to the idea of extending assistance to “popular movements
operating in dependent areas struggling for national liberation”. With reference
to the grant to FRELIMO’s Mozambique Institute, the Committee as a
whole expressed its wish “that this form of support should be continued and
expanded, where there is sufficient justification, e.g. in recommendations
from competent UN agencies, as was so in the case in question”. While confirming
the principle that support cannot be given in the form or arms, or
the financing of armed struggle, it is maintained that these provisions are no
obstacles to support being given on humanitarian grounds to the population
143 This document is translated into English: Recommendation from the Foreign Affairs and
Constitutional Committee on certain key topics relevant to Norway’s co-operation with the developing
in countries or areas under any foreign administration. It was further stated
that “The Committee feels that assistance of this kind has the backing of
large sections of the Norwegian population”. The Committee also recognised
that it is extremely difficult to draw up more definite lines of policy for
Norwegian aid, when it comes to direct support to national popular movements.
Such assistance must, therefore, largely be based on actual case-bycase
appraisals. “A prerequisite is that some form of organised administrative
authority must be exercised in the liberated area and that this authority
should seem stable, be capable of upholding law and order and able to assist
in the implementation of the projects”.
While forming part of a broad consensus, the three Committee members
representing the Conservative Party also included a separate paragraph on
the issue of liberation movements in their more general minority observations.
It was underlined that a necessary condition for assisting the population
in areas under foreign administration was that it was in accordance
with international law. While stating that “much could be said for channelling
aid via the UN, the Red Cross and the Norwegian Church Relief
(AID)”, the Conservative MPs were also open for providing aid through
movements working for national and social liberation. “This must be restricted,
however, to humanitarian relief, aid to refugees and aid within the
sectors of education and social welfare. By means of special scrutiny
arrangements, Norway must see that this aid is used for the purposes for
which it is intended. The said members attach paramount importance to relief
being made available in answer to the need for aid, and not according to
political criteria”.144
The positions held by the parties in the Foreign Affairs Committee were
confirmed during the debate in Parliament on 8 February 1973. The two
parties not represented in the Committee—the Liberal Party and the Socialist
People’s Party—were both strong proponents of the idea of supporting
the liberation movements. When the government two months later presented
its general long-term programme, outlining the main political principles
guiding its activities for the coming four years, development assistance
to the liberation movements occupied a prominent position. The new principle
for development assistance even figured in the introduction as one of a
few selected “political pillars”.145
The new guidelines for assisting the liberation movements were at the
time hailed as “a radical renewal in the Norwegian policy of development
144 Ibid., p. 63. In spite of these reservations, the Norwegian Conservative Party departed from
its Swedish sister party, which at the time asserted in the Standing Committee of Foreign
Affairs that “… to actively support revolutionary movements (…) is not in agreement with
international legal principles nor with the Swedish policy of neutrality”. The statement is
quoted in Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
145 Parliamentary Report no. 71 (1972–73), Ministry of Finance, p. 3.
aid and its general foreign policy in relation to developing countries”.146
While the liberation movements’ demand for independence had been
recognised long ago, the launching of the armed struggle was a more complicated
issue for the Norwegian public opinion. The move from humanitarian
assistance through the UN and the Special Committee for Refugees to
supporting economic and social activities inside the liberated areas, might be
seen a further step towards a firm commitment to the liberation struggle.
The new guidelines have also been characterised as being “tailor-made” for
the Portuguese colonies.147 This commitment by the government and the
Parliament to assist liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies was
also a far cry from the position held by the Norwegian ambassador to
Lisbon, which was very close to the corporate nationalism and the imperial
celebrations of the Estado Novo. In reports to the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was consistently reported
that “the terrorists” did not have any support from the local population, that
there was no such thing as a liberation struggle or a rebellion, and that no
signs of oppression or discrimination could be found in the “overseas
provinces” of Portugal.148 That the UN Charter on decolonisation had confirmed
that “all peoples have their right to self-determination” seemed to be
of no concern to the ambassador.
The UN/OAU conference in Oslo in April 1973: A watershed
The OAU initiative
During a goodwill mission to the Nordic countries in October 1971, a highlevel
delegation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)—headed by
President Ould Daddah of Mauretania—expressed their general appreciation
for Norwegian support in the UN on issues relating to decolonisation
146 Olav Stokke (1973), op.cit., p. 55.
147 Jon Bech: Norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika. Oslo: Norsk Utenrikspolitisk
Institutt, 1978, p. 10. (Forum for Utviklingsstudier, nr. 10, 1978).
148 See for instance an extensive memo of 6 April 1971 from the Norwegian Embassy in Lisbon,
in which the Ambassador (J. Finne-Grønn) surveys the recent history of the “overseas
provinces” from the first “outburst of terrorism” in 1961 to the recent UN resolutions. It is difficult
to imagine how an official propaganda pamphlet produced by the fascist regime itself
would have treated the subject in a different manner. (The leader of MPLA, Dr. Agostinho Neto
is described as a traditional healer (“medisinmann”). The memorandum concludes that “the
real difficulty which faces the Portuguese is not the ‘terrorists’ or the ‘liberation movements’.
Neither is it the dissatisfaction of the African population in Angola or Mozambique. There is no
‘suppression’ of the native population, who are not the object of any form of discrimination, nor
is there any form of rebellion. The difficulty is the official attitude common to the countries of
the Western world, whose publicity media support the abolition of European rule over other
races. The ‘war’ has gone on for ten years without the attackers having made any progress. Portugal
is prepared to continue its defence not only in the ten coming years, but for as long as is
necessary. For the Portuguese the defence of their provinces in Africa has become part of their
everyday burden. In spite of this, quick progress is being made, both in continental Portugal as
well as in the areas overseas”. See also his enthusiastic report on the visit by President Caetano
to the African colonies (29 April 1969).
and apartheid. In particular, the delegation noted with thanks the Norwegian
stand against Portugal’s colonial policies, as expressed during the 1971
NATO summit in Lisbon. Norway was also asked to increase its pressure on
the NATO partners supplying arms to Portugal, as these supplies—according
to the OAU delegation—made it possible to free other weapons for use
in the colonies. Similarly, the hope was also expressed that Norway would
urge the United Kingdom to remain firm on the Rhodesia issue. It was also
highly appreciated that Norway intended to increase its humanitarian support
and other forms of economic assistance to the African liberation movements.
Three months before the OAU visit to Oslo took place, the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs had—via its UN Mission—received a request
from the OAU to host a World Conference for Support of Victims of
Apartheid and Colonialism in Southern Africa. The initiative had been taken
by President Kenneth Kaunda in early 1970, and then supported by the
OAU Summit later in the same year. The main purpose of the conference
was to formulate a programme of action to hasten the process of decolonisation
and the abolishment of apartheid in Southern Africa, with a special
emphasis on co-ordinated and effective assistance to the liberation movements.
The focus on liberation movements clearly reflected the need for a
new strategy since Western resistance had made comprehensive sanctions
an unrealistic option. African countries were also anxious that world opinion
should not forget Southern Africa. In order to inform Europeans about
the situation in Southern Africa, and to raise awareness of colonialism and
apartheid as a moral problem for the whole of mankind, the decision was
made to hold the conference in Europe. It seems as if Sweden was the first
choice for such a conference, but OAU was told that Sweden was already
busy preparing for the UN Environmental Conference in 1972, and that
Norway would probably be a better idea.150
The OAU request of 21 July 1971 had not been formally answered when
the visit to Oslo took place, although the Permanent Mission to the UN had
noted in a report that “it seems difficult to say no to Norway’s being the host
country, since in the OAU, expectations have already been created for holding
the conference in Oslo”.151 During the meeting with the OAU delegation,
the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs—Andreas Cappelen—restricted
himself to asking for further information about the purpose and
149 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2. Pol. Div., 10 October 1971 (“Utenriksminister Cappelens
samtaler med delegasjonen fra OAU”).
150 Memo from a meeting with Mahmoud Sahnoun (Deputy Secretary-General of OAU) in
Geneva 4 December 1971, written by Arne Arnesen and Tom Vraalsen.
151 Arne Arnesen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Ketil Børde at the Permanent Mission of Norway
to the UN Delegation, 8 October 1971. The memo also states that “the reality of the matter
is that we can hardly avoid hosting the conference, but there can be no question of the Government
being its sponsor”.
format of the conference. There were obviously many practical and political
issues to be discussed, and it was still unclear what role Norway and the
other Nordic countries were expected to play. At this stage, the Norwegian
government and Parliament were still considering what position to take on
direct support (aid and other economic assistance) to the liberation movements,
although a grant to the Mozambique Institute had already been
In accordance with established procedure among the Nordic countries,
the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to involve the other
Nordic countries before a final decision to host the conference was made.
The issue was first raised at a Nordic joint consultation in November 1971.
At this stage no final decision had been reached, and the OAU request of
July was still unanswered. According to the presentation by the Norwegian
officials at the meeting, it was to be an OAU conference with no Norwegian
official participation in the preparations. Apart from a potential financial
contribution and providing a technical secretariat, no further involvement
was envisaged.152
Officials from all the Nordic foreign ministries discussed the issue again
in Copenhagen in late January 1972.153 According to the reports from the
meeting, neither Denmark nor Finland showed any great enthusiasm for the
whole venture. They, therefore, did not want to commit themselves to any
Nordic participation en bloc, although this was clearly assumed by the OAU.
While Norway and Sweden had already decided to take part, the decision
would be taken at a later stage in Denmark and Finland. Norway wanted
full participation by the other Nordic countries not only in the Conference
itself, but also in the work of the Organising Committee to be appointed.
The reason was, according to the Norwegian report from the Copenhagen
meeting “to get control of the preparations and to prevent the conference
from getting out of course from the start, to promote “constructive solutions”,
and to “avoid the bombastic”. A more substantial involvement in the
preparations was rejected by Denmark and Finland, and was met with great
scepticism even from Sweden. The official from the Danish Ministry of Foreign
Affairs warned that militant groups could dominate the conference,
while the Nordic countries were described as being “neither reactionary nor
Preparing for the conference
In the months following the OAU visit to Oslo, several meetings took place
between officials of the OAU (led by Mahmoud Sahnoun, Deputy Secretary-
General) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further ex-
152 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 10 November 1971 (“Referat fra Samrådingsmøte 8. November 1971”).
153 “Referat af det nordiske FN-kontorchefmøde den 25.–26. Januar 1972 i København”. Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, 25 9/12.
change of views.154 In accordance with the wishes of the Norwegian representatives,
it was finally agreed that the conference should be based on experts
in individual capacities. Norway also wanted a stronger UN involvement,
and in February 1972 the UN Association of Norway agreed to serve
as the Technical Secretariat. The major political and practical arrangements
were finalised at a meeting to coincide with the OAU Heads of State Summit
in Rabat in June 1972.155 A formal organising committee was also set up to
deal with all remaining issues, consisting of representatives from the OAU,
the UN, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the liberation
As to budget matters, it was indicated that Norway was willing to consider
covering the expenses of the participants from the liberation movements,
possibly in co-operation with other Nordic countries. OAU was expected
to cover its own costs, while the UN and other governments should
be approached for further financial contributions. In discussing the agenda
of the conference, the point was stressed by Amilcar Cabral—President of
the liberation movement of Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC)—that the conference
should concentrate on political and diplomatic issues (“la bataille diplomatique
et politique”) in addition to humanitarian assistance, while it should
be left to the individual governments to consider the issue of military support.
The fact that this position, aiming at achieving “realism” instead of
wasting time on fierce polemics, was taken by the representative of the
liberation movements obviously was received with great enthusiasm by the
Norwegian participants. Amilcar Cabral also wanted a stronger Norwegian
involvement, for instance in sending invitations, so that it would be clear
that it was more than an ordinary OAU conference. From the Norwegian
side, there was at this stage still a great reluctance to go beyond providing
the technical secretariat.
The Rabat meeting succeeded in drafting the two-fold agenda of (a)
assessing the current situation in the various fields of assistance (direct
material and humanitarian), diplomatic actions, political actions, legal
actions as well as actions vis-à-vis public opinion and (b) discussing future
actions to be taken by the UN, OAU, governments, non-governmental
organisations and liberation movements in support of victims of colonialism
and apartheid. It was also agreed that the Organising Committee should
decide on the papers and documentation to be commissioned for the conference,
and which organisations and individual experts were to be invited. It
was also confirmed that the conference should be organised as a meeting of
experts, and not as a formal conference between government representatives.
Invitations should be extended to member states of the Security Coun-
154 See reports in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives (25 9/12) from meetings held in
Geneva 4 December 1971; Oslo 14 April 1972 and Addis Ababa, 9–10 May 1972.
155 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 19 June 1972 (“OAU-konferansen i Oslo, mai 1973”).
cil, the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, the UN Special Committee
on Apartheid and the UN Council for Namibia, the Nordic countries, the
UN specialised agencies (UNESCO, WHO, FAO and ILO), members of the
OAU Liberation Committee and the nine African liberation movements recognised
by the OAU. The two representatives from each of the 65 countries
invited were expected to participate in their personal capacities as “experts”.
Among experts to be invited were also individuals associated with
organisations like the World Council of Churches, the British Anti-
Apartheid Movement, International Defence and Aid Fund, the (Holland)
Angola Committee, the UK Committee for Freedom in Mozambique,
Guinea-Bissau and Angola as well as the International University Exchange
Fund (IUEF).
As mentioned above, Norway had at an early stage of the preparations
argued that it would be highly desirable to obtain a larger measure of support
and involvement on the part of the UN. This coincided with the wish of
the OAU to assure the liberation movements a higher degree of international
legitimacy. A major step in this direction had already been taken in 1970,
when the UN General Assembly adopted a “Programme of Action for the
full implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to
Colonial Peoples and Countries”.156 The Programme of Action confirmed
“the inherent right of colonial peoples to struggle by all necessary means at
their disposal against colonial Powers which suppress their aspiration for
freedom and independence”. The same principle, with particular reference
to Southern Africa, was affirmed in the General Assembly Resolution 1287
(XXVI) in December 1971. When the UN Security Council met in Addis
Ababa in February 1972, the resolution related to the Portuguese Territories
also recognised the legitimacy of the struggle of the liberation movements in
Angola, Mozambique and Guinea (Bissau) and called on Portugal to transfer
power to political institutions freely elected and representative of the peoples.
157 In 1972, the Council for Namibia agreed to a request from the South
West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) to attend the meetings of the
Council in an observer capacity. In a resolution adopted by the General
Assembly in the same year, the Assembly noted the fact that, in consultation
with the OAU and through it, representatives of the national liberation
movements in Angola, Guinea-Bissau) and Mozambique, had been invited
to participate in an observer capacity at its considerations of these territories.
158 The Assembly also reaffirmed that national liberation movements
were the authentic representatives of the true aspirations of the peoples of
those Territories, and that all governments, the specialised agencies and
other organisations within the UN system and the UN bodies concerned
156 General Assembly Resolution 2621 (XXV), 1970.
157 Security Council Resolution 312, 1972.
158 General Assembly Resolution 2918 (XXVII), 1972.
should, when dealing with matters pertaining to the territories, ensure the
representation of these Territories by the liberation movements in an appropriate
capacity and in consultation with the OAU. Along similar lines, the
resolutions passed by the General Assembly and the Security Council relating
to Southern Africa stated that any settlement in Southern Rhodesia must
be worked out with the full participation of the genuine political leaders
representing the majority.159 While the Security Council recognised the
legitimacy of the struggle of the people of Southern Rhodesia to secure the
enjoyment of their inalienable rights to self-determination and
independence, the General Assembly resolution accordingly requested all
Governments, the specialised agencies and other organisations within the
UN system to extend all moral and material assistance to the people of
During the autumn of 1972 the conference was transformed into a
UN/OAU conference, a fact which also served to strengthen the commitment
of Norway and the other Nordic countries. While the General Assembly
previously had noted—in passing—that OAU intended to convene a
conference in Oslo, a resolution introduced by Sweden in early November
1972 requested the UN, in co-operation with the OAU, to organise the
planned UN/OAU Conference of Experts for the Support of Victims of
Colonialism and Apartheid in Southern Africa.160 Portugal and South Africa
voted against, with 7 abstentions (France, United Kingdom, United States,
Spain, Costa Rica, Brazil and Malawi).
All remaining issues were resolved during Organising Committee meetings
in New York in December 1972 and in Oslo in January 1973.161 As
representative of the liberation movements, Amilcar Cabral was expected to
take part in the organising committee meeting in Oslo, but was killed a few
days before.162 It was also confirmed that no resolutions should be adopted
at the conference, but that an agreed summary report should be presented to
the UN General Assembly 28th Session later in the year. The invitation to the
Norwegian ambassador to the UN, Ole Ålgård, to serve as the President of
the conference strengthened the direct Norwegian involvement. The choice
of Ambassador Ole Ålgård reflected the wish of the OAU to demonstrate
that the conference was of concern to the world community. From a
Norwegian point of view it was also argued that a “realistic” conference was
159 General Assembly Resolution 2945 (XXVII) and the Security Council Resolution 328, 1972.
160 General Assembly Resolution 2910 (XXVII), 1972.
161 Meeting of the Organising Committee in Oslo January 225, 1973. Agreed summary of conclusions.
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives, 25 9/12b).
162 It has later been suggested that the timing of the killing of Amilcar Cabral can be related to
the fact that he was expected to be appointed President of the conference. (Information from
Abdul Minty, Pretoria 16 July 1998.)
more likely to result if Norway was in a position to influence the deliberations
of the conference through the presidency.163
As the host nation of the Conference, Norway strongly appealed to all
permanent members of the Security Council to attend. This turned out to be
an uphill struggle, since in the end the United States, United Kingdom and
France declined the invitation. Apart from abstaining when the resolution
on the conference was passed by the UN General Assembly, the US had also
recently withdrawn from the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation.
During meetings with US diplomats in Oslo, New York and Washington,
representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued
strongly that the presence of all Security Council members would “create the
necessary balance”, and that it might be useful for the US to attend in order
to make sure that unfounded accusations and misrepresentation of the
United States position should not be left unanswered.164 When the US
chargé d’affaires in Oslo expressed his opinion that “it was hardly desirable
that a NATO country should in this way be put on trial within another
NATO country’s territory”, he was reminded that the proposal to convene
an expert conference was deliberately put forward by Norway in order to
create “an atmosphere that was sane and reasonable, and make it easier for a
country like the USA to take part”.165
When the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed about
the final decision not to attend, the reasons stated by US diplomats in Oslo
were that the conference as then planned would adopt unacceptable reports
and recommendations, be contentious and duplicative of UN proceedings
and give new impetus to unacceptable status for liberation movements in
the international community and be an unhealthy precedent for the UN to
sponsor one-sided discussion”. The last point referred to the fact that neither
South Africa nor Portugal had been invited to send “experts”.166 However,
the chairperson of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Sub-
Committee on African Affairs, Charles Diggs Jr., had already been invited as
an individual expert. In his statement at the Conference, he made an explicit
reference to the US decision not to attend: “I think that it is particularly significant
that the Conference had decided that its site be in Oslo because of
the implications of our presence in a NATO country as it relates to United
States involvement with Portugal. Little wonder our mission here, among
163 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 11 January 1973.
164 Memo from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Norwegian Embassy in
Washington, 23 January 1973.
165 Transmission (“Utgående melding”) to the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, 12
January 1973.
166 Transmission (“Utgående melding”) to the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, 16
March 1973. The reference to the US position is based on “talking points” made available to the
Ministry by a US diplomat in Oslo.
other components of the American government, was opposed to this as a
The conference
While the first Norwegian involvement in the UN/OAU Conference took
place under a Labour Party Government, the three-party coalition government
of the Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the Christian People’s
Party—formed in October 1972—upheld the commitment, and made a contribution
of US 31,500 towards meeting the expenses and travel costs of the
representatives of the liberation movements. (Altogether the Nordic countries
made available US 79,500 for this purpose.) A change in government
was of less importance, since at this stage a more understanding position
vis-à-vis the liberation movements had developed inside the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. A new—and less conservative—generation of diplomats
had slowly made its impact. This was particularly noticeable among the personnel
who had taken part in the preparations for the UN/OAU Conference,
and who were also more sensitive to the Norwegian opinion and to public
debate outside the corridors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.168
Although Norway deliberately chose not to be represented by highranking
civil servants, Arne Arnesen—who now took part in the capacity of
a journalist with the social democratic Arbeiderbladet—had as a civil servant
in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs been intimately involved with the Organising
Committee.169 The other Norwegian “individual expert” was Gunnar
Stålsett, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ecumenical and International
Relations of the Norwegian Church (Mellomkirkelig Råd). Being a
prominent member of the Centre Party, he was at the time of the conference
Secretary of State for Education, Church and Culture.
The conference, which was the first OAU conference held outside the
continent of Africa, was officially opened by the Norwegian Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Dagfinn Vårvik on April 9 1973. In his opening address he
confirmed the Norwegian commitment to the liberation struggle: “The
Norwegian government by hosting the conference, wanted to express once
more its full support for the peoples of southern Africa who were struggling
for their liberation and against apartheid”.170 The first day of the conference
happened to be a day loaded with heavy symbolism in Norwegian history
167 Olav Stokke/Carl Widstrand (eds.): Southern Africa. The UN-OAU Conference, Oslo 9–14
1973. Vol. 1, Programme of Action and Conference Proceedings. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of
African Studies, 1973, p. 230.
168 Arne Arnesen, Tom Vraalsen and Ketil Børde were among the diplomats who in the 1970s
played a prominent role in forging links with the liberation movements.
169 Arne Arnesen was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Labour Party government
which took power later in the same year.
170 Olav Stokke/Carl Gösta Widstrand, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 41.
because of the German invasion on April 9 1940, a fact which was reflected
in the editorial comments in several newspapers.171
By focusing on the liberation movements and the need for humanitarian
assistance and other forms of support, the UN/OAU Conference made a
significant contribution to the struggle against apartheid and colonialism.
This is reflected in the two-volume report—Southern Africa. The UN-OAU
Conference—that gave prominence to the points put forward by the representatives
of the liberation movements.172 The change of focus initiated by
the Oslo conference was aptly summed up by Abdul Minty of the British
Anti-Apartheid Movement in his paper: “Almost since its inception the
United Nations has been concerned with the problem of apartheid and white
domination. Over the years the subject has been discussed and debated
repeatedly and more resolutions have been drafted and adopted on this
question than on any other single issue. Initially the resolutions concentrated
on making calls and appeals to the white rulers to heed international public
opinion and abandon the policy of apartheid: only to be rejected by the
Pretoria regime. Later, with more African States joining the United Nations
they began to demand international boycott action against the apartheid State
and all its institutions, and more recently there are trends towards recognising
the legitimacy of the African liberation struggle and providing international
political and material support for it”.173
Based on this understanding of the new stage in the struggle, several
speakers expressed their reservations that the title of the conference should
describe it as being in support of the “victims of colonialism and apartheid”,
while support for those struggling against colonialism and apartheid would
have been more appropriate. As argued by Baldwin Sjollema, World Council
of Churches: “First, should we speak about ‘support to victims of
apartheid and colonialism’ as the title of this conference reads? Haven’t we
finally passed that stage? Are we not here with the representatives of the
liberation movements and those who are already responsible de facto for the
well-being of millions of people in liberated territories?”174 The same point
was made by Oliver Tambo, who stated in his address that “we should rise
above the relationship of victims and supporters and combine at a new level
of joint action against a common foe”.175 In reality, however, the conference
171 According to the Christian daily Vårt Land “some African countries were still occupied, and
the task of Norway should therefore be to contribute to the liberation of Southern Africa—
partly by supporting the liberation movements and partly by making it clear to the present
rulers that they sooner or later have to lose” Vårt Land, 9 April 1973.
172 Olav Stokke/Carl Widstrand (eds.): Southern Africa. The UN-OAU Conference, Oslo 9–14 April
1973, Vol. 1: Programme of Action and Conference Proceedings; Vol. 2: Papers and Documents.
Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1973.
173 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 9.
174 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 235–236.
175 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 14.
emphasised and generally accepted the paramount role of the liberation
struggle, while all forms of collaboration with the apartheid regime, the
Portuguese colonial government and the illegal regime of Ian Smith in
Southern Rhodesia were vehemently denounced. This development of the
conference led to the following concluding remarks by Herbert Chitepo of
the Zimbabwe African National Union: “When the meeting started, there
was some apprehension among some that the Conference would not succeed.
In the liberation movements, we feared that a meeting sponsored by
the United Nations, an organisation committed to the search for peaceful
solutions of international disputes, might underplay or endeavour to shift us
from our commitment to armed struggle. To us in the liberation movements,
one of the cardinal successes of this Conference has been its acceptance of
the inevitability of armed struggle and its support for that struggle”.176
Several background papers by the liberation movements in Mozambique,
Angola and Guinea-Bissau brought to the conference information
about their recent military advances, the organisation of liberated areas and
need for development assistance for projects within the fields of education,
health and agriculture. FRELIMO claimed to have liberated more than onefourth
of the country in the years following the launching of the armed
struggle in 1964, and thus carried the responsibility for catering to the needs
of one million people, in addition to the educational programmes set up in
the neighbouring country of Tanzania. Representatives of the OAU Liberation
Committee, who had recently visited the liberated areas, testified that
FRELIMO enjoyed the full support and confidence of the people in the liberated
areas. This was also confirmed by Lord Gifford in his address to the
Conference, based on his travelling around for two weeks inside Tete
While thousands of Africans in the 1960s had to flee their home countries
because of persecution or in search of education, the concept of
“liberated zones” in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau later obliged
the liberation movements to provide food, salt, soap, cloth etc., to establish
health and educational services and to have to arrange for the growing of
crops as well as for economic and social development in general. In addition
to presenting these needs to the international community, many speakers
also stressed that “support to development programmes in liberated territory
is only possible because of the armed struggle which preceded the liberation
of an area”.178
The Oslo Conference also gave a voice to the liberation movements from
other territories than the Portuguese colonies. Several papers, reports and
interventions by representatives from the ANC and the PAC told the story
176 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 69.
177 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 89–96.
178 Baldwin Sjollema, World Council of Churches, ibid., vol. 1, pp. 235–236.
of mounting black resistance inside South Africa itself, such as a storm of
student protests and industrial strikes bringing Durban to a near standstill
in early 1973.179 Many speakers deplored the fact that the impression was
often given that the apartheid regime was unshakeable and would remain so
forever. In his address to the conference, the ANC president Oliver Tambo
argued that “We have suffered from a feeling that because South Africa is so
powerful, we should wait until all the enemies around South Africa have
been eliminated. In the meantime South Africa is using precisely that period
of waiting to consolidate its internal position to build up their armaments …
consolidate its position in Namibia etc.180
Another significant feature of the conference was the attention devoted
to the activities and impact of the non-governmental organisations in North
America and Western Europe. Several speakers and papers highlighted the
seminal role of the solidarity movements and support groups in disseminating
information, raising funds, collecting food, clothing and medicine as
well as establishing contacts between the liberation movements and
prospective donors. It was also noted that in countries whose Governments
provided assistance to the liberation movements, the work of support
groups appeared to have encouraged increases in amounts of aid. Among
the groups and international organisations represented at the Conference
were International Defence and Aid Fund (Canon L. John Collins), the
British Anti-Apartheid Movement (Abdul Minty), International Exchange
University Fund (Lars-Gunnar Eriksson), World Council of Churches/
Program to Combat Racism (Baldwin Sjollema), The Dutch Angola Committee
(Sietse Bosgra) and the UK Committee for Freedom in Mozambique,
Guinea-Bissau and Angola (Lord Gifford).181 A conference in 1974 was also
proposed in order for the anti-apartheid and other similar groups to discuss
public action in Western Europe and North America.182
Representatives of the non-governmental organisations were among the
most vocal critics of the role played by the Western powers as the major
trading partners of South Africa and suppliers of arms to Portugal. The
point was also often made that some Western powers were violating the UN
179 Among the ANC participants was Chris Hani, later to become Commander of Umkhonto
we Sizwe and Secretary-General of the South African Communist Party. He was, however, not
registered under his real name, but appeared as Zenzile Msethu. See Vladimir Shubin: ANC: A
view from Moscow. Cape Town: Mayibuye Publishers, 1999 and Tor Sellström, op.cit., Vol. II.
180 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 145.
181 Conspicuously lacking from this list is the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa, which as
the leading solidarity organisation of the host country was not officially involved with the conference
at any stage.
182 Abdul Minty in Stokke/Widstrand, op.cit., vol. 2, p. 16. No such conference was held, but a
seminar hosted by IUEF and the Norwegian National Union of Students was held in Oslo 24
February–2 March 1974. The purpose of the seminar, which was directed by Mahmoud
Sahnoun, was to improve the planning and co-ordination of assistance to the liberation movements.
arm embargo, which was considered to be the most far-reaching decision of
the Security Council on the question of apartheid. Non-governmental organisations
were also asked to publicise the activities of companies involved in
southern Africa and organise public campaigns for their withdrawal.
(75) Action should be taken by all United Nations bodies, the organisations of the United
Nations system, the specialised agencies and other international organisations to ensure
full representation and participation by liberation movements as the authentic representatives
of their peoples and countries.
(76) All Governments and organisations should deal directly with the liberation movements
recognised by the Organisation of African Unity on all questions concerning their
(78) The right of the peoples of southern Africa to strive for their liberation by all appropriate
means, including armed struggle against the oppression and brutality of the colonial
and racist regimes, should be fully recognised and supported.
(90) The struggle for the people of southern Africa for freedom and independence is a
legitimate struggle, and the international community has a duty to provide moral and
material assistance to the liberation movements recognised by the Organisation of
African Unity.
(92) The colonial and racist regimes could not have continued to defy United Nations
resolutions and world opinion but for the attitude of some Governments allied to them,
which prevent effective international action and assist these regimes. Foreign economic
interests, in their exploitation of the resources of southern Africa, continue to assist these
regimes and profit from the oppression of the African peoples. It is, therefore, imperative
that African peoples of these Territories receive all necessary assistance to the liberation
movements in their just struggle, including armed struggle.
(95) There is increasing need for direct assistance to the oppressed peoples in southern
Africa and their liberation movements in order to support the movements in the conduct
of their legitimate struggle for freedom, to help in the reconstruction of the liberated areas
and to alleviate the suffering occurring in the course of their struggle.
(98) At this stage, greater moral and material assistance to the liberation movements is
among the most effective ways to secure peace in the region by hastening the completion
of the process of decolonisation and elimination of apartheid.
(99) In providing assistance to the oppressed peoples in southern Africa and their liberation
movements, it should be recognised that this is not charity but an act of solidarity
with peoples engaged in a just struggle.
(101) Governments and organisations providing assistance to liberation movements
should avoid paternalism. They should, as far as possible, provide direct assistance to the
liberation movements to be administrated by the movements themselves as the authentic
representatives of the people of these Territories.
(102) The needs of the liberation movements vary from territory to territory, depending
on the stage and the nature of the struggle. Nevertheless, increased assistance should be
provided to the liberation movements as their struggles are complementary and are all
developing further.
(103) Special reference should be made to the large-scale needs in the liberated areas for
the provision of essential supplies for the populations and for national reconstruction.
Military, medical and school supplies, food, clothing, farm implements, means of transport
and printing facilities are urgently required on a much larger scale.
The Programme of Action
As mentioned above, in working out the procedures of the conference it had
been agreed not to adopt any resolutions, but to “highlight” proposals and
recommendations in a report to be presented to the UN 28th General
Assembly for consideration. The recommendations were formulated to constitute
a Programme of Action which established that the struggle of the
peoples of Southern Africa “is entirely just and legitimate, deserving the
complete support of the world community” and that it is “the solemn duty
of international organisations, Governments and peoples to accelerate the
isolation of the colonial and apartheid regimes and channel massive assistance
to the liberation movements”.183 Apart from denouncing the colonial
and apartheid regimes as well as “the collaboration of certain Governments
and major economic interests”, the Programme of Action also contained recommendations
pertaining to diplomatic activities and implementation of
sanctions. A number of operative paragraphs also dealt explicitly with ways
and means of supporting the struggle of the liberation movements and
channelling assistance to their humanitarian and developmental activities.
All governments were also called upon to give financial support to non-governmental
action groups working for the support of liberation movements in
southern Africa.
Outside the conference hall
Although the major part of the conference was conducted behind closed
doors, the presence in Oslo of prominent leaders of the liberation movements
and a wide range of individual experts did not go unnoticed by the
mass media and the general public. Never before had the liberation movements
received such a broad—and generally sympathetic—coverage. Even if
the Norwegian solidarity movement, the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa, was not invited to officially take part in the conference, it was
actively involved in a “solidarity week” all over the country. Apart from
supporting the liberation struggle, the Council during its campaign also
focused on the responsibility of the NATO countries for the colonial wars,
the role of multinational corporations and the Norwegian trade and shipping
links with the apartheid regime. On the opening day of 9 April, a wellattended
public rally was addressed by Marcelino dos Santos (FRELIMO),
Vasco Cabral (PAIGC) and Mahmoud Sahnoun (Political Secretary of the
Conference).184 Two days later the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO)
hosted a conference on the South African military machine, addressed inter
183 The Programme of Action is published in extenso in Stokke/Widstrand, op. cit., vol. 1,
pp. 17–39.
184 The rally was met with a counter-demonstration by a handful of members of the neo-fascist
National Youth League, handing out leaflets proclaiming “solidarity with our white kinsmen in
Southern Africa”, Nationen, 10 April 1974.
alia by Abdul Minty. Together with other public meetings and exhibitions,
the activities of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa were highly
instrumental in bridging the gap between the expert conference and the
wider Norwegian public. This was reflected in the reports from the conference
published in the United Nations Secretariat News: “The Conference
appeared to be supported by all segments of Norwegian society. The young
people of Oslo organised a multi-media exhibition and held seminars and
lectures on the liberation struggle in southern Africa at the University.
Labour groups also organised discussions on southern Africa at which liberation
leaders were invited to speak. (The Conference itself was held in the
Trade Union Hall.) There were daily programmes on Norwegian television
and radio relating to the themes of the Conference. The press coverage of the
Conference was outstanding—almost 300 representatives from the mass
media attended the Conference. The liberation movement leaders were in
constant demand for interviews and speaking engagements and are truly
popular figures in the Scandinavian countries. One evening during the
Conference, a mass demonstration in support of the liberation movements
took place that was also attended by many participants from the Conference.
A movie theatre in Oslo devoted a week to showing films relating to the
plight of the oppressed peoples in southern Africa. The prestigious Nobel
Institute also held a panel discussion on southern Africa. These activities
were not limited to Oslo, as lectures, films and manifestations of solidarity
were held in other Norwegian towns including Trondheim and Tromsø”.185
The conference was well covered by the Norwegian mass media, since
this was the first major UN conference to be held in Oslo. Generally, the conference
was regarded as a breakthrough for the legitimisation of the liberation
movements in the eyes of the Western public opinion. The editorial
comments, however, largely reflected the political position of the newspapers.
On the far right, the Morgenbladet vehemently condemned the conference
for being a propaganda show directed against NATO, while the conservative
Aftenposten expressed its sympathy with the US decision not to
attend. In a less than enthusiastic editorial Aftenposten warned against “the
danger of the conference ending as a propaganda show, which in the long
run will not serve the interests of the worthy cause”. The editorial of Aftenposten
also deplored the fact that Portugal and South Africa were not present
to defend themselves, and criticised the conference for not discussing
racial discrimination in other parts of Africa” (Uganda/Burundi). In a similar
vein, Verdens Gang emphasised that it was important for the host country
to avoid “a politicising assembly”, as if the liberation of Southern Africa was
a technical issue to be solved by objective experts. On the other hand, Christian,
liberal and social democratic newspapers fully supported the aim of the
conference. Based on a cursory reading of the national press, it is impossible
185 United Nations Secretariat News, 31 May 1973, p. 6.
not to conclude that a growing understanding of the liberation struggle—in
all its manifestations—evolved during the conference week. Even if the
belief in peaceful solutions and UN negotiations is an important part of the
Norwegian official credo, it was increasingly realised that these alternatives
were blocked by the colonial and racist regimes. This political understanding
undoubtedly improved the basis in Norway for an increased material
support for the liberation movements in the years to come. A growing consensus
in the host country itself seemed to be fully expressed—although in a
cautious and diplomatic way—by Ambassador Ole Ålgård in his concluding
address: “A peaceful solution to the problems of southern Africa would be
in the true interests of all concerned. Because of the intransigent policies of
the oppressive minority regimes, the peoples in southern Africa have been
compelled to take up arms in their struggle for liberation. Taking this into
consideration it has been emphasised that humanitarian, material and economic
assistance to liberation movements must be based on the clear understanding
of and moral support for the cause for which they are fighting”.186
After the conference
At the OAU Council Meeting 17–23 May 1973 in Addis Ababa, the recommendations
of the Oslo Conference were endorsed as “constructive and important
contributions in the struggle for the liberation of the Territories
under colonial and racist domination”.187 It was also noted with satisfaction
that representatives of the liberation movements participated on an equal
footing with the OAU and UN member states. The OAU Council further
“expressed its profound appreciation and gratitude to the Governments of
the Scandinavian countries and in particular to the Government of Norway
for hosting the conference and creating the necessary conditions conducive
to the successful outcome of its deliberations”.
The importance of the Oslo Conference was also emphasised by several
speakers when the UN “Special Committee of 24” met on 13 June 1973. The
FRELIMO representative, Jorge Rebelo, expressed his appreciation for the
role that was played by the Nordic countries: “There is nothing strange in
this—as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have been consistently
supporting our struggle. But we consider that the new approach they are
taking—now supporting us politically and not only on a humanitarian basis
is an important development”.188 In his statement, Jorge Rebelo also pointed
to the fact that the conference was not just a talking shop, “but a working
meeting from which concrete programmes of action emerged, which if fully
186 Stokke/Widstrand, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 73
187 OAU CM/Res. 304. Resolution on the Oslo International Conference in Support of Victims
of Colonialism and Apartheid.
188 Statement by Mr. Jorge Rebelo (FRELIMO) at the 915th meeting of the Special Committee of
24, on 13 June 1973.
and properly implemented will provide the liberation movements with the
means for their fight and the total isolation of Portugal”.
In its assessment of the conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasised
the contributions made by the representatives of the liberation
movements in achieving a “realistic attitude”, resulting in a conference that
had been “less propagandistic than often was the case in the context of the
UN”.189 In preparing for the UN General Assembly, it was however evident
that the Programme of Action adopted by the conference contained several
important points which were regarded by the Nordic governments as being
totally unacceptable.190 Among them were formulations that could imply
that NATO as an organisation supported the colonial wars. It was also clear
that the Nordic countries still did not want to be fully associated with the
armed struggle, and that they could not go along with the formulation that
“support should be given to the liberation movements … to enable them to
carry out their armed struggle”. They also maintained that all questions relating
to sanctions were to be left to the Security Council. The question of the
participation of the liberation movements as observers in the UN was still an
intricate one. During the 27th Assembly (1972), the Nordic countries had
abstained on the vote concerning the status of the liberation movements,
while a large majority voted to allow them the status of observers on questions
relating to Southern Africa. To grant the liberation movements “full
diplomatic recognition”, as called for in the Programme of Action, went far
beyond what was regarded as acceptable, although the question of observer
status in the 4th Committee and the right to speak in other committees and
during plenary sessions on an ad hoc basis was to be considered. On the
other hand, it was obvious that the Nordic countries after the Oslo Conference
wanted a more flexible position than at previous General Assemblies,
and that they therefore were open to compromises acceptable to the African
member states.
The joint Nordic strategy, which eventually was to succeed, was to
avoid a detailed discussion of the Programme of Action in the General
Assembly. The preferred alternative was to support a resolution restricting
itself to “take note of” the UN/OAU Programme of Action, in the same vein
as the Lusaka Manifesto was treated by the UN General Assembly in 1969.
The more contentious issues—as seen from a Nordic point of view—would
then be left to the more concrete resolutions relating to Portuguese territories,
Southern Rhodesia and South Africa later in the 28th Assembly. Bearing
in mind the high expectations from the African countries and the special responsibility
Norway carried as host nation, it was of utmost importance to
189 Memo, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 June 1973.
190 Transmission (“Utgående melding”) from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the
Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, 10 July 1973. 1010 5D. See also Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 16
August 1973.
avoid a resolution which the delegation could not support, or—alternatively—
which compelled Norway to make substantial reservations in explanation
of the vote it cast. It was also deemed to be in the “pragmatic and
realistic” spirit of the Oslo conference itself to adopt a resolution with wide
In late September the OAU presented a draft resolution, which was
immediately met by strong objections from the Nordic countries. Through
extensive and private consultations with the African states involved, Norway
presented an alternative operating paragraph, restricting itself to
“commending the Programme of Action highlighted by the Conference to
the attention of UN organs, the organisations within the UN system and the
OAU, as well as of Governments, NGO’s and the public.” If this was
accepted, Norway indicated its willingness—together with other Nordic
countries—to sponsor the resolution.191 The final outcome was to be a resolution
with these exact formulations in the operative paragraph, and the
resolution concerned with the UN/OAU conference was accordingly introduced
to the General Assembly by Ole Ålgård on behalf of Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. A confrontation
was avoided, and the resolution was passed against the lonely
votes of South Africa and Portugal.
Towards the end of the Portuguese empire (1972–75)
The first steps: Guinea-Bissau
Apart from the two modest grants to FRELIMO’s Mozambique Institute in
Dar es Salaam (see above), it was the increasingly close links with the
PAIGC—the liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau—which paved the way
for official assistance to the liberation movements. PAIGC was the all dominant
movement, and—in marked contrast to Angola and Mozambique—the
situation was not complicated by any significant settler dimension. Before he
was assassinated in January 1973, Amilcar Cabral had as President of
PAIGC developed cordial relations to Norwegian—as well as other
Nordic—politicians and diplomats. This was particularly the case during the
preparations for the UN/OAU Conference in Oslo.192
As was often the case, the ground had been prepared by the Swedish
grants to PAIGC and the experience gained by Sweden in assisting the edu-
191 Memo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN,
28 September 1973.
192 In 1972 Amilcar Cabral was invited to address the UN General Assembly on behalf of the
liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies, but declined the offer when he was told that
the Nordic ambassadors were “very unhappy”. According to Salim Ahmed Salim, who at the
time was chairman of the UN Decolonisation Committee, Amilcar Cabral did not want to embarrass
the Nordic countries. See interview with Salim in Tor Sellström (ed.), op.cit, pp. 244–
cation and health services of the liberation movement since 1969.193 The
major part of the funds raised by Operation Day’s Work in 1971 and 1972
was also channelled through PAIGC, mainly for the payment of textbooks
printed in Sweden. This annual campaign among secondary school students
was instrumental in raising funds as well as the awareness of large sections
of the Norwegian youth, following in the footsteps of similar campaigns in
Sweden and Finland.194 The Operation Day’s Work formed part of the activities
of the Norwegian Association for Secondary Schools Students (NGS),
which was supported by all political youth organisations. During the campaign
all Norwegian secondary school students were granted a day off from
school in order to work in companies, public institutions etc., and were also
involved in an International Week focusing on education for development
and general North/South issues. In 1971 and 1972 the campaign managed to
raise NOK 1. 25 million for MPLA, FRELIMO and PAIGC.195 In conjunction
with the campaign, prominent representatives of the liberation movements—
among them Armando Panguene and Janet Mondlane from
FRELIMO—toured Norwegian secondary schools and gave press interviews
in local newspapers.196 (Janet Mondlane later described the Operation Day’s
work in the Nordic countries as an exercise in “moral education”.)197 The
campaign was also an important channel for disseminating information
about the liberation struggle through pamphlets and magazines. The Norwegian
edition of The Struggle for Mozambique, written by Eduardo Mondlane
and published after his death, also contributed to a deeper understanding
of the struggle against Portuguese colonialism.198
The decision to campaign for the liberation movements was a highly
controversial one, although the point was repeatedly made that the funds
collected were earmarked for humanitarian assistance and activities within
the fields of education and health. Several Norwegian newspapers—among
them Verdens Gang—opened their pages for conservative attacks on the
193 Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa, Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
194 The fund-raising campaign in Finland, which mainly focused on Mozambique, is treated in
great detail in Iina Soiri/Pekka Peltola, op.cit., pp. 34–43.
195 Stokke/Widstrand, op.cit., vol. 2, p. 40. The major part—NOK 800,000—went to PAIGC.
196 See for instance an extensive interview with Armando Panguene in Vårt Land, 15 October
197 Interview with the present author, Oslo, 18 October 1997. See also interviews with Janet
Mondlane in Tor Sellström (ed.), op. cit., pp. 41–45 and in Iina Sori/Pekka Peltola, op. cit.
pp. 198–205. Interestingly, this popular support through OD took place at a time when the
official aid to the Mozambique Institute was suspended.
198 Kampen for Mocambique, Oslo, Gyldendal, 1970. The Norwegian edition contained an introduction
by Tore Linné Eriksen urging the readers to contribute to the FRELIMO fund-raising
campaign run by the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa.
Operation Day’s Work (OD).199 In Bærum, a county outside Oslo, the students
split away from the central campaign and concentrated their efforts on
raising funds for the Mozambique Institute, since the Institute was formally
regarded as an independent institution and thus more acceptable for a conservative
The PAIGC representative to the Scandinavian countries, Onésimo
Silveira, frequently paid visits to Norway, and developed cordial relations
with the Norwegian Council for Africa as well as with Labour Party politicians.
The writings of Amilcar Cabral were easily available in Swedish and
English in the early 1970s, and were widely read among solidarity activists
involved in the campaign for the liberation movements. A selection of
Cabral’s articles and speeches was also translated into Norwegian in 1973.200
Serving as the representative of the liberation movements in the preparatory
committee of the UN/OAU Conference until his tragic death in January
1973, Amilcar Cabral had also impressed the civil servants of the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The PAIGC representative to the Scandinavian countries also extended
an invitation to a Norwegian journalist specialising on African issues, Johan
Thorud, who was then able to visit liberated areas of Guinea-Bissau in late
1971 together with two Swedish journalists (Jean Hermansson and Anders
Ehnmark). His extensive reports were published in Arbeiderbladet (the main
organ of the Labour Party), and later formed the basis for his book Geriljasamfunnet.
201 Johan Thorud also presented a report to the NORAD administration,
and served in a working group appointed by the Labour Party to
recommend future policies with regard to the liberation movements. It is
difficult to overestimate the importance of the writings (and lobbying activities)
of Johan Thorud, who, after all, was the only Norwegian to visit the
liberated areas of Guinea-Bissau and who was able to reach a wide audience
through newspapers, books and radio/television interviews. In 1973 he also
visited the liberated areas in northern Mozambique. As a former solidarity
activist and a leading spokesperson of the Norwegian Action against
Apartheid (NAMA) and the Crisis Fund for Southern Africa (Krisefondet),
Johan Thorud was also in close touch with the Norwegian Council for
Southern Africa after the two organisations joined forces in 1967.
The first application for a grant to PAIGC , to be used for food, clothing
and medical equipment, had been presented to the Ministry of Foreign
199 Verdens Gang, 17 September 1971.
200 Frigjøringskamp i teori og praksis, Oslo: NOVUS, 1973. Selection, translation and introduction
by Johan Thorud. See also Tore Linné Eriksen: “Amilcar Cabral og Guinea-Bissau: En
frigjøringsleder og en utviklingsmodell”, Kirke og Kultur, no. 2, 1973:86–98.
201 Johan Thorud: Geriljasamfunnet. Guinea-Bissaus kamp mot Portugal. Oslo: Tiden, 1972.
Affairs as early as March 1970.202 At this time, the liberation movement had
already been given assistance from the Swedish government, amounting to
SEK 1 million in 1969. No formal response was given until the Labour Party
replaced the Centre/Conservative government in April 1971. Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs, Thorvald Stoltenberg, then indicated his positive
attitude at a more general level, but it took another year before the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs proposed a grant of NOK 1 million. From the archival
sources it seems as if the planned visit by Onésimo Silveira to Oslo on March
16 1972 was the triggering factor, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted
to break the good news when the PAIGC representative was received by the
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Anticipating the outcome of the
general debate in the Norwegian Parliament on support to the liberation
movements, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had in February 1972 worked
out the general rules guiding future Norwegian aid co-operation. Based on
these guidelines, the Ministry easily accepted the PAIGC proposals for
health and education projects inside liberated areas in Guinea-Bissau as well
as in the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Senegal. After consultation
with the PAIGC Office in Conakry, it was later decided to earmark the first
Norwegian grant for food supplies and five ambulances. A high-level
NORAD delegation visited the PAIGC headquarters in Conakry in October
1972, and was also able to visit hospitals and schools close to the border to
Guinea-Bissau.203 The delegation was led by Eskild Jensen, who praised the
liberation movement and its capacity for handling assistance in his final
report as well as in newspaper interviews. (“Of all the organisations and
institutions I have been in contact with, there are none that have made such
an immediately positive impression on me as the liberation movement
For 1973, the amount of aid channelled to PAIGC was increased from
NOK 1 million to 1.5 million, and the co-operation with the liberation
movement was further developed at the political and administrative level.
In May 1973 a Norwegian delegation again visited the PAIGC headquarters
in Conakry. Among the members of the delegation was Tor Oftedal, Labour
MP and a prominent party spokesperson on international affairs. The
NORAD programme officer in charge of the assistance to PAIGC, Helge
Svendsen, later wrote an enthusiastic report for the NORAD magazine, out-
202 Letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Onésimo Silveira 6 March 1970.
As often was the case, the visit of the PAIGC representative to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
was followed by another visit by the Portuguese Ambassador, who wanted to know at what
level the PAIGC representative had been received, the response given to his request for
humanitarian assistance etc. (Memo from Kjeld Vibe, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March
203 Rapport fra besøk til PAIGC i Guinea-Bissau 2–6 oktober 1972. NORAD, Eskild Jensen, 18 October
204 Interview with Eskild Jensen, Arbeiderbladet, 11 November 1972.
lining the history of PAIGC, the current stage of the struggle and the very
impressive achievements in the field of education and health services.205
The regularisation of a special relationship
Following the Parliamentary Report (no. 29 1971–72) concerning North/
South-policies, in which the Labour Party government proposed to make
assistance to liberation movements a regular feature of Norwegian aid,
which was later adopted by the Parliament in February 1973, a new budget
line was initiated. For 1973 the Parliament set aside NOK 5 million to the
liberation movements in Southern Africa (Guinea-Bissau included), leaving
to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the task of dividing the total amount
between the liberation movements. The fact that the day-to-day administration
of the assistance was moved from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to
NORAD, reflects the entering of a new phase of development co-operation. An
early decision was made to allocate NOK 1.5 million to each of the three
movements struggling against Portuguese rule, and which—in one way or
another—had already received Norwegian assistance in 1972: FRELIMO,
PAIGC and MPLA. A smaller part of the grant of 5 million was also used for
covering the costs of inviting delegations from the liberation movements to
take part in the OAU/UN Conference in Oslo in April 1973. SWAPO of
Namibia and ZAPU/ZANU of Zimbabwe were supposed to share the remaining
400,000, but in the end, not more than 200,000 was set aside for this
purpose. ANC of South Africa was not expected to receive any aid at all
through this new budget post, which was to be used for movements in territories
not yet independent.
Of the total grant of NOK 5 million for 1973, not more than 2 million
was eventually spent according to the guidelines. While PAIGC was able to
fully utilise its grant, which was largely based on the priorities already
accepted in 1972, the task of agreeing on procedures and conducting negotiations
with FRELIMO and MPLA turned out to be so complicated, bureaucratic
(from all sides!) and time-consuming that very little money was actually
spent before the end of the year. (FRELIMO did not receive a single
cent, while the recorded disbursement to MPLA amounted to NOK
280,000.)206 Since the administrative procedures did not allow for transferring
the grants to the liberation movements from one year to another, a
substantial amount was thus actually lost. This obviously came as a shock to
the movements, which had been under the impression that the grants could
be spent in 1974.
For 1974, the budget proposals agreed upon were only marginally increased
to NOK 6.5 million. Later in the year, however, the Labour party
205 NOR-KONTAKT, no. 3, 1973.
206 Bech, op.cit., p. 10.
government (which came to power following the September 1973 elections),
presented a revised budget which increased the total amount available for
the liberation movements to NOK 12 million.207 While all practical matters
were to be taken care of by the NORAD administration, the power to decide
on the allocations still rested with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For 1974
the decision was made to allocate NOK 5 million to PAIGC and FRELIMO
respectively, NOK 1.25 million to MPLA, 300,000 to SWAPO and 100,000 to
each of the two Zimbabwean liberation movements (ZANU and ZAPU). If
the grants made available to refugees from Southern Africa—through UN
Funds and the Special Committee—are added, the total amount for 1974 was
in the range of NOK 16.5 million. As we will see below, with the exception
of the blocking of the grant to MPLA, the assistance set aside for 1974 was
largely spent according to the plans.
For 1975, the direct aid to the liberation movements was further increased
to NOK 15 million. The increase was largely to benefit FRELIMO
(NOK 7 million), as against 5 million to PAIGC, 1.5 million to MPLA and 1.5
million to be divided between SWAPO and the African National Council of
Zimbabwe, which was supposed to serve as an umbrella organisation for aid
which had previously been channelled to ZAPU and ZANU respectively
(see chapter 4). In addition, NOK 3 million was set aside for UNHCR Programmes
for repatriating refugees from Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.208
As we will see below, the funds allocated to MPLA for 1974 were withheld
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The actual funds disbursed to SWAPO
and the liberation movements of Zimbabwe were also less than originally
planned for.
After several difficult years which were characterised by defections and
political rivalries following the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane,
FRELIMO was consolidated in 1970 as a unified movement and was able to
extend its military struggle and political activities into the more heavily
populated provinces of Tete, Manica and Sofala.209 The Portuguese propaganda
efforts in the aftermath of the Kavandame defection in 1969 met with
considerable success in the Western press, including the Norwegian news-
207 Stortingsproposisjon nr. 1, tillegg 6 (1973–74). After a visit to Conakry, Lusaka and Dar es
Salaam in March 1974, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Arne Arnesen) wanted to add
another NOK 3 million—which had been “lost” in 1973—to cater for the documented needs of
the liberation movements. (See his memo to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, 29 March 1974). In
the end, however, the Ministry decided against his proposal.
208 This amount was taken from the special budget vote for international humanitarian assistance,
Ch. 198.
209 The development of the liberation struggle is outlined in David Birmingham: Frontline
Nationalism in Angola and Mozambique. London: James Currey, 1991 and Allan Isaacman/
Barbara Isaacman: Mozambique: From Colonialism to Revolution. Boulder, CO: Westview Press,
paper Aftenposten.210 Exercising control over extensive areas, FRELIMO was
also involved in building a new society in the liberated zones. A
“development plan” for the liberated zones had been drafted in 1970, and in
Norway was presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa.211 In 1970 the Mozambique Institute was again
functioning, and could present prospective donors with wide-ranging plans
for increased activities within the field of education (Dar es Salaam and
Bagamoyo), training of nurses and other health personnel (Dr. Américo
Boavide Hospital in Mtwara) and the administration of refugee settlements
(Tunduru).212 Under the directorship of Janet Mondlane, who was a frequent
and popular visitor to the Nordic countries, the Mozambique Institute
in practice was to serve as an aid co-ordination unit for FRELIMO.213 The
fact that it was situated in Dar es Salaam, made possible more regular—and
friendly—contact with the NORAD office and the great number of Norwegians
(journalists, scholars and representatives of NGOs etc.) flocking to
Tanzania in the early 1970s. In the Nordic countries, FRELIMO and the
Mozambique Institute also benefited from being associated with the Government
of Tanzania and Julius Nyerere himself.
While previous grants had been earmarked for the Mozambique Institute
within the special budget post for refugees from Southern Africa in 1969
and 1971, the acceptance of the Government Parliamentary Paper (no. 29
1971–72) opened up for direct support to FRELIMO’s educational and health
activities in general. According to a letter from Janet Mondlane to the
NORAD office in Dar es Salaam, “the aid given to FRELIMO has taken on a
new form which has a more positive political significance than that of previous
years”.214 For 1973, FRELIMO was allocated NOK 1.5 million out of the
total amount of 5 million set aside for assistance to the liberation movements.
Although several meeting were held between NORAD officials and
representatives of FRELIMO, and written requests for goods to be purchased
were presented to NORAD in June, the lack of established procedures
and an extremely cautious scrutinising by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of all supplies ordered made it impossible to make use of the 1973
210 In an article in Aftenposten (10 April 1969) it was maintained that the defection of Kavandame
was a turning point in the war, and that he “defected with 60,000 (sic) well equipped
guerrilla fighters”. Interestingly, this piece of Portuguese government propaganda was “lifted”
from Aftenposten word for word—without giving a source—and presented as an internal Ministry
of Foreign Affairs memo, signed by LE (24 April 1969).
211For an outline and analysis of the programme in Norwegian, see Tore Linné Eriksen:
“FRELIMO’s program for utvikling”, Samtiden, no. 8, 1970.
212 These activities were witnessed by the author during a visit to Tanzania in May–July 1972.
See Tore Linné Eriksen: “FRELIMO—Militær og sosial framgang”, Dagbladet, 8 August 1972.
213 At independence in 1975, Janet Mondlane was appointed head of the section for development
co-operation in the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Planning.
214 Letter of 25 June 1973 from Janet Mondlane to the NORAD office in Dar es Salaam.
grant until it was too late. The first year of direct co-operation between
FRELIMO and the Norwegian Government could, therefore, hardly be
described as a success. On various occasions, Janet Mondlane made it clear
to the NORAD office in Dar es Salaam that FRELIMO would have preferred
more simplified procedures in order to make use of the funds more
smoothly and quickly.215
The lesson was learnt, and the major part of the NOK 5 million allocated
for 1974 was spent in time according to the requests from FRELIMO. In
addition to paying for clothing (mainly from India), local food supplies and
the import of education material and equipment for health centres and hospitals,
NORAD agreed to co-finance the recurrent expenditure for the secondary
school in Bagamoyo. Out of the total grant, 10% was paid to
FRELIMO in cash for covering local transport and administrative costs.
Since the standard procedure was 5%, this decision can be seen as an indication
of the trust with which FRELIMO was met by the Norwegian aid
Compared to Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, the struggle in Angola
was at the beginning of the 1970s less known in Norway. No Norwegians
had ever visited the liberated areas inside Angola, and there were no books
or extensive reports on Angola available in Norwegian. However, a brief
article appeared in the NORAD magazine in late 1973, outlining the
progress made by MPLA in running schools and hospitals in liberated areas
in Eastern Angola.216 The fact that more than one movement claimed to be
the leading force fighting the Portuguese colonial regime also complicated
the issue, although neither the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa nor
the Norwegian government ever seriously considered supporting any other
movement than MPLA. The President of MPLA, Agostinho Neto, paid his
first visit to Norway in 1970, arriving directly from an International Conference
in Rome in support of the struggle in the Portuguese colonies. The fact
that the Angolan leader—together with Amilcar Cabral (PAIGC) and
Marcelino dos Santos (FRELIMO)—had obtained an audience with the Pope,
undoubtedly contributed to the mass media interest. Being a guest of the
Nordic Social Democratic Parties, the MPLA president was received by the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the level of civil servants.217 (A Centre/ Conservative
coalition government was then in power.) During his visit,
Agostinho Neto also held meetings with the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and the Norwegian
Refugee Council. A detailed request for humanitarian assistance, however,
did not yield any concrete results. The Angolan leader also had to
leave empty-handed after his next visit to Oslo in March 1972, when he—as
215 Ibid.
216 Knut Andreassen, NOR-KONTAKT, no. 6, 1973.
217 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 9. July 1970. (“Samtale med lederen for MPLA, Agostinho Neto”).
the first president of a liberation movement in Lusophone Africa—was received
by the Labour Party Prime Minister, Trygve Bratteli.
MPLA was the only one of the three Angolan movements that succeeded
in developing links to Norwegian political parties and solidarity
organisations, and clearly benefited from its close links with PAIGC and
FRELIMO and membership in the CONCP alliance.218 Unlike in Sweden,
the question whether to support FNLA or UNITA before 1974 did not
occupy a prominent place in the Norwegian debate. UNITA was for a brief
period in the mid-1970s enjoying a constituency within “marxist-leninistmaoist”
circles because of its pro-Chinese and anti-Soviet rhetoric, but Jonas
Savimbi was never able to attract any support from the Norwegian Council
for Southern Africa. At an official level, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs stuck to its principle of only considering support to movements
recognised by the OAU Liberation Committee, which did not accept UNITA
as a member until after the coup d’état in Portugal in 1974. On the other
hand, Holden Roberto’s FNLA was recognised by the OAU, but it was
mainly regarded as an ethnically-based Bakongo movement. Although of
Angolan nationality, Holden Roberto spent most of his life in Zaire, and
FNLA never achieved a multiethnic national identity. The warm relations
enjoyed by FNLA with prominent members of the Swedish Liberal Party did
not take root in Norway.
In August 1972, Norway agreed to contribute USD 50,000 to the building
of a simple boarding school catering for 200 orphaned Angolan refugees
under MPLA’s care in Sikongo in the Western Province of Zambia.219 The
application for financial support had been discussed with the Norwegian
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andreas Cappelen, during his visit to Tanzania
in May 1972. The request was strongly supported by the NORAD office in
Lusaka, which urged the Norwegian government to decide on the issue in a
matter of weeks because of the approaching rainy season that would make
the transportation to the site virtually impossible.220 The decision was facilitated
by the fact that the Norwegian head of the Zambia Christian Refugee
Council, Øystein Tveter, agreed to be in charge of the construction work in
close co-operation with the NORAD office in Lusaka and two construction
engineers working for the Danish Churchaid. This extraordinary grant was
made from the budget line for “Humanitarian assistance and natural catastrophes”.
The boarding school for children was followed up in early 1973 with a
grant of another USD 50,000 for a similar school in Chavumu in the North-
218 CONCP (Conferência das Organizacoes Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguêsas) was established
in April 1961 to co-ordinate the struggle in all Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia.
219 Kongelig Resolusjon, 25 August 1972.
220 Letter from Halldor Heldal (NORAD, Lusaka) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 July
Western Province of Zambia. The project was this time funded from the first
regular grant to MPLA. In May 1973 the NORAD office in Lusaka received a
document from MPLA, signed by President Agostinho Neto, which contained
a detailed list of projects.221 Among the projects proposed by the
MPLA were two buildings in Dar es Salaam for storing non-military supplies,
installations for an offset print-shop in Lusaka and a special fund for
buying petrol for the transportation of goods from Lusaka to the Angolan.
However, the process of finalising the aid programme was extremely timeconsuming,
and contrary to the assumptions of the MPLA as well as the
NORAD representative in Lusaka, the funds not actually spent before the
end of the year were lost forever. In practice, this meant that only approx.
NOK 280,000 out of 1,5 million had been spent by the MPLA before the end
of the year. The situation was further complicated by the fact that MPLA
severely suffered from internal rivalries (see below).
The years of transition (1974–75)
With the political changes taking place in Portugal in April 1974 (the
“carnation revolution”), which partly came about as a result of the advancing
liberation struggles in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola, the cooperation
between the Norwegian government and the liberation movements
entered a new stage. PAIGC was then already in control over the
major part of Guinea-Bissau, and in September 1973 declared Guinea-Bissau
“a sovereign, republican, democratic, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist
state”. In November 1973 Guinea-Bissau was formally accepted as the fortysecond
member of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). PAIGC would
most probably have been immediately recognised by the new regime in Portugal
as the government of an independent Guinea-Bissau if it had not been
for the precedence this could set for the two other territories.
In the months following the collapse of the fascist regime in Lisbon, the
new rulers did not agree upon the strategy to be followed for Mozambique
and Angola.222 In talks with the Norwegian Minister of Finance in July 1974,
the Social Democratic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mario Soares, had indicated
a transitional period of 1–2 years for Mozambique and 2–3 years for
Angola. (He also added that it would be a relief for Portugal to get rid of the
burden of Mozambique, which was described as a “deficit area”.)223 Because
of its cordial relations with the Socialist Party of Portugal, the Norwegian
Labour Party government chose to co-ordinate its policies closely with the
Portuguese government. Consequently, Mario Soares was assured that
Norway would refrain from any decision that might complicate the Por-
221 Letter of 23 May 1973 from Agostinho Neto to the NORAD Office in Lusaka.
222 See MacQueen, op.cit.
223 Per Kleppe, Memo after a visit to Portugal 7–10 July 1974.
tuguese efforts to resolve “the colonial question” through negotiations.224
This is the reason why Norway did not grant Guinea-Bissau diplomatic
recognition until September 1974, when it was already clear that an agreement
had been reached between Portugal and the PAIGC.
In Mozambique FRELIMO saw little to negotiate beyond a date for the
formal transfer of power.225 In early September 1974 an agreement between
FRELIMO and Portugal was signed in Lusaka, which resulted in the establishment
of a government of transition aiming at full independence on 25
June 1975. According to the Lusaka agreement, FRELIMO was given six of
the nine members comprising the provisional government. This fact led
Norway to enter into aid negotiations with FRELIMO more or less in accordance
with the procedures developed for independent countries. The assistance
to FRELIMO was still handled by the Mozambique Institute under the
directorship of Janet Mondlane.
In April 1975, a seven-person FRELIMO delegation visited Oslo, headed
by Marcelino dos Santos, the Vice-President of FRELIMO and the future
Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning. While previous FRELIMO visits
to Oslo had been hosted by the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa, the
delegation was this time invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
received more or less with the same protocol as a government delegation
from an independent country.226 Talks with the Prime Minister and the
Foreign Minister were for the first time included in the programme, which
primarily focused on future development co-operation. (An informal supper
with solidarity and student organisations, who had on previous occasions
acted as hosts to FRELIMO delegations, was at the last minute called off by
the Protocol Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)
It was agreed during the FRELIMO visit to establish diplomatic relations
immediately upon Mozambique’s independence, and dos Santos extended
his invitation to the Norwegian government to take part in the celebrations
in Maputo on the 25 June.227 The wish was also expressed that the support
given during the liberation struggle would be developed further, the close
links between Tanzania and Norway obviously serving as a model.
During the question hour in the Norwegian Parliament on 23 April 1975,
on the very day the high-level FRELIMO delegation was arriving in Oslo,
224 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 5 July 1974. See also Memo, , Pol. Div., 21 June 1974, based on the talks
between Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund and Foreign Minister Mario Soares during the
NATO Council Meeting in Ottawa, 18–19 June 1974.
225 See the Executive Committee of FRELIMO resolution of 27 April 1974: “We cannot accept
that democracy for the Portuguese people should serve as a cover to impede the independence
of our people. Just as the Caetano period demonstrated plainly that there was no such thing as
liberal fascism, it must clearly understood that there is no such thing as democratic colonialism”,
quoted in MacQueen, op. cit., p. 126.
226 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 24 May 1975.
227 Norway was eventually represented by the Minister for Foreign Trade, Einar Magnussen,
and the Ambassador to Tanzania (and Mozambique), Per Th. Nævdal.
Arne Kielland (MP, Socialist Left Party) wanted to know what steps the
Government had taken to ensure that the support to FRELIMO would be
further developed and intensified after independence. The MP argued
strongly for including Mozambique in the select group of major recipients of
Norwegian assistance (“hovedsamarbeidsland”), making an explicit reference
to the Swedish decision to increase its support from SEK 15 million to
FRELIMO to 50 million to an independent Mozambique. The Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Knut Frydenlund, confirmed that NOK 7 million (out of a
total grant of 15 million to the liberation movements) was to be utilised by
FRELIMO before 25 June or by the Government after independence. The intention
of the government was clearly to increase the support further, but
the Minister deliberately refrained from making any firm commitment to
grant Mozambique privileged status as one of the core “programme countries”.
In his message to the nation on Independence Day, President Samora
Machel singled out Scandinavia, Finland and the Netherlands as being
among the Western countries which had given support during the liberation
struggle. President Samora Machel also paid an official state visit to the
Nordic countries in April/May 1997.
In the first period after independence Norway was reluctant to commit
itself to an extensive aid programme that would have included the opening
of a NORAD office in Maputo. For 1976 the assistance (NOK 15 million) was
mainly concentrated on a joint Nordic agricultural programme (MONAP) to
be administered by SIDA, the Swedish aid agency. In 1977, however, the
Labour Party government proposed to add Sri Lanka and Mozambique to
the list of “major partners in development”. The proposal was eventually
accepted with the support of the votes of the Socialist Left Party and the
Centre Party, while the Christian People’s Party, the Conservative Party and
the right wing Progress Party voted against including Mozambique. The
transformation of FRELIMO from a liberation movement into a Marxist-
Leninist party, as well as the general tendency to apply a Cold War perspective
to Third World issues, had obviously made development co-operation
with Mozambique a highly contentious issue.
While the independence of Mozambique was achieved through a negotiated
settlement with FRELIMO being the only liberation movement,
Angola in 1974–76 witnessed fierce competition between three movements, a
heavy South African invasion and substantial involvement of the USA,
Soviet Union and Cuba.228
As we have seen, only a small part of the 1973 Norwegian grant to
MPLA was actually spent. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs had for 1974 set
aside NOK 1.25 million for MPLA, but apart from a small amount used for
228 The complicated story is outlined by David Birmingham: Frontline Nationalism in Angola and
Mozambique. London: James Currey, 1992. See also MacQueen, op. cit.
completing the boarding school project in Zambia and paying for a truck,
the funds were not made available. At the end of the year, MPLA had to
accept the transfer of approximately NOK 1 million to a UNHCR programme
under preparation. The main reason for the Norwegian reluctance
to work with MPLA in dispersing the 1974 grant was the high degree of
internal rivalry in the movement, which meant that the leadership of
Agostinho Neto was being seriously challenged by the Active Revolt
(Joaquim Pinto de Andrade) and the Eastern Revolt (Daniel Chipenda). The
problems were frankly discussed by Agostinho Neto when meeting the
NORAD representative in Lusaka in late January 1974. According to the
MPLA president, the very grave situation made it impossible for the Norwegian-
funded school in Sikongo to function properly, as this area was
largely out of reach of MPLA. The NORAD representative was also informed
about the decision by the Zambian authorities to suspend all assistance
to MPLA, while China stepped up its support to UNITA and FNLA retained
its close links to the US and Zaire.229 It is also a fact that the Zambian
government advised the NORAD office in Lusaka to channel the aid programme
through the OAU Liberation Committee sub-regional office in
Lusaka, a step which would unquestionably have brought the programme
more under Zambian control. These proposals were, on the other hand,
firmly rejected by the MPLA president in a meeting with the NORAD
Resident Representative in September 1974.230
From other sources, it is known that the lack of progress in the disbursement
of the 1974 grant to MPLA was a cause of disappointment to the
MPLA president. An example of this is found in a letter to Tom Vraalsen
(then Head of Division) from Øystein Tveter, who as Lutheran World
Federation representative in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam was in close touch
with the liberation movements. His letter, which was based on a meeting
with Agostinho Neto in Dar es Salaam on 11 July 1974, clearly reflects the
considerable disappointment after the promising overtures which had been
made during a visit by Tom Vraalsen and Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs (Arne Arnesen) to Conakry, Lusaka and Dar es Salaam in March/
April 1974.231 According to the letter, it was difficult for MPLA to maintain
the human infrastructure and the support and trust of the people when
Zambia obstructed transports and the Scandinavian countries were holding
back on their aid. The letter concluded that “Whatever the reason is, the
delay is likely to have considerable effect on the development of the struggle
in Angola”.232
229 Letter from Ola Dørum (NORAD, Lusaka) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 February
1974. The report is based on a meeting with Agostinho Neto on 30 January 1974.
230 Letter from Ola Dørum to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 September 1974.
231 See note 206.
232 The letter of 11 July 1974 is filed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives, 25 4/93.
Based on archival sources in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
it is difficult not to conclude that the headquarters in Oslo—not to speak of
the Norwegian Embassy in Lisbon—expressed a much more reluctant (if not
outright hostile) attitude towards MPLA than what was reflected in the
reports from the NORAD representative Ola Dørum on the ground in
Lusaka. The strained relations between MPLA and Norway became even
more obvious after the signing of the tri-partite Alvor Agreement between
MPLA, FNLA and UNITA in January 1975. The decision to effectively freeze
all further assistance to MPLA seems to have been taken by the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs in early 1975,233 but was never openly communicated
directly to the MPLA. Neither were the NORAD officials in Lusaka properly
informed about the decision. The NORAD office in Lusaka repeatedly complained
to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that no guidelines as to the aid
programme with MPLA had been issued.234
While Norway and Sweden had more or less adopted the same position
vis-à-vis MPLA in 1973/74, their policies in the critical year of 1975 were
poles apart. SIDA had in December 1974 reached an understanding with
MPLA about the allocations of the aid programme, and—more significantly—
this agreement was endorsed by the Swedish Cabinet after the
Alvor Agreement had been signed in January 1975. While the NORAD office
in Lusaka had frozen all relations with MPLA, representatives of the
Swedish Embassy in the Zambian capital were busy preparing for the implementation
of the humanitarian assistance programme to MPLA. There
were even formal consultations with the MPLA headquarters in Luanda on
several occasions, inter alia to sort out problems concerned with local procurement
of commodities. In October 1975 Paulo Jorge—the future Foreign
Minister of Angola—attended the annual conference of the Swedish Social
Democratic Party on behalf of MPLA. Later in the same month the Swedish
Minister for Development Co-operation, Gertrud Sigurdsen, publicly
declared that the “Swedish government will fulfil its undertakings to the
MPLA liberation movement in Angola”.235 According to Tor Sellström, the
official aid relationship—although never significant in quantitative terms—
did amount to a de facto recognition of MPLA as Angola’s “government-inwaiting”.
This is also how it was understood by MPLA, not to speak of the
competing FNLA and UNITA movements.236
While MPLA had seen major military advances in August/September
1975, exercising control in 12 of 16 provinces, in the weeks preceding the
233 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 18 March 1975.
234 See, for instance, letters from the NORAD office in Lusaka 30 April 1975 and 21 May 1975.
The letters were written by Agnete Eriksen, who had been appointed programme officer for cooperation
with the liberation movements.
235 Quoted in Tor Sellström, Vol. II, op. cit., forthcoming.
236 Ibid.
Independence Day, South African military forces and UNITA troops
marched northwards towards Luanda, while FNLA troops, heavily supported
by Zairian invading forces with US equipment, were approaching the
capital from the north. When the colonial power left the country on 11
November 1975, MPLA did not control much of the country apart from
Luanda, its immediate surroundings, some coastal enclaves and inland
corridors. MPLA in the end prevailed with the assistance of Soviet arms and
Cuban troops, that had arrived in early November.
Since the MPLA government did not effectively control any substantial
part of the Angolan territory on 11 November 1975, the Norwegian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs argued that the standard criteria for recognition were not
fulfilled. The call for recognition from the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa, the Socialist Left Party and the youth league of the Labour Party, was
answered in the negative by the Foreign Minister on 13 November. After an
extensive review of all diplomatic and legal aspects involved, it was even
decided that the receipt of Christmas greetings from Foreign Minister José
Eduardo dos Santos should not be acknowledged. (It was argued that even
if this did not amount to a formal recognition, it could be regarded as “a
political act”.)237 The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs in early February
once more explicitly rejected the call for diplomatic recognition.238 In
mid-February 1976, however, the situation had significantly changed with
the defeat of the South African troops and the MPLA gaining military control
over the major part of the country. The MPLA government had then also
been recognised by Portugal itself and the majority of African states, and
had been accepted into the OAU. According to an internal Ministry of Foreign
Affairs memorandum, it was argued that recognition by Norway and
other Western countries could serve to counterbalance the influence of the
Soviet Union and Cuba. The point was also made that Norway after all had
always regarded MPLA as the main movement and the only movement
qualified for receiving Norwegian assistance and that to withhold recognition
at this stage would constitute “an act of obvious diplomatic hostility”.
On 18 February 1976 a message from Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund
was transmitted to the Angolan Foreign Minister proposing that diplomatic
relations be established between Norway and Angola. As no response was
given, a new cable renewing the message was sent in late September. The
237 Memo, 1. Pol. Div., 6 January 1976.
238 This came as a response to a question put forward in Parliament by Finn Gustavsen
(Socialist Left Party) on 4 February 1976. This was at the time also the position of the Swedish
government, but the Foreign Minister—Sten Andersson—added that “The government’s view
is that MPLA is the political movement (which has) roots among the people (and) has combined
the struggle for independence with efforts to establish social and economic justice in Angola.”
Quoted in Tor Sellström, Vol. II, op.cit, forthcoming.
239 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kjeld Vibe, 16 February 1976.
Angolan government was also requested to make proposals as to how to
make use of the NOK 1.5 million allocated to MPLA for 1975. (The grant
was, in the same way as in 1974, eventually transferred to the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be spent on repatriation and
rehabilitation.) In the following month the Angolan chargé d’affaires in
Stockholm, Maria Jesus de Haller, paid a visit to Oslo as a guest of the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa. According to remarks made by the
Angolan representative to the mass media, she seemed not to be fully informed
about the attempts by the Norwegian government to establish
diplomatic links.240 In a meeting with the Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, Thorvald Stoltenberg, she was also told that the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs was more than willing to host a visit by the Angolan chargé
d’affaires at any time.241
Diplomatic relations were not formally entered into until 31 October
1977 through the Angolan ambassador to the United Nations. At this time,
Sweden had already opened an Embassy in Luanda and established a significant
aid programme, while the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs had paid
a state visit to Luanda. The Norwegian Labour Party government was much
less enthusiastic about giving aid to Angola, and obviously feared a hostile
public opinion mainly concerned with the Cuban issue with strong Cold
War overtones. (All political parties in parliament, except for the Socialist
Left Party, later agreed to bring the development co-operation with Cuba to
a halt as punishment for the country’s assistance to the MPLA government
in Angola.)242 After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977, it
would take five more years before a Norwegian ambassador paid a visit to
Luanda to present his credentials. A Norwegian aid office and Consulate
was not opened in Luanda until 1986.
The independence of the Portuguese colonies closed the first chapter in
the history of the Norwegian support to the liberation struggles in Southern
Africa. The time had now come for the liberation movements in Zimbabwe,
Namibia and South Africa itself to attract the attention of the Norwegian
240 Dagbladet, 3 October 1976.
241 Memo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 October 1976. (“Samtale mellom statssekretær Thorvald
Stoltenberg og Angolas chargé d’affaires i Stockholm, Maria Jesus de Haller”.)
242 The first call for an “aid blockade” had already been made in parliament on January 21,
1976 by a pro-South African MP from the right-wing “Progress Party” (Erik Gjems-Onstad).
public and the Norwegian authorities. In terms of actual money granted to
the movements, the late 1970s and the 1980s would see a much more substantial
contribution from the Norwegian government, as will be described
and discussed in subsequent chapters.243
243 See also the Statistical Appendix.
Chapter 2
The Namibian Liberation Struggle:
Direct Norwegian Support to SWAPO
Eva Helene Østbye
Namibia’s struggle for freedom was long. It began during the German
colonisation, which from its start in 1884 had disastrous consequences for
the Namibian people. The suppression of the inhabitants and the plundering
of the natural resources continued throughout the years of South African
occupation that followed from 1915. In 1921 South Africa was entrusted by
the League of Nations to administer Namibia as a mandatory area, but
violated the trust from the outset. The terms of the mandate stated that the
administration should “promote to the utmost the material and moral wellbeing,
and the social progress of the inhabitants”.1 After the Second World
War, Pretoria demanded that Namibia be included in South Africa, but this
was opposed by the United Nations. However, as a result of the Nationalist
Party’s victory in the South African elections in 1948, apartheid was
strengthened in the two countries.
In 1966, the UN General Assembly brought South Africa’s mandate to
an end. Instead, at a special session in 1967 the world organisation established
a Council for Namibia as the highest authority for the territory. The
council should lead the territory to national independence. The implementing
and administrative functions were at the same time transferred to a
Commissioner. By establishing that South Africa no longer had any legal
rights over Namibia, in 1969 the UN Security Council also recognised its
responsibility towards the Namibian people. Finally, the verdict by the
International Court of Justice in The Hague in June 1971, which declared the
South African presence in Namibia as illegal, confirmed that formal responsibility
over the territory was in the hands of the world community.
As South Africa neither respected the UN decisions, nor the verdict of
the international court in The Hague, the Namibian liberation struggle
against Pretoria’s occupation intensified and received growing international
1 Peter H. Katjavivi: A History of Resistance in Namibia. London, 1988, p. 13.
attention. However, despite the fact that more than a thousand statements
and initiatives to promote national independence were made by different
UN bodies up to 1990, getting the international community to extend material
support for the struggle proved more difficult. The liberation movements
were looked upon with suspicion by the leading Western powers.
Their main supporters outside of the Afro-Asian group were the Soviet
Union and the other socialist countries. However, in the humanitarian field
the Nordic countries were to support the nationalist movement with considerable
resources, both at the official and at the non-official level.
This chapter will discuss the assistance given to SWAPO by the government
of Norway. Presentations of the support given through other Norwegian
channels are discussed elsewhere in this study. The direct official
support was substantial: from the first allocation in 1974 until independence
in 1990 it amounted in total to around NOK 225 million.2 Why was this support
given? What was the money used for? What was the character of the cooperation
between the Norwegian government and SWAPO? A chronological
presentation will serve as the basis for this discussion.3
How it all started
Parliamentary decision; principles and priorities
The liberation struggle in Namibia was not conducted by the UN or other
international organisations, but by the Namibians themselves. In 1959, the
South West African National Union, SWANU, was established as a nationalist
organisation based on different elements of the anti-colonial resistance.
However, due to internal differences SWANU was unable to remain united,
and the following year the South West Africa People’s Organisation,
SWAPO, was formed by members of the Ovamboland’s People’s Organisation,
OPO. SWAPO’s main objective was the establishment of a free, democratic
government in independent Namibia.4 Both SWANU and SWAPO
were recognised in 1963 by the Organisation of African Unity, OAU. However,
SWANU lost this recognition in 1965, mainly due to the lack of a military
strategy for the liberation struggle. As the only Namibian liberation
movement recognised by the OAU, and from 1976 declared by the UN General
Assembly as the “sole and authentic representative of the Namibian
people”,5 SWAPO’s leading role in the liberation struggle was unchallenged.
Following the UN resolutions and OAU decisions, Norway de facto also
2 A table of the disbursements is found in Appendix 1.
3 For the support through the churches, trade unions, the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa and the Namibia Association, see chapters 6–9.
4 Katjavivi, op.cit., p. 45.
5 Ibid., p. 100.
recognised SWAPO as the legitimate Namibian liberation movement, and
initiated exclusive co-operation with the organisation.6
Until the end of the 1950s, Norwegian contacts with Namibia had
mainly been through the whaling and fishing industry. Norwegian whaling
companies had for decades been established in Walvis Bay when in 1959 the
Namibian student Hans Beukes was given a scholarship to study in Norway.
Beukes’ passport was, however, confiscated by the South African
authorities and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry brought the case to the
attention of the UN Fourth Committee and the General Assembly. The
“Beukes case” contributed to a growing awareness of the political situation
in Namibia and to Norwegian support for Namibia’s independence at the
UN in the early 1960s. When the Norwegian government in 1964 received a
first request for direct aid from SWAPO, it was thus against the background
of “the action it took in connection with the case of South West Africa in the
United Nations.”7 Nevertheless, it would take ten years from the first request
until any direct support was given to SWAPO.8
After years of debate in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs9 and
the Norwegian Agency for International Development, NORAD, the government
proposed in February 1973 to grant direct humanitarian assistance
to the liberation movements in Southern Africa. When the Parliament later
in the same month endorsed the proposal, it confirmed a practice that was
about to become established. Support from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry
to the oppressed peoples of the region had been granted since 1964 through
the Special Committee for Refugees from Southern Africa. This committee
was set up in 1963 by the Norwegian Parliament to administer the distribution
of funds granted over the national budget. By 1974, NOK 20 million had
thus been channelled to institutions such as the International University Exchange
Fund (IUEF), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the International
Refugee Council of Zambia and FRELIMO’s Mozambique Institute.10
In addition, Norway had supported UN programmes for Southern Africa,
such as the UN Education and Training Programme for South West Africa
6 However, this did not entirely exclude humanitarian support to Namibian refugees outside
SWAPO’s care. In 1976, the Special Committee for Refugees from Southern Africa allocated an
amount of NOK 50,000 earmarked for SWANU (via the UNHCR). Memorandum. Samtale med
representanter for South West African National Union (Consultation with representatives for
SWANU), 1 Political Affairs Division, 10 November 1976, Archives of the Norwegian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (in the following referred to as MFA) 77 9/5 XII.
7 Letter from the Vice President of SWAPO, Louis Nelengani, to the Norwegian Ambassador in
the UAR, Cairo, 31 March 1964, MFA 77 9/5 I.
8 For the official policy up to 1975, see chapter 1.
9 For the sake of convenience, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be referred to as
the Foreign Ministry.
10 See chapter 1.
(Namibia) which was founded in 1961 and was incorporated into the UN
Education and Training Programme for Southern Africa in 1967.11
Giving support directly to the liberation movements required clear
guidelines. An absolute prerequisite was that the support be solely humanitarian.
For this reason Norwegian official support primarily went to the
work SWAPO was carrying out in favour of Namibian refugees in the
neighbouring countries. In addition, only movements recognised by the
OAU and fighting for national liberation in what were termed “dependent
areas”, were to receive support.
Besides the prerequisite that the assistance should be based on UN decisions,
it also had to be in accordance with the priorities of the Co-ordination
Committee for the Liberation of Africa, set up by the OAU to ensure the
most efficient strategy for doing away with dependence and apartheid. This
implied that the resources in the first phase were primarily to be concentrated
to the Portuguese-occupied territories, where the liberation movements
were perceived as having the best organisational set-up and, therefore
could most efficiently make use of the aid.12 After the liberation of Guinea-
Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, the main focus would then shift to the
liberation of Zimbabwe, with Namibia and South Africa following in that
order.13 The extent to which these priorities were respected can be seen by
studying the allocations for the various movements. In 1973, the first year of
direct support from Norway to the liberation movements in Southern Africa,
NOK 3.75 million out of the NOK 4.5 million allocated for this purpose went
to the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies. In 1974, the corresponding
figures were 11.25 out of 12 million, and in 1975 the liberation
movements in these countries received 14.5 out of a total allocation of NOK
15 million.14
Keeping in line with the OAU strategy for liberation, while at the same
time acknowledging the role played by the liberation movements outside
the Portuguese colonies, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry decided in
January 1974 that it would increasingly seek to meet the requirements of the
11 Ibid.
12 1 Political Affairs Division, 2 September 1974, MFA 34 9/5 III.
13 See e.g., Memorandum. Støtte til frigjøringsbevegelser (Support to Liberation Movements), 1
Political Affairs Division, 29 August 1973, MFA 34 9/5 II; Foredrag til Statsråd for Kgl. res.
(Draft to the King in Council for Royal Decree), 3 November 1978, both in MFA 34 9/5 VIII.
14 It should be noted that these are the sums allocated. The sums actually disbursed, were not
identical. The contribution to PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau was also included in this allocation, with
NOK 5 million both in 1974 and 1975. See chapter 1. For figures actually disbursed, see table in
Appendix 1.
15 Memorandum. Nordisk bistandssjefsmøte (Meeting of the Nordic directors for development
co-operation), Oslo, 7 January 1974, 1 Political Affairs Division, MFA 34 9/5 II.
Getting acquainted: The 1973 UN/OAU Conference in Oslo
Hosting the UN/OAU Conference of Experts for the Support of Victims of
Colonialism and Apartheid in Southern Africa in Oslo 9–14 April 1973, the
Norwegian Government achieved a deeper understanding of the situation in
Southern Africa and also got to know the liberation movements better.16 At
this conference, the leaders of the liberation movements were received as
legitimate representatives of their countries, and a new foundation was laid
for direct contacts between the Norwegian Government and SWAPO.
According to President Sam Nujoma, the conference also made a strong
impact on public opinion in the Western world.17 The SWAPO delegates
Andreas Shipanga and Ben Amathila, respectively Secretary for Information
and SWAPO representative to the Nordic countries, discussed with the
Norwegian Foreign Ministry the arrest of 85 Namibians in Windhoek the
previous month. Shortly after the conference, the Foreign Ministry received
a request from SWAPO for USD 25,000 to engage lawyers for those arrested
and provide maintenance to their dependants. The money was to be sent to
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and earmarked for SWAPO.18 While
the Norwegian authorities were considering the application, Moses Garoeb,
the Secretary General of SWAPO, visited the Norwegian embassy in Bonn
with the information that a new wave of unrest and arrests in Windhoek
had made the need for legal aid even more acute.19 Against this background,
in 1973 the Foreign Ministry decided to make NOK 100,000 available
to SWAPO, to be transferred via the LWF as earlier requested. The support
opened up “the possibility for more direct support in the future”, just as
Carl-Johan Hellberg, Africa Secretary at the LWF, in a letter to Sam Nujoma
had suggested that it might.20 The following year, SWAPO thus requested,
and was granted, NOK 200,000 for legal aid via the LWF, but also NOK
100,000 as direct assistance to SWAPO’s humanitarian work for Namibian
refugees. To establish a framework for the co-operation between Norway
and SWAPO, annual bilateral discussions would from then on take place
between the parties.
16 See chapter 1.
17 Sam Nujoma in Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 21.–22. februar 1978 av SWAPO-delegasjon
(Visit to Oslo 21 and 22 February of a delegation from SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 27
February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 V.
18 Letter from Ben Amathila, SWAPO representative to the Nordic countries, to MFA, 22 May
1973, MFA 34 9/5 II.
19 Memorandum. Søknad fra SWAPO om norsk bidrag til rettshjelp … (Application from
SWAPO for Norwegian contribution to legal aid …), 1 Political Affairs Division, 18 September
1973, MFA 34 9/5 II.
20 Carl-J. Hellberg, LWF, to Sam Nujoma, 20 June 1974, MFA 34 9/5 II.
Seeing is believing
Against the background of a proposed increase in the Norwegian allocation
to the Southern African liberation movements, the Foreign Ministry needed
to acquire a deeper understanding of the situation in the region. In March
1974, an official delegation went to Southern Africa to visit the refugee
camps and discuss the situation with the leaders of the liberation movements.
The delegation, led by State Secretary Arne Arnesen, became convinced
of the great need for humanitarian support in the region and was
impressed by the liberation movements’ work for the refugees. After the
visit, Arnesen concluded that the registered needs and the requests for aid
made it necessary to further increase the Norwegian support for 1974 from
the proposed NOK 12 million to NOK 15 million. Although this did not
happen, the proposal is an expression of a new awareness of the situation in
Southern Africa.
Based on the discussions with the Norwegian delegation visiting
Lusaka, SWAPO submitted a detailed request for food, medicines and office
equipment for the humanitarian work carried out for the Namibian refugees
in Zambia, adding up to a total of NOK 100,000.21 The request was granted,
and although the amount did not represent a great proportion of the total
Norwegian allocation for 1974, it was significant in that it was the first direct
official allocation by Norway to SWAPO. The agreement that was subsequently
signed in December 1974 thus marks the beginning of the direct cooperation
between the government of Norway and SWAPO. 22
Over the following years, Norway would receive a number of visits
where SWAPO representatives informed officials about SWAPO’s refugee
projects and the general political situation. They also discussed the strategy
for the struggle and the role Norway could play.23 In these meetings,
SWAPO not only asked for financial assistance, but also for political support
to increase the pressure of the world opinion and isolate South Africa.24 In
particular, SWAPO urged Norway to help persuade the Western countries
to observe the UN arms embargo, implement an investment ban and declare
a trade boycott against South Africa.25
21 Arne Arnesen/Tom Vraalsen, MFA, to NORAD, 25 March 1974, MFA 34 9/5 II.
22 The proposal for an agreement was sent on 16 December and the reply from SWAPO on 20
December 1974, MFA 34 9/5 III.
23 Memorandum. Samtale i UD med representanter for SWAPO (Consultations in MFA with
representatives from SWAPO), 21 January 1975, MFA 34 9/5 III.
24 See e.g., Samtale i UD med representanter for SWAPO (Consultations in MFA with representatives
of SWAPO), 4 April 1975, MFA 34 9/5 III.
25 Memorandum. Samtale med representanter for den namibiske frigjøringsorganisasjon
SWAPO hos Statssekretæren (Consultation with representatives from the Namibian Liberation
Movement SWAPO in the office of the State Secretary), 12 October 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII. From
SWAPO: Peter Katjavivi and T. Hishongwa. Norwegian representatives: Secretary of State for
With the strong emphasis on the support to the struggles in the Portuguese
colonies, the liberation of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola
in 1974/75 led to a reorientation of the Norwegian support. In Zimbabwe,
Namibia and South Africa the struggles continued. It was not, however,
until 1977 that the Norwegian Parliament agreed to give direct support to
the South African liberation movements, as South Africa was not considered
a “dependent area” (see chapter 3). Besides the Portuguese colonies, it was
thus only Namibia and Zimbabwe that were receiving direct support. In
1975, however, the aid granted to the African National Council of Zimbabwe
was found difficult to implement due to the divisions between the member
movements.26 The Norwegian consulate in Lusaka reported that it was
“relatively hard to find out what [was] going on inside Rhodesia”.27 This
situation left SWAPO as the only liberation organisation receiving Norwegian
support seen by the Norwegian aid administration to have had “a
normal year” in 1975.28 It also contributed to giving a stronger focus in
Norway on the liberation struggle in Namibia.
Establishing a co-operative framework and administrative routines
As Norway started to give direct support to SWAPO, a framework for the
co-operation and procedures for the annual allocations were established in
close co-operation with the SWAPO headquarters in Lusaka.
The Foreign Ministry administered the support to the liberation movements,
and made annual proposals regarding the total allocation for these,
which after having been accepted by the Norwegian Parliament formed the
foundation for the negotiations regarding the support. The implementation
of the aid was the responsibility of NORAD, whose resident representatives
in Lusaka (later also in Harare and Luanda) were in close contact with the
SWAPO leadership. Following detailed discussions between SWAPO and
NORAD regarding the utilisation of the allocation, the requests were forwarded
to the Foreign Ministry in Oslo. Based on the Ministry’s own discussions
with the leaders of the liberation movements and assessment of the
situation, the Foreign Ministry then made a proposal regarding the total size
and distribution of the allocation for the liberation movements. Only after
this had been approved by the government could the grant be released.
Within the general humanitarian framework, there were no strings
attached. The fact that SWAPO was free to buy the items needed wherever it
Foreign Affairs Thorvald Stoltenberg, Political Adviser Leonard Larsen and Executive Officer
Jon Bech.
26 PM. Bistand via frigjøringsbevegelser 1975 (Support through Liberation Movements 1975),
Vice-Consul Agnete Eriksen, the Consulate in Lusaka, 28 November 1975, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
27 Øivind Lyng, the Consulate in Lusaka, to MFA, 21 January 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
28 Head of Division Svennevig, NORAD, to MFA, 12 March 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
saw fit was greatly appreciated.29 When required, NORAD’s procurement
office offered assistance for non-local purchases. A certain percentage, varying
from 5 to 12, was given to SWAPO in cash to cover administrative expenses.
Giving direct assistance to the liberation movements was a new experience
to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The framework and routines established
for bilateral foreign aid did not prove entirely suitable for this kind of
support. Lessons had to be learned. Norway also had to get to know the
recipients; the leaders of the liberation movements and partners in the negotiations.
The first five years of the co-operation—until 1980—became a time
of adjustment. Administrative procedures had to be worked out to ensure
that everything was done in accordance with established principles. This
was a time-consuming task. In addition, the Parliamentary decision was
often made late in the year, which meant that the actual disbursements for a
given financial year were made far into the following year—and sometimes
even later.30 Any delay in the process led to frustrations and contradictions,
whether it was Norway that spent a long time in processing the requests, or
SWAPO that was late in presenting its submissions. Examples of both will
follow below. As the co-operation became more established and predictable,
the system was made more flexible, leading to earlier decisions and subsequent
There was a sincere willingness in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to
assist the liberation movements, but the implementation in the early years
was hampered by a lack of established personal contacts and of procedures
that still needed adjusting to function well. At the same time, SWAPO had
internal problems that it did not communicate to its co-operation partner to
the necessary extent.
When the Norwegian government towards the mid-1970s started to give
aid to SWAPO, it also received applications from Norwegian solidarity
organisations to fund planned projects for Namibian refugees in co-operation
with SWAPO. At the end of 1975, these requests were rejected by the
Foreign Ministry, the explanation being that SWAPO “had problems in finding
acceptable use of the funds already made available to them”.31 Nevertheless,
at the end of 1975, SWAPO was seen as the only liberation movement
receiving Norwegian support that was capable of conducting concrete
29 Referat fra samtale mellom utenriksminister Frydenlund og SWAPO’s president Sam
Nujoma (Report from a consultation between the Minister of Foreign Affairs Frydenlund and
the President of SWAPO Sam Nujoma), New York, 30 September 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
30 In Norway, the financial year corresponds to the calendar year.
31 Memorandum. Bistand til frigjøringsbevegelser—private organisasjoners rolle (Support to
Liberation Movements—the role of NGOs), 1 Political Affairs Division, 28 October 1975, MFA
34 9/5 IV.
aid negotiations and the only one that could be expected to utilise the contributions
Co-operation in the 1970s
Internal SWAPO conflicts—Norwegian apprehensions
If 1975 had been “normal” for SWAPO, this could certainly not be said for
the following year. When Agnete Eriksen, vice consul in Lusaka and programme
officer for the support to liberation movements, learned that hundreds
of SWAPO members had been taken prisoner by the Zambian government
on the instructions of the SWAPO leadership, she discussed the
matter with Vice President Mishake Muyongo and Richard Kapelwa,
Deputy Secretary of Defence and responsible for procurements under the
NORAD aid programme. They explained that the “so-called ‘rebels’”, led by
Andreas Shipanga, had tried to cause a split within SWAPO which would
enable them to go back to Namibia and join the South African sponsored
constitutional negotiations that SWAPO was boycotting. “It was therefore
necessary to keep these people detained to avoid that they corrupted
others.”33 When the NORAD representative communicated that the situation
could affect the Norwegian aid, it “was seen as extortion”. Eriksen,
however, argued that “a certain amount of trust [had] to exist if support for
the liberation movements was still to be accepted in Norway”.34
In a report to the Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian consulate in Lusaka
asked for advice on how to deal with the situation. As long as new developments
did not take place, it recommended that the support should not be
cut off, as this could lead to a break in the contacts with the SWAPO leaders.
Funds remaining from the 1975 allocation were considered too small to justify
a break, and it was seen as important to keep the communication lines
open. At the time, SWAPO had already been informed that Norway had
allocated NOK 1.5 million for 1976, and was in the process of making a request
for the utilisation of that amount. The consulate was waiting for
SWAPO’s proposal, but did not recommend the signing of a new agreement
for 1976 until it knew more about the direction in which SWAPO was heading:
“SWAPO’s reasons for keeping some of its members detained do not
seem quite convincing”, Eriksen reported to Oslo, explaining that it “might
be the start of a major political purge within SWAPO that had to come
sooner or later”.35 Without control over any liberated areas, SWAPO had
32 Memorandum. Norsk støtte til frigjøringsbevegelser i Afrika (Norwegian support to the
Liberation Movements in Africa), 1 Political Affairs Division, 17 June 1975, MFA 34 9/5 II.
33 Memorandum. Situasjonen i SWAPO (The situation within SWAPO), Vice Consul Agnete
Eriksen, the Consulate in Lusaka, 26 May 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.
until then appeared more as a liberation front than a political party, but the
NORAD representative in Lusaka saw the internal conflicts as possibly
being part of a change in this respect.36
Soon thereafter the Foreign Ministry interpreted the arrests as a reaction
provoked by dissatisfaction by one group within SWAPO against an
undemocratic leadership.37
While the NORAD office in Lusaka recommended that the finalisation
of the 1976 agreement should be postponed until the situation was clarified,
the Foreign Ministry did not regard the situation inside SWAPO serious
enough to justify going back on existing commitments. However, the possibility
remained, they argued, not to accept SWAPO’s proposed distribution
between posts. For example, SWAPO had clearly stated that it did not want
part of the 1976 allocation to be used for legal aid to prisoners through the
Lutheran World Federation unless additional funds were made available to
the organisation. The Ministry suggested that this should be done anyway.38
SWAPO had earlier been informed that Norway planned to give 10% of the
1976 allocation in cash, which was a higher percentage than any other liberation
movement had received. The argument had been that SWAPO needed
the cash contribution to cover its administrative expenses, and that it did not
constitute a problem as the organisation seemed to function in an efficient
and united way.39 As unity within SWAPO now was called into question, it
was proposed that the cash contribution be cut down to 5%. The remaining
5% could instead be spent on legal aid and channelled through the LWF.40
The Foreign Ministry left it to the representation in Lusaka to assess
whether the developments within SWAPO required that the disbursements
be held back.
The Ministry was also interested in knowing how the Zambian government,
which had been operative in detaining the SWAPO opposition,
viewed the situation. The following month, the representation reported that
the Zambian authorities had handed over the prisoners to SWAPO, whose
leadership had their full support.41
In order to get guidance on how to deal with the situation, the other
Nordic countries were consulted for advice. The Swedish aid agency, SIDA,
36 Ibid.
37 Memorandum. Bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Support to the Liberation Movement
SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 12 June 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
38 Memorandum. Bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO i 1976 (Support to the Liberation
Movement SWAPO in 1976), 1 Political Affairs Division, 12 July 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
39 Assistant Director General Arnfinn Sørensen, NORAD, to MFA, 23 June 1976, MFA 34 9/5
40 Memorandum. Bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO i 1976 (Support to the Liberation
Movement SWAPO for 1976), 1 Political Affairs Division, 12 July 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
41 Øivind Lyng, the Consulate in Lusaka, to the Embassy in Dar es Salaam, 6 August 1976,
MFA 34 9/5 IV.
reported that it did not consider the disagreements within SWAPO serious
enough to affect the Swedish support. On the contrary, the allocation for
SWAPO had been considerably increased from 1975/76 to 1976/77, and the
allocated SEK 5 million was about to be disbursed.42 Norway still hesitated.
Sweden not only increased its allocation; it also ignored the Zambian request
to channel the support through the host government and continued to
transfer the money directly to SWAPO. 43 The situation was similar in Finland:
the internal struggles did not have any impact on the aid, and the
money would be disbursed as SWAPO wished. Denmark did not give direct
support to SWAPO.
The Swedish and Finnish reactions contributed to the recommendation
by the Norwegian representation in Lusaka to release that part of the proposed
allocation which covered food supplies. It did, however, also suggest
that the amount allocated for transport expenses be held back until the situation
within SWAPO was clarified.
More alarming news: Norway is not reassured
The arrests of the SWAPO dissidents had taken place in April 1976, and the
discussions within the Norwegian authorities went on during the following
months. Maybe the whole situation would calm down? In that predicament,
it could not have been reassuring for the Lusaka representation to read in
the local newspapers at the beginning of August that the Zambian government
had handed the prisoners over to SWAPO. A small group, including
Andreas Shipanga, had been sent to Tanzania. In addition, SWAPO’s central
committee was reported to have “set up a military tribunal where the dissidents
possibly faced death by firing squad”.44
The consulate could have been informed by SWAPO that the situation
was not quite so dramatic. Instead SWAPO contributed to the uncertainty by
not keeping in contact, despite the fact that “both Dr. [Libertine] Amathila
and Secretary for Economic Affairs Mr. Kapelwa a long time ago [had] announced
that they would come to discuss the use of the rest of the allocation
for 1975 and the budget for 1976”.45 The NORAD office in Lusaka asked the
Foreign Ministry in Oslo to consider when to release the remaining funds in
light of the fact that they “for the time being [did] not know anything about
what [was] actually going on within the movement”.46
42 Letter from Øivind Lyng, the Consulate in Lusaka, to NORAD, 11 August 1976, MFA 34 9/5
43 Ibid.
44 Times of Zambia, 6 August 1976.
45 Øivind Lyng, the Consulate in Lusaka, to the Embassy in Dar es Salaam, 6 August 1976,
MFA 34 9/5 IV.
46 Ibid.
When the SWAPO representatives contrary to agreements did not visit
the Norwegian consulate, it was seen as an indication of a lack of unity
within the movement, in spite of what the SWAPO leadership publicly was
stating.47 The NORAD office in Lusaka was not at all assured that the unity
of SWAPO had been re-established. Against that background, the Foreign
Ministry agreed in the beginning of September to hold back a part of the
disbursements until the picture was clearer.48 However, the funds for legal
aid, earmarked for Namibian prisoners and their dependants, were transferred
via the Lutheran World Federation, and the allocation for food
together with the 5% cash contribution was also disbursed. The rest of the
allocation, mainly consisting of funds to cover transport expenses, was
A meeting in New York
At the same time, SWAPO was given contradictory signals from the highest
level of the Norwegian Government. Thus, at the end of September 1976, a
meeting was held between the SWAPO President Sam Nujoma and Norwegian
Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund in New York, where the situation in
Southern Africa and the co-operation between Norway and SWAPO was
discussed. According to the Norwegian minutes from the meeting, not a
word was then said about the internal SWAPO situation. Instead, Frydenlund
informed Nujoma that “a substantial increase in the support for
SWAPO” was being prepared. Furthermore, he advised SWAPO to
“concretely tell the representation in Dar es Salaam or Lusaka what kind of
support SWAPO would like”.50
Did the one Norwegian hand not know what the other was doing, or
did this reflect that Norway had adopted some new strategy in relation to
the internal SWAPO struggle? It must be remembered that it was not just
Norway and SWAPO that were involved in this situation. Norway’s relations
with both Kenneth Kaunda and the Zambian authorities and Julius
Nyerere and those of Tanzania were very good. The SWAPO rebels were detained
in these countries, with the help of the governments who supported
the SWAPO leadership. To the Norwegian government these must have
been important factors when deciding on the financial support for SWAPO.
The Foreign Ministry staff, however, still needed information about
what was going on within SWAPO and asked SWAPO’s representative to
the Nordic countries, Ben Amathila for an explanation at a meeting in Oslo
47 Øivind Lyng, the Consulate in Lusaka, to NORAD, 11 August 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
48 Tore Toreng, MFA, to NORAD, 1 September 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
49 Jan E. Nyheim, MFA, to NORAD, 1 September 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
50 Referat fra samtale mellom utenriksminister Frydenlund og SWAPO’s president Sam
Nujoma (Report from a consultation between the Minister of Foreign Affairs Frydenlund and
the President of SWAPO Sam Nujoma), New York, 30 September 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
in October 1976. Was it true that nearly a thousand people had been detained
because “they by their well-founded complaints about corruption etc.
represented a threat to the present leadership”?51 The minutes from the
meeting reveal that Amathila’s explanation of the situation within SWAPO
was not entirely clarifying. According to the minutes, he characterised “the
last months’ development as very unfortunate for SWAPO, which by now
had managed to avoid a split”. He did, however characterise the crisis as a
split, and viewed the timing of the split as “most unfortunate”.52 According
to the SWAPO representative, of the 500 detainees, 450 were expected to be
released after questioning and around 50 were expected to be exposed as
South African collaborators. “10–12 of the assumed leaders” of the opposition”
were—“for their own safety’s sake, and to cut off possible communication
with South Africa”—transferred to Tanzania. According to Amathila,
responsibility for the split rested with South Africa, which had managed to
use “the bad lines of communication within the liberation movement—
between leadership and cadres—(…) to exploit a genuine dissatisfaction”.53
The Foreign Ministry’s officials at the meeting nevertheless assured Ben
Amathila that the rest of the allocated contribution for 1976 would be disbursed
before the end of the year.
In December 1976, the government decided that the allocation for 1976
should be increased from NOK 1.5 million to 2.5 million,54 to be used
according to SWAPO’s plans. The Foreign Ministry did, however, “against
the background of the accusations raised against the SWAPO leadership of
misuse of grants” instruct the Norwegian Consulate in Lusaka, to “aim at
the Norwegian funds being utilised in areas where a certain control could be
enforced”.55 Large, unspecified posts should be avoided. If SWAPO, however,
insisted on its original request, it should be accepted.
As it turned out, the Foreign Ministry not only increased the 1976 allocation
with an extra million NOK, but it also fully accepted SWAPO’s proposal
for the use of the grant. All that was left of the Norwegian reaction to
the 1976 incidents within SWAPO was to earmark NOK 150,000 via the LWF
51 Memorandum. Møte med SWAPO’s representant i Skandinavia, Ben Amathila (Meeting
with the representative of SWAPO in Scandinavia, Ben Amathila), 20 October 1976, 1 Political
Affairs Division, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
52 Ibid.
53 Ibid.
54 Royal Decree, 17 December 1976, MFA 34 9/5 V.
55 Telegram from MFA to the Consulate in Lusaka, 17 December 1976, MFA 34 9/5 V.
for legal aid and to decrease the cash contribution from 10% to 5%,56 contrary
to the expressed priorities of SWAPO.57
Without any further comments on the internal strife within SWAPO, the
Foreign Ministry in December 1976 proposed a further increase up to NOK 4
million in the support for 1977.58
The Norwegian relationship with Kaunda and Nyerere, and the consultations
with the other Nordic countries, are only part of the explanation why
the so-called “Shipanga affair” did not influence the Norwegian support.
The background to this, and a more pressing reason, was that the need for
humanitarian aid grew stronger and more acute with the increasing number
of Namibian refugees as a result of intensified South African repression.
Humanitarian—not primarily political—concerns were in fact decisive.
1976 not only saw internal problems develop within SWAPO, but it was
also a year of dramatic developments in the region as a whole. After the
Soweto uprising thousands of South African and Namibian youths sought
refuge in the neighbouring countries. The pressure on the Frontline States
intensified and South African attacks became more frequent. At the beginning
of 1976, SWAPO faced serious problems with providing the increasing
number of refugees with food. The rapid increase in the number of refugees
in the region pouring into Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland,
Zambia and Tanzania—countries which already received substantial
Norwegian and/or international aid to provide for their own citizens—also
made the need to increase the general humanitarian support acute.
These developments overshadowed the hesitation that SWAPO’s internal
problems had evoked in Norway. The fact that Swedish and Finnish aid
was not affected was also important for the Norwegian stance. In retrospect,
it should be noted that their reasons did not necessarily apply to Norway.
Sweden had through early contacts, built communications with the leaders
of SWAPO that were based on trust and accepted their decisions.59 Finland,
on the other hand, in 1976 did not channel any funds to SWAPO in Southern
Africa, but spent its entire allocation to SWAPO on Namibian students in
Finland.60 In comparison, Norway’s apprehension appears as fully understandable.
Nevertheless, the critical situation in Southern Africa heavily influenced
the Norwegian government to disregard the “Shipanga affair”.
56 Letter from Jan E. Nyheim, MFA, to the Consulate in Lusaka, 24 February 1977, MFA 34 9/5
57 SWAPO vice-president Mishake Muyongo to the Consulate in Lusaka, 12 January 1977,
MFA 34 9/5 V.
58 Telegram from MFA to the Consulate in Lusaka, 17 December 1976, 34 9/5 V.
59 Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
60 Iina Soiri and Pekka Peltola: Finland and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Uppsala:
Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
This not only led to an increase in the support for SWAPO, but also for the
liberation movements that Norway supported in Zimbabwe.61 In 1977,
Norway also started to support the OAU-recognised liberation movements
of South Africa, ANC and PAC.62 From 1977 to 1978, the Norwegian allocation
for humanitarian aid to the liberation movements in the region again
increased substantially, from NOK 12 million to NOK 22 million.
The increased Norwegian allocations for humanitarian support were
followed by political assurances in various meetings with the leaders of
SWAPO that Norway would stand behind their liberation efforts until
Namibia was free.63
Towards consolidation of the co-operation
As the support increased, it also became vital that the procedures functioned
as well as possible. Although some years would lapse before the co-operation
was consolidated, by 1976–1977 the general framework had been established:
every year SWAPO was informed about the size of the Norwegian
allocation; after discussions with NORAD in Lusaka, a request was sent to
the Foreign Ministry in Oslo for acceptance; when approved, and endorsed
by the government, the money was released. NORAD’s resident representatives
in Southern Africa carried out disbursements and control. The direct
support to SWAPO was only in the form of humanitarian aid to Namibian
refugees. In the 1970s, it went to food, transport, medical supplies, social
welfare, agriculture and administration. In 1980, when the balance of forces
in Southern Africa changed with the liberation of Zimbabwe, NOK 8 million
was allocated for these purposes.
The contacts between Norway and SWAPO increased during these
years. At the same time as both SWAPO and Norway tried to establish procedures
that could facilitate the implementation of the support, a trust based
on personal relationships was gradually built up. In addition to recurrent
meetings between SWAPO and the local representatives of NORAD, delegations
from the Foreign Ministry regularly visited SWAPO and the Namibian
refugee camps. Every year, SWAPO delegations also visited Oslo for discussions
with the Foreign Ministry, NORAD and the Norwegian non-governmental
organisations (NGOs). Central during SWAPO’s visits were discussions
about the political situation aimed at securing further Norwegian support.
61 See chapter 4.
62 See chapter 3.
63 E.g., Memorandum to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Samtale mandag 16. mai (…) med Sam
Nujoma (Consultation Monday 16 May (…) with Sam Nujoma), 11 May 1983, MFA 34 9/5 C IV;
Memorandum. Samtale 16 May 1983 med Sam Nujoma (Consultation 16 May 1983 with Sam
Nujoma), 1 Political Affairs Division, 11 May 1983, MFA 34 9/5 C IV.
The co-operation had been resumed after the 1976 crisis, but the Foreign
Ministry made it a prerequisite for continued aid that its representatives
were given an opportunity to visit the SWAPO centres in the Western
Province of Zambia.64 It was not sufficient that a SWAPO delegation in the
autumn of the same year again explained to the Foreign Ministry that the
internal differences, described as “normal in the liberation movements”, had
been solved and that everything was “functioning as before”.65 The major
purpose of the official Norwegian visits to the refugee camps was to obtain a
deeper insight into the humanitarian requirements. They also made it possible
to ensure that the support was used as agreed. This was certainly the
case in the spring of 1977, at a time when the waves caused by the crisis
within SWAPO started to calm down.
SWAPO’s headquarters move from Zambia to Angola
As the Norwegian authorities towards the end of 1977 got a more satisfactory
grasp of the situation, it again started to change. At the beginning of
1978, SWAPO had relocated most of its headquarters from Lusaka—where
Norway had a NORAD office serving as the Consulate—to Luanda, where
the Norwegian representatives even had trouble in getting visas.66 An internal
opposition to the move from Zambia to Angola was reflected in
SWAPO’s communications with Norway. However, in a situation where
SWAPO in addition to sorting out its own internal problems faced an increasing
number of refugees and the escalation of South African repression
and warfare, the organisation did not make time to keep Norway sufficiently
informed. This left Norway—although genuinely interested in
supporting SWAPO’s struggle—with some uncertainty regarding the
implementation of the support. The SWAPO request for 1978 can serve as an
example of this.
During a visit to Norway in February 1978, the SWAPO President Sam
Nujoma presented a request for Norwegian support to a number of SWAPO
projects inside Namibia, concerning education, health, agriculture and
SWAPO’s administration in Windhoek. The projects were regarded as being
important for the liberation struggle and it was “clear from Nujoma’s
64 Telegram from MFA to the Consulates in Gaborone and Lusaka: Reise til Botswana og
Zambia—konsulent Sverre Bergh-Johansen, mai 1977 (Official trip to Botswana and Zambia—
Executive Officer Sverre Bergh-Johansen, May 1977), 9 May 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
65 Samtale med representanter for den namibiske frigjøringsorganisasjonen SWAPO hos
Statssekretæren (Consultations with representatives for the Namibian Liberation Movement
SWAPO in the office of the State Secretary), 12 October 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
66 Utbetaling til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Support to the Liberation Movement SWAPO),
2 Political Affairs Division, 29 August 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII; Memorandum. Utbetaling til
frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Support to the Liberation Movement SWAPO), 1 Political
Affairs Division, 29 August 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
account that SWAPO preferred support for projects inside Namibia”.67
When asked whether SWAPO was capable of implementing the projects,
Nujoma replied that it was possible, but that it had to take place under
To inform a possible decision on support to projects inside Namibia, the
Foreign Ministry asked the Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam and the
representations in Lusaka, Maputo and Gaborone for advice. It also raised
the question with the UN Commissioner for Namibia, Martti Ahtisaari.
Without explicitly rejecting the idea, Ahtisaari “was sceptical about the
thought of changing the channels of support for SWAPO at that given
time”.69 The Norwegian representatives at the UN shared this view, as the
tension in Namibia had increased. Many SWAPO members were reported to
have been arrested and a number of high-ranking internal leaders had fled
the country. It would also be difficult to control the way in which the money
would actually be used inside Namibia.70
After repeated reminders to SWAPO by the NORAD representative in
Lusaka, the organisation submitted a formal request for 1978 in April of the
same year.71 It only referred to projects outside Namibia while the projects
that had been presented by President Nujoma in Oslo some months earlier
were not mentioned. The request for these projects, NORAD was told, had
instead been sent to Sweden.72
Norway did not want to make a decision regarding the new request
until a visit to SWAPO and the SWAPO camps had been arranged. In June
1978, two representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Knut Thommessen and
Bjørnar Utheim, finally went to the SWAPO camp at Nyango in Western
Zambia. Here, they were reassured that the Norwegian support had been
used according to agreements, as well as convinced about the need for
increased aid to the 4 –5,000 refugees assembled there. The lack of medicines
and the fact that daily meals had been cut down from two to one a day made
67 Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 21.–22. februar 1978 av SWAPO-delegasjon (Visit to Oslo 21–22
February 1978 of a delegation from SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 27 February 1978,
MFA 34 9/5 V.
68 Ibid.
69 Report from the Permanent Norwegian Mission to the United Nations. SWAPO.
Kanalisering av bistand i 1978 (SWAPO. Channelling of Support for 1978), 14 April 1978, MFA
34 9/5 V.
70 Ibid.
71 SWAPO: NORAD support to (…) SWAPO. Proposed expenditure, 17 April 1978, MFA 34 9/5
72 Letter from Consul Per Tobiesen, the Consulate in Lusaka, to MFA, 21 April 1978, MFA
34 9/5 VII.
a particularly strong impression on the delegation.73 By this time, however,
SWAPO had already started to move most of its activities to Angola.
The need for aid to the refugee camps was confirmed in discussions
with the SWAPO representation in Lusaka, where Vice President Muyongo
“agreed that one for the time being should not give support to projects inside
No decision on the allocation of support was however taken. The Norwegian
uncertainty in this regard was further confirmed when Sam Nujoma
himself some months later—in November 1978—requested that the entire
1978 allocation be channelled to SWAPO inside Namibia through the
Lutheran World Federation in Geneva.75
Again the general situation in Southern Africa can provide part of the
explanation: in late 1977, South Africa adopted as its official policy the socalled
“total strategy”, implying a mobilisation of all available resources in
defence of the apartheid state. The immediate consequences of this were an
enormous military build-up and increased repression, with assassinations,
arrests and torture inside Namibia. This made it extremely difficult for
SWAPO to operate within Namibia, and also led to a massive increase in the
number of refugees. Most of them went to Angola. In April 1978, SWAPO
informed the Norwegian government that it was responsible for 16 500
refugees in Angola and 5,000 in Zambia.76
Meanwhile, South Africa was taking part in negotiations between the
Contact Group (the five Western members of the Security Council: USA,
Great Britain, France West Germany and Canada), the Frontline States and
SWAPO, regarding a peaceful settlement in Namibia. The negotiations
broke down after South African forces on 4 May 1978 attacked SWAPO’s
refugee camp at Kassinga, Angola, where they killed over 600, mostly
women and children, and wounded many hundreds more.77
The new situation worked both ways regarding the Norwegian support.
On the one hand, it was obvious that the need for support was increasing.
After Kassinga, the Norwegian UN representation in New York urged the
Foreign Ministry to release the 1978 allocation, while the negotiations at the
UN were in intermission. If Norway waited until the negotiations were
resumed —and new problems arose —both SWAPO and the Contact Group,
73 Memorandum. Thommessen og Utheims reise til Lusaka, Botswana, Mozambique og Tanzania
21. mai til 3. juni 1978 (Thommessen and Utheim’s trip to Lusaka, Botswana, Mozambique
and Tanzania 21 May to 3 June 1978), 13 June 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
74 Ibid.
75 Letter from Sam Nujoma to the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 4 November 1978,
MFA 34 9/5 VIII.
76 SWAPO: NORAD support to (…) SWAPO. Proposed expenditure, 17 April 1978, MFA 34 9/5
77 Mvula ya Nangolo and Tor Sellström: Kassinga: A Story Untold. Windhoek: NBDC, 1995.
as well as the Norwegian opinion, could interpret the Norwegian support as
being used deliberately to influence the negotiations. On the other hand, “a
quick disbursement of the allocation could more easily be tied directly to the
actual humanitarian needs without being set into the political context of the
negotiations”.78 Even if SWAPO had not suggested anything of the sort, a
further postponement of the disbursement could, similarly, be taken as pressure
on SWAPO in the negotiations. Out of consideration to the continued
contacts with SWAPO, the Norwegian UN delegation in New York was of
the opinion that SWAPO might listen more to the Norwegian views if the
grant for 1978 had already been disbursed.79
The situation was indeed difficult. The most prominent SWAPO leaders
like President Nujoma and Vice President Muyongo were not co-ordinated
regarding their requests and the Norwegian consulate in Lusaka could not
easily get in touch with the SWAPO leaders. It was, in addition, difficult to
understand SWAPO’s needs, as these were changing with the move not just
of the headquarters, but also of the majority of the refugees, from Zambia to
At the same time, the negotiations at the UN were resumed. In September
1978 the Security Council adopted Resolution 435 for a solution to the
Namibian question based on a proposal by the Contact Group. This created
a fragile, but widely shared hope of Namibia becoming free in the not too
distant future. But as it became clear that South Africa showed no real willingness
to negotiate, the hope of an imminent solution was again lost.
Norwegian considerations regarding the support
The Norwegian Parliament did not make a decision regarding the 1978 allocation
for SWAPO until November of the same year. The Norwegian representation
in Lusaka reported in February 1979 that SWAPO was in a financially
difficult situation; the allocation from Swedish SIDA had been spent,
and the organisation had unpaid bills to honour. The consulate strongly
appealed to the Foreign Ministry to accept SWAPO’s budget and disburse
the support: “SWAPO cannot understand the drawn out treatment of this
Over a month later—at the end of March 1979—the Ministry in Oslo
replied, stating that the proposed distribution was acceptable and that disbursements
of the 1978 allocation could take place.81 Part of the 1978 allocation
was for vehicles that would be delivered to SWAPO as the Japanese
78 Report from the Permanent Norwegian Mission to the United Nations to MFA, 12 May 1978,
MFA 34 9/5 VII.
79 Ibid.
80 Telex from Consul Per Tobiesen, the Consulate in Lusaka, to MFA, 14 GFebruary 1979, MFA
34 9/5 IX.
81 Bjørnar Utheim, MFA, to the Consulate in Lusaka, 28 March 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
manufacturer received payment from Norway. In May 1979, this had still
not happened. The NORAD resident representative in Lusaka, Tor Elden,
then stated in a letter to the Foreign Ministry that the “way we have treated
SWAPO, with the late acceptance of the budget by the Foreign Ministry, and
now the delay in the payment for the cars, has made SWAPO wonder if
Norway is in the process of cutting them out.”82 A couple of weeks later the
vehicles were paid for. Elden wrote to Oslo that although the representation
would “try to mend the relationship with SWAPO through a luncheon”, he
thought that if there were more delays, “SWAPO would seriously start
doubting Norway’s ability to handle even simple matters.”83
The 1979 allocation did not prove any easier. Partly because of the late
release of the 1978 support—and partly because SWAPO had been busy
sorting out other urgent matters—the request for 1979 was not submitted
until March 1980.84 The resident representative in Lusaka, however, found it
difficult to advise the Foreign Ministry on the matter, as both SWAPO’s
administrative headquarters and the refugees in the Nyango camp were
being moved to Angola. He therefore planned a visit to the new SWAPO
camps in Kwanza Sul, Angola, before giving recommendations regarding
the request.85
Discussing the Norwegian support with President Nujoma the following
month, Elden was invited to Kwanza Sul. Nujoma assured him that the
practical arrangements would not be a problem. The Norwegian resident
representative to Zambia was, however, denied a visa for Angola.86 By this
time, Norway had recognised Angola, but no diplomatic representation had
been established.
New uncertainties arose when news reached the Lusaka consulate that
Vice President Mishake Muyongo “seemed to have” resigned, thus creating
a split in SWAPO. The background “was supposed to have been” that
“Muyongo refused to move from Lusaka”.87 A couple of months later, Elden
was informed by SWAPO’s representative in Lusaka, Hifikepunye
Pohamba, that Muyongo was accused of wanting to establish his own nation
82 Telex from Tor Elden, the NORAD resident representative in Lusaka, to MFA/NORAD, 21
May 1979, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
83 Telex from Tor Elden, the NORAD resident representative in Lusaka, to MFA, 4 June 1979,
MFA 34 9/5 XII.
84 SWAPO’s forslag for 1979 (SWAPO. Proposed expenditures 1979), 19 March 1980, MFA 34
9/5 XI.
85 Tor Elden, the NORAD resident representative in Lusaka, to MFA, 21 March 1980, MFA 34
9/5 X.
86 Utbetaling til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Disbursements to the Liberation Movement
SWAPO), 2 Political Affairs Division, 29 August 1980; Memorandum. Utbetaling til frigjøringsbevegelsen
SWAPO (Disbursements to the Liberation Movement SWAPO), 1 Political
Affairs Division, 29 August 1980, both documents in MFA 34 9/5 XII.
87 Tor Elden, the NORAD Resident representative in Lusaka to MFA, 9 May 1980, MFA 34 9/5
in Caprivi, and thus contributing to the South African plans for an apartheid
“internal solution”.88 Pohamba stated that Muyongo still was the Vice
President of SWAPO, but that he had refused to move to Luanda, where he
feared that he would be assassinated. Elden believed that there were indications
that Muyongo had challenged the leadership of Sam Nujoma.89 Later
in the same month, Muyongo was actually expelled from SWAPO.
This confusion contributed to a long delay in the disbursement of the
support and to the fact that the allocation for 1980 was not being increased
from the previous year. Instead, it was even discussed in the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry whether to use part of the allocated SWAPO funds for
other purposes, as was suggested by Knut Thommessen.90
In August 1980, Knut Thommessen raised the issue that part of the
SWAPO allocation for 1978 and most of the allocation for 1979, had still not
been used. In his opinion, this was due to the fact that “consul Elden has not
been able to arrange a meeting with the SWAPO leadership, which is now in
Angola”. Furthermore, he doubted if SWAPO really could make use of the
financial support: “Our aid is for food, medicines, clothes and transport, and
it has simply not been possible for these people to spend all the money given
to them for these purposes.”91
Thommessen therefore found it “meaningless” to withhold the funds
allocated for SWAPO, while the UNHCR was in urgent need of money. He
recommended the Foreign Ministry to reduce the already agreed 1980 allocation
for SWAPO, and to disburse the remaining amount only after
SWAPO had given a proper account of how the support for 1979 had been
spent. The balance, he argued, could be given to the UNHCR.92
The Foreign Ministry in Oslo did not agree, emphasising that the
responsibility for the unused allocated funds for 1978 and 1979 largely fell
on Norway. In both cases, the decision regarding the support had been
taken late in the year, implying that the release of the funds could only take
place in the following year. SWAPO could not be blamed for this. Nor was it
SWAPO’s responsibility that the Norwegian representative was not issued a
visa for Angola. In addition, the Ministry did not doubt that SWAPO’s running
of its refugee projects was efficient and well administered.93
88 Tor Elden, the NORAD Resident representative in Lusaka to MFA, 4 July 1980, MFA 34 9/5
89 Ibid.
90 Knut Thommessen was at the time so-called Ambassador 1, to be used for special commissions.
91 Tor Elden, the NORAD Resident representative in Lusaka to MFA, 4 July 1980, MFA 34 9/5
92 Memorandum to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Knut Thommessen, 27 August 1980, MFA
34 9/5 XII.
93 Memorandum. Utbetaling til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Disbursements to the
Liberation Movement SWAPO), 2 Political Affairs Division, 29 August 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
The Ministry was also of the opinion that it would be politically unfortunate—
both towards the liberation movements and the domestic opinion—
if allocations already given were to be withdrawn. Furthermore, it would
contradict the repeated Norwegian assurance of support for the Southern
African liberation movements. Internal opposition in the liberation movements
was unfortunate, but—the Ministry argued—the delay was to a large
extent due to Norwegian conditions and a reduction of the support would
be in direct opposition to the declared official Norwegian policy. Instead, the
allocated support should go in its entirety to SWAPO.94
Visit to Kwanza Sul: Contacts re-established
By this time the problems encountered between Norway and SWAPO were
starting to be resolved. The SWAPO leadership was finally settled in Luanda
and appeared united and ready to resume contacts with Norway. In
September 1980, a delegation of prominent SWAPO leaders, led by Sam
Nujoma, visited Oslo for consultations with the Foreign Ministry. Here the
situation within SWAPO, the political situation in Southern Africa and the
Norwegian support were again discussed in detail. The new possibility for
an open dialogue created a better understanding of the other’s views and
paved the way for the close co-operation that was to follow in the 1980s.95
Shortly after the consultations, representatives of the Foreign Ministry were,
finally, also able to visit Kwanza Sul. Through this visit, what can be called
the “running-in phase” of the co-operation between Norway and SWAPO
ended. As with the visit to Nyango two years earlier, the representatives of
the Foreign Ministry, Knut Thommessen and Tor Elden, were reassured by
what they saw in the refugee camps. Although becoming aware of the great
needs, they were impressed with SWAPO’s administration of Kwanza Sul,
the close relations between the leadership and the ordinary members and
with what they described as high moral standards in the camps.96 SWAPO
submitted a revised request for the financial year 1979, reflecting the
changed requirements following the move to Angola and the increase in the
number of refugees that had taken place since their last request was submitted.
On SWAPO’s request and the recommendation of the resident representative
in Lusaka, the delayed part of the humanitarian support for 1979 was
finally disbursed, with NOK 1 million in cash for administration and NOK 7
94 Memorandum. Utbetaling til frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO (Disbursements to the
Liberation Movement SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 29 August 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
95 Samtaler i UD 3. september med delegasjon fra SWAPO (Consultations in MFA 3 September
1980, with a delegation from SWAPO). The SWAPO delegation: President Sam Nujoma, Secretary
of Foreign Relations Peter Mueshihange, Secretary to the President Kapuka Nauyala, the
representative of SWAPO to the Nordic Countries, Hadino Hishongwa, 1 Political Affairs Division,
9 September 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
96 Memorandum. Støtte til SWAPO for 1979 og 1980 (SWAPO. Support for 1979 and 1980),
Lusaka, 7 October 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
million for food and transport in the Nyango and Kwanza Sul camps.97 In
October 1980, SWAPO also requested that the support for the financial year
1980 should be used for a project planned by SIDA regarding the building of
a school and a medical clinic in Kwanza Sul. The resident representative
Elden supported the request. As Norway did not have a diplomatic representation
in Luanda, it would, however, be difficult to follow up the use of
the funds.98 Nevertheless, by making the building of the school and the
clinic a joint Swedish/Norwegian project, the administration of the 1980
allocation would be taken away from Norway. SIDA’s representative in
Luanda would then be responsible for the project. As this was also
SWAPO’s wish, the Foreign Ministry soon decided to recommend the request,
and in December 1980 this was accepted by the government. In this
way, the accumulated balances from earlier years were committed and the
planning brought up to date. From 1981, this enabled both SWAPO and
Norway to deal with the support within the year for which it was actually
In the late 1970s, personal contacts and administrative routines were
thus established which in the 1980s facilitated the implementation of the
Norwegian support to SWAPO.
The 1980s: Close and consolidated co-operation
Broad political support
The political climate in Southern Africa became harder in the 1980s. An uncompromising
apartheid regime in an increasingly militarised South Africa
was responsible for numerous military attacks in attempts to destabilise the
Frontline States. Pretoria’s establishment of a Council of Ministers in Windhoek
in July 1980 and the setting up of an “interim government” in June
1985 confirmed that South Africa was not trying to advance an internationally
acceptable, but an “internal solution”. The hope that existed in the late
1970s of liberation in a “not too distant future” faded away, making a longer
perspective of the planning of the Norwegian support necessary. At the
United Nations, negotiations continued, but they were constantly obstructed
by South Africa’s repeated invasions of Angola. The diplomatic offensive by
the US President Ronald Reagan, linking the withdrawal of Cuban troops
from Angola to South Africa’s withdrawal from Namibia, led to a stalemate
in the Namibia negotiations for most of the 1980s. At the same time, the
number of Namibian refugees under SWAPO’s care grew steadily.
97 National Treasurer in SWAPO Hifikepunye L. Pohamba to the Consulate in Lusaka, Re-
Financial Contribution by the Royal Norwegian Government to SWAPO for Fiscal Year 1979, 22
October 1980; Elden to MFA, Støtte til SWAPO 1979 (SWAPO. Support for 1979), 27 October
1980, both documents in MFA 34 9/5 XIII.
98 Tor Elden to MFA, 27 October 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XIII.
At the end of 1980, Norwegian aid authorities estimated that SWAPO
had more than 40,000 refugees in Angola.99 Out of these, 25–30,000, mostly
women and children, were estimated to be staying in Kwanza Sul, and at
least 10,000 reported refugees were staying in other camps in Angola. In
addition, there was a large number of SWAPO freedom fighters, which was
rising with young men fleeing from the introduction of compulsory military
service in Namibia from the beginning of 1981. Only some 2,000 civilian
refugees were still in Nyango. By 1985, SWAPO was reported to have 75,000
refugees under its care, of whom 70,000 were in Angola and 5,000 in
The character of the co-operation between Norway and SWAPO
changed from 1980. With personal relations and administrative routines
suitable for humanitarian assistance to a liberation movement established,
the Norwegian government was from the early 1980s in a better position to
implement the support. The internal SWAPO conflicts, which had negatively
influenced the movement’s capacity to administer the support, as well
as to maintain a fruitful dialogue with Norway, were at the same time resolved.
At both the donor’s and the recipient’s end, conditions were thus in
place for a more consolidated co-operation.
Throughout the 1980s, the Norwegian direct support to SWAPO steadily
increased, irrespective of the political colours of the governments in power.
It also broadened, from consisting mainly of payments for items required by
SWAPO, to assuming a character of fully-fledged mutual co-operation.
NGOs representing different sections of the Norwegian civil society, such as
the church, the labour movement, the students and solidarity organisations
were engaged as operating partners, reflecting that the assistance to SWAPO
enjoyed broad political support in Norway. This was also made explicit by
the Conservative government that was elected after continuous Social
Democratic rule since Norway started the direct support to SWAPO. Shortly
after its formation in October 1981, the new government confirmed during
the apartheid debate in the UN General Assembly that it would continue to
support the refugees in Southern Africa through humanitarian assistance.
During the Namibia debate, it likewise announced that it would increase the
support for the Namibian refugees. This was followed up by increased allocations
both for SWAPO and the liberation movements in South Africa, and
for projects for Namibian refugees implemented by the UN and various
The situation of the 1970s, with under-utilisation of the annual grants,
and large carry-overs into the following years, changed in the 1980s to more
planned priorities and systematic use. The contact was closer, the pre-
99 Foredrag til Statsråd (Draft to the Council of State), November 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XIII.
100 Request from SWAPO for 1985. Attachment to a letter to Bjarne Lindstrøm, 28 February
1985, MFA 34 9/5 C XIII.
dictability larger, the routines better, both from Norway’s side and from
SWAPO’s. The decisions regarding the size of the allocations were taken
earlier in the year, and the requests from SWAPO could therefore be submitted
within the first months. As a rule, the allocations were disbursed before
the end of the year. (Exceptions to this rule, were the allocations for the
SWAPO secondary school in Loudima, which in the first years were allocated,
but not disbursed as no other donors pledged support.) The negotiations
regarding the support took place in Lusaka until 1986, when they on
SWAPO’s request were moved to Luanda. From then on, they also had the
same character as Norway’s regular country programme negotiations with
independent governments.
As seen elsewhere in this study, a major part of the official support was
in the 1980s channelled to extensive projects, implemented in co-operation
with other agencies and organisations. The direct support, however, basically
consisted of meeting SWAPO’s requests for humanitarian assistance.
NORAD implemented the support, except for the support given to SWAPO
in Harare in 1988 and 1989, where the Norwegian Save the Children was
responsible for taking care of the procurements.
In the implementation of one specific project, however, SWAPO requested
the Namibia Association to act on its behalf, thereby providing a
channel for the Norwegian Government’s direct support to SWAPO.101 A
presentation of the development of the construction and running of the
Namibia Secondary Technical School in Congo, can therefore serve both as
an example of a project initiated by a Norwegian NGO to SWAPO, and as an
expression of the direct support rendered for SWAPO by the Foreign
The Namibia Secondary Technical School in Loudima
Throughout the 1980s, by far the largest project in the Norwegian support
for SWAPO, was the planning, constructing and running of the Namibia
Secondary Technical School in Loudima, Congo. The size of the project did
not just relate to the costs—although these were considerable, with around
NOK 50 million for the construction, and NOK 10 million annually for the
running of the school. The physical size of the school was also large: 8000
square metres of buildings were erected on an area of 750 square kilometres.
3 kilometres of access roads were built, in addition to the roads on campus.
The significance of the school lies primarily, however, in its role as a pilot
project. In addition to providing Namibian students in exile with a
secondary education, it provided SWAPO with very valuable experience for
the building up of a secondary education in Namibia after liberation. In
close co-operation with the Namibia Association, and with the Foreign
101 For more on the Namibia Association, see chapter 9.
Ministry as main donor, SWAPO proved to the sceptics that it was able to
lead both the building and the running of this school. The political importance
of the Loudima school also lies in the fact that at Loudima, curricula
and syllabi for Namibian secondary schools were developed. The ideas on
which the Congo school was based, have been realised in Namibia in the
development of the school system in democratic Namibia.
The request
During discussions with SWAPO in Luanda in March 1982, the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry was requested to grant financial support to the building of
a school centre planned near Loudima in the People’s Republic of Congo,
where a site had been allocated by the Congolese government.102 A formal
request regarding the implementation of this project had already been sent
to the Namibia Association in Norway, which promptly started a preliminary
survey including discussions with SWAPO and a visit to Loudima in
March.103 The need for a secondary school for Namibian pupils was undisputed:
secondary education was available to less than 1% of all those starting
primary school in Namibia and SWAPO’s facilities for secondary education
for the increasing number of school children and students under its care
were very poor.104 By building and running the Loudima school, SWAPO
sought to create a comprehensive institution capable of providing a fiveyear
programme of general education, as well as programmes concerning
science, technology, agriculture and polytechnics, combining theory and
practice. Agricultural production was also included in the plans for the
school. In addition to providing the pupils with teaching and homes, the
school would also serve as a prototype for the future secondary school system
in a free Namibia—whenever that might be. SWAPO was willing to
build the school despite the uncertainties regarding the time of liberation, as
the potential gains would be important. The organisation wished that the
school would start with already 270 students at the end of 1982, and to be
gradually expanded until 1,000 students could be enrolled.
The project was planned in two phases, the first consisting of the actual
building of the centre and the provision of water. The second phase was to
be concerned with the running of the school: working out curricula,
102 Kristian F. Petersen and Leif Sauvik, Lusaka, to MFA. Rapport fra en tjenestereise til Angola
i forbindelse med norsk bistand til SWAPO (Report from an official trip to Angola in connection
with Norwegian support to SWAPO), 9 March 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C II.
103 The Namibia Association to MFA, attachment: Namibia Secondary Technical School.
SWAPO, January 1982, 10 February 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C II.
104 Spørsmål om norsk støtte til SWAPO’s skoleprosjekt i Kongo (Question of Norwegian support
to the school project of SWAPO in Congo), Knut Vollebæk, 12 May 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C I.
providing the school materials, engaging teachers etc. SWAPO hoped that
UNESCO and UNHCR would grant considerable support to the school.105
Discussing Norwegian support for the school
The Foreign Ministry regarded the project as “undoubtedly worthy of support”,
but needed clarification regarding the agreement with the Congolese
authorities, the total costs and the participation of other donors before any
decision could be made.106 In discussions with Senior Executive Officer
Knut Vollebæk, SWAPO’s Secretary of Education, Nahas Angula, asked if
Norway could lead the building phase and, if necessary, get in touch with
donors such as SIDA and DANIDA for co-operation.107
While the UNHCR did not have any funds for the construction phase
and other donors hesitated, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry after a visit to
the site in May 1982 decided not to let the uncertainties regarding the time of
Namibia’s liberation prevent the building of a secondary school which was
so urgently needed. It would, under any circumstances, be important as a
forerunner to the new school system in a free Namibia. The repatriation of
the large number of Namibia’s refugees was also likely to take years. The
MPLA school in Congo had been used for six years after the independence
of Angola and the UN Institute for Namibia in Lusaka planned to continue
teaching for five years after independence. In the Foreign Ministry support
to the Loudima school was described as “politically safe“. Support to the
liberation movements enjoyed broad political support and the use of the
grants for educational purposes was “right on target” regarding the purpose
of the allocations for humanitarian support.108
In 1982, the Foreign Ministry therefore allocated NOK 4 million for the
construction of the Loudima school, provided that the plans for the implementation
were accepted. Before a release of the grant could take place, an
agreement between Congo and SWAPO also had to be signed, giving
SWAPO the right to the area of the building site. Support for the running of
105 Memorandum. SWAPO. Etablering av en “Secondary Technical School” i Loudima, Congo
SWAPO (The foundation of a Secondary Technical School in Loudima, Congo, Knut Vollebæk,
Brazzaville, 10 May 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C II.
106 Ibid.
107 Spørsmål om norsk støtte til SWAPO’s skoleprosjekt i Kongo (Question of Norwegian support
to the school project of SWAPO in Congo), Knut Vollebæk, 12 May 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C I.
108 Memorandum. SWAPO. Kontakt med Namibiaforeningen og brevveksling vedrørende
oppføring og drift av Loudima-skolen i Kongo (SWAPO. Contact with the Namibia Assosiation
and correspondence concerning building and running of the Loudima-school in Congo), 1 Political
Affairs Division, 12 December 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
the school had, in addition, to be guaranteed by UNESCO or other relevant
The planning of the educational and technical aspects of the school advanced
well during 1982. In May, representatives of i.a. UNESCO and ILO
recommended the project in a UN inter-agency report after a visit to the area
and a study of the plans. In June, SWAPO submitted an education plan and
in August an agreement was signed between Congo and SWAPO. A project
document with plans for the building of the school was at the same time
presented by the Namibia Association, which had also recruited technical
and administrative advisers for the implementation of the project.110
With regard to financial planning, the pace was, however, slower. The
lack of sponsors became evident at an informal meeting arranged by the UN
Namibia Council to discuss the financing of the Loudima school in October
1982, in connection with the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting in
Geneva. The representatives of SWAPO, UNHCR, Denmark, Finland, Sweden,
the Netherlands and Norway, as well as those of the Council attended
the meeting. SWAPO emphasised the high priority of the project, but no
commitments were made and no conclusions reached.111 Although a number
of possible sponsors approached by SWAPO in principle agreed on the
importance of the school, by the end of the year no one had pledged concrete
support. As Norway would not disburse the grant for the building of
the school until the running costs had been covered, the 1982 allocation was
reallocated to Kwanza Sul to avoid carry-overs.112 In the 1983 budget, however,
a new allocation of NOK 4 million was reserved for the school, to be released
as soon as support for the second phase was secured.113
Although recognising economic difficulties within the UN system as the
reason for the delays, Sam Nujoma nevertheless expressed dissatisfaction
with the restrictive Norwegian attitude in a meeting with the Norwegian
Foreign Minister in Oslo May 1983.114 Nujoma was informed that a recent
decision made by the UN Council for Namibia to allocate 250,000 USD for
the running of the school had brought a financial solution closer and
109 Memorandum. SWAPO. Etablering av en “Secondary Technical School” i Loudima, Congo
(SWAPO. Foundation of a Secondary Technical School in Loudima, Congo, Knut Vollebæk,
Brazzaville, 10 May 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C II.
110 MFA 34 9/5 C III.
111 Telex. The Norwegian UN-delegation in Geneva to MFA, 19 October 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C
112 Sam Nujoma, in a telex to Foreign Minister Svenn Stray, John Vea, Norwegian Embassy in
Stockholm to MFA, 5 November 1982, MFA 34 9/5 C IV.
113 B. Lindstrøm, Lusaka, to K. Vollebæk, MFA 34 9/5 C IV.
114 Memorandum. SWAPOs president Sam Nujoma’s besøk i Norge. Samtale med utenriksministeren
(The visit of the President of SWAPO Sam Nujoma to Norway. Consultation with
the Minister of Foreign Affairs), 14–17 May 1983, 1 Political Affairs Division, 20 May 1983, MFA
34 9/5 C IV.
promised to actively work for the start-up of the project. This was followed
up by engaging the Namibia Association to make a time-plan for the construction
phase and estimates of the total costs, and to start working out the
educational plans. As the Ministry was not confident that this small and
young NGO had the necessary competence to carry out the construction
works, as SWAPO had requested, it also engaged the private Norwegian
consultancy firm NORPLAN, later to be in charge of the construction, to
make qualified estimates of the design and scope.115
Although no formal decision on support to the Loudima school had
been taken, plans were thus developed both with regard to the building and
running of the school.
Developing a school plan
The objectives and overall guidelines for the school were set by SWAPO.
The preparations for the curricula were carried out in close contact between
the Namibia Association and SWAPO, on the basis of SWAPO’s educational
policy and philosophy. A first conference in this respect was held at the
United Nations Institute of Namibia in Lusaka in September 1982, and in
October 1983 the first proposal for the educational structure was accepted
and an agreement in principle reached regarding the school curricula. The
Namibia Association was asked to continue the curriculum planning and
prepare guidelines for the syllabi.116
With the support of the Foreign Ministry, the Namibia Association in
September 1984 arranged a conference at Lillehammer, Norway, where a
general policy and a guiding curriculum were defined. A more specific
framework for each syllabus for the first three years was also developed.
The work was led by SWAPO’s Secretary for Education and Culture, Nahas
Angula, who described the conference as “a milestone in the march towards
a free Namibia and a new example of the practical support Norway was
willing to give in order to achieve justice, freedom and independence for a
colonised people which had endured such heavy ordeals”.117 Having laid
the foundation for the curricula, the Namibia Association continued the
work on the details. After a revision by SWAPO’s Education Department, a
workshop would finalise the preparations of the curricula and syllabi in
115 Memorandum. Besøk i Norge av SWAPO’s president dr. Sam Nujoma, 14.–17. mai 1983
(The visit of the President of SWAPO Sam Nujoma to Norway 14–17 May 1983), MFA 34
9/5 C IV.
116 Minutes of Meeting. SWAPO. Namibia Secondary Technical School, Loudia. Meeting on
Educational Planning, Lusaka, 291083. Tore Johnsen, NORPLAN, 14 November 1983, MFA
34 9/5 V.
117 Lillehammer Tilskuer, 8 September 1984.
time for the opening of the school.118 This workshop was arranged jointly by
the Namibia Association and SWAPO in Lusaka in January 1986. The syllabi
and curricula were continuously developed during the years the Loudima
school was operating, based on the experiences acquired and with the aim of
making them suitable also for the schools in Namibia after independence.
Specialists from SWAPO, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other co-operating partners
participated at workshops regularly arranged by the school. The school
adopted the British school system from Form 1 to Form 5, and co-operated
closely with Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Namibian students sat for the
Cambridge International General Certificate of Senior Education, IGCSE, examination,
arranged in co-operation with the examination boards of Zambia
and Zimbabwe, as well as the University of Cambridge.
Norway becomes committed
After the discussions held with SWAPO in Lusaka in October 1983 regarding
the plans for the Loudima school, on SWAPO’s request NORPLAN continued
the planning of the building programme, leading to a presentation of
a proposal for the construction in April 1984. The costs were estimated as
NOK 51–66 million. The Namibia Association, however, reacted against
what it saw as planning for a too advanced school. NORAD supported this
view and the building plans were made simpler, cutting the costs down to
NOK 40 million. The Namibia Association estimated the running costs to
NOK 10 million per year. On NORAD’s suggestion, a group was subsequently
appointed to secure continuous steering and supervise the development
of the project. The group was mandated to make binding decisions
regarding the implementation of the project, within the framework set by
the Ministry.119 It consisted of the Namibia Association, representing
SWAPO; NORAD as adviser and the Foreign Ministry, as responsible for the
support to SWAPO. At the first meeting of the steering group in August
1984, the Namibia Association was authorised to start the necessary layout
work at the project area, financed by the general SWAPO allocation for
Although no formal decision had yet been taken, the Norwegian Government
had become committed through all the preparatory work conducted
and the positive signals sent to SWAPO. When the formal decision to
118 The Namibia Association. Oppsummering fra fagplanseminar. Lillehammer 6.–9. september
1984 (Sum up from a professional seminar at Lillehammer 6–9 September 1984), Elverum 12
September 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
119 Contract between the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Namibia Association
regarding Construction of the Namibia Secondary Technical School in Loudima, Congo,
MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
120 Report. Videregående skole for Namibiske flyktninger i Loudima, Congo. Første møte i
styringskomiteen (Secondary school for Namibian refugees in Loudima, Congo. First meeting
in the steering committee), 1 Political Affairs Division, 5 September 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
finance the construction of the Loudima school was finally made in September
1984, the project was thus well planned. The Namibia Association had
managed to assure the Foreign Ministry that it could handle the responsibility
for the implementation of the investments and the construction of the
school, while NORPLAN was contracted to advise the Namibia Association
during the building process. This turned out to be a less than fortunate
arrangement. The disagreements between the organisations remained, ending
with the Namibia Association cancelling the contract with NORPLAN in
October 1987 and winning a law suit against the firm, demanding compensation
for extra costs as a result of NORPLAN’s calculations.121
At the end of 1984, Sam Nujoma was informed by Foreign Minister
Svenn Stray that the Norwegian government had decided to allocate up to
NOK 40 million for the construction of the school, as well as NOK 5 million
annually for five years after completion of the project to cover part of the
operational costs. The money would, as SWAPO had suggested, be channelled
through the Namibia Association of Norway, acting on behalf of the
liberation movement.122
The costs for the school would be taken from the annual allocations for
SWAPO. These were, however, substantially increased in the following
years, thus avoiding that the decision would lead to serious cuts in other
activities. The already established humanitarian assistance to the refugees in
Zambia and Angola continued as before.
Securing further support
Following the decisions by the two major donors of the Loudima school,
Congo and Norway, the UN Commissioner for Namibia, Brajesh C. Mishra,
worked on the financing of the running of the school. At an informal round
table meeting in October 1984, which the Commissioner organised jointly
with the UNHCR, SWAPO presented the project and the requirements to the
representatives of a number of governments, as well as of the OAU,
UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and UNDP, to assess what further support could
be expected. Another meeting with the same objective was arranged with
representatives of various NGOs. At both meetings, Mr. Mishra stated that
“the long overdue school” would also need support from other sources than
Congo, which had allocated the land, and Norway, which would cover the
costs for the preparation of the physical infrastructure, including furnished
121 Letter to NORPLAN from the Lawyers Næss and Sanderud, 26 October 1987, MFA 34 9/5 C
122 Svenn Stray to SWAPO President Sam Nujoma, 20 December 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
123 The Namibia Technical Secondary School, Donors Informal Round Table, Geneva, Palais
des Nations, 10 October 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C VII.
Through these meetings, the Namibia Secondary Technical School in
Loudima was widely presented. Potential donors were informed that
SWAPO was the implementing agency for a school that would both meet
the acute needs for secondary education and serve as a prototype in a free
Namibia. The curricula of the school were presented: the subjects, examination
principles and the underlying pedagogic philosophy of ‘combining
hands and head’, or “to foster the relationship between school and community,
theory and practice and study and work”.124 At the meetings the representative
of the Norwegian government explained that although Norway
would sponsor the construction and part of the running costs, it was evident
that only one agency or government could not bear the whole financial burden
for the school. Positive indications of further support were also given.
In 1985, Norwegian NGOs also decided to support the school. Operation
Day’s Work, the annual solidarity campaign where secondary students
spend a day raising funds for educational projects in poorer parts of the
world, brought in NOK 15 million for the students at the Loudima School.
NOK 12.5 million was also given to the Loudima school from a yearly
fundraising campaign arranged by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
In the UN International Youth Year 1985 this was arranged in favour of
Norwegian youth organisations working with information on the
north/south conflict, engaging young people in practical solidarity work,
and getting funds for development projects. The Namibia Association was
one of the organisations co-operating on this fundraising campaign. During
the following years, the school was in addition sponsored by various UN
agencies; WUS, Denmark; TSL-Finland (The Finnish Social Democrats’
organisation for education and international support); Overseas Service
Bureau, Australia; the University of Bremen, the Federal Republic of
Germany and the British Council and Namibia Refugee Project in England.
The school was also supported by the Finnish and Swedish governments,
through FINNIDA and SIDA, respectively.
Life at the school
The first pupils arrived at Loudima in June 1986, when 113 girls and 8 boys
from SWAPO’s educational centres in Zambia and Angola started an intensive
course in English in preparation for the school year that began in
September 1986. Five years of schooling would then prepare the students,
aged 13–25 years, for further studies at university level, or for work. The
teaching was organised through departments for Science, Languages, Social
Sciences and Pre-vocational training. The programme consisted of three
124 Nahas Angula: “The Relationship between Education and Society: Namibia in the conditions
of National Liberation Struggle and after Independence”, p 5. Paper presented at the
“SWAPO seminar on Education and Culture for Liberation”, Lusaka, 1982, Nordkvelle, 34 9/5
years of junior secondary education, with theoretical and pre-vocational
training, and two years of senior secondary education, with the possibility of
entering a vocational training scheme. The different backgrounds from previous
schooling was a problem. ‘Bridging courses’ were therefore established
to prepare the students for Form 1.
When the school was officially opened on SWAPO’s Women’s Day, 10
December 1986, it had a Namibian principal, and teachers and other staff
from Namibia, Denmark and Norway. Later, teachers from Finland, Great
Britain and Australia were also recruited. Congolese citizens were also
engaged in various positions.
The board of the school was led by Nahas Angula and composed of
representatives from SWAPO, Congo, the UN, the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry, the Namibia Association, and the UN Institute for Namibia and
WUS Denmark. At its regular meetings in December 1987, 1988, 1989 and
1990, the board was informed by the school director on the daily running of
the school, the building leaders’ reports on the construction works, accounting
and budgets for the building and running of the school etc. School regulations,
administrative plans and staff rules were also discussed.
By the end of 1988, there were around 500 people living in the small
English-speaking community that developed at Loudima. Of these, 368 were
students. The rest were Namibian and non-Namibian teachers, staff and
children. The teaching of the various subjects was divided between the
organisations that were represented with teachers at the school, although all
teachers helped out in other fields when necessary. Pre-vocational training
was mainly taken care of by Finnish teachers, while the agricultural department
was administered by WUS, Denmark, and the Danish teachers taught
farming and life sciences. The teachers recruited by the Namibia Association
were mainly concentrated on physical sciences, maths and language, while
the Namibian teachers were responsible for social sciences and co-responsible
for a number of other subjects.125
The students were comprehensively organised to compensate for the
lack of normal family contacts. In each class, a leading student was
appointed to take care of the students’ contacts with the school and each of
the student houses had a committee of adults, with a housemaster as head of
the committee, to help the students with their daily routines or to deal with
more serious problems. Leisure time activities were also encouraged and
helped to ensure companionship at the school—through political groups
such as the SWAPO Youth or the SWAPO Women’s League, disco nights,
video shows and sports. One example of the latter was that the school
volleyball team took part in local tournaments.
125 Life Science, Domestic Science, Typing, French, Physical Education, Physical Science, Metal
Work, Sewing, Social Science, Maths, Woodwork, English and Political Education.
In the summer of 1989, the first group of students sat for examinations
after a three-year course at junior secondary level.
Yngve Nordkvelle, a Norwegian researcher in international education,
concluded in a report after fieldwork at the Loudima school in October and
November 1987, that “according to the objectives of the school set out in
several documents since 1982, all the main goals have been achieved”.126
After it had been running for almost one and a half years he described the
school as well functioning, the teaching and syllabi being developed in a
constructive way, and the buildings serving their purpose. Although there
was a lack of teaching materials, such as suitable textbooks, he stated that
“except for the students, there was nothing particularly African about the
school”.127 These, on the other hand, were described in various documents
through the years as very highly motivated and hard working.128
Namibian liberation—the school closes down
At an extra-ordinary board meeting in March 1989, the future of the school
was discussed in the light of the new political situation, with planned
Namibian elections in November of the same year and independence from 1
April 1990. It was, according to SWAPO’s priorities, agreed that the students
at Loudima should continue there until they had completed their secondary
education, but that new intake of students should be discouraged.129 This
meant that the last group of students for the five-year educational programme
would be enrolled in August 1989. The building programme was to
be phased out and SWAPO’s properties were to be transferred to Namibia.
At the meeting, the representative of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry
pledged continued support after independence, but in which form and for
how long would have to be discussed after the elections, when the future
situation and the bilateral Norwegian aid to Namibia had become clearer.130
As the school was to run for at least five more years, the board decided to
invest NOK 4.5 million in a powerline to connect it to the Congolese electric
power and telecommunications network.
In December 1990, however, the board decided to close the school by the
end of 1991. The students were to be repatriated to Namibia. A team consist-
126 Yngve Nordkvelle: Code and context in the making of a curriculum for liberation and self-reliance.
Report from fieldwork at “The Namibia Secondary Technical School” in Loudima, People’s
Republic of Congo, preliminary version, MFA 34 9/5 C XIV.
127 Ibid., p. 14.
128 The Namibia Association of Norway: Annual report 1987, p. 23.
129 Namibia Secondary School. Extraordinary Board Meeting, 13 March 1989, MFA 34 9/5 C
130 Memorandum. SWAPO. Ekstaordinært styremøte Namibia-skolen (SWAPO. Extraordinary
Board Meeting the Namibia School), Loudima, Congo, 13–14 March 1989, Mette Ravn, 20 March
1989, MFA 34 9/5 C XV.
ing of one representative of the new Namibian Ministry for Education and
three Norwegian consultants was appointed to assess the possibilities existing
in Namibia for students that had not been able to finish their education
in Loudima. The report submitted by the team in March 1991, “Learning by
Production”, was criticised in Namibia, and an additional report was submitted
by Namibian authorities in May.
In June 1991 plans for the closing of the school were drawn up at a
board meeting. The Namibia Association was entrusted with overall responsibility
for the whole operation, including chartering of three passenger and
two cargo planes. The reception in Namibia of the students and the equipment
was the responsibility of the Namibian government.
In December 1991, the school was handed over to the Congolese state.
For some years, it was run by the Roman Catholic Church for Congolese
students, with the Namibia Association as a consultant during a transition
In independent Namibia, the pedagogics developed at the Loudima
school, has strongly influenced the building up of a school system in the
Nordic co-operation
Norway and her Nordic neighbours co-operated closely regarding the policy
of support for the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. For example, at the
level of international organisations, such as the UN, the Nordic countries
often co-ordinated their positions, usually appearing as a group. In addition,
in 1978, the Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and
Sweden agreed on a Joint Nordic Programme of Action against Apartheid,
which was reviewed in 1985 and updated in 1988 following Nordic sanctions
against South Africa. In the 1980s, regular meetings between the Foreign
Ministers of the Nordic countries and their colleagues in the Frontline
States were also arranged to discuss the situation in Southern Africa and
Nordic assistance to the region.131
Consultative meetings were also instituted from 1984 to strengthen the
Nordic co-ordination with regard to the implementation in the field of the
humanitarian assistance to SWAPO, as overlaps between different activities
were taking place.132 SWAPO’s responsibilities and workload increased
with the growing number of refugees. As the Nordic countries were among
its largest donors, it was important that they kept each other informed of
ongoing and planned activities. By exchanging views and experiences, the
overlaps could thus be avoided and the support made more efficient.
131 See Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
132 Minnesanteckningar från möte om Nordiskt bistånd till SWAPO (Report from a meeting according
Nordic support to SWAPO), 28 November 1984, MFA 34 9/5 C.
The Norwegian and Swedish support programmes were in their basic
outlines very similar, while the Danish and Finnish support was of a somewhat
different character. This was reflected in close co-operation between
Norway and Sweden regarding the practical, operative implementation of
the assistance in the field.133 Direct consultations between Norway and
Sweden on the practical co-operation therefore took place on a number of
occasions, while the discussions between the Norwegian aid administration
and those of Denmark or Finland were less frequent and of a more general
The close relationship between Norway and Sweden was also manifested
in continuous contacts between the Norwegian and Swedish representatives
in the field. In particular, this was of great importance after the
move of SWAPO’s headquarters to Luanda, when the Swedish aid agency
SIDA assisted as problems arose in the implementation of the Norwegian
support in Angola. This lasted until 1986, when a Norwegian consulate was
established in the Angolan capital. At the project level, this co-operation was
also expressed with regard to the recruiting of experts and in the implementation
of the actual projects. In 1978, for example, Sweden forwarded a
request from SWAPO to Norway for SEK 2 million for the purchase and
transport of food and medicines to Angola, where 15,000 Namibian refugees
were in a very difficult situation.134 Norway allocated the money and SIDA
took care of the logistics. The school and hospital in Kwanza Sul is another
example, where the Norwegian Foreign Ministry from 1980 agreed to support
a project that SIDA had developed with SWAPO, making it possible to
cover part of the vast needs for education and medical services in the camp.
While Norway gave considerable financial support, SIDA remained the implementing
partner, being responsible for the administrative aspects of the
Towards independence: From support for the liberation struggle
to bilateral development aid
New guidelines for the transition period
An agreement based on the UN Security Council Resolution 435 regarding
independence for Namibia was signed between South Africa, Angola and
Cuba on 22 December 1988, to be implemented from 1 April 1989. This dramatically
changed the situation and thus the basis for the Norwegian support.
SWAPO would, naturally, run for the democratic elections in Namibia.
As the UN presupposed impartiality towards the political parties in
133 The Swedish support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa was more extensive
than the Norwegian, this was also reflected in the administrative resources spent on it in the
two countries, in 1986 being three man-labour years in Sweden and one third in Norway.
134 Memorandum. Anmodning om bistand til SWAPO (Request for support to SWAPO),
9 February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
Namibia during the transition period, the Norwegian Government had to
consider the implications regarding continued Norwegian support to
SWAPO. Although South Africa would still administer Namibia during the
transition period, a UN civilian and military contingent, UNTAG, would for
twelve months from 1 April 1989 monitor and guarantee the preparations
for the elections, as well as the takeover by a democratically elected new
Namibian government.
Guidelines were laid down by the UN regarding international aid
during the transition period. It would, obviously, be unreasonable to
suddenly cut off the support to SWAPO’s humanitarian work for the
Namibian refugees in exile. Existing humanitarian aid programmes (that did
not include cash payments) could thus continue without causing problems.
New programmes, of which there was a great need in view of the return of
the refugees to Namibia, were only acceptable if they were deemed to be
Adhering to these guidelines was voluntary, but participation in
UNTAG would be impossible for those supporting SWAPO as a political
party. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry also argued that violations to this
impartiality should be avoided, as it could be used by South Africa to
undermine the process.135 According to the Ministry, being present in
Namibia in the transition period was the best way the Nordic countries
could support the development in Namibia, and thereby SWAPO. Only
through being there, could Norway assist in preventing harassment to
repatriated refugees, and election fraud.136
As South Africa did not accept Swedish military participation in
UNTAG, and the role of Denmark was not yet defined, the Ministry argued
that it might be left to Norway and Finland to secure the Nordic presence.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry therefore emphasised the importance of
not jeopardising the Norwegian participation in UNTAG. Finland was expected
to be part of the military contingent, while Norway was supposed to
become part of the civilian.
The Norwegian Minister for Development Co-operation, Kirsti Kolle
Grøndahl, was of a somewhat different opinion: as South Africa was trying
to undermine the independence process by training assassins, building up
terror groups, engaging in scaremongering and preparing for election fraud,
she maintained that SWAPO should receive Norwegian aid for the election
135 Memorandum. Namibia. Spørsmål om støtte til SWAPO i overgangsfasen til selvstendighet
(Namibia. Questions regarding support for SWAPO in the transitional period to independence.)
1 Political Division, 2 February 1989, MFA 34 9/5 C XV.
136 Memorandum to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. UNTAG-operasjonen og spørsmålet om
norsk støtte til SWAPO (The UNTAG-operation and the question of Norwegian support to
SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 10 February 1989, MFA 34 9/5 C XV.
137 Arbeiderbladet, 7 February 1989.
These two positions can be seen as a prelude to the changes that were
taking place in the Norwegian aid administration with regard to independent
Namibia. The building up of the bilateral aid co-operation, which was
administered by the Norwegian Ministry for Development Co-operation,
ran parallel to the phasing out of the support that had been given to SWAPO
by the Foreign Ministry. This was a gradual process, and it was the position
held by the Foreign Ministry that was decisive regarding the character of the
support during the transition period in Namibia. Norway was very careful
not to give support that SWAPO could use for its election campaign. Nevertheless,
this did not prevent the Foreign Ministry from financing the move of
SWAPO’s print-shop from Zambia to Namibia, although post facto. The
print-shop, which Norway had funded since its start in 1982, was of great
significance during the election campaign.138 When requested to finance the
move of the print-shop, the Ministry found it reasonable to support the
move. “This support should, however, not be disbursed until after the elections
in November.”139 The Namibia Association thus had the NOK 830,000
it spent on moving the print-shop and investing in some new equipment,
refunded after the elections.140
Norwegian private organisations were, of course, free to use their own
funds to support SWAPO—or any other party. NGOs were also used by the
Foreign Ministry to channel funds for projects considered as impartial, such
as church schools, inside Namibia. The Norwegian Church Aid, for example,
received substantial funding from the Foreign Ministry for its support to the
work of the Repatriation, Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Committee. The
official Norwegian support for ongoing SWAPO projects outside Namibia
South Africa’s role as the administrating power during the transition
period did, however, rule out any development co-operation with Namibia’s
administration in this period, as that would have served to give legitimacy
to this role. Political parties could not be used as channels, on account of the
impartiality principle. Official Norwegian support to projects inside
Namibia could, however, be transferred through Norwegian and Namibian
private organisations to carry on existing projects and to efforts run by UN
organisations. Support could also be granted for preliminary surveys for
trade and industry, to prepare for a possible commercial co-operation
between Namibian and Norwegian companies in the future. As SWAPO had
asked for a strong international presence in the transition period, the policy
of banning private visits by Norwegian aid personnel was also lifted.
An example of the kind of new project to which Norway could give
direct support, even if the project was initiated by SWAPO, was the prepara-
138 See chapter 9.
139 Telex from the consulate in Windhoek to MFA, 17 October 1989, MFA 34 9/5 C XVII.
140 Telex to the consulate in Windhoek from MFA, 11 December 1989, MFA 34 9/5 XVII.
tion of a new legal system in Namibia. Norway allocated USD 100,000 for a
seminar series that SWAPO implemented together with Sweden, which had
the aim to help to develop the legal system for independent Namibia. Norway
and Sweden supported a group of seven researchers and lawyers, of
whom three were from SWAPO, who would produce draft legislation for
independent Namibia. As the UN Institute for Namibia had agreed to lead
the project, it was not seen as colliding with the impartiality principle.141
Norway also supported a conference arranged by SWAPO in Harare in
1989, which had the aim of bringing together the internal and external leadership
to ensure that they had established a common platform regarding
strategy for when Security Council Resolution 435 was implemented. By
sharing the experiences of ZANU at the independence elections in Zimbabwe
in 1980, SWAPO would be better prepared for the future process in
It led to great difficulties for SWAPO that Norway and other donors to a
large degree cut off their support in the transition period. Ongoing projects
had to be terminated, often at short notice. Sweden did not follow this strategy,
but continued giving support to SWAPO’s projects as before.
Norway did become a member of the civilian part of UNTAG, as did
Sweden. Denmark and Finland also formed part of the military contingent.
From humanitarian assistance to development co-operation
The Norwegian government’s support for the liberation struggle was followed
by co-operation regarding bilateral aid. Namibia was geographically
situated in the main region for Norwegian aid, and giving aid to independent
Namibia would be a continuation of the support given to SWAPO
through the years. Norway gave substantial support to the countries in
Southern Africa, not least through SADCC, which Namibia would join
shortly after independence, to help reduce the member countries’ dependence
on South Africa. Plans were made between the Nordic countries for
the bilateral aid, based on consultations with SWAPO. The shaping of the
aid naturally had later to be discussed with the new government after independence,
and be in accordance with its priorities. The large needs that
would come into existence following independence would have to be met to
avoid a breakdown of existing institutions. It was therefore important to
secure continuity.
In a meeting between the Nordic Ministers of Development Co-operation
at the end of August 1989, it was decided to appoint a Nordic working
group to plan and co-ordinate the Nordic support for Namibia after independence.
The group submitted a report in December the same year, emphasising
the importance of co-ordination, but ruling out the need to
141 Memorandum. SWAPO. Bistand til lovgivningsprosjekt (SWAPO. Support to a legislation
project), 1 Political Affairs Division, 27 April 1989, MFA 34 9/5 C XV.
develop specific methods or build up specific administrative structures for
Nordic co-operation.142
SWAPO requested the Nordic countries to concentrate their aid efforts
on different areas; that Denmark primarily would give aid to agriculture,
Finland to forestry and water supplies, Sweden to transport and finance,
while Norway, together with Iceland, was requested to support the development
of the oil and fishery industries. This included research on resources,
coast guard surveillance of Namibian waters, and development of
legislation, notably the “Sea Fisheries’ Act”.
Promises of aid for independent Namibia were not empty words: in
1990 the size of the Norwegian foreign aid for Namibia was NOK 65 million,
rising to NOK 85 million the following year. In addition to education,
Norway concentrated its efforts on fisheries and energy as requested.143
The nature of the co-operation: “As good friends”
The relationship between SWAPO and the Nordic countries was described
in 1986 by SWAPO’s Foreign Secretary, Theo-Ben Gurirab, as that of good
friends: together it was possible to discuss views on the co-operation and
frustrations over the lack of progress on the Namibia question.144 This is a
good description. Concerning the relationship between Norway and
SWAPO, once these friends got to know each other well, they developed a
profound mutual respect. This, in turn, made it possible to have frank and
open discussions, also regarding difficult cases where their views differed.
The support extended to SWAPO by the Norwegian government was
rooted in broad segments of the Norwegian people.145 The grants given to
the struggle, both directly and via international and local organisations, rose
steadily irrespective of whether the government in power was left or right.
The common experience of being a small country occupied by a large, fascist
power was used on a number of occasions, both by Norwegians and by
SWAPO, to strengthen this solidarity. The major Christian newspaper in
Norway, “Vårt Land” already in 1978 drew the parallel between Namibia’s
situation and that of Norway during the Second World War, to mobilise its
readers for solidarity with Namibia.146 In the same spirit, the mayor of
142 Utvecklingssamarbetet mellan Namibia och de Nordiska länderna: Förslag till samarbete
och samordning (The Development co-operation between Namibia and the Nordic countries.
Proposal for co-operation and co-ordination) December 1988. Library of the Norwegian Institute
of International Affairs, Oslo.
143 White Paper No. 49, 1990–91, p. 50; White Paper No. 66, 1991–92, p. 62.
144 Memorandum. Det sørlige Afrika. Statssekretær Frøysnes’ samtale med SWAPO-delegasjon
(Southern Africa. State secretary Frøysnes consultation with a SWAPO-delegation), 4 March
1986, MFA 34 9/5 C X.
145 How this solidarity was mobilised can i.a. be seen in the chapter on the Namibia
Association (Chapter 9).
146 Vårt Land, 23 November 1978.
Elverum in 1986 encouraged SWAPO’s Secretary General Toivo ya Toivo to
“fight for freedom in Namibia like we fought for freedom in Norway during
the Second World War.”147 Sam Nujoma, likewise, very often reflected on
this in his consultations with the government and in his speeches given in
Norway. Sometimes this was done very explicitly, as when he in an interview
stated that “the same nazis, who were in Norway during the war,
[were] taking part in the occupation of Namibia.”148
On a personal level, President Nujoma’s contacts with the Norwegians
went back to his childhood days, when he worked as a handyman at a shipyard
for whaling boats in Walvis Bay. Later he was office assistant to the
head of the Norwegian whaling station there. In a conversation with the
Norwegian representative in Lusaka, Nujoma remarked that he had the best
of memories from that time.149 On one of his many visits to Norway, in 1987,
President Nujoma spent a day at sea, fishing with an old friend from these
early years.150
Good friends can argue. The close personal relations established during
the struggle, the regular consultations and the mutual insights into the
respective situations, also made it possible to disagree. Discussions regarding
the family reunion of SWAPO dissident Andreas Tankeni-Nuukuawos
can serve as an example. Tankeni-Nuukuawos and his wife had been given
political asylum in Norway in 1978, but their children were kept in Zambia
by SWAPO. Raising this sensitive question with President Nujoma, representatives
of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry tried to persuade SWAPO to
release the children, while Nujoma argued for SWAPO’s right to deal with
the case as it saw fit.151 There were also times when the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry disagreed with SWAPO on the strategy for gaining independence.
In February 1978, for example, a SWAPO delegation discussing the political
situation and the Norwegian aid, stated in Oslo that the necessity of the
retreat of the South African troops and the inclusion of Walvis Bay into
independent Namibia were non-negotiable. Director General Torbjørn
Christiansen, who led the meeting, however, “indirectly appealed to
SWAPO to show a will to compromise and to avoid locked-up situations”,
to make it possible for the ongoing negotiations to lead to a peaceful transfer
147 The Namibia Association, Annual report 1986, p. 13.
148 Hamar Arbeiderblad, 15 May 1987.
149 Memorandum. Samtale med representanter for den namibiske frigjøringsorganisasjonen …
SWAPO i Lusaka (Consultation with representatives from the Namibian Liberation Movement
… SWAPO in Lusaka), 27 May 1977, MFA, 34 9/5 VI.
150 Letter from Knut Johannesen to MFA, 27 August 1987, MFA 34 9/5 C XII.
151 Memorandum to the Political Department. Besøk av SWAPO delegasjonen i Norge (Visit of
a SWAPO delegation to Norway), 1 Political Affairs Division, 9 September 1980, MFA 34 9/5
XII; Tor Elden, the NORAD resident representative in Lusaka, to Ambassador Thommessen, 31
October 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XIII.
to independence within the stipulated time frame.152 To this, Nujoma
replied that it was not just a question of achieving independence before a
certain date, but also of what kind of independence it would be.
In the same year, 1978, when the structures for the co-operation were
still being established, the Foreign Ministry received a visit from Lars
Gunnar Eriksson and Craig Williamson, who requested Norwegian support
for the International University Exchange Fund’s planned assistance for
SWAPO’s administration, and for the election campaign in Namibia. This
was turned down, as the Ministry “saw no reason to take an indirect way
via organisations, when [it] had as direct and good contact with the recipient
as was the case with SWAPO”.153 This was not only an expression of the
wish to develop the relations with SWAPO—it was also very fortunate, as
Craig Williamson was exposed two years later as being a high-ranking
South African spy.
Did Norway in its support actually meet SWAPO’s needs? It is important
to bear in mind that SWAPO, being aware of the restrictions laid down
by the Parliament for the Norwegian support, did not ask for aid outside
these frames. The fact that SWAPO—for example—never asked Norway for
arms reflects SWAPO’s awareness that such a request would have been
turned down.
In addition to material aid, SWAPO also wanted Norway and the other
Nordic countries to give political aid: to put pressure on other Western
Countries to support the struggle and to vote in favour of SWAPO’s views
in the UN General Assembly. Although SWAPO could state that the “people
of Norway have demonstrated their support time and time again in forums
like the United Nations”154, Norway and the other Nordic countries did,
however, often vote contrary to SWAPO’s wishes, on principled grounds
regarding the role of the UN as a peace promoting institution, open to all
countries in the world. They could therefore never vote in favour of the use
of arms, nor of excluding South Africa. SWAPO also often asked for Norway
and Denmark to request the other NATO members to stop supplying South
Africa with arms—which was contrary to the UN arms embargo.155 SWAPO
also regularly asked Norway to introduce economic sanctions and to stop
152 Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 21.–22. februar 1978 av SWAPO-delegasjon (Visit to Oslo 21–22
February 1978 of a SWAPO delegation), 1 Political Affairs Division, 27 February 1978, MFA 34
9/5 VII.
153 Memorandum, Leonard Larsen, 6 September 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
154 Attachment to letter from Mishake Muyongo to the Consulate in Lusaka, 12 January 1977,
MFA 34 9/5 V.
155 In particular France and the United Kingdom, as for example referred to by the chairman of
the Apartheid Committee, Nigerian Ambassador Mr. Ogbu, in his account to the 29th UN General
transporting goods, such as oil, to South Africa.156 SWAPO had to wait until
March 1987 until a comprehensive boycott was imposed.157
But there was never any doubt on whose side Norway was. The message
to the South African authorities was clear, like the sharp reaction when
the South African Foreign Ministry complained about the contents of a
schoolbook for Namibian students that had been written and produced in
Norway, with funding from the Ministry. The Department of Foreign Affairs
in South Africa found it “regrettable” that the Foreign Ministry had financed
what it viewed as “propaganda for SWAPO under the guise of a
‘textbook’”.158 In his answer, the Norwegian Consul in Cape Town stated
that: “The refugees receiving the assistance in question are not residing on
South African territory and, equally pertinent, come from an area over
which South African authority was decided as terminated 20 years ago by
the competent International Organisation.”159
Sam Nujoma often stated in meetings that the Norwegian support, both
politically and otherwise, had been of great importance, not least because it
started at a relatively early stage: “The material and moral support given
from Norway (…) went back to the time when SWAPO did not receive
notable support in the Western world“.160 Following the difficult period
where Norway and SWAPO were building up their relationship, Sam
Nujoma was in 1980 invited to Norway for consultations. According to
Hadino Hishongwa, SWAPO representative to the Nordic countries, this
visit “came at a very crucial stage of our struggle for national independence,
[and] enabled SWAPO to meet the Government, NORAD and various important
personalities, political parties, trade unions, churches, youth organisations
and solidarity groups. It also made it possible to once more explain
our policy and political stand in the crises of our country, as well as to express
our appreciation to the Norwegian Government, the Norwegian
people and NORAD for their unwavering commitment to support our just
The support from the Nordic countries to the liberation struggle also
contradicted the South African propaganda that the anti-apartheid struggle
156 As in: Samtaler i UD 3. september med delegasjon fra SWAPO (Consultations in MFA 3
September with a delegation from SWAPO), 1 Political Affairs Division, 9 September 1980,
MFA 34 9/5 XII. In a consultation with Svenn Stray, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in May 1983
Nujoma again asked for sanctions, MFA 34 9/5 C IV.
157 The sanctions issue is covered in chapter 5.
158 The Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, to the Consulate-General of Norway, Cape
Town, 12 March 1986, MFA 34 9/5 C X.
159 Bjarne Lindstrøm to MFA, 19 March 1986, MFA 34 9/5 C X.
160 Memorandum. Samtale med representanter for den namibiske frigjøringsbevegelsen …
(Talks with representatives of the Namibian liberation movement …), Lusaka, 27 May 1977, 1
Political Affairs Division, 8 June 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
161 Hadino Hishongwa to Knut Frydenlund, 30 September 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
was an East-West issue. The Nordic countries were not a part of the eastern
bloc—on the contrary, Norway and Denmark were members of NATO, and
Denmark was also a member of the EEC. By supporting the liberation in
Southern Africa, the Nordic countries contributed to making the question of
liberation in Southern Africa a question of justice and human rights, not of
increasing communist influence.
The substantial direct support of NOK 225 million from the Norwegian
government to SWAPO was complemented by support given to nongovernmental
and various UN organisations working for the liberation of
After the “running-in phase of the co-operation, where the Norwegian
aid authorities and SWAPO got to know each other and developed wellfunctioning
structures for the implementation of the support, the relations
between the two were very good. With few exceptions, the implementation
of the co-operation was satisfactory to both parties. The Norwegian
government knew that it could trust SWAPO to use the support according to
agreements, and SWAPO knew it could rely on continued Norwegian
162 For representative remarks e.g., Memorandum. Disponering av Norges bidrag til
frigjøringsbevegelsen SWAPO i 1977 (Disposal of the Norwegian contribution to the Liberation
Movement SWAPO in 1977), 1 Political Affairs Division, 16 June 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V;
Memorandum. Norges støtte til frigjøringsorganisasjonen SWAPO i 1978 (Norwegian support
to the Liberation movement SWAPO in 1978), 1 Political Affairs Division, 20 February 1979,
MFA 34 9/5 VII.
Chapter 3
The South African Liberation Struggle:
Official Norwegian Support1
Eva Helene Østbye
When the Norwegian parliament in 1973 decided to support the liberation
movements in Southern Africa, it defined the recipients as “the peoples in
dependent areas struggling to achieve national liberation”. The South
African liberation movements were thereby left out.2 In doing so, the parliament
sought to be on the safe side of the limitations in international law
with regard to interference in the internal matters of independent countries.
This restriction was then part of the framework of the Norwegian support
programme for liberation movements, and only a new parliamentary decision
could change this to include South Africa.
In the years that followed, changes took place which made the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs3 propose that this restriction be reconsidered,
and on 6 June 1977 the parliament decided to also extend direct support
to the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan-Africanist Congress
of Azania (PAC).
This chapter will discuss the direct, official Norwegian support for the
liberation struggle in South Africa; why it was excluded from the decision in
1973 and what it was that brought about the change in this in 1977. The
character of the support for the ANC and the PAC will then be outlined.
Finally, other aspects of official Norwegian support for democracy in the
country will be briefly touched upon.
1 This chapter is primarily based on documents from the archives of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, which have been opened for the period up to 1990. As the account given for 1990–1994
is based on open sources only, it is of a different character.
2 See chapter 1.
3 For the sake of convenience, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be referred to as
the Foreign Ministry, and the abbreviation MFA will be used in the footnotes as reference to
these archives.
The beginnings of direct support to the liberation movements
Why not earlier?
Although the decision to give direct support to ANC and PAC in 1977 was
early in comparison to the rest of the Western countries, it was late compared
with Norway’s other support programmes for the liberation movements
in Southern Africa. Norway’s closest neighbour, Sweden, with whom
the situation in Southern Africa was constantly discussed, and who had a
similar, although more substantial support programme for the liberation
movements, had already started supporting the ANC in 1973. That same
year Norway also received a request from the ANC for financial support for
a vocational training programme for refugees.4 Why did the Foreign Ministry
wait until 1977 to recommend to parliament that direct support should
also be extended to liberation movements from South Africa itself?
There were reasons other than the fear of breaking international law that
led to the support for liberation movements in South Africa not starting
before it did. The support was only to be used for humanitarian work for
refugees, and the number of South African refugees under the care of the
liberation movements was very small. While large groups by 1973 had fled
from the four other countries in the region fighting for their independence,
refugees from South Africa had left individually. Up to 1976, there were
very few South African refugees in the neighbouring countries, and the need
for assistance to these was small, compared to those of Angola, Mozambique,
Zimbabwe5 and Namibia.
In addition, the Foreign Ministry had decided to follow the strategy for
the liberation of Southern Africa adopted by the OAU. In short, this implied
attacking most strongly the weakest links in the chain, which were viewed
to be the Portuguese colonies, then Zimbabwe and Namibia, before finally
concentrating on the liberation of South Africa. This was seen as being the
most effective way of fighting colonialism and apartheid, and a decision to
postpone giving support to South Africa and instead concentrate efforts on
the other countries could be justified by this “domino theory”.6 As in Sweden,
however, the objections might have been overcome if the Foreign Ministry
in 1973 had been more reassured about the work the ANC and the PAC
were conducting. In fact, at this time it did not know the movements, or
their need for support, at all well. When considering whether to recommend
4 Letter to the Norwegian embassies in London and Nairobi, and to the consulates in Cape
Town and Lusaka: Besøk i Norge av representanter for frigjøringsbevegelse for Sør-Afrika,
African National Congress (ANC). Anmodning om norsk støtte (Visit to Norway by representatives
of liberation movement in South Africa, ANC. Request for Norwegian support), 1. Political
Affairs Division, 16 January 1973, MFA 77 9/5 VIII.
5 The name Zimbabwe will be used, also when applied to the time when the country was called
6 For more on the OAU strategy, see Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern
Africa. Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
that they be included, the Ministry at the beginning of 1973 therefore sent
out enquiries to Norwegian missions in various countries, asking for information
and opinions.7 The responses were very reserved.
The Norwegian embassy in London replied to Oslo that the ANC was
regarded as being “a little obscure. The intelligentsia has been living in London
for ten years and has spent the time writing political manifestos”. According
to Olav Sole at the embassy in London, as far as the mission knew,
the ANC was not involved in guerrilla actions. The British Foreign Office,
which had been consulted on the question, “thought it knew” that the ANC
had an office in Lusaka. It did not believe that the organisation was engaged
in humanitarian work for refugees from South Africa, of which there were
not believed to be many in Zambia and Tanzania. Instead, the ANC’s
“activities possibly took place to a larger extent in London than in Africa”.8
NORAD’s resident representative in Lusaka, consul Ola Dørum, discussed
the matter with the ANC’s Chief Representative in Lusaka, Thomas
Nkobi, before reporting back to the Ministry that the organisation took care
of 75–80 refugees in Zambia, and around 200 in Tanzania. Although the
level of activities was thus modest, it wanted support to create income
generating opportunities for the refugees by establishing a farm in Zambia,
near Livingstone. The ANC did not receive support from the UNHCR, since
they as “freedom fighters fell outside of the mandate”. According to Dørum,
the presence of the ANC was not much more than tolerated by the Zambian
authorities, and Dørum recommended that Norway at least give the ANC a
“token” allocation. This would be “highly appreciated as moral support to
an under the circumstances not much acknowledged liberation movement,
which both materially and politically is in a particularly difficult situation”.9
Olav Myklebust at the Norwegian consulate in Tanzania confirmed that
the refugees under the ANC’s care were in need of support. According to
the ANC itself, the number of refugees was 200, but representatives of the
OAU Liberation Committee that the consulate had consulted estimated it to
be closer to 100. He confirmed that these did not receive support from the
UN, as they were not defined as refugees by the UNHCR. With regard to
ANC activities, “one could register a common sense of scepticism. It seems
to be a widespread opinion that the organisation does not have good lines of
communication with South Africa and that it does little besides taking care
of the interests of its members in exile and spreading information to other
7 See footnote 4.
8 Letter from the embassy in London to the MFA, 5 February 1973, MFA 34 9/4 II.
9 Dørum, Lusaka, to the MFA, 31 January 1973, MFA 34 9/4 II.
10 Letter: ANC-anmodning om norsk støtte (The ANC-request for Norwegian support), Olav
Myklebust, 4 April 1973, MFA 34 9/4 II.
According to representatives of the OAU Liberation Committee, neither
the ANC nor the PAC was active inside South Africa: “When the OAU has
recognised these, it is due to the lack of better organisations”.11 A prerequisite
for granting support had to be that competent persons assessed the
ANC’s plans thoroughly, as they seemed to be overdimensioned and unrealistic,
the Ministry was informed.
These responses came too late to influence the parliamentary decision,
which was taken on 8 February 1973. They did however, reflect the attitude
of the diplomatic corps, which it is safe to assume influenced the decision to
exclude South Africa from the support programme. The question was, however,
constantly reconsidered.
South African oppression and increased international awareness
In South Africa oppression increased from the mid-1970s. Demonstrations
were brutally crushed, and in 1976 the Soweto massacre shook the whole
world, thus becoming a crucial moment in the resistance to apartheid. A
process followed which culminated in October 1977, when 18 organisations
working for liberation, democracy and human rights were banned and their
leaders arrested. Among these organisations were trade unions, newspapers,
black consciousness organisations and the Christian Institute, which had
been receiving support from the Norwegian Missionary Society from the
late 1960s and from the Church of Norway through its Council on Ecumenical
and International Relations from 1971.12 In fact, the Norwegian
Consul in Cape Town Egil Winsnes was present when South African security
police raided the Institute’s office on 19 October 1977, and shortly thereafter
requested the Ministry for funds to support people there who had lost
their jobs.13
At the United Nations, the situation in South Africa was regularly discussed,
and a number of resolutions condemning the policies of the
apartheid regime adopted. The tone in these intensified after the Soweto
massacre, as expressed in UN Security Council Resolution 392 (1976), which
reaffirmed that “the policy of apartheid is a crime against the conscience and
dignity of mankind and seriously disturbs international peace and security”.
Furthermore, the resolution recognised the “legitimacy of the struggle of the
South African people for the elimination of apartheid and racial discrimination”.
14 In October 1977 the UN Security Council requested all governments
11 Ibid.
12 The close and extensive co-operation between the Norwegian Church and the Christian Institute
is discussed in chapter 7.
13 Ragnhild Narum: Norge og rasekonflikten i Sør-Afrika 1960–1978 (Norway and the racial conflict
in South Africa 1960–1978). Oslo: University of Oslo, 1998, p. 130.
14 United Nations: The United Nations and Apartheid 1948–1994. The United Nations Blue Books
Series, Vol. I, 1994. New York: Department of Public Information, United Nations.
and organisations to take appropriate measures to secure that South Africa
abandoned the policy of apartheid and ensured majority rule based on justice
and equality. This included demands that South Africa cease violence
and repression against the black people and other opponents of apartheid,
release the political prisoners, abrogate the bans on organisations and the
news media opposed to apartheid, abolish the policy of bantustanisation, the
bantu education system and all other measures of apartheid and racial
discrimination. Later in 1977, the Security Council adopted for the first time
binding sanctions against a member country, when in November it declared
a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa.15
Pressure from civil society and the cold war question
In Norway too, public awareness about the situation in Southern Africa
grew, and as everywhere else, the Soweto massacre was an eye-opener. The
Foreign Ministry had, however, been giving support, although modest, to
church, trade union and student organisations in South Africa engaged in
the struggle against apartheid politics since 1963, through the Special Committee
for Refugees from Southern Africa.16 In the spring of 1976, this
Committee had also granted NOK 66,000 to the ANC Women’s Section for a
literacy project for refugees in Zambia.17 The same year, the Norwegian
government banned currency licences and export credits. This was the first
piece of sanctions legislation against South Africa passed by any Nordic
In the UN, Norway had long before the mid-1970s been a strong opponent
of South African apartheid politics, advocating increased international
pressure on the Pretoria government. This had been followed up by humanitarian
and economic support via the UN and other international organisations.
The pressure for stronger, more committed efforts to support the
democratic forces in South Africa did, however, increase, as did the level of
activity regarding the question in the Norwegian non-governmental organisations
In 1976 the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) in close cooperation
with the Norwegian labour movement as a whole, launched a
broad campaign against apartheid. The campaign had two major objectives.
One was to summon support in Norwegian public opinion for stronger economic
sanctions against South Africa. The other was to raise funds for
democratic forces in Southern Africa, such as liberation movements and
trade unions, and for humanitarian assistance to refugees. A consumer boy-
15 UN Security Council Resolutions 417 (1977) and 418 (1977).
16 See chapter 1.
17 Minutes from meeting of the Special Committee for Refugees from Southern Africa, 31 May
1976, MFA 77 9/5 XI.
cott was initiated, where the Norwegian Consumers Co-operative stopped
all imports from South Africa for a year, and the trade unions of the state
wine monopoly prevented any South African wine or brandy from being
imported to Norway from 1977 to 1994.18 The Church of Norway started
supporting the Christian Institute in South Africa in 1973, with money allocated
by the Foreign Ministry, and became increasingly involved in the antiapartheid
struggle. This was reflected both in the local congregations and in
the communication with the Foreign Ministry.19 The Council for Southern
Africa continuously campaigned for Norway to start granting direct support
to the liberation movement in South Africa, both publicly and directly to the
Foreign Ministry and parliament.20 The Students’ and Academics’ International
Assistance Fund (SAIH) supported South African refugees, primarily
in the field of education, as well as informing the Norwegian public, students
in particular, about apartheid.21 A number of smaller NGOs initiated
projects and local trade unions sent letters to the Foreign Ministry, asking
for direct support to South African liberation movements to be initiated.22
The pressure from civil society was vital in bringing about the decision to
start giving direct assistance to the ANC and the PAC.
It falls outside the frames of this study to give an account of the motions
and processes in parliament. It should, however, be mentioned that the
Socialist Left Party, which had two members in the parliamentary Foreign
Affairs Committee from 1973 to 1977, also put considerable pressure on the
labour government to start supporting the liberation movement in South
There was also a fear in the Foreign Ministry that the situation in Southern
Africa would develop into an East-West conflict. Labour Party Prime
Minister Odvar Nordli thus stated in a speech in March 1976 that if there
was to be any hope of contributing to hatred from colonial times being replaced
with understanding and co-operation, it was important to have the
African reality as a point of departure. According to Nordli, the ideological
fight between democracy and communism had its roots in countries outside
the African continent. The Western world should not leave it to the communist
countries to side with the liberation movements: it was the West itself
that had to see to it that the new states in Africa were not dominated by
communist powers in other parts of the world. This could only be achieved
18 See chapter 8.
19 See chapter 7.
20 For more, see chapter 6.
21 Vesla Vetlesen: Frihet for Sør Afrika. LO og kampen mot apartheid. Oslo: Tiden Norsk Forlag,
1998, pp. 43–45. See also Inger A. Heldal (ed.): From Cape to Cape against Apartheid. Mayibuye
History and Literature Series No 61, 1996. Cape Town: Mayibuye Books.
22 For example: Letter from Elverum Faglige Samorganisasjon to the MFA, 4 April 1977, MFA
34 9/4 III.
through sensible conduct. It was therefore more important to listen to the
opinion of the African population itself regarding how they wanted to shape
their own future than to export our ideals and principles to Africa, he
At the United Nations’ International Conference in Support of the
Peoples of Zimbabwe and Namibia in Maputo in May 1977—the month before
the Norwegian decision to start supporting liberation movements in
South Africa—Under-Secretary of State Thorvald Stoltenberg warned
against foreign intervention in Southern Africa. It was obvious, he stated,
that the alternative to some form of negotiated settlement in the area would
be a continuing and intensifying conflict whose repercussions would be felt
far beyond the area itself. The effects this could have on world peace dictated
that efforts for peaceful solutions were immediately made.24
Proposal for support
Through its co-operation with the liberation movements in Mozambique,
Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, the Foreign Ministry had since 1973 considerably
increased its understanding of the situation in the region and the
activities of the liberation movements. The Ministry had also established
routines for co-operation with liberation movements from other countries in
Southern Africa.
As the major part of the Norwegian allocation for liberation movements
had been reserved for the Portuguese colonies, the administrative capacity
in the Foreign Ministry for support to the liberation movements in Southern
Africa increased after these were liberated in 1974/75. The new situation in
Southern Africa, which emerged after the liberation of Mozambique and
Angola, and the increase in the number of refugees in the region which resulted
from the intensified conflict in South Africa in 1976, strongly motivated
that a revision of the Norwegian decision was carried out. It was also
fundamentally important that a decision to start giving such support, could
be based on the yearly appeals by the UN General Assembly to all member
countries to give assistance to the recognised liberation movements in South
Africa, thus rendering it a basis in international law. Furthermore, a decision
could be motivated by reports from the Swedish Foreign Ministry, stating
that it was satisfied with the co-operation with the ANC. The requests sub-
23 Speech in the Vestfold Labour Party 20 March 1976. Ref. Jon Bech: Norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene
i det sørlige Afrika. Forum for Utviklingsstudier, No. 10, 1978. Oslo: Norsk Utenrikspolitisk
24 Statement by Mr. Thorvald Stoltenberg, Under-Secretary of State, Norway, at the Maputo
Conference on May 18, 1977. In Nordic Statements on Apartheid, Supplement, 1978, pp. 19–24.
Uppsala and New York: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies and the UN Centre Against
mitted by the liberation movement to Sweden were well prepared and the
use of the allocations was well accounted for. 25
The Foreign Ministry26 at the beginning of 1977 found that all this had
made the time ripe for recommending that Norway start extending direct
humanitarian support to the liberation movement in South Africa.
The question of Norway’s relations with South Africa was discussed at a
governmental conference on 24 January 1977, as a direct response to a call
from the International Solidarity Committee of the Norwegian Labour
Movement for increased pressure on South Africa.27 The government here
decided to follow the advice from the Foreign Ministry and propose that
Norway should oppose the IMF granting support and loans to South Africa,
that the consulate general in Cape Town should become more active in the
humanitarian field—and that Norway start supporting the internationally
recognised liberation movements in South Africa. This was formally proposed
to parliament in March 1977, although the only liberation movement
mentioned by name, was the ANC. It was also proposed to include the legal
black consciousness movement in the direct support programme.28
Parliamentary decision
The then Secretary of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa, Øystein
Gudim, followed up the proposal in a letter to the parliamentary Foreign
Affairs Committee, which was preparing the matter for decision by parliament.
He argued that Norway should take the consequences of support
given to UN resolutions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, and
meet the UN appeals to its member countries to support the liberation
movements in exile by giving material assistance to the liberation movement.
The Council for Southern Africa saw South Africa as a dependent region
with regard to international law, in the same way as Zimbabwe. There
could therefore be no objection in principle against granting support to
national liberation movements in their struggle for self-determination for the
majority of the people in South Africa. Gudim was pleased to learn that such
support was now being proposed, and hoped that in the future this support
would increase.29
With reference to UN recommendations, the parliamentary Committee
for Foreign Affairs decided to accept that Norway should start giving
25 See Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa, Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
26 In the Foreign Ministry, the 1. Political Affairs Division handled the support for liberation
27 Narum, op. cit., p. 126.
28 St. prp. nr. 138 (1976–77), March 1977.
29 Letter from Øystein Gudim to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, 25 April 1977,
MFA 34 9/5 V. For more on the Council for Southern Africa, see chapter 6.
humanitarian support for South African refugees through the liberation
movements. The representatives of the Conservative Party, which was in a
minority in the Committee, made it an absolute prerequisite that the support
was only given as humanitarian assistance for South African refugees in
exile, so as not to be in contravention of the principle of non-intervention.30
Although it was in favour of giving support to the ANC also inside South
Africa, the government saw it as important to maintain the broad political
unity that existed in Norway regarding the support to the liberation movements
in Southern Africa. The conditions presented by the Conservative
Party were respected.31
When the proposition was discussed in parliament on 6 June, Foreign
Minister Knut Frydenlund referred to the post-apartheid situation to motivate
support: “From Norway’s side we have also seen the contact with the
liberation movements in Southern Africa as an important part of Western
countries’ co-operation with the future Black majority regimes in the areas.”
The proposition was adopted. The decision to start granting direct support
to the liberation movements in South Africa, was thus well prepared.
Against the background of the position of the Foreign Affairs Committee,
the Foreign Ministry would have as a guideline that the support for
South African liberation movements had to be concentrated on their work
for refugees. The parliamentary decision was also interpreted as prohibiting
that funds were used for illegal activities inside South Africa.32 As the Ministry
increasingly came to support church organisations and other parts of
the legal resistance movement, the demand that the support was only given
to refugees outside South Africa was again discussed in 1981. The Labour
government had recently been replaced with a Conservative government
and the new Foreign Minister, Svenn Stray, gave the green light for the internal
support to continue.33
By Royal Decree of 22 July 1977, the Foreign Ministry was finally given
the authority to use the allocation, which was raised from NOK 5 to NOK 12
million for humanitarian work for refugees carried out by the liberation
movements in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. The allocation was to
be equally shared between the three countries and be spent on items such as
transport, food, medicine and education. The Foreign Ministry would also
channel part of the support via the legal black consciousness movement in
South Africa. The detailed distribution was left to the Ministry.
30 Innstilling 334 (1976–77).
31 Bech, p. 15.
32 Memorandum. Norsk støtte til frigjøringsbevegelsene i et sørlige Afrika. (Norwegian
support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa), 1. Political Affairs Division, 5 July
1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
33 Utdrag referat fra avdelingssjefsmøte. Prinsippspørsmål om fortsatt humanitær bistand til
Sør-Afrika (Excerpts from meeting with heads of departments. Questions of principle regarding
continued humanitarian support for South Africa), 26 November 1981, MFA 34 9/4 V.
The co-operation with the ANC
The first contact
The granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to the ANC President-General Albert
Luthuli in December 1961 made the ANC’s struggle against apartheid
widely known in Norway, not least within the church, where Luthuli
through Norwegian missionaries in Natal enjoyed broad support. In connection
with the Afro-Scandinavian Youth Congress in Oslo, Oliver
Tambo—who had accompanied Luthuli to the Nobel ceremonies—returned
to the Norwegian capital in August 1962. During his stay, he was received
by Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen, establishing direct contacts between
the ANC and the Norwegian government.34
After the banning of the ANC in April 1960, the Nationalist Party government
stopped at nothing to crush the organisation. In the ANC’s own
words, by mid-1965 “the ANC had effectively been destroyed within South
Africa. It was to be another eight years before there was significant reconstruction
of an ANC underground, and eleven years before the resumption
of armed activity inside South Africa”.35
In this period, up to 1973, contact between the Norwegian government
and the ANC was very modest. When Norwegian diplomats in 1973 informed
the Ministry about the ANC, they were not mistaken in saying that
as an organisation the ANC was not active inside South Africa. But this did
not reflect the fact that the majority of the ANC leaders, who had not been
killed or imprisoned, had had to escape, and that the repression had been so
hard that the organisation needed to rebuild itself.
In January 1973, Oliver Tambo again resumed contact with Norway,
when he visited Oslo together with Masizi Kunene and Martin Legassick.
(As a friend of the Norwegian Crown Prince Harald from student days in
Oxford, Legassick was also invited home to the Crown Prince for a private
dinner.) The delegation was hosted by the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa, and was also received by the Foreign Ministry for political talks. The
Ministry stated that “for reasons of principle” it could not cover the ANC’s
expenses in connection with the visit.36 Against the background of the reception
given in Sweden, where travel costs and accommodation had been
paid, the Foreign Ministry did, however, decide to arrange a lunch for the
delegation.37 In addition to discussions with the Foreign Ministry on the
34 See chapter 1.
35 African National Congress: Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, p. 47.
August 1996.
36 Memorandum. Henvendelse fra den sør-afrikanske organisasjon African National Congress
(ANC) om besøk i Norge” (Communication from the South African organisation ANC), 1.
Political Affairs Division, 2 January 1973, MFA 34 9/4 II.
37 Besøk i Oslo av representanter for den sør-afrikanske organisasjon ANC (Visit to Oslo from
representatives of the South African organisation ANC), 5 January 1973, MFA 34 9/4 II.
situation in South Africa and the activities of the ANC, the delegation also
visited the Nobel Institute and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade
Unions (LO), where they met the International Secretary Thorvald
Stoltenberg, who later in 1987 became Foreign Minister. Only three months
later, Tambo again visited Oslo, as a participant at the OAU/UN Conference
of Experts for the Support of Victims of Colonialism and Apartheid in
Southern Africa.38 In the meantime the decision not to support the ANC
directly had been made.
As South Africa was excluded from the support programme, and the
Ministry was busy administering support for the liberation movements in
the other Southern African countries, contact between the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry and the ANC over the following years was neither close nor
frequent. When the ANC representative to Scandinavia, Sobizana Mngqikana
visited Norway in November 1976, it was his first visit to Norway in
two years. 39
The main purpose of Mngqikana’s visit was to find out whether Norway
would be willing to join Sweden in a project to help the new wave of
refugees fleeing from South Africa. This was after the Soweto massacre, and
thousands of radicalised schoolchildren and students were pouring into
South Africa’s neighbouring countries. Many of these were sent on to Tanzania,
where a camp was being set up in Mazimbu, in the Morogoro region,
to take care of the young refugees. This was where the Solomon Mahlangu
Freedom College (SOMAFCO), which was to receive substantial Norwegian
support, was established.
When he was told that the request could only be met after a new parliamentary
decision, the ANC representative declared that he had problems
understanding the Norwegian distinction between the different liberation
movements that till then had excluded the ANC from receiving support.
None of these movements regarded South Africa as an independent state.
The ANC representative saw it as totally unrealistic to base a stand against
the racist regime on resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, as the
interests of the Western powers in South Africa would block any constructive
decisions. If the political will was there, Mngqikana maintained that the
many resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly could form a basis
for a decision to support the South African people and their representatives.
He also could not understand the logic in a number of other organisations
working against the oppression inside South Africa receiving Norwegian
support, while the liberation movement could not be used as a channel for
humanitarian assistance efforts.40
38 See chapter 1.
39 Memorandum. Samtale med representant for African National Congress (Consultation with
representative of ANC), 23 November 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
40 Ibid.
The project that Mngqikana had come to discuss was, however, to be the
first ANC project to receive Norwegian support. The Swedish Foreign Ministry
had already requested the Norwegian Foreign Ministry for co-funding
for this project, which consisted in providing transport and subsistence for
South African refugees under the care of the ANC. As the number of South
African refugees in 1976 –77 suddenly rose by thousands, the need for assistance
became acute. This situation had arisen very fast, and the request had
been sent to Sweden in addition to the already negotiated support. When
Sweden then allocated SEK 2.1 million, the money available for 1976/77 had
already been spent. Therefore Sweden approached Norway for co-operation
on this project, which was found to be very worthy of support.41
The Foreign Ministry agreed that this would be well suited for Norwegian
support: “By joining Sweden one would also benefit from the good
contacts Swedish authorities have already established with the ANC in
Lusaka—which would facilitate later co-operation with the liberation
movement.” However, before giving a response to Sweden, a general decision
on direct support for the liberation movements in South Africa had to
be taken. As this was such a worthy project, the Ministry argued that it
could be used to convince parliament to start supporting the ANC, and suggested
that it could serve this purpose when the Foreign Minister was to
discuss the matter with the government and Foreign Affairs Committee in
In March 1977 the ANC sought a reaction to the request, but was told to
wait for parliament to decide later in the spring session on the principle of
support for South Africa.43 At the end of May 1977, representatives of the
Foreign Ministry met the ANC leadership in Lusaka where they were given
a detailed orientation of the ANC’s activities in the past and present by
Secretary General Alfred Nzo. With reference to the early contact between
Norway and the ANC, especially through Oliver Tambo, a renewal of this
relationship was also discussed. Although this was nearly two weeks before
the decision in principle was taken on support for the South African liberation
movement, it was expected that this would be positive. Therefore the
Ministry could also discuss with the ANC what kind of support the ANC
would want from Norway for 1977.44 The ANC after the consultations sub-
41 Memorandum. Spørsmålet om norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i Sør-Afrika. Svensk
henvendelse om eventuell fellesfinansiering av ANC prosjekt (The question of Norwegian support
for liberation movements in South Africa. Swedish enquiry regarding possible joint financing),
1. Political Affairs Division, 11 November 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
42 Ibid.
43 Memorandum. Møte med representant for SACTU (Meeting with a representative for
SACTU), 1. Political Affairs Division, 23 March 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
44 Memorandum. Samtale med representanter for ANC i Lusaka (Consultation with representatives
of the ANC in Lusaka), 27 May 1977, 1. Political Affairs Division, 8 June 1977, MFA 34
9/5 V.
mitted a detailed request for support to the SOMAFCO school project, as
well as for the transportation/subsistence project which SIDA was already
When the decision was finally taken in the beginning of June, it did not
take long before the ANC received a reaction to the request. As the project
had been thoroughly assessed and was supported by Sweden, the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry did not consider it necessary to make a detailed investigation
of the project. In the middle of August the ANC was informed that
the Foreign Ministry had allocated NOK 2 million for 1977 for the requested
Framework and procedures for the co-operation
After the decision to support the ANC had been made, a framework and
procedures for the co-operation had to be developed. Through frequent
meetings between the ANC and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry the two
parties developed a close relationship. The experience Norway had gained
through co-operation with other liberation movements, on the one hand,
and the competence and professionalism of the ANC, on the other, contributed
to making this an—in the circumstances—remarkably smooth process.
The assistance was based on annual negotiations between the ANC and
the Foreign Ministry. Every year representatives of the Foreign Ministry
visited Southern Africa and discussed strategy and requirements with the
ANC’s representatives and leadership. The Ministry was also kept informed
about the co-operation through reports from the Norwegian resident representatives
in Frontline States such as Zambia, Tanzania and Botswana, responsible
for the implementation of the support. In the Foreign Ministry, it
was the 1. Political Affairs Division, which administered the co-operation,
and which considered the formal request before advising parliament on
approval. ANC leaders also regularly visited the Foreign Ministry in Oslo
for consultations.
In August 1977, the ANC suggested that the annual allocations be
divided into quarterly payments in advance. When the support had been
negotiated, and agreement reached on how to distribute the funds between
the countries where the ANC took care of refugees, and for what purposes,
the first tranche was to be released. The next would be released after the
consulate in Lusaka or embassy in Dar es Salaam had received and
approved the account of the utilisation of the money, together with vouchers.
Revised audits for the whole year would also be presented. This system
had been developed in co-operation with Sweden, whose experience with it
45 Memorandum of the African National Congress of South Africa submitted to the Royal
Norwegian government on 30 May, 1977 in Lusaka, Zambia. MFA 34 9/5 V.
46 Res. rep. Per Tobiesen, Lusaka, to the ANC, 12 August 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VIII.
was good.47 It was therefore also accepted by Norway for local procurements.
The system for disbursements in countries where Norway did not
have representation, like Swaziland and Botswana, was initially more complicated,
as there Norway wanted pro forma vouchers from retailers before
releasing the grant. This did, however, change after some years, as it proved
to be too time-consuming and complicated.
It is an indication that Norway trusted the ANC to use the grants as
agreed that the Foreign Ministry accepted the introduction of this system
right from the start. None of the other liberation movements already receiving
support from Norway received quarterly payments in advance in 1977.48
With the ANC, this system worked relatively well through all the years of
assistance, with only a few exceptions to confirm the rule. In some cases, for
instance, vouchers disappeared after South African raids against ANC
offices. In 1981 the ANC representative in Swaziland Stanley Mabizela, was
arrested and put in jail by Swazi police, and accounting to NORAD suffered.
The Norwegian consul in Maputo, Arne Dahlen, pointed out later the
same year that Norway had very little control over the use of the disbursements
in Swaziland, and raised the question of whether Norwegian money
could have been used for weapons, ammunition etc.49 This worry was taken
very seriously by the Foreign Ministry, whose representatives discussed the
matter with the Swedish embassy in Maputo and representatives of the
UNHCR, as well as with the ANC representations in Zambia, Tanzania,
Mozambique and Swaziland. The allegations were categorically repudiated
by the ANC Treasurer General, Thomas Nkobi, and nothing was found that
could substantiate them. For one thing, Nkobi said, the ANC did not need to
use Norwegian money for arms, as they were getting all the arms they
needed from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Besides, the
humanitarian support from Norway was of such vital importance, that the
ANC would in no way risk doing anything that could jeopardise future
assistance. South Africa would plant rumours of misuse, but they were untrue,
Nkobi stated. After investigating the matter, the Foreign Ministry concluded
that there was no reason to mistrust the ANC’s use of the Norwegian
financial support.50 On a few later occasions in the 17 years of co-operation,
worry was expressed over the accounting. In 1987, the person dealing with
the ANC’s accounts in Botswana was deported when he had a large number
47 Tobiesen, Lusaka, to the MFA. ANC (SA) Anvendelse av norsk støtte for 1978 (The
utilisation of Norwegian support for 1978), 22 November 1978, MFA, 34 9/5 XIII.
48 Bjarte Erdal. Møte på representasjonens kontor (Meeting at the NORAD office), 30 August
1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
49 Arne Dahlen to MFA, 171 December 1981, MFA 34 9/5 B II.
50 Norwegian contribution to the ANC-Swaziland in 1981. Question of misuse of the funds
(Norsk bidrag til ANC-Swaziland 1981. Spørsmål om misbruk av midlene), Bjarne Lindstrøm,
1. Political Affairs Division, MFA, 22 February 1982, MFA 34 9/5 B II.
of receipts in his possession.51 In Maputo in 1988, the ANC was poorly
staffed, and accounting suffered.52 And in January 1989, the Foreign Ministry
informed the ANC representative in Maputo that it was “becoming increasingly
concerned with the manner in which the ANC is treating the
financial book-keeping and planning”.53 Therefore no further payments
could be made until satisfactory records of expenditures were presented.
When the accounts were presented, they were of such a nature that it
created a discussion in the Foreign Ministry on the difficulties of having
thorough control of the use of the funds. Misuse was, however, not discovered.
The Foreign Ministry did take some important precautions regarding
the disbursements. The parliamentary decision still prevented Norway from
giving support to the ANC inside South Africa for “home front activities”,
despite repeated requests for such assistance. It would also have been very
difficult to control the use of funds disbursed in South Africa. In addition to
this restriction, the Ministry decided that the international procurements
had to be handled through NORAD in Oslo, and not, as the ANC wished,
through its own office in London.54 Sweden accepted that the ANC itself
administered the buying of items internationally, and had no serious problems
with documentation and control of the purchases.55 Because of this, the
Norwegian consulate in Lusaka also recommended that Norway follow the
same principle. The Ministry, however, decided against this, to be on the
safe side with regard to control routines.56
The allocation for 1977 was planned to be divided equally between the
SOMAFCO school project in Mazimbu and transport and subsistence for
refugees.57 Due to considerable delays in the Mazimbu project, the ANC had
problems using the allocated funds for 1977, 1978 and 1979 as agreed. It is a
sign of the good relations that developed that this did not lead the Foreign
Ministry to recommend that the allocation for the ANC be cut down. It just
51 ANC Botswana, to NORAD, Gaborone, 5 October 1987, MFA 34 9/5 B 23.
52 Arthus Sydnes, the Norwegian consulate in Maputo to MFA, MFA 34 9/5 B 26.
53 NORAD representative Nils Vogt to Kingsley Xuma, 27 January 1998, MFA 34 9/5 B 29.
54 Niels L. Dahl to MFA. Møte med ANC (SA)-ledelsen (Meeting with the ANC (SA)-leadership),
23 March 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
55 Interview with Roland Axelsson in Tor Sellström (ed.): Liberation in Southern Africa. Regional
and Swedish Voices. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
56 Memorandum. Norsk støtte til frigjøringsorganisasjonen ANC (S-A) (Norwegian support to
the Liberation Movement ANC (S-A)), 1. Political Affairs Division, MFA, 9 January 1979, MFA
34 9/5 IX.
57 As discussed 300877 with Secretary General Alfred Nzo, Treasurer General Thomas Nkobi,
Project Secretary Mohammed Moosajee and Project Co-ordinator Jimmy Phambo.
stated that the money should be used “within reasonable time”.58 The difficulties
in implementing the Mazimbu project stemmed from construction
and supply problems, as well as adverse climatic conditions. To help in carrying
out the plans for Mazimbu, the ANC requested Norway for expert
assistance for this project, in addition to the financial assistance.59
Despite the ANC having problems with the implementation in
Mazimbu, the Ministry argued that it would be politically unfortunate to cut
down the allocation, as the ANC’s activities were increasing with rising tensions
in South Africa. But as there were delays in getting the SOMAFCO
project started, the Ministry could on the other hand not recommend an increase
in the allocations. In addition to the direct support, the ANC was also
receiving support which was allocated by the Ministry, but implemented by
Norwegian NGOs.60
During the first years of support, the framework and routines for the cooperation
were established, and the relationship between Norway and the
ANC became close. The Ministry was satisfied with the ANC’s administration,
as is shown by the comment after having received the request for 1983
that it “as usual” was “well-documented and clearly set out”.61 Discussions
between the two were open and frank, and the system with payments in advance
functioned well. The Foreign Ministry was kept well informed by the
ANC both regarding the strategy for the struggle and the plans for taking
care of the refugees. Over the years, some problems naturally arose in the
co-operation. In the late 1980s, the administrative capacity of the ANC got
strained, and communications with Norway suffered. And the ANC was not
happy about Norway ending the co-operation with the private Norwegian
consultancy firm NORPLAN. Still it is safe to say, that bearing in mind the
difficulties facing the co-operation, in general it was very close and well
The Norwegians appreciated the co-operation with the ANC, and vice
versa. The ANC also valued the “all-round assistance” the Norwegian gov-
58 Memorandum. Norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika for 1979 (Norwegian
support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa 1979), 1. Political Affairs Division,
MFA, 20 July 1979, MFA 34 9/5 X.
59 Tor Elden, Lusaka to the embassy in Dar es Salaam, 26 March 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
60 Memorandum. Fordeling av bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika for 1980
(Distribution of support to the liberation movements in Southern Africa), 1. Political Affairs
Division, 21 August 1980, MFA 34 9/5 XII.
61 Memorandum. Humanitær bistand til Frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika. Fordeling
av 1983-bevilgningene (Humanitarian support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa.
Distribution of the 1983 allocations), 28 February 1983, 1. Political Affairs Division, MFA 34 9/5
ernment was “consistently” giving “in the international community, particularly
in the United Nations”.62
Maintenance of refugees
In large, the financial assistance was divided between providing daily
necessities for refugees under the care of the ANC and in the planning, construction
and maintenance of the refugee settlements in Mazimbu and
Dakawa. In total, the direct support from Norway to the ANC amounted to
more than NOK 400 million.63 The majority of this, went to the development
and maintenance of Mazimbu and Dakawa.
The assistance for the upkeep of refugees involved providing necessities
such as food, clothes, medicines and transport for people under the care of
the ANC in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania,
Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Up to 1986, the negotiations regarding the support were held in the
beginning of the year for which it was to be allocated. The time it then took
for the ANC to submit the request, for the Foreign Ministry to consider it
and the parliament to approve of the general size of the grant, had as a
result that the funds were not ready to be disbursed before March or April
in the year for which they were allocated. As the budget year coincided with
the calendar year, this delay led to difficulties. The Ministry therefore
changed this in 1986 so that the negotiations were held in the autumn of the
year preceeding the year under discussion, to make it possible to deal with
the request in time for the funds to be disbursed from the beginning of the
The Norwegian embassies and consulates in Southern Africa were
responsible for approval of external orders before these were forwarded to
the Ministry in Oslo. As the number of refugees, and the size of the support,
grew, the administration of procurements became too extensive for the
Norwegian representatives. In 1985, the chargé d’affaires in Harare, Knut
Vollebæk, therefore suggested that the Ministry engaged a non-governmental
organisation, such as the Norwegian People’s Aid, NPA, to take care of
the practicalities in connection with the procurements.64
The idea was accepted by the Ministry, but instead of the NPA it engaged
the consultancy firm NORPLAN to administer the non-local procurements
for refugees in Tanzania. NORPLAN had already been engaged
in 1978 as consultant in the planning and construction of Mazimbu, and in
1983 was engaged directly by the Foreign Ministry to implement planned
62 Treasurer General T.T. Nkobi to Res. Rep. Tor Elden, Lusaka, 11 December 1980, MFA 34 9/5
XIII. The Norwegian support given in the international community, such as the UN, will only
be discussed to a small extent in the present study.
63 See Statistical Appendix for details.
64 Knut Vollebæk , Harare, to the MFA, 29 October 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XV.
projects. NORPLAN administered and led the construction works of infrastructure
such as roads, water and electricity. From the beginning of 1984,
NORPLAN also became involved in the planning of Dakawa, and from the
beginning of 1986 was also engaged by the Ministry to administer non-local
procurements, both equipment for the building and construction, and “daily
necessities” for the refugees.65
The lists of items to be procured still had to be approved by the embassy
in Dar es Salaam. Through NORPLAN, the Ministry also funded technical
expertise for planning, supervising and co-ordinating the construction
works in the settlements.66
As a result of disagreements with the Foreign Ministry, NORPLANs
contract was terminated at the end of 1987. Instead a comprehensive cooperation
agreement was signed with the Norwegian People’s Aid, NPA,
where the NPA from January 1988 took over responsibility for the implementation
of the Norwegian direct assistance to the ANC (and the PAC) in
Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other countries, as and when requested by the
ANC. The Ministry still conducted annual negotiations with the ANC and
prepared the guidelines concerning the funds. It was then the responsibility
of the NPA to observe these. As executing agency in the implementation of
the support, the NPA acted on behalf of the Ministry, setting up the yearly
budget, preparing time schedules for procurements and payments, conducting
negotiations and signing agreements with contractors for building projects.
The NPA was chosen for this, as it already had an established relationship
with the ANC. From 1979 it had carried out health training courses for
students coming from the ANC and SWAPO. Based on this experience, the
NPA built up a health training centre in Viana, Angola. With support from
the Foreign Ministry, and in co-operation with the ANC, in 1986 the NPA
engaged an administrator for the health division of the Viana transit camp.
The NPA involvement in the health sector also included providing a health
training instructor for Viana and support for the ANC’s Health Department,
as well as supplying the ANC with ambulances in Angola and Zambia.
From 1985, the NPA also started constructing emergency houses in Dakawa.
The ANC still protested against NORPLAN’s role being reduced, and
the NPA becoming executing agency in the Norwegian assistance to the
development of Mazimbu and Dakawa and in the procurement of equipment
and commodities in general. The ANC felt that the NPA “lacked the
necessary experience, and tended to sacrifice speed and efficiency in a misplaced
wish to source materials locally”.67 The ANC was afraid that the
65 Tore Johnsen, NORPLAN, 28 October 1988, Summary of history (Historisk sammendrag).
MFA 34 9/5 B 27.
66 MFA/ NPA/ ANC workshop “ANC development centre, Dakawa” 27–28 April. ANC Submission,
s. 6. MFA 34 9/5 B 29.
67 Sean Morrow: “Dakawa Development Centre: an African National Congress settlement in
Tanzania, 1982–1992”, African Affairs, No. 389, 1998, p. 518.
NPA lacked the wide range of expertise needed for overall guidance of the
infrastructural development.68
After a year as executing agency, the NPA was of the opinion that the
relationship and co-operation between the NPA and the ANC was very
good. Despite some different points of view regarding the various projects,
agreement had been reached on the final solutions.69 It did, however, point
at difficulties stemming from the fact that the ANC was “not primarily
developed to work with technical matters” and felt that “the ANC must try
get a more stable workforce and fill vacant positions in the administration in
Dakawa with qualified personnel”.70 The Norwegian Ambassador in Dar es
Salaam, Gunnar Garbo, in 1989 also expressed concern about the administration
of the settlements. According to agreements, it was the ANC’s
responsibility to organise the maintenance of these. If they were unable to
organise it themselves, then they were responsible for requesting external
assistance. The embassy was worried that this was not being done.71
As a consequence of the close co-operation with the NPA from 1988, the
ANC to a much larger degree than before also received administrative and
management training.72 This was needed especially as the growth in the
number of refugees and the complexity of the projects from the mid-1980s
strained the administrative capacity of the ANC.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Norway also directly supported the ANC
administration, through funding the ANC office in Norway and participating
in funding of the ANC office in Dar es Salaam. Assistance was also given
for fellowships and scholarships and for cultural activities and the Department
of Information and Publicity.73
Mazimbu and SOMAFCO
In exile large numbers of young people who had fled South Africa contacted
the ANC for support and training. In Mazimbu the ANC developed a
settlement where children and youth received education at the Solomon
Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in preparation for returning to a
democratic South Africa. SOMAFCO was a response to the need for provid-
68 MFA/ NPA/ ANC workshop “ANC development centre, Dakawa” 27–28 April. ANC Submission,
s. 6. MFA 34 9/5 B 29.
69 Norwegian People’s Aid-Tanzania: Annual Report 1988.
70 Secretary General Odd Wivegh and Project Officer Svein O. Lie to 1. Political Affairs Division,
13 September 1989, MFA 34 9/5 B 30.
71 Gunnar Garbo to the MFA, 8 February 1989. MFA, 34 9/5 28.
72 Annual consultations Royal Norwegian government /NPA and the ANC, 18 November
1987. The Mayibuye archives: ANC-Lusaka Secretary General, Office of the Treasurer General
1984–1991 (60.1–60.5).
73 Agreed minutes between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Norwegian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA) held in Oslo 17 October 1989. MFA 34 9/5 B 30.
ing them with education to “create skilled and politically conscious people
who would move into crucial positions in a future liberated South Africa
and infuse the country with the ideas of the Freedom Charter.”74
After the initial problems, the development of SOMAFCO and the
Mazimbu settlement went well. With the help of foreign donors, the ANC in
Mazimbu also created institutions such as a large farm, a hospital, kindergarten,
and primary and nursery schools. The settlement at Mazimbu also
included agricultural projects, cultural and sports facilities, production of
furniture and clothes, as well as extensive housing. Ultimately, the South
African population in Mazimbu numbered around 3 500 people.75
From 1977, the first year of Norwegian support, a large part of the allocation
was ear-marked for Mazimbu. Over the following years, Norway
played a major role in the development of the settlement, being responsible
for planning and building constructions such as a children’s centre, primary
school, hospital and administration block, as well as infrastructure such as
water and sewage systems, and roads and bridges. Norway also provided
part of the running expenses for Mazimbu.
Norway gave such substantial support to the Mazimbu settlement, as it
was well organised and clearly covered a need. The growing number of
refugees also increased the need for the settlement. These projects were seen
as being “politically safe”; education was “right on target” for the Norwegian
humanitarian support for the liberation movements. In addition to this,
the danger of misuse of funds was minimal, as it was Norwegian firms that
planned and implemented most of the projects.76 In 1981, the total assistance
to the ANC was NOK 3.5 million. Of this, NOK 2 million went to
SOMAFCO, while NOK 500,000 went to care and maintenance of refugees in
Botswana, and the same amount for refugees in Swaziland and Zambia. In
the beginning of 1982, senior executive officer Bjarne Lindstrøm visited
Mazimbu, and was impressed with what he described as “more of a well
adjusted village” than a camp. He was convinced that the need for support
was great, especially for materials for the construction and teachers and
educational material for the schools.
When considering a request for NOK 7.1 for providing water and
sewage systems in the settlement, in 1982 the Ministry stated that the
“ANC’s Morogoro project undoubtedly is the most successful project that
the liberation movements in Southern Africa have implemented.” As this
“model project” to a large extent was planned and designed by Nordic
architects and engineers, was run in an excellent way, and the carrying out
74 Sean Morrow, op.cit., p. 499.
75 Ibid.
76 Memorandum. ANC Tanzania. Besøk i Mazimbu og Dakawa (Visit to Mazimbu and
Dakawa), Bjarne Lindstrøm, 31 January 1984, MFA 34 9/5 B VII.
would be left to a Norwegian entrepreneur firm with experience from
Tanzania, Noremco, the request was granted.77
This good impression was confirmed when Gisle Mjaugedal from
NORAD’s representation in Tanzania visited the settlement in 1984. “Skilful,
well-informed and hard working” people were running a “model project,
marked by order, diligence and beauty”. The efforts made by the refugees
themselves, who numbered 1 500 at the time of the visit, were especially
People were working everywhere, trees were being planted along good
roads, simple, but solid houses had been planned and built by the ANC
themselves. The schools were busy, a library and an assembly hall were
under construction. In the carpentry and sewing workshops people were
busy, and in the agricultural projects chickens and eggs, pigs and crops were
produced. Machines and equipment were well maintained, and water and
electricity were in working order. Mjaugedal reported to the Foreign
Ministry that he was impressed with the ANC’s ability to run a refugee
camp and make good use of the support.79
Some critical voices were, however, also raised about the way Mazimbu
developed. The resident representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council in
Nairobi, Thor Stegne, raised the question of whether it was wise to isolate
the ANC refugees in a model town removed from the realities in the host
country. Was this a good way to prepare them for the society they would
meet when returning to South Africa?80 To this, the Ministry replied that the
main reason why Mazimbu was functioning so well, was largely due to the
ability of the ANC refugees to plan and carry out their projects themselves.81
Stegne responded that considering the size of the investments, and the fact
that the projects were led by a strong, experienced organisation such as the
ANC, he did not find it surprising that the result was good. That was exactly
why the country giving asylum ought to benefit more. In Mazimbu, the
ANC refugees had a higher standard of living than the Tanzanians, and this
led to conflicts, Stegne argued. This was especially critical in a country
where equality was a leading political objective.82 The Mazimbu complex
relied heavily on Tanzanian labour, and Stegne criticised the degree to
which Tanzanians were engaged to do large parts of the productive work.
77 Memorandum. The ANC’s Morogoro-project in Tanzania. Sewage and water supply (ANCs
Morogoro-prosjekt i Tanzania. Vannforsyning og kloakkavløp), 21 December 1982, 1. Political
Affairs Division, MFA 34 9/5 B IV.
78 Memorandum. Fra besøk i ANC’s flyktningeleirer … (From a visit to the ANC’s refugee
camps in Mazimbu and Dakawa), Gisle Mjaugedal, 18 December 1984, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
79 Ibid.
80 Thor Stegne to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 24 May 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
81 Bjarne Lindstrøm to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 26 April 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
82 Thor Stegne to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 24 May 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
He was not alone in raising this question. ANC’s Treasurer General Thomas
Nkobi in 1983 firmly stated that Dakawa should not become like Mazimbu,
where “80% of the people actively engaged in developing the complex are
Tanzanians. This is not acceptable.”83
In addition to the critique regarding the lack of integration of refugees
into the Tanzanian society, Stegne also criticised the use of resources and
technology chosen by NORPLAN. The Ministry’s response to this was that it
was the ANC which had requested the consultancy of NORPLAN, and that
the plans for the camp had been made in close co-operation with the ANC.
Two Norwegian volunteers in 1988 also criticised the fact that the
refugees in the ANC settlements had a much higher standard of living than
the Tanzanians surrounding the camps, and that they were not encouraged
to do their own productive work. In their opinion, the nine donor countries
represented in Mazimbu had to take part of the responsibility for not adequately
co-ordinating their support. More attention should be given to
developing the leadership of the settlement, and less to providing basic
necessities, they argued.84
SOMAFCO was formally opened in August 1985, and played a very important
role in taking care of young South Africans, and providing them
with education.
Dakawa Development Centre
Before the Mazimbu settlement had been completed, it became clear that it
could not provide room for all the ANC refugees that were coming to Tanzania.
In 1982 a site of 2 800 hectares was allocated by the Tanzanian government
in Dakawa, 60 km away from Mazimbu, to meet the increasing
need for providing the growing exiled community of South Africans with
accommodation, as well as educational, health, cultural and recreational
facilities. The Dakawa Development Centre was conceived as a model that
would serve as an example for community development projects in democratic
South Africa.
The centre also covered the need for a place where newly arrived young
people could stay until they could be enrolled in school classes at
SOMAFCO. The ANC decided to enrol students in classes at SOMAFCO
only at the beginning of each school year, to avoid disrupting the ongoing
school programme. At Dakawa, the Ruth First Education Orientation Centre
was established to cater for those who came during the school year, until
they could start their schooling at SOMAFCO. A Vocational Training Centre
was also set up in Dakawa, and institutions that could provide for those
83 As quoted in Sean Morrow: op. cit., p. 507.
84 Rune Bergh and Inger Eggen: Rapport om forholdene i Mazimbu (Report on the conditions
in Mazimbu), 15 August 1988, MFA 34 9/5 B 27.
newcomers that were not students, were established. Agricultural and small
industry projects were initiated.
The development of Dakawa had very high priority for the ANC, and it
was important to the ANC that Dakawa should be seen as a separate entity
from Mazimbu. From 1984 it requested that the Norwegian assistance
should be concentrated on the construction of this settlement. First of all, it
was imperative to the ANC that a proper, detailed feasibility study for
Dakawa was made, to avoid “some of the deficiencies in planning we encountered
in Mazimbu where we overlooked the necessity for such a study.”
85 As the ANC was very content with NORPLAN’s work, in 1984 it
requested the Foreign Ministry to provide the funds for NORPLAN to carry
out this study.86
NORPLAN produced a Development Plan for the Dakawa project,
which covered all aspects of the settlement. This plan was adopted by the
ANC with only minor alterations early in 1984. The ANC also wanted
NORPLAN to make regulation plans for four villages, try out biological
toilets, make plans for the school structure at the Dakawa project, and propose
an organisational plan for the settlement. Especially the latter two were
seen as interesting, as they would give Norway a chance to exercise considerable
influence over the future modelling of the Dakawa project. It was
anyhow noted that it could be seen as a vote of confidence that the ANC
turned to Norway for such a vital task, rather than to countries in Eastern
Thor Stegne was also critical of NORPLAN for designing Dakawa as an
isolated urban community, with no exchange with the surrounding communities.
88 Although the embassy in Dar es Salaam saw it as important to
respect the ANC’s decisions with regard to defining what would ensure that
exile became as meaningful as possible for the refugees, it also expressed the
need for keeping an eye on the costs and choice of technology for Dakawa.89
From 1983 to 1987, NORPLAN was appointed overall consultant for the
development of Dakawa. The construction works were carried out by the
Norwegian/Tanzanian firm Noremco. A substantial amount of work was
carried out by contractors, donor agencies and the ANC itself.
When the NPA took over the responsibility in January 1988, it chose to
continue using NORPLAN as consultants. As the development of Mazimbu
was seen as having been successful, it was also easier to find other interested
85 Thomas T. Nkobi to Foreign Minister S. Stray, 29 September 1983, MFA 34 9/5 B VII.
86 Ibid.
87 Memorandum. Bistand til ANC (Support for the ANC), 1. Political Affairs Division, MFA, 18
April 1984, MFA 34 9/5 B VIII.
88 Thor Stegne to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 24 May 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
89 Ola Dørum to MFA, 9 May 1985, MFA 34 9/5 B XII.
donors for the implementation of projects in Dakawa than it had initially
been for Mazimbu.
Dakawa was planned for a population of 5,000, but did not grow to the
dimensions envisaged. In 1990 the South Africans there numbered approximately
1,200. Despite this, and despite everything not working out as
planned with regard to construction and maintenance, “the building of a
functioning settlement in this very difficult environment was a remarkable
The Dakawa Art and Craft Project was transferred from Tanzania to
Grahamstown, South Africa, in October 1992. In his opening speech Deputy
President in the ANC Walter Sisulu said that the “Dakawa Art and Craft
Project is in its own right (…) a monument to the close ties of friendship and
solidarity between the peoples of Sweden, Norway, Tanzania and South
Africa. It is a symbol of our common hatred for the system of apartheid.”
The project, which had been established in Tanzania to provide stimulation
and creative activity for ANC exiles in that country, was now meant to provide
badly needed skills in an area where unemployment was rife and thus
epitomise the ANC’s desire to democratise its culture.91
The ANC conference at Gran, Hadeland
The National Executive Committee of the ANC arranged in March 1989 a
strategy meeting for the ANC diplomatic service (chief representatives and
regional treasurers), to review the situation in South and Southern Africa
and assess its implications for the international diplomatic and political
work of the ANC. The conference took place at Gran, not far from Oslo. It
was hosted by the International Solidarity Committee of the Norwegian
Labour Movement and the Norwegian government, and opened by the Foreign
Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg. The Norwegian assistance for the meeting
was described by Secretary General Alfred Nzo as being “yet another
milestone in the development of our relations”.92 In a closing address the
representative of the Foreign Ministry, Øystein Mjaaland, stated that the
privilege of having been included in the ANC’s internal deliberations was
regarded by the Ministry as “a sign of friendship, and we want to be your
To conclude this brief overview, the South African Minister of Housing,
ANC’s Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele could be quoted. In an interview in 1995
she said:
90 Sean Morrow: op. cit., p. 502.
91 Eastern Province Herald, 19 October 1992.
92 Report from the conference. Mayibuye archives: ANC–Lusaka Secretary General, Office of
the Treasurer General 1984–1991 (60.1–60.5).
93 Ibid.
They believed in us and we really appreciated that. After the unbanning of
ANC, we were also lucky to receive some diplomatic training in Norway. A
group of us went there to be exposed to foreign affairs’ issues, because at that
time we were running ANC missions all over the world. We were taken for a
special course, funded by the Nordic countries, but led by the Norwegian
government. (…)We were now operating at a different level, because we were
getting into things like Norwegian trade, foreign policy options for Norway,
NATO and the future vision of Norway towards the European continent. We
were engaging at a different level. We were dealing with policy issues. It was
not just humanitarian assistance, but a package of how to move forward,
getting exposure to how governments work and run their business. We had
done a similar course at the European Union, but there was something
specific that we received from Norway, namely aspects of communication. It
was because of our close friendship with that country. 94
The Co-operation with the PAC
The reasons for support
It was obvious that if support was to be given to a South African liberation
movement, it should be given to the ANC, as this was the South African
peoples’ leading organisation and well respected internationally. It is not
quite as easy to understand why Norway also decided to support the PAC.
In the end of the 1970s, the PAC was torn by internal problems, questions
were raised about its ideology being anti-white, the organisation only took
care of a small number of refugees, and it had little support internationally.
The ANC repeatedly argued against Norwegian support for the PAC, disputing
both its strategy and representativity. In the democratic elections in
South Africa in 1994 and 1999 the PAC received 1.25% and 0.71 % of the
votes. What motivated the Norwegian government to support this movement?
As part of the considerations on whether to propose that Norway start
supporting liberation movements in South Africa, NORAD, at the request of
the Foreign Ministry, in 1975 asked the embassy in Dar es Salaam for information.
Having started by enquiring about the ANC, NORAD continued:
“We know less about the other large resistance movement in South Africa,
Pan Africanist Movement (sic.)”95—proving its point by exposing that it was
not even quite sure about the name of the organisation. The gathering of information
was not to be carried out in such a way that it could lead to expectations
about support within the two movements.96
94 Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele (aka Rebecca Matlou), ANC-administrative officer at the ANC
mission to Sweden and the Nordic countries in Tor Sellström (ed.): Liberation in Southern Africa.
Regional and Swedish Voices. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
95 Svennevig to the Norwegian embassy, Dar es Salaam, 14 November 1975, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
96 Svennevig to the Norwegian embassy, Dar es Salaam, 25 November 1975, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
In September 1976, the 1. Political Affairs Division at the Foreign Ministry
recommended that Norway in 1977 should start supporting the ANC,
because of the ANC’s broad base and the good Swedish experiences with
the organisation.97 It did not suggest that Norway start supporting the
PAC.98 A year later it did. What motivated this change?
In October 1976, PAC visited the Foreign Ministry, at the same time updating
the Ministry on the organisation and requesting future Norwegian
support. The PAC was informed about the restrictions in Norwegian policy,
which at this time still excluded support for the South African liberation
movements.99 To more systematically prepare for a decision when these restrictions
were lifted, the Foreign Ministry started collecting information
about the PAC. The need to know was further strengthened after the PAC
submitted a formal request in May 1977, regarding support for a transit- and
rehabilitation centre to be established in Tanzania.100 Initially the Ministry
was of the opinion that support for the PAC should be postponed until it
had a better impression of the PAC’s humanitarian work, but again turned
to the embassy in Tanzania for information. It was particularly interested in
learning how the government of Tanzania, the OAU Liberation Committee
and the Swedish embassy in Tanzania viewed the PAC and the proposed
Ambassador Per Nævdal gave an enthusiastic response to the Ministry:
both the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry and the OAU Liberation Committee
“were very positive” to the planned transit- and rehabilitation centre, which
they thought was urgently needed. The UNHCR office in Dar es Salaam had
visited the project together with a representative of the OAU Liberation
Committee, and shared the view that it was well worth supporting. According
to Nævdal, the Swedish embassy had recommended Swedish support
for the PAC centre. 102 Because of Sweden’s long-established relations with
the ANC, it was unlikely that the Swedish government would support the
PAC in the foreseeable future. SIDA, however, did not rule out the
97 Norges bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika. Disponeringsforslag for 1977
(Norway’s support for liberation movements in Southern Africa. Proposal for 1977), 1. Political
Affairs Division, 16 September 1976, MFA 34 9/5 VIII.
98 Ibid.
99 Samtale med representanter for den sør-afrikanske frigjøringsbeveglesen (Consultations with
representatives for the South African liberation movement) Pan Africanist Congress of Azania
(PAC), 1. Political Affairs Division, 13 October 1976, MFA 34 9/5 IV.
100 Acting Treasurer General Mfanasekaya P. Gqobose to the Foreign Ministry, 3 May 1977,
MFA 34 9/5 V.
101 Tore H. Toreng to the embassy in Dar es Salaam. Søknad om støtte fra den sør-afrikanske
frigjøringsbevegelse PAC (Request for support from the South African liberation movement
PAC), 31 May 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
102 Per Nævdal, Dar es Salaam to MFA. (Søknad om støtte fra den sør-afrikanske frigjøringsbevegelsen
PAC) Request for support from (…) PAC, 10 June 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
possibility of a small amount being granted to the PAC already in 1977.103
Through a copy of a letter from the Swedish embassy in Tanzania to the
Foreign Ministry in Stockholm, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry learned that
it “seemed to be obvious” that the PAC was making a “valuable
contribution for South African nationalists in Tanzania”, and that their
financial responsibility had increased. The UNHCR also found their need for
funding legitimate as they were taking care of 175 refugees in Tanzania.
Although the ANC was better established, the PAC was also recognised by
the OAU and it was “not ruled out that some kind of assistance to the PAC
would contribute positively to the liberation of South Africa”. The embassy
recommended that assistance be given to the PAC—if not for anything else,
to get to know the movement better.104
After having discussed the matter with the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry,
the OAU Liberation Committee, the UNHCR and the Swedish embassy, Per
Nævdal had “no scruples about recommending Norwegian support for the
Against this background, the Ministry changed its position regarding
support for the PAC in 1977, and recommended that the planned rehabilitation
and transit centre in Tanzania should receive NOK 650,000. Due to the
methodical and effective oppression of the South African regime, the Ministry
found it hard to form a well-founded opinion of what role the PAC was
playing in South Africa, but it did have reason to believe that its position as
an organisation was weak. The Ministry did, however, believe that both the
ANC and the PAC held a strong position in the hearts and minds of the
African population in South Africa.106 The humanitarian work the PAC was
doing for South African refugees in Tanzania was in any case seen as valuable.
The first years of support: internal strife
The PAC benefited from the trust the Foreign Ministry had in the ANC by
being granted the same kind of disbursement system as the ANC: quarterly
payments in advance. In 1977, however, as decisions were taken late in the
year, the whole allocation was disbursed at once. The planned centre in
103 Memorandum. Norsk støtte i 1977 til frigjøringsbevegelsen i Sør-Afrika (Norwegian
support for the liberation movement in South Africa), 5 July 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V. On Sweden,
the ANC and the PAC, see Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Vol. I:
Formation of a Popular Opinion 1950–1970, pp. 169–175 and 244–255. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
104 Per Lindström to the Swedish Foreign Ministry, 14 February 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
105 Per Nævdal, Dar es Salaam to MFA. Søknad om støtte fra den sør-afrikanske frigjøringsbevegelsen
PAC (Request for support from the South African Liberation Movement PAC), 10
June 1977, MFA 34 9/5 V.
106 Memorandum. Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), 1. Political Affairs Division, 4 October 1977,
MFA 34 9/5 VII.
Tanzania then turned out to be delayed. The original plan had been to place
this centre in Morogoro, near the ANC settlement. Due to disagreements
between the PAC and the ANC, however, the Tanzanian government preferred
to change the site. The centre was instead going to be put up in
Pongwe, near Bagamoyo, where a site was put at the PAC’s disposal at the
beginning of 1978.
This not only postponed the PAC’s plans, but also made the planned
transit and rehabilitation centre three times as expensive—the Foreign Ministry
was informed when Treasurer General and member of the Central
Committee of the PAC, Mfanasekaya P. Gqobose, visited the Ministry in
February 1978. The increased costs were also due to the building materials
having to be imported, and to the fact that it was no longer planned to use
the free labour of the PAC members. Norway was therefore requested to increase
its support. To strengthen the application, the PAC informed the Ministry
that the Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund
(SAIH) had agreed to contribute NOK 10,000 to this new project, which
would take care of all South African refugees under the PAC’s care in Tanzania,
from 50 to 300 at a time.107
Shortly after the decision to grant the PAC support had been made, it
became clear that there was increasing unrest within the organisation. At a
meeting with Anna Runeborg from SIDA and Chargé d’Affaires Rolf W.
Hansen at the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, Acting President Potlako
Leballo confirmed that the PAC had great disciplinary problems with members
in Dar es Salaam who had not been given grants to study in other countries,
or been chosen for military training “in China and other African countries”.
108 Leballo further argued that the problems stemmed from the lack of
facilities to teach and train the refugees, who were young, bitter and frustrated
about not being equipped and trained for fighting in South Africa.
According to Leballo, theoretical training was needed, if these young people
were to avoid “aimless terror actions, which would further polarise the situation
and lead to a danger of a bloodbath in South Africa”. Violent acts were
not to be directed against white civilians, maintained Leballo, who was reported
to have “made a good impression” on the Norwegian Chargé
d’Affaires, who informed the Foreign Ministry in Oslo that Norwegian support
to a transit- and rehabilitation centre could serve as a sensible contribution
towards defusing disagreements.109 According to Rolf W. Hansen in
107 Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 23. februar av PAC-representant (Visit in Oslo 23 February by
PAC representative), 27 February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII. SAIH was founded in 1961. Under the
motto ”education for liberation”, it was closely involved with support to the anti-apartheid
struggle from the early 1960s.
108 Rolf W. Hansen, Chargé d’Affaires, Dar es Salaam to the MFA. Samtale med fungerende
president i (Consultations with acting President of) the Pan African Congress, Potlako Leballo,
2 February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VI.
109 Ibid.
March 1978, there was “no doubt that the planned rehabilitation centre
(would) be able to fill an important role for South African refugees in Tanzania.”
Norway’s positive attitude should therefore be maintained.110 On
account of the doubts that had been raised about the PAC from the OAU
Liberation Committee and others, it was, however, important to avoid Norway
ending up as the only contributor to the centre. Too much money
should in any case not be committed to the project for 1978, as it was uncertain
when the projecting implementation could start. The Chargé
d’Affaires instead suggested that the support for Namibia and Zimbabwe be
increased.111 This was supported by Ambassador Knut Thommessen 112
who argued that the liberation movements in Zimbabwe should have priority
before those in South Africa. Of these, the ANC should be given much
more than the PAC, which had had 35 persons in the camp when he had
visited in June 1978 and did not, in his opinion, deserve particular support.
The reason why there were so few PAC members in Tanzania at the
time of Thommessen’s visit was that most of the 500 refugees that allegedly
had been under the care of the PAC early in the year had been sent out of
the country, and new intakes had been stopped.114 The reason for this, the
embassy in Dar es Salaam was informed in March, was that what the PAC
could offer the refugees was not satisfactory. Now there were only 60
refugees left in Tanzania under the care of the PAC and the internal strife
had abated. The situation was under control. 115 This proved to be not quite
the case. Accused of corruption, undemocratic leadership and of having
built up his own private army, Leballo was one of those excluded by the
PAC Central Committee in June 1978. The army was not brought under control,
and the crisis culminated with the murder of the PAC’s Director of
Foreign Affairs David Sibeko in June 1979.
The way the organisation was functioning, together with accusations of
misuse of NORAD funds and lack of proper accounting for the grants, made
NORAD change the disbursement routines and introduce stricter control
mechanisms in 1979. The allocations were no longer disbursed directly to
the PAC, but to the suppliers, and only after pro forma vouchers had been
110 Rolf W. Hansen, Chargé d’Affaires to the MFA, 14 March1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
111 Ibid.
112 Knut Thommessen was Ambassador 1, at the disposal of the MFA for special commissions.
113 Memorandum. Norsk hjelp til frigjøringsbevegelsene (Norwegian support for liberation
movements), Knut Thommessen, 14 June 1978, MFA 34 9/4 VII.
114 Memorandum. Besøk i Olso 23. februar av PAC representant (Visit in Oslo 23 February by
representative of PAC), 1. Political Affairs Division, 27 February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
115 Rolf W. Hansen, Chargé d’Affaires to MFA, 14 March 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
presented.116 Despite this, and the PAC not being able to use the whole
grant for 1978, the support was not cut off, as it was still recognised by the
OAU Liberation Committee. It was, however, halved from NOK 1 million in
1978 to NOK 500,000 in 1979. The PAC was informed that Norwegian support
in the future depended on whether the organisation managed to get its
problems sorted out, as well as the need for support.117
Norway gave the PAC initial help to start the transit and rehabilitation
centre in Pongwe.118 Visiting the Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam in
January 1980, the PAC Chairman Vusile L. Make regretted that the grant
from Norway had been reduced, but could understand the Norwegian
authorities’ need to see how the organisation was developing. The PAC was
now on the right track, he said, and would soon regain the force and the
international recognition that had been lost as a result of the showdown
with Leballo and his supporters. As the PAC would now become more militarily
active inside South Africa, their need for support would rise. And so,
they hoped, would the Norwegian allocations. 119
Information office in Oslo
In August 1977, the PAC had already opened an information office for the
Nordic countries in Oslo, and at the same time similar offices were opened
in Canada and Liberia. This was part of a strategy to strengthen the diplomatic
part of the liberation struggle, which had been given urgency after
Soweto. The first representative in the Nordic countries, Count Pietersen,
and the PAC were happy about the “excellent reception” he had been
given.120 In a meeting with State Secretary Eskild Jensen at the Prime Minister’s
Office he was assured that the Norwegian authorities were happy
about the establishment of the information office, which the Ministry hoped
would contribute to greater understanding about the liberation movements
in Africa.121 To help find office premises, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry
on the PAC’s request also wrote a statement saying that Norway, like the
OAU and the UN, acknowledged the PAC as a true representative of the
116 Memorandum. Norsk bistand til PAC for 1979 (Norwegian support for PAC in 1979), 1.
Political Affairs Division, 12 September 1979, MFA 34 9/5 X.
117 Ibid.
118 Telex from the Norwegian delegation to the UN, 13 November 1978, with an account from a
letter from Sibeko, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
119 Niels L. Dahl to MFA. Støtte til frigjøringsbevegelser. PAC (Support for liberation movements.
PAC), 7 January 1980, MFA 94 9/5 XI.
120 PAC to MFA, 8 November 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
121 Memorandum. Delegasjon fra den sør-afrikanske frigjøringsorganisasjonen PAC …
(Delegation from the South African liberation organisation PAC …), Leonard Larsen, 5 October
1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
South African people. 122 The other liberation movements in Southern Africa
were already established in Stockholm. Pietersen also submitted a request to
the Ministry for NOK 305,000 for the information office, and the PAC’s
Director of Foreign Affairs David Sibeko had in a letter to the Ministry confirmed
that the Central Committee of the PAC supported the request.123 It
was, however, turned down. The PAC, like all the liberation movements,
was given a part of the allocation in cash for administrative purposes. For
1978, this was 5%, or NOK 50,000, and this was used for the information
The PAC’s internal problems and bad lines of communication are reflected
in the requests for the information office in Oslo. According to
Mogale Mokgoatsane and Erret Radebe, responsible for respectively administration
and finance at the PAC office in Dar es Salaam, Pietersen had never
been authorised by the PAC to request the 305,000 for the Oslo office.124 In
1979, the PAC closed the office.
The cold war context
The ANC received support from the Soviet Union, while the PAC was
backed by China. This, of course, was the source of controversies of various
kinds. Among Norway’s allies in NATO and in conservative circles in Norway,
there were those who believed in the allegations put forward by the
apartheid regime, that the ANC was a pawn in the Soviet Union’s fight for
influence in Africa. Did Norway start supporting the PAC to be able to
“prove” to these critics that the cold war context did not influence the choice
of which liberation movements to support? By supporting both movements,
it would be easier to focus on the ANC and the PAC being nationalist
This might have been part of the consideration. But, in the late seventies,
the Norwegian political party that caused the most concern to the political
establishment was the Maoist Arbeidernes Kommunistparti (m-l) (The Workers’
Communist Party) (AKP), while the Soviet-backed Norges Kommunistiske
Parti (Norway’s Communist Party) (NKP) had little support or influence.
Through trade unions and other organisations, AKP achieved a far greater
influence than their modest showing at the elections would imply. The party
was, however, seen as being so extremist that very few in the political establishment
would be associated with it. Doing anything that might be inter-
122 Memorandum. Etablering av informasjonskontor for Norden i Oslo (Establishment of information
office for the Nordic countries in Oslo), 1. Political Affairs Division, MFA, 24 August
1977, MFA, 34 9/5 VII.
123 Telegram from Bjørnar Utheim, MFA to the Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam, 23
November 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VIII.
124 Rolf W. Hansen, Chargé d’Affaires, Dar es Salaam to MFA, 5 November 1978, MFA 34 9/5
preted as support for the AKP would be extremely difficult for the Ministry.
This can be illustrated by a handwritten note by State Secretary Thorvald
Stoltenberg in connection with a visit by a PAC delegation in October 1977,
just a few months after the decision to grant support had been made: if he
and a colleague took the PAC delegation out for an informal dinner, he
wrote, they could ”manage to physically keep them away” from the AKP
representatives until the programme and press conference were over.125
This was such a serious issue that Leballo the following summer assured
representatives of the Ministry that Count Pietersen had been ordered not to
“associate with” the AKP. 126
The PAC regularly used the fact that the ANC received support from the
Soviet Union as an argument against the organisation. To the Charge
d’Affaires in Dar es Salaam, Leballo regretted the interference by the superpowers
in African politics, which was expressed in the Soviet Union supporting
the ANC, and China the PAC. The PAC would accept support from
wherever it could get it, but did not want to be subject to any other regime,
nor use them as models for the future South Africa. 127
These assertions might have contributed to the good impression made
on the embassy. Visiting the Foreign Ministry in February 1978, Treasurer
General Mfanasekaya P. Gqobose assured the Ministry that the PAC was
freer in its relationship with China than the ANC was with the Soviet Union.
What the PAC wanted, he stated, was to build up an egalitarian society with
the same possibilities and rights for all, irrespective of race.128 When he was
asked about the PAC’s relationship with China, Gqobose answered that
China did not wish to make the PAC a lackey, at the same time suggesting
that the ANC was a tool for Soviet interests.129 Or, as Leballo once put it:
“The PAC believes in socialism, not in communism like the ANC does”.130
There is nothing in the available material to substantiate that the cold
war context was part of the consideration in the Ministry regarding whom to
support in South Africa. The figures for the support given to the ANC and
the PAC from 1977 and all through the 1980s, more than indicate that the
125 Attachment to memorandum: Program for besøk i Norge av delegasjon fra Pan-Africanist
Congress (Programme for visit by PAC delegation in Norway), 4–6 October 1977, MFA 34 9/5
126 Memorandum. Thommessen og Utheims reise til (Thommessen and Utheim’s trip to)
Lusaka, Botswana, Mozambique og Tanzania …, 21 May to 3 June 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
127 Rolf W. Hansen. Chargé d’Affaires, Dar es Salaam to MFA. Samtale med fungerende president
i (Consultations with acting President in) Pan Africanist Congress, Potlako Leballo, 2
February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VI.
128 Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 23. februar av PAC representant (Visit to Oslo 23 February by
PAC representative), 1. Political Affairs Division, 27 February 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
129 Ibid.
130 Memorandum. Thommessen og Utheims reise til (Thommessen and Utheim’s trip to)
Lusaka, Botswana, Mozambique og Tanzania …, 21 May to 3 June 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
Ministry did not worry about the Soviet support for the ANC. The ANC,
however, took seriously the question of repudiating allegations that it was a
Marxist organisation controlled by the Soviet Union. Being a NATO member,
this certainly would have made it very difficult for Norway to give its
support. However, the ANC observer delegate to the UN, Johnny Makatini
can be said to have presented a rather special interpretation when he
assured the Norwegian ambassador Ålgård that “the support received from
the Soviet Union was minimal compared to the support that was received
from Norway and other Western countries”.131 He might, however, have
referred to the fact that the support from the Nordic countries significantly
contributed to repudiating the claim that the liberation struggle was an East-
West issue, when he also stated that “the Norwegian contribution was of
essential political significance”. 132
The decision to also grant support to the PAC seems to have been the
result of a combination of limited knowledge, positive recommendations
received for the PAC project from the embassy in Tanzania, and Norway
choosing to be on the safe side by supporting both organisations that were
recognised by the OAU and the UN.
Reactions to the PAC support
It was not just the PAC that unfavourably characterised the ANC. It was also
the other way round. The ANC was outspoken on the question of Norwegian
support for the PAC, and regularly recommended the Foreign Ministry
to cut this off.133
A week after the PAC had been in Norway with a delegation in October
1977 Sobizana Mngqikana and Indres Naidoo visited the Ministry and informed
them about ANC activities outside and inside South Africa. At the
same time they categorically repudiated the claim that the PAC was actively
engaged in political or refugee work. Instead various factions within the
PAC were opposing each other. In Africa, only Tanzania had recognised the
PAC, they declared. The ANC saw the struggle not as being between black
and white, but between oppressor and oppressed, and was recognised by all
131 Nordun, telex to the MFA, 8 November 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
132 Ibid.
133 Memorandum. Norsk støtte til frigjøringsorganisasjonen (Norwegian support for the liberation
movement) ANC (S-A), 1. Political Affairs Division, MFA, 9 January 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
the frontline states.134 The PAC, on the other hand, was said to have “a
touch of racism”.135
In addition, the ANC in March 1979 informed the Foreign Ministry that
they viewed the PAC leadership as “corrupt and without support in South
Africa”, and that the money was not used according to agreements. Norway
should therefore not support the PAC.136
The ANC kept up its critique of the PAC until the democratic elections
in 1994. In 1988, Oliver Tambo was interviewed by Norway’s major conservative
newspaper, Aftenposten (where the trade union in 1984 received two
ANC students for four months of graphic training). Being otherwise very
positive to the Norwegian contribution to the liberation struggle, he raised
one single criticism: Norwegian support for the PAC.137
While the PAC’s major criticism of the ANC was that it had a close relationship
to the Soviet Union, the ANC criticised the PAC for what it was and
was not doing. In the 1980s, the PAC only rarely criticised the ANC in meetings
with the Foreign Ministry. Instead, in a number of meetings with the
Ministry it expressed the hope that the two organisations would co-operate,
but this was met with little interest from the ANC.
The crisis in the PAC in the late 1970s further weakened its position.
From various quarters, the organisation was accused of misuse of funds,
lack of strategy for the struggle for a democratic South Africa, and lack of
activity inside the country. At the beginning of 1978, SIDA programme officer
Anna Runeborg informed the Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam that
Laban Oyaka, Assistant Executive Secretary in the OAU Liberation Committee,
was negative towards the PAC. When Oyaka had “learnt that Norway
had granted 650,000 to the PAC’s transit centre, he expressed worry over
this” because of the PAC’s internal conflicts. Chargé d’Affaires Rolf W.
Hansen at the Norwegian embassy defended the PAC: the OAU criticism
lacked nuance, as it did not take into consideration the fact that the PAC,
contrary to the ANC, up till then had not had a reception centre for their
members in Tanzania: “It seems to be a fact that the bad offer that the PAC
members have so far had in Tanzania has been a major cause for the internal
134 Notat. Samtale med representanter for den sør-afrikanske frigjøringsorganisasjonen ANC
hos statssekretæren (Memorandum. Consultations with representatives of the South African
liberation organisation ANC at the office of the State Secretary), 12 October 1977, 1. Political
Affairs Division, 31 October 1977, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
135 Reddy Mazimba to R.W. Hansen. Chargé d’Affaires, Dar es Salaam, 6 February 1978, MFA
34 9/5 VI.
136 Niels L. Dahl to MFA. Møte med ANC (SA) ledelsen (Meeting with the ANC leadership), 23
March 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
137 Aftenposten, 17 March 1988.
conflicts that have occurred”.138 After a consultation with director
Mwasakafyuka in the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry a couple of months later,
Hansen did, however, report back to Oslo that Mwasakafyuka advised Norway
to choose a very careful line and preferably refrain from extending
direct support to the PAC until the situation became clearer.139
In March 1979, Ambassador Niels L. Dahl reported to Oslo that he had
meetings with UNHCR’s resident representative in Dar es Salaam, Mr.
Chefeke, who had lost confidence in the PAC. Many of the best people there
had been excluded in 1978. Chefeke regretted that in 1977 Norway transferred
funds directly to the PAC, such that control opportunities were lost.
The former Treasurer General in the PAC, Mfanasekaya P. Gqobose, who
according to Chefeke was an honest person, had disagreed with Leballo and
other leaders on using the Norwegian grant for 1977 earmarked for Pongwe
for other purposes, and had therefore been excluded. One result of this
would be that it would be very difficult to find out what the allocation had
actually been used for. The UNHCR representative stressed that it was important
not to give the PAC money directly, but give it to suppliers against
pro forma invoices.140
Leballo was removed from office in May 1979, and the strong internal
controversies continued. Both from Sweden and from the UNHCR, the Ministry
was warned against extending direct support to the PAC. Yet Norway
was not alone in its support: the Dutch, the UNDP, and UNHCR had also
allocated funds for the transit and rehabilitation camp in Pongwe.141
The uncertainties with regard to the PAC were also confirmed by a
“high level” representative in the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry, who, according
to Ambassador Dahl, had not minced his words in his criticism of the
PAC leadership: “They are all a bunch of crooks who think of nothing else
than how to enrich themselves.”142 The source at the embassy had “carefully
suggested” that Norway perhaps should reconsider its support for the
After a couple of years of co-operation with the PAC, the Foreign Ministry
in August 1980 had its doubts about whether it was right to support the
organisation. As in the year before, internal conflicts in the organisation led
138 Rolf W. Hansen, Chargé d’Affaires, Dar es Salaam to MFA: Synspunkter på PAC fra OAUs
frigjøringskomite (Views on PAC from the OAU Liberation Committee), 7 February 1978, MFA
34 9/5 VII.
139 Rolf W. Hansen to MFA, 4 May 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
140 Niels L. Dahl to MFA, 14 March 1979, MFA 34 9/5 IX.
141 Notat. Norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika for 1979 (Memorandum.
Norwegian support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa for 1979), 1. Political
Affairs Division, MFA, 20 July 1979, MFA 34 9/5 X.
142 Niels L. Dahl to MFA, 31 July 1979, MFA, 34 9/5 X.
143 Ibid.
the Ministry to consider cutting off support. This was, however, found to be
too “politically unfortunate”. The Ministry therefore recommended that the
allocation be kept at the same level as 1979, NOK 500,000, in the hope that
the active work that Tanzania’s government was doing to re-establish the
PAC as a serious organisation would succeed.144
The relationships between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the two
South African liberation movements supported at the beginning of the 1980s
were thus very different. When they started, the Ministry did not know
either very well, but chose to share the recognition given to both by the
OAU and the UN. In the first three years of co-operation, the Ministry had
lost most of its faith in the PAC. The level of support had decreased and
strict disbursement and control routines were established. At the beginning
of the 1980s, uncertainty marked the relationship between the PAC and the
Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
The 1980s: maintenance of refugees and a road to Ruwu
After John Pokella had become Chairman of the PAC in 1981, internal conflicts
in the organisation no longer caused serious problems for the co-operation
with Norway. When Pokella died in 1985, Johnson Mlambo was unanimously
elected new Chairman by the PAC Central Committee. Although
the Norwegian support was very small compared to that for SWAPO or the
ANC, it was important to the PAC, both financially and politically, as it was
the only support that was received on a regular basis.145 In total, it
amounted to less than NOK 25 million from 1977 to 1990.146 Other governments
that gave direct support, although irregularly, were Yugoslavia,
China and Finland, the PAC informed Norwegian Chargé d’Affaires Dag
Mjaaland in 1985.147
Norwegian support for the maintenance of refugees under the care of
the PAC was used for items such as food, soap, medicine and transport,
supplied under strict control, and to a large extent bought through
NORAD’s procurement office in Oslo. In 1984, the PAC requested that a part
of the allocation be paid in cash, to make it possible to buy food close to a
settlement in Kitonga. As the Norwegian Ambassador Ola Dørum in Dar es
Salaam found the request reasonable and the co-operation by then was run-
144 Notat. Fordeling av bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika for 1980
(Memorandum. Distribution of support to liberation movements in Southern Africa for 1980), 1.
Political Affairs Division, MFA, 21 August 1980, MFA, 34 9/5 XII.
145 Chief representative in Harare, Waters Toboti in February, 17 February 1986, MFA 34 9/5 D
146 See appendix for details.
147 Charge d’Affaires Dag Mjaaland Dar es Salaam, 20 November 1985 to MFA. Sør Afrika.
Samtale med presidenten for PAC (South Africa. Consultations with the president of the PAC),
MFA 34 9/5 II.
ning well, this was granted. Dørum did not suspect that this would lead to
misuse. Instead of paying the suppliers directly, 25–30% of the monthly
grant was paid directly to the PAC in cash, on demand of receipts.148
It was primarily refugees in Tanzania that received the support, but a
small part also went to maintenance of PAC refugees in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
In 1988, Norway also gave 200,000 for medical treatment to the PAC
President Zephania Mothopeng in London and 100,000 for a PAC women’s
In addition to daily necessities for refugees, Norway implemented one
major project for the PAC: a road to Ruwu, Kitonga. The Tanzanian government
had granted land and property there for a settlement for the PAC,
and also prepared a plan for the development of the site. Although Norway
did not believe the PAC’s information that they were responsible for over
700 refugees, as the PAC had earlier given “totally unrealistic figures”, the
number of refugees was large enough to justify developing a settlement.
And for this, a road would be necessary.149 It was important for a positive
decision that the Ministry had been informed that the UNDP had allocated
around USD 250,000 and the UNHCR about USD 100,000 for the development
of the settlement, and that the Tanzanian government had given
assurances that the project would be integrated into the development plans
of the region.150 According to the PAC, in the end the settlement also received
support from the Tanganikya Christian Refugee Service, the governments
of the Netherlands and Nigeria, as well as Norway.151
The Ministry was not convinced that the PAC would manage to build
the Kitonga settlement. The need for this was increasing with the number of
refugees, and the Ministry decided to contribute to its development by
building a 14 km road. Norway contracted the consultancy firm NORPLAN,
and after some discussion regarding the cost and necessary standard,
NORPLAN planned and supervised the construction of the road. The PAC
would take over responsibility for the maintenance of the road, and equipment
was granted for this. Kitonga was to be the centre for all PAC refugees
in Tanzania, and with a road that could be used all year round, the potential
for food production could be utilised. A community did develop at Ruwu,
which provided a safe refuge for the modest number of refugees that stayed
From January 1988, the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) was given
responsibility for implementation of the direct support for the PAC and the
148 Ola Dørum, Dar es Salaam to MFA, 18 April 1984, MFA 34 9/5 D I.
149 Notat. PAC. Økonomisk behov i 1984 (The PAC. Financial requirements for 1984), Bjarne
Lindstrøm, 19 January 1984, MFA 34 9/5 D I.
150 Dørum, ambassador in Dar es Salaam to MFA, 10 January 1984, MFA 34 9/4 D I.
151 Brochure: Masuguru—Ruwu, A Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania Refugee Settlement,
PAC 1989. MFA 34 9/5 D III.
ANC. It had become too complicated and time-consuming for the embassy
to follow up project agreements, both with regard to the direct procurements
and the building projects. The NPA by then already had a close relationship
with the ANC. The co-operation with the PAC was also going well,
and Secretary General Odd Wivegh reported towards the end of 1989 that it
was the impression of the NPA that the funds made available to the PAC
were ”used with great care. The members themselves [were] working hard
to stretch the money with their own manpower”. The co-operation with external
contractors and consultants also seemed to be good.152 When NPA
took over the maintenance of the road from NORPLAN, routines were
changed which cut costs considerably and made it possible to further upgrade
the road.
The question of whether Norway should stop supporting the PAC was
regularly considered. The support was, however, maintained, as the internal
situation improved and the PAC was covering a humanitarian need for the
refugees. It was decisive that the OAU did not withdraw its recognition. In
1986, Johnson Mlambo informed the Norwegian State Secretary in the
Foreign Ministry that the PAC was working for ”an Africanist, socialist and
democratic South Africa which takes care of the material, mental and
psychological needs of individuals”.153
In 1992 it became obvious that this did not necessarily mean all individuals:
in reaction to an attack on a golf course by members of the PAC, the
support was cut off. In the words of the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs in
the PAC, Gora Ebrahim, what happened was that
in 1992 we went with a delegation to Norway where assistance of about
200,000 US Dollars was promised. But there was an incident that occurred in
1992, known as the King Williamstown attack on a golf course. The
Norwegians then decided to suspend all assistance to us. We went into the
election campaign without any assistance from any source.154
Other official Norwegian support
In addition to the direct support for the ANC and the PAC, there are a number
of other aspects of the official Norwegian policy with regard to the liberation
struggle in South Africa that deserve mentioning here: the Nordic cooperation,
the Nobel Peace Prize to Desmond Tutu, the special kind of
diplomacy shown by Norway with regard to the South African regime, the
152 Secretary General Odd Wivegh to MFA, 28 September 1989, MFA 34 9/5 D II.
153 Memorandum. South Africa. Statssekretær Frøysnes’ samtale med lederen for PAC, Mr.
Johnson Mlambo (Consultation between State Secretary Frøysnes and the PAC Chairman, Johnson
Mlambo), 1. Political Affairs Division, 6 May 1986, MFA 349/5 D II.
154 Gora Ebrahim, Secretary of Foreign Affairs in PAC, Member of the National Assembly in
democratic South Africa in Tor Sellström (ed.): Liberation in Southern Africa. Regional and Swedish
Voices. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
opening of a South African consulate in Oslo, and support through other
Nordic co-operation
At a meeting of the Nordic Foreign Ministers in Helsinki in September 1977,
a decision was made to appoint a working group to appraise common
Nordic efforts against South Africa. The working group submitted its report
in March the following year, and it was discussed by the Nordic Foreign
Ministers at a meeting in Oslo later the same month. A Joint Nordic Programme
of Action was then adopted. The South African government’s policy
of apartheid remained the principal cause of the racial conflict in Southern
Africa, it stated, and international pressure against the apartheid regime
had to be increased. The so-called Oslo Plan, which was expected to be
gradually extended to include new measures, included the following points:
– prohibition or discouragement of new investments in South Africa;
– negotiations with Nordic companies with a view to restricting their production
in South Africa;
– a recommendation that contacts with the apartheid regime in South
Africa in the field of sport and culture be discontinued;
– increased Nordic support to refugees, liberation movements, victims of
apartheid etc.
Later in 1978, the Nordic countries also agreed to introduce visa requirements
for South African citizens.
In addition to these unilateral Nordic measures, it was also agreed that
the Nordic countries in the UN should work for:
– the adoption of resolutions in the Security Council against new investments
in South Africa;
– proposals in the Security Council which could result in binding resolutions
against trade with South Africa;
– ensuring strict observance of the Security Council’s resolutions on the
arms embargo against South Africa.
The Nordic Foreign Ministers also appointed a permanent working group
with representatives from the Nordic Foreign Ministries to see to it that the
Programme of Action was observed, and to consider new measures against
South Africa, including sanctions. Visiting Oslo in March 1978, Oliver
Tambo expressed approval of the Joint Nordic Programme of Action in a
meeting with Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund, in the sense that it expressed
a wish to put condemnation into action. He did, however, hope that
it would be extended to include a comprehensive boycott of South Africa.155
As can be seen in chapter 5, it would, however, take almost a decade until a
comprehensive Norwegian sanctions law was finally adopted by the parliament
on 20 March 1987.
An extension of the Programme was adopted in October 1985 and revised
in March 1988 when all the Nordic countries had introduced prohibitions
on investments in and trade with South Africa and Namibia. Again
stating that they viewed the apartheid policy as a serious threat to peace, the
Nordic Foreign Ministers encouraged other countries to take initiatives to
increase and make more effective the international pressure against South
Africa in addition to imposing sanctions. This included support to South
Africa’s neighbouring countries to relieve the effects of the destabilisation
policy and reduce their dependency on South Africa. (The Nordic countries
increased their co-operation with the SADCC countries. The total Nordic
assistance to the Frontline States from 1978 to 1987 amounted to USD 4.6
The extended Joint Nordic Programme of Action also stated that the
Nordic countries would work internationally for the liberation of Namibia,
for effective boycott of South Africa including oil and air traffic, for increased
information on the apartheid policy and for increased support to the
opponents and victims of the apartheid system.
The Nordic countries also co-operated in the field. Denmark, Finland,
Norway and Sweden were all involved in the development of the ANC’s
settlements in Dakawa. The co-operation was particularly close between
Norway and Sweden, who planned, negotiated and carried out the assistance
in similar ways. For example, the Swedish representation assisted
Norway in implementing support for the ANC in countries where Norway
did not have an embassy or consulate. Although Norway did not support
the ANC inside South Africa, and Sweden was not as heavily involved in
the development of Mazimbu and Dakawa as Norway, the support programmes
of the two countries were similar. Every year annual negotiations
were held with representatives of the Foreign Ministries and the ANC leadership,
which resulted in agreed minutes regarding the support. The support
was de facto to a large degree co-ordinated. It could, for instance, be
agreed in one of the countries where South African refugees received support
that Norway would provide one kind of items and Sweden another, in
the most optimal way. Swedish representatives proposed in 1988 that Norway
should administer Sweden’s support for agriculture in Mazimbu, as
Sweden’s administrative capacity in Dar es Salaam was not dimensioned for
155 Memorandum. Besøk i Oslo 14–16 mars 1978 av ANC delegasjon. Møte med utenriksminister
Frydenlund. (Visit to Oslo by ANC delegation 14–16 March 1978. Consultations with
Foreign Minister Frydenlund), 1. Political Affairs Division, 29 March 1978, MFA 34 9/5 VII.
156 Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Årbok (Yearbook of Norwegian Foreign Policy) 1988, NUPI, Oslo.
this, while Sweden could take care of the implementation of Norway’s support
for the ANC’s agricultural projects in Zambia.157 This did not materialise
as the Norwegians wanted to be present in both places to keep a broad
contact with the ANC, but it is an expression of the close relations between
the two donors. Both Norway and Sweden applied the same disbursement
system and this also required co-operation to avoid duplication and render
the assistance more efficient.158
The Nobel Peace Prize to Desmond Tutu 1984
Although the Nobel Committee is independent, the whole Nobel ceremony
has such strong Norwegian official participation that it should be mentioned,
if only briefly.159 The prize has been awarded three times to South
Africans for their work against the apartheid system: to Albert Luthuli in
1961, to Desmond Tutu in 1984—and to Nelson Mandela and Frederik de
Klerk in 1993. Here, it is the prize for Desmond Tutu that will be briefly
touched upon, as it was awarded in the time period discussed in this chapter.
After being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, Desmond
Tutu was awarded the prize in 1984, 23 years after Albert Luthuli.160
In his speech to the Nobel laureate, the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel
Committee, Egil Aarvik, said that it was “the Committee’s wish that [the]
award should be seen as a renewed recognition of the courage and heroic
patience shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful means to
oppose the apartheid system”.
Reactions in Norway to the award were predominantly positive. But the
question of sanctions was also raised in a number of newspaper articles and
in statements from the Church, the trade union movement, the Council for
Southern Africa and others.161 It was emphasised that it was a paradox to
award the Peace Prize to a person who was continuously calling for trade
sanctions against South Africa, while Norwegian trade with the country was
increasing. The Peace Prize also contributed to the pressure that led the government
to impose sanctions at a later stage.
157 Telex from the Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam to MFA. ANC: norsk og svensk
samarbeid om prosjekter. (The ANC: Norwegian and Swedish support on projects), 30
November 1988, MFA 34 9/5 B 27.
158 Interview with Roland Axelsson in Tor Sellström (ed.): Liberation in Southern Africa. Regional
and Swedish Voices. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999.
159 The Nobel Peace Prize for Albert Luthuli in 1961 is discussed in chapter 1.
160 The author wishes to thank Karin Beate Theodorsen for providing the material on the Peace
161 E.g., NTB, 16 October 1984; Stavanger Aftenblad, 17 October 1984; Nationen, 18 October 1984;
Aftenposten, 22 October 1984; and Vårt Land, 23 October 1984.
The granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Desmond Tutu led to increased
attention on the South African struggle against apartheid, both in Norway
and internationally. Information was spread, and anti-apartheid campaigns
were launched all over the world. The award to Desmond Tutu made it even
more difficult for the South African propaganda to describe the liberation
struggle as terrorism, or to justify the apartheid policy in any way.
“… on the brink of normal diplomatic activities”
In 1976, the government decided that the Norwegian consulate general in
Cape Town should become more active in humanitarian work. A process
was initiated which was to end with the consulate becoming heavily engaged
in what Foreign Minister Knut Vollebæk in 1998 euphemistically
characterised as being “on the brink of normal diplomatic activities”.162 In
1985, the consulate co-operated with the Norwegian Church in setting up
the Social Change Assistance Trust, which distributed money to a large
number of grassroots organisations in the Cape Town area.163 In 1986, the
apartheid regime declared a nation-wide state of emergency, which made
the situation for the opponents of the regime even more difficult. At the
same time, it made the need for support inside the country more urgent.
Norway did not support the activities of the liberation movements inside
South Africa, as the parliament had decided that only legal activities
were to be supported inside the country. The definition of what was legal
was stretched in the second half of the 1980s, when from January 1986 the
Norwegian consul Bjarne Lindstrøm started his diplomatic activities. These
were carried out in close co-operation with Knut Vollebæk, who in 1986 returned
to Oslo from the embassy in Harare to become Head of the 1. Political
Affairs Division at the Foreign Ministry, and Trond Bakkevig, Secretary
General of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International
Relations (CEIR).
Primarily, this involved the channelling of money via the Norwegian
representation directly to people working for democracy in South Africa. It
was not a practice started by the Cape Town consulate, but the dimensions
of this practice became extraordinary there. In Santiago de Chile too, Norwegian
diplomats had earlier had at their disposal a sum of money to be
used for instant humanitarian assistance, when other aid channels were impossible.
In 1979, the resident representative of NORAD in Gaborone,
Øystein Tveter, similarly requested the Foreign Ministry in Oslo for a sum
for this purpose. As post, telephone and telegraph services were monitored
by the South African police in Botswana, not all requests could be sent to
Oslo. The Nigerian representative in Gaborone had a sum of money at his
162 Radio programme: The history of South Africa, part 3, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
16 November 1998. Reporter: Tomm Kristiansen.
163 For the co-operation with the Church, see chapter 7.
disposal, to be used in emergencies, while Tveter had to use other sources to
cover this kind of expense. The Foreign Ministry saw the need for this, and
also felt that it could contribute to the consulate making useful contacts
with, for instance, representatives of the Black Consciousness Movement inside
South Africa. It therefore allocated NOK 10,000 for these purposes in
Botswana in 1979.164 The same year NOK 50,000 was allocated for the consulate
general in Cape Town. The money could be used for purposes
approved by the Consul, without too many questions being asked from
Oslo. The Ministry was of the opinion that this would be tolerated by the
South African authorities, as they were not interested in the number of
diplomatic stations being reduced further than it was already. However, the
Ministry preferred that the money be channelled to the legal opposition in
other ways than through the diplomats, as it would not serve the cause to
have diplomats expelled on account of having transferred too large contributions
to the opposition. 165
The practice of having money to spend for immediate purposes was
thus not new when Bjarne Lindstrøm became Consul General in Cape Town.
But the extent to which he was using the facility was quite unnormal. In
addition to the “local emergency fund” allocation being raised to NOK
100,000 in the 1980s, the Ministry in total channelled around NOK 25
millions through CEIR, transferred via banks or carried into South Africa by
Trond Bakkevig, to be distributed by Bjarne Lindstrøm to grassroots organisations.
The trust between the main Norwegian actors and between the Norwegians
and people working for liberation and democracy in South Africa was
decisive for this practice. According to Vollebæk, the time it took to process
a request could sometimes be down to twenty minutes. Most of this activity
is, naturally, not reflected in the Ministry’s archives. Bakkevig, Lindstrøm
and Vollebæk have, however, given information about this in various interviews.
In a programme on Norwegian radio in November 1998, Lindstrøm
said that this support went to various kinds of activities all over South
Africa and aimed at bringing people together to give them a chance to
organise against the apartheid regime.166 This involved “clubs for black
children, community houses, libraries, print-shops, agricultural projects and
art centres. It could also be institutions such as advisory offices in black
164 Memorandum. NORADs stedlige representasjon i Gaborone, Botswana. Spørsmål om
”håndpenger” (Question of ”petty cash”), 1. Political Affairs Division, 6 February 1979, MFA 34
9/5 IX.
165 Memorandum: Support for liberation movements in South Africa 1981, 1. Political Affairs
Division , 9 April 1981, MFA 34 9/5 B II.
166 Radio programme: The history of South Africa, part 3, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
16 November 1998. Reporter: Tomm Kristiansen. The theme is also discussed in Tomm
Kristiansen: Mandelas land. Oslo: Cappelen, 1995 and in Trond Bakkevig: Den norske Kirke og
kampen mot apartheid. Oslo: Mellomkirkelig Råd, 1995. See also the interview with Knut
Vollebæk in Tomm Kristiansen/Aud-Lise Norheim (eds.): Høvdingen. Oslo: Cappelen, 1999.
townships, where people, after having been exposed to police brutality, for
example, could get advice on what doctor to see. They needed doctors that
they could rely on and that they knew would not pass information on to the
One of the ways in which the apartheid regime tried to suppress the
opposition was to prevent it having offices with telephones, prevent communication,
transport etc. What the consulate tried to do, according to
Lindstrøm, was to help provide opposition groups with a place to meet and
work from in a decent degree of safety, like the Community House in Cape
Town (which, however, was opened on a Monday and partly destroyed by a
bomb the following Friday. It was rebuilt with Norwegian support).
When asked by radio reporter Tomm Kristiansen whether the diplomats
considered this activity in accordance with Norwegian foreign policy, Vollebæk
replied that they of course “realised that it was political work, but the
underlying humanitarian aspect was so dominant that (they) did not think
very much about the political side of it. (…) There was no room for normal
diplomatic relations between the Republic of South Africa and Norway. The
expressed opinion of the Norwegian government, supported by an overwhelming
majority of the Norwegian parliament, was that Norway should
contribute to abolishing the apartheid system.”167
At times, the consul let people whom the police were looking for stay in
his house together with his family. In his own words: “you couldn’t suddenly
say ‘I don’t know you’ when a co-operation partner got into trouble”.
If he had asked the Ministry in Oslo for instructions, he would have received
a negative reply. Therefore he did not ask.
The active role played by the consulate general was in accordance with
the decision of 1976 that the consulate should become more active in
humanitarian work. As long as it was not used for illegal activities, it did not
contradict the parliamentary decision. Whether it was, or was not, is not an
issue in this connection. The Ministry felt sure that the money was used
according to the rules laid down.
Was this arrangement established to compensate for the decision not to
support the ANC inside the country? The sums distributed by the Norwegian
Consulate were small compared to what Sweden channelled into South
Africa, where only through the ANC SEK 200 million were channelled inside
the country for homefront activities.168 Norway did, however, support
other legal anti-apartheid activities within South Africa, through various
NGOs. In addition to this, it was, in any case, probably close to as much as
the Foreign Ministry could do in carrying out its commitment to the anti-
167 Ibid.
168 See Tor Sellström: Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa, Vol. II. Uppsala: Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet (forthcoming).
apartheid struggle inside South Africa, given the guidelines set by the Norwegian
South African and ANC representations in Oslo
In April 1988, the Norwegian government decided to let South Africa open a
consulate general in Oslo. The South African authorities had during the previous
months started to make conditions more difficult for the Norwegian
consulate general in Cape Town and for the representatives of other countries
in South Africa. According to Aftenposten, “what the government in
Pretoria particularly disliked, was the diplomats’ extensive contacts with the
opposition, often including the handing over of money. South Africa interpreted
this as subversive activity”.169 While Norway had maintained
diplomatic representation in South Africa since 1906, South Africa had until
1988 not had corresponding representation in Norway. To take care of its
interests in the Nordic countries, South Africa had had legations in Sweden
and Finland and a consulate general in Denmark. If South Africa was not
allowed to open a consulate in Oslo, they threatened to close the Norwegian
consulate in Cape Town.
As can be seen in chapter 6, the anti-apartheid opinion in Norway
strongly objected to a South African consulate being opened in Oslo.
Numerous demonstrations were arranged and information distributed
through pamphlets and medias.
Despite this, Willem Bosman came to Norway as apartheid South
Africa’s Consul in October 1988. By agreeing to a South African consulate
being established in Oslo, the Norwegian government acted contrary to the
ANC’s boycott policy. How could the Norwegian government, which had
called so strongly for sanctions against South Africa in international fora and
had such close contacts with the ANC, decide to go against their own call for
diplomatic isolation? In November 1998 Foreign Minister Vollebæk explained
the decision thus:
What we did was to consult with the ANC. I went to Zambia on a one-day
visit (…) to talk with Oliver Tambo, to get his approval to let South Africa
open a consulate in Oslo. We did not call it “approval”, but it was clear that
his answer would be decisive. Even then we were thinking that this was quite
unique, that an independent nation felt that it needed to consult the liberation
movement in a far-off country over a decision that it could make on its own.
We did not want to do something that could disturb the work we were doing.
The signals we got back were clear: We should let South Africa open the
consulate, because our presence inside South Africa was so important. But
169 Aftenposten, 16 October 1988.
Tambo also said: “I cannot publicly confirm this, I might even criticise you for
it. But you must do it”.170
Vollebæk informed the press of his consultations with Oliver Tambo in
1988.171 These were neither confirmed nor denied by the ANC.
In October 1986, the ANC had established an office in Oslo, with Raymond
Mokoena as resident representative. (The ANC activities in Norway
had previously been undertaken by the Nordic representative based in
Stockholm.) The main task of the Oslo office was to inform about the struggle,
advocate sanctions and further develop the co-operation with the Norwegian
government and NGOs. In July 1988, the ANC informed the Ministry
that as a result of a decision by the National Executive Committee of
the ANC, he would be replaced by Thandie Rankoe.172 In this way, the representation
would be “be better equipped in meeting the growing challenges
of our struggle in the international arena.”173 A year later, the ANC office
was further strengthened when Delukufa Sandlwana was appointed as
Deputy Chief Representative in Norway.174 It is reasonable to see the
strengthening of the ANC office in Oslo partly as a reaction to the establishment
of the South African Consulate.
Whatever the case may be, the decision to let South Africa open an official
representative’s office in Norway was in violation of the ANC’s policy
for diplomatic boycott. It does not, however, seem to have led to the ANC
mistrusting the Norwegian government. The close contacts and co-operation
continued as before. As discussed earlier, the following year the ANC entrusted
Norway with providing security, premises and general support for a
major conference of chief representatives and regional treasurers held in
Norway in March 1989.
A relationship from people to people
The direct co-operation between Norway and the liberation movements in
South Africa was primarily concerned with humanitarian support for
refugees. It started at a later stage than the Norwegian support for the liberation
movements in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia. On the
other hand, the support for the ANC was far larger than that given to any of
any of these—in total it amounted to more than 400 million NOK in the
period from 1977 to 1990. The PAC received less than 25 million NOK.
170 Radio programme 16 November 1998: The history of South Africa, part 3, Norwegian Broadcasting
171 E.g., Aftenposten, 16 December 1988.
172 Thandie Rankoe had worked for Norwegian People’s Aid in Gaborone and Harare.
173 Alfred Nzo to the Norwegian Foreign Minister, 28 July 1988, 34 9/5 B 27.
174 Thandie Rankoe to the MFA, 11 December 1989, MFA 34 9/5 B 30.
Pressure from civil society was vital in bringing about the decision to
start the direct assistance, and the support from the Norwegian government
was likewise sustained and supported by broad groups of the Norwegian
society. As can be seen elsewhere in this study, the official support can not
be seen in isolation from the various efforts made by different groups in the
Norwegian society. A number of Norwegian NGOs were directly involved
in supporting the struggle. And all over the country, local arrangements
were initiated to inform about apartheid and collect money for the struggle.
This was strongly emphasised by Thabo Mbeki in February 1999, when
he opened a conference in Cape Town regarding the role of the Nordic
countries in the Southern African liberation struggle. He there stated that it
important that the relationships that developed in the end between the
peoples of Southern Africa and the peoples of the Nordic Countries,
encompassed entire societies. Among the Nordic countries it was entire
peoples who got involved in the struggle for emancipation of the peoples of
Southern Africa. What developed, was a relationship from people to people.
(…) It would seem to me, that if we build on this extraordinary thing that
happened as we united in this common struggle for national liberation, and
united as people to people, and united now—basing ourselves on that
experience, basing ourselves on the relationships that have been built and say
here’s a new strategic challenge, let us once more co-operate from people to
people to meet these challenges together—it would seem to me that if we did
that—and I’m sure we can do that—this remarkable relationship between the
Nordic countries and the countries of Southern Africa would still have
something new to teach the rest of the world for the future.175
175 Video recording from the conference Nordic Solidarity with the Liberation Struggles in Southern
Africa, and Challenges for Democratic Partnerships into the 21st Century, 11 February 1999.
Chapter 4
Norway and “Rhodesia”: 1965–19801
Wolf Lorenz
This chapter will examine what has been called “the Rhodesia issue” in the
years between 1965 and 1980. The emphasis will be on Norwegian diplomatic
history and to a lesser extent on humanitarian assistance to the liberation
movements and popular involvement as manifested in the work of
Norwegian NGOs. I have for reasons of convenience chosen to call the territory
concerned Rhodesia. Its official name was Southern Rhodesia, in Norway
“Rhodesia” was the most commonly used term, although “Southern
Rhodesia” was frequently used during the 1960s. “Zimbabwe” was little
used except by the liberation movements themselves and the political left
and the solidarity organisations in the 1970s. Rhodesia was the term used by
the territory’s white leader Ian Smith, and it consequently became widely
used. Since Northern Rhodesia changed its name to Zambia at independence
in 1964, there was no practical reason to distinguish between Northern and
Southern Rhodesia.
Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) gained independence
from Britain in 1964, and were thus admitted to UN membership.
Southern Rhodesia, under the leadership of a white minority never exceeding
5% of the total population, was unable to negotiate independence from
Britain because of the unwillingness of the regime to award equal political
rights to the territory’s African majority. As more and more of the former
colonies achieved their independence in the 1960s, the problems in Southern
Rhodesia attracted great international attention, and when Ian Smith unilaterally
declared Rhodesia independent in November 1965, this action was
widely condemned as an illegal act. In the years to follow, the UN Security
1 The following chapter is based on my thesis Norge og Rhodesia-spørsmålet, 1965–79 (Norway
and the Case of Rhodesia, 1965–79), completed at the University of Oslo. The thesis examines
Norway’s involvement with the situation that arose after Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of
independence for Rhodesia in 1965. The main aim is to examine diplomatic history based on the
archives of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Norwegian Ministry of Trade
and Shipping on the treatment of the issue in the National Assembly, in the archives of the
Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, as well as in the archives of involved NGOs. Little or no
research has been done on the period up to 1965.
Council imposed a range of mandatory sanctions on Rhodesia. The sanctions
were, however, not able to topple the regime, as some countries covertly
disregarded the sanctions, and others, namely Portugal and South Africa,
openly ignored them. Since sanctions largely failed and the British
government had vehemently rejected military intervention, the illegal
regime was able to hold on to power. The prospects for the African majority,
severely controlled, poorly organised and politically divided, seemed bleak.
It was only the fall of the dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, and the subsequent
independence of its African colonies, most importantly Angola and
Mozambique, that altered the stalemate in Southern Africa. With South
Africa its only ally, and a hostile regime installed in the renamed Mozambican
capital of Maputo, Rhodesia was soon to find herself in dire straits.
In a military sense, the liberation movements had up to this time not
constituted any major challenge to the Smith regime, whose armed forces
were well equipped. Liberation movements in Rhodesia were generally
characterised by shifting alliances and internal problems. These divisions
were actively exploited by the Rhodesian government in their policy of
divide and rule. Successive nationalist movements had been banned, bishop
Abel Muzorewa’s African National Council (ANC) being the only organisation
to be allowed a certain freedom by the regime. The white population
regarded the ANC as “moderate” and of little consequence because it possessed
no military strength. Two important organisations had been banned:
the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo, and
the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led initially by Ndabaningi
Sithole and later by Robert Mugabe. Mainly for strengthening their position
in international negotiations, ZANU and ZAPU were later to form the Patriotic
Front (PF). Their guerrilla armies as well as their political organisations
were, however, kept intact. The white minority sought co-operation with
Muzorewa in the “internal solution” in 1978, which produced multiracial
elections from which the PF was excluded. A Muzorewa-led government
was the result. In the first free elections in 1980 ZANU won a landslide victory.
Norway and Rhodesia had few links, and from a Norwegian point of
view, the problems in Rhodesia did not touch upon traditionally sensitive
foreign policy issues such as security and European integration.
As Norwegian trade interests in Rhodesia were limited to the import of
tobacco and sugar, and exports were limited to urea (fertiliser), fish produce,
paper and cardboard, trade interests between the countries were not significant.
In 1965, Norway imported Rhodesian goods for 12.2 million Norwegian
kroner, while exports ran at 10.9 million NOK.2 Norwegian multinational
companies like Norsk Hydro and Elkem dominated this trade, as did
Rhodesian tobacco. Norwegian shipping interests, with one of the largest
2 Norwegian Yearbook of Statistics, 1966.
merchant fleets in the world, not least oil tankers, were affected however by
the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. It was inconceivable that
the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association would dispute the decision of the
UN Security Council. Another matter was what one tried to accomplish
within the law, or at the side of the law. In some isolated instances Norway
violated UN sanctions. Norway was able to terminate trade with Rhodesia
relatively quickly, but compared to Sweden’s abrupt cessation of trade,
Norwegian trade continued for a long time. In 1965 and 1966, before full and
mandatory sanctions had been imposed, the conservative Minister of Trade
and Shipping, Kåre Willoch, was quite liberal in granting licenses for exports
to Rhodesia. Imports, on the other hand, were quickly banned. Many
Western countries actually increased trade with Rhodesia in these early
The early years
Contact between the Rhodesian liberation movements and the Norwegian
authorities had been made even before Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of
independence (UDI) in 1965, similarly links between these movements and
the Norwegian NGO Norwegian Action against Apartheid (NAMA) had
been established. The contact was however sporadic, and there is no evidence
that Norwegian authorities, i.e. the Norwegian Embassy in London or
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, regarded the exchange of information
with the liberation movements as particularly interesting.
From an official Norwegian point of view the Rhodesian issue could
primarily be viewed as a symbolic question up to the mid-seventies, and,
had it been given, Norwegian humanitarian support to the liberation
movements would probably not have been opposed by her allies. However,
the liberal-conservative government that ruled Norway from 1965 to 1971
showed little interest in the issue. There was a feeling that sanctions needed
time and full implementation to yield definite results, and that patience was
vital. Besides, Norway’s primary concern was her own role in Europe, and
compared to the wars in Vietnam and Biafra, the situation in Southern
Africa was of minor interest. This was to change, albeit not in any revolutionary
fashion (see chapter 1).
Politicians taking an interest in Rhodesia were mainly to be found on the
far right and among socialists; on the far right the Anders Lange’s Party,
formed in 1973 was alone in its wish to abandon sanctions, backed by its
political sympathy for the Smith regime and by the laissez-faire view that
3 UD 25 4/25 B, 11, memorandum First Political Division. According to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, several countries had increased their exports to Rhodesia: France by 200% , Portugal by
350%, the FRG by 64% , the Netherlands by 49% and Japan by 38% .
trade should not be restricted in any way. 4 This argument was raised when
the United States unilaterally lifted its sanctions on Rhodesian chrome ore in
1973. On the other side of the political spectrum, Finn Gustavsen, representing
the Socialist People’s Party, was the single most important proponent of
majority rule in Rhodesia. His party took a strong anti-imperialist stance.
From time to time he raised the issue in the National Assembly, Stortinget,
while also co-operating with the Norwegian Action against Apartheid, and
later with its successor organisation, the Norwegian Council for Southern
These two parties were the only parties represented in the Norwegian
parliament not to be part of any government during the 14 years of illegal
rule in Rhodesia.5 As the other parties largely ignored the question, all the
more influence was left to the senior civil servants of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, UD. Few of these took any interest in the question at an early stage,
with one important exception; Secretary General Boye, ranked first in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His personal views are among the very few discernible
up to 1973, and they were manifested on various occasions. When
Ian Smith had unilaterally declared Rhodesia independent in 1965, many
countries, such as Sweden and Finland immediately broke off their diplomatic
ties with Salisbury. Norway and Denmark, however, took their time.
While Denmark maintained representation in Salisbury and Bulawayo,
Norway maintained her honorary consulate in Salisbury. Not until Smith
declared Rhodesia a republic in 1970 were these relations broken off, even
then against the strong and repeated advice of Boye. On one occasion he
argued that the consulate should be kept open because any concession made
to “our sunburnt friends in Africa” would only lead to further demands.6
A similar question was raised at the same time. According to the UN
sanctions so-called interline agreements between Air Rhodesia and other airlines
were not allowed. Scandinavian Airlines System, SAS, jointly owned
by the three Scandinavian governments, claimed they were the only airline
observing the sanctions, and informed Boye that they no longer wished to
honour the sanctions. Boye acquiesced and noted that there were no such
sanctions anyway. South African Airways was to represent SAS in Salisbury.
4 Anders Lange’s Party was the forerunner of the right-wing “Progress Party” (Fremskrittspartiet).
5 During the 14 years of illegal government in Rhodesia, the following parties were in power in
Norway: 1) 1965–71 a coalition of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Centre Party
and the Christian People’s Party, 2) 1971–72 Labour government, 3) 1972–73 a coalition of the
Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the Christian People’s Party, 4) 1973–76 and 1976–81 Labour
6 UD 25 4/25, 28, memorandum Boye, 30 August 1968.
7 UD 25 4/25 B, 16, memorandum Boye, 18 December 1969.
Boye had, incidentally, served six years on the SAS board, a fact that
may have influenced his judgement. In the end, his views were disregarded,
as it would have been somewhat difficult to sell such arguments to the
Norwegian public. As his views were not accepted, there were clearly other
civil servants opposing him, but his high rank probably forced them to use
all their diplomatic skills in doing so. The relative power of the civil servants
was most likely made possible by the indifference of the politicians; it seems
unlikely that a more concerned political leadership would have approved of
such views.
Norwegian foreign policy in relation to the Third World has rarely led to
severe disputes between the major political parties, and this also held true
for Rhodesia, for a long time anyway. The forces that brought about a
change can be situated both in a geopolitical context as well as on the
domestic Norwegian scene. The larger part of the seventies, in the aftermath
of the referendum in which a majority voted against Norway joining the
EEC, was characterised by a political move to the left. Only late in the
decade did the political pendulum swing to the right again.8 This of course
also relates to changes in geopolitics where a brief rapprochement between the
East and the West was followed by renewed hostilities, often fought by
proxy in the Third World. Southern Africa became a part of the cold war,
and consequently the great powers invested new interest in the region.
From the early seventies, a change in Norwegian policy is detectable. After
the referendum on Norwegian EEC-membership in 1972, there was a turn to
the left in Norway, from which a stronger interest in relations between
North and South arose. The political left, as represented by the Socialist
People’s Party and later the Socialist Left Party had no representatives in
parliament in 1969–73, but had a vocal large group of representatives in
1973–77. Changes in Norway’s policy on the region stem both from structural
changes as well as from the role of individuals. The lack of concerned
politicians and civil servants came to an end in the early seventies as new
actors entered the scene. They represented a longstanding tradition in Norway
based on a combination of social democratic values of solidarity and
similar Christian, humanitarian values. In one of the world’s richest countries,
free from a colonial past that damaged so many Western countries’
reputation in the Third World, many felt that small Western countries held
special responsibilities for bridging gaps in the Third World.9
These views, coupled with a more principled anti-imperialist attitude,
were very strong in the Socialist Left Party, successor of the Socialist Peo-
8 Berge Furre: Norsk historie 1905–1990: vårt hundreår. Oslo: Samlaget, 1993:346.
9 Stokke, Olav: “Utviklingsbistand og frigjøringsbevegelser” in Internasjonal politikk 4/70, 1970;
Stokke, Olav: “Norsk støtte til frigjøringsbevegelser” in Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Årbok 1973.
ple’s Party. They were also represented in the Norwegian Labour Party, but
such views were not restricted to the political left, representatives of the
Christian People’s Party to a certain extent also reflected such attitudes.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs Dagfinn Vårvik (Centre Party), Andreas Cappelen
(Labour) and later Knut Frydenlund (Labour) took great interest in the
question, as did the State Secretaries Thorvald Stoltenberg and Arne Arnesen.
Cappelen was a vocal opponent of Portuguese colonial rule in Africa,
and his criticism of Portugal, presented in NATO as it was (see chapter 1),
can be viewed as particularly important because Portugal and Norway were
militarily allied through NATO and economically allied in the European
Free Trade Association (EFTA). Indeed, combined with Norwegian efforts in
the UN, it must have been a determining factor in the OAU’s decision to
hold its conference on the African liberation struggle in 1973, its first conference
ever held on non-African soil, in Oslo. (The UN/OAU Conference in
1973 is treated in greater detail in chapter 1). At this landmark conference
Rhodesia was represented by ZANU and ZAPU, but the liberation of
Rhodesia was not put as high on the agenda as the liberation of the Portuguese
colonies. Importantly however, contact and trust were deepened.
Norwegian authorities had worked hard to secure the participation of
government representatives from Western countries, but with little success.
The other Scandinavian countries were represented, so were Australia and
Austria, but Norwegian efforts to secure the participation of countries such
as Britain, France and the United States came to naught, as these countries
did not wish to endanger their relationships with the governments in Lisbon
and Pretoria.
Norway had a similar experience in 1977, with a different outcome,
when a major conference on the liberation of Namibia and Rhodesia was
held in Maputo. Again, the Scandinavian countries were active, and since
Norway was a member of the organising committee, the Norwegian representatives
worked hard to secure the participation of the major Western
countries. Again it was strenuous work, but this time their efforts were not
futile; wide participation was secured and Norwegian solidarity with Southern
Africa had again been proven.
Norwegian financial assistance to the liberation movements had been
initiated at the time of the UN/OAU conference in Oslo in 1973. (See chapter
1.) It had been made clear to the movements that applications for such assistance
would be considered positively, but it was also made clear that aid in
the form of arms was incompatible with Norwegian policy. Indeed, Norwegian
officials never ceased to stress the importance of finding peaceful
solutions for Rhodesia. The first applications for aid were received in 1973
but arrived too late to be considered. From 1974, Norway supported the liberation
movements not only in word, but also in deed.
In 1974, through NORAD, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chose to create
a post whose exclusive duty would be to maintain day to day contact with
the liberation movements. This contact point was housed at the Norwegian
consulate in Zambia, Lusaka. This action indicated a strong element of
At the UN Assembly in 1972, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vårvik found it
frustrating to vote for weak UN resolutions regarding Rhodesia, and had
urged the other Nordic governments to vote in favour even of resolutions
asking Britain to bring the Rhodesian rebellion to an end “by all means possible”
and similar wordings. In doing so, Vårvik followed in the footsteps of
Finn Gustavsen’s argument presented years earlier, that one should not only
vote for what seemed realistic, sometimes one ought to vote simply to be
heard. Norway did not want to legitimise the use of violence, but sought to
establish the liberation movements’ right to fight for their cause, very much
in the same way it had been a moral imperative to fight the German occupation
of Norway during World War II. The other Nordic countries, Iceland
excluded, were however most unwilling to change their positions in 1973.
Not only did Norway face strong, Nordic resistance, Norwegian views were,
not surprisingly, opposed by the British delegation at the UN. Under this
combined pressure, Norway gave in and resumed to the traditional position
of abstention on these resolutions. This is one of the rare cases in this period
where Norway went further than the other Nordic countries. Over the years
though, this changed, and in the late seventies the Nordic countries
abstained or voted in favour of such resolutions.
In addition to these diplomatic efforts, the Norwegian government extended
humanitarian assistance to the liberation movements. While a touch
of Cold War in Southern Africa was felt more strongly in many Western
capitals, the Labour Party government from 1973 and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs argued that the escalating hostilities should not be seen in such
a context. The liberation movements should not be labelled “communist” or
“non-communist”, they were nationalists fighting for their right to rule their
country.10 The funds allocated to the liberation movements rose steadily
from a mere NOK 200,000 in 1974 to NOK 8 million in 1979. With the exception
of a single grant to the Muzorewa-led United African National Council
in 1977, the funds were equally divided between ZANU and ZAPU.11 In the
period 1977–1979 NOK 20 million was extended in direct support to ZAPU
and ZANU. As shown in tables VI and X in Appendix 1, substantial
amounts were also channelled through the Botswana Refugee Council and
other organisations catering for refugees from Zimbabwe.
10 UD 25 425, 39, memorandum First Political Division, 18 May 1976; for similar assessments
prior to NATO’s Ministerial Meeting in December 1976, see UD 25 9/24, 2, memorandum First
Political Division, 6 December 1976; unsigned memorandum, 21 December 1976; ibid., 3. Memorandum
First Political Division, 18 October 1977.
11 UANC received NOK 380,000 for its activities inside Rhodesia and NOK 70,000 for its office
in Stockholm. See Jon Bech: Norsk bistand til frigjøringsbevegelsene i det sørlige Afrika. Forum for
Utviklingsstudier, no. 10/78. Oslo: Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Institutt, 1978. Further details on the
support to ZANU and ZAPU are given in the Statistical Appendix: Table VI.
The lack of unity in the liberation struggle was not only a Rhodesian
problem. Viewed from afar, these divisions were not easily understood, and
caused general frustration among donors. While ZAPU and ZANU both had
their roots in the early 1960s, the African National Council—led by bishop
Abel Muzorewa—was formed in the early 1970s to oppose an Anglo-Rhodesian
settlement proposal which was regarded by the African majority as being
totally unacceptable. The early 1970s also saw the establishment of a
small splinter group called Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI).
Obviously frustrated by the lack of progress in the liberation struggle, in
December 1974 Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere urged the four movements—
ZAPU, ZANU, FROLIZI and ANC—to sign the so-called Lusaka
Unity Accord. The Unity Accord, which later was endorsed by the OAU
Liberation Committee—was signed with the purpose of joining forces under
the umbrella of the African National Council (ANC), but personal, ideological
and ethnic differences were soon to paralyse the umbrella organisation.
In terms of humanitarian assistance, the open rivalries made it extremely
difficult both for Norway and Sweden to enter into agreements and make
use of the funds allocated in 1974–1976. In 1975 ZANU also suffered from
internal problems in the aftermath of the assassination of its acting leader,
Herbert Chitepo, and the following clampdown on ZANU members by the
Zambian authorities.
In 1975 the situation was further complicated when Joshua Nkomo returned
to Rhodesia with the intention of entering into negotiations with Ian
Smith. This, to put it mildly, met with little approval from the other liberation
movements, and signalled the final blow to the Unity Accord. The negotiations
never yielded any results, and ZANU soon relaunched its armed
struggle. ZAPU had won the support of Zambia’s president Kenneth
Kaunda and was able to operate from bases in Zambia. After a fierce struggle
for leadership in ZANU, Ndabaningi Sithole was replaced with Robert
Mugabe in the driver’s seat. ZANU was now able to operate out of Mozambique,
where FRELIMO had opened a front in the province of Tete as early
as in 1968. The independence of Mozambique in 1975 obviously represented
a watershed in the struggle for majority rule in Rhodesia.
For the purpose of presenting a common front during the Geneva Conference
in October–December 1976, ZAPU and ZANU formed a unity pact
under the name of the Patriotic Front (PF). The two movements largely carried
on their struggle on the ground as separate armies and kept their organisational
structures intact. The two PF partners were able to resume links
with Norway during the Geneva Conference. They were also recognised by
the OAU and the Frontline States as being the only genuine liberation movements.
Lacking armed forces and being marginalised during the Geneva
Conference, Abel Muzorewa reconstituted his movement as the United
African National Council (UANC ) and soon opened negotiations with Ian
Smith’s Rhodesian Front. In March 1978 he—together with Ndabaningi
Sithole—joined the Smith government as a junior partner in the non-recognised
internal dispensation.
The final years
Outside Scandinavia, the policy of extending support to the liberation
movements was, however, not shared by many in the West in the late
seventies. To an increasing extent the choice of which movements to support
also became a contentious issue in Norway. The Christian People’s Party
and the Conservative Party strongly criticised the Labour government’s
proposition to cancel the support given to the UANC, once Muzorewa and
Smith had agreed on the so-called internal solution in March 1978.12 The
internal solution did indeed result in some Africans taking part in a new
government, but both ZANU and ZAPU, at that time trying to co-operate in
the Patriotic Front, opposed this as a “sell-out”. The United Nations was not
consulted, and the internal solution was widely rejected. Norway condemned
the solution and the following elections in the UN, and Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Knut Frydenlund condemned the solution at the bi-annual
meeting with his Nordic colleagues.13
The deterioration in the relationship between Norway and the UANC
had started earlier. The understanding had to a large extent been based on
two factors: one was the sympathy for the peaceful solution advocated by
Muzorewa; unnecessary bloodshed, after all, was not wanted. A second
factor was the fact that Muzorewa had a Norwegian assistant, the Methodist
missionary Kåre Eriksson, through whom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
had gained sympathy for the UANC. Muzorewa later chose to expel his
Norwegian assistant, who had raised some critical questions. This did not
increase Muzorewa’s support in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo.
Norwegian politicians and senior civil servants must sometimes have
experienced minor cultural shocks in dealing with low rank representatives
of the liberation movements. They had very different modes of expression
and did not always know how to communicate with Norwegian officials.
Some of the UANC representatives, including the head of the Stockholm
office, Joyce Mutasa, had a perception of language that differed from the
Norwegian one. Words like “liar” or “quisling” were not uncommon terms
used by the UANC representatives to characterise members of the other
liberation movements. This was quite unlike the language normally used in
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo. An UANC representative of Norwegian
origin, Rolf Lind, had also done much harm to the reputation of the
12 The “internal solution” was illegal by international law, and was not recognised by any
country at all.
13 UD 25 3/87, bulletin from the Nordic Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, 20 February 1978; UD-info
8/79; UD 25 3/89, bulletin from the Nordic Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, 30 March 1979.
UANC by his greatly over-simplified description of the fight against communism
in Rhodesia.14
As Muzorewa had chosen to be part of a solution unacceptable to almost
everyone, and as the internal solution brought everything but peace to
Rhodesia, the Labour government proposed to withdraw all Norwegian
support to the UANC. There was support for this proposition in the
National Assembly, Labour and the Socialist Left Party, having a majority of
one, but it met with strong opposition from the Conservative Party and from
the Christian People’s Party. These parties argued that it was unwise to continue
to support the Patriotic Front as long as it sought a military solution
and as long as a peaceful alternative existed, i.e., the UANC. They never
proposed outright the recognition of the internal solution or the elections
held by the Muzorewa/Smith regime, of which the Christian People’s Party
was the strongest proponent. This party, driven by feelings of religious
brotherhood and by its Danish sister party, was very careful in how it
phrased its support for Muzorewa, always taking care to leave backdoors
open in its wording. The words “recognise the regime” were not heard, instead
there was loose talk about “not losing opportunities” etc.15
It is not easy to assess why the non-Socialist parties did not reject the
internal solution more decisively. For the Christian People’s Party, the reasons
given above were important. The Conservative Party, by far the largest
of the non-Socialist parties, was more careful, and their support for the
internal solution, if there indeed was such support, was never openly
uttered. They were careful to emphasise their support for peaceful solutions,
but who would not support a peaceful solution, were it only realistic?
Norway’s largest newspaper, the conservative Aftenposten, was, excluding
the ultra-conservative Morgenbladet, Muzorewa’s strongest advocate in
Norway. On repeated occasions Aftenposten’s editorials gave support to the
internal solution and to Muzorewa. Aftenposten’s treatment of the case of
Rhodesia has been thoroughly examined by researcher Tore Linné Eriksen
and the chairperson of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa, Øystein
Gudim.16 Their conclusion, in a conference paper in 1979, was that the paper
was very pro-Muzorewa, and that its coverage was very much presented
within a cold war context, mainly based on sources close to the illegal
regime in Salisbury. Aftenposten was often viewed as a mouthpiece of the
14 UD 25 4/25, 42, memorandum, First Political Division, 17 March 1977.
15 UD 25 4/25, 50, Kåre Kristiansen of the Christian People’s Party to the Labour government, 9
June 1979.
16 Eriksen and Gudim: “Solid bakgrunn for egne meninger?” Aftenpostens dekning av konflikten
i Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1977–1979, sakspapir til seminaret “Massmediarapporteringen i
Norden om konfrontationen i södra Afrika”, (“Sound foundation for opinion?” Aftenposten’s
coverage of the conflict in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1977–1979, document for the seminar “Nordic
mass media reports on the confrontation in Southern Africa”), held in Kungälv, Sweden, 28–30
May 1979, arranged by Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala.
Conservative Party, but in this case, it seems as if the newspaper went further
than did the Conservative Party itself.
Local elections were scheduled for the autumn of 1979 in Norway, and
the non-socialist parties had had encouraging polls. It is possible to view
their repeated emphasis on “peaceful solutions” in the context of some of
these parties wanting to profile themselves.
Then, there were the developments in Rhodesia itself. Muzorewa had,
when joining Smith’s government, promised to bring peace to a wartorn
Rhodesia. This promise proved empty. On the contrary, the liberation struggle
advanced, the difference being that Rhodesia now had a black prime
minister; Abel Muzorewa. This did not go down well with his supporters in
the Western world. Repeated Rhodesian air strikes against camps in neighbouring
Zambia and Mozambique caused deep consternation in Norway. So
did alleged PF-massacres of white nuns and of the white survivors of a
plane crash in Rhodesia. There was a war on the battlefield and there was a
propaganda war fought in the Western media. Both sides had difficulty in
winning the latter. Norwegians, in spite of the experience of German occupation
during the Second World War, were quite unaccustomed to war, and
the atrocities in Rhodesia made it difficult for some of the Norwegian supporters
of the respective parties concerned.
During the Rhodesian government’s desperate warfare in 1978, Muzorewa
was invited to Norway by the Christian People’s Party. Seen from
Norway, the conflict in Rhodesia had in many ways lacked the symbols that
can be so important when trying to arouse attention for a cause. In the South
African case, such symbols existed; the import of oranges from Outspan,
Cape Brandy, oil carried by Norwegian supertankers, the maintenance of a
Norwegian consulate in Cape Town or the opening of a South African
representation in Oslo etc. Muzorewa was now to fulfil this role for Rhodesia.
He was attacked in several newspaper articles and the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa organised demonstrations during his visit. In
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there was a debate about whether he should
be received at all. Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund feared reprisals by the
conservative press and the opposition if Muzorewa was not received, in the
end they had a private meeting and Frydenlund took great care in stressing
that Muzorewa was not received as a representative of a legitimate government,
but as a representative of the UANC. In the internal discussion in the
ministry it was emphasised that there was a tradition of receiving anyone
who wanted to be received. Renewed economic assistance was however out
of the question. The air strikes against Zambia and Mozambique made
Muzorewa lose sympathy in Norway, and his support within the non-
Socialist parties was faltering.
It is difficult to assess the importance of the NGOs such as the Norwegian
Action Against Apartheid and the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa, parts of their archives may have been lost, and naturally such orga192
nisations do not work on a very systematic basis. It appears that there was
only a small number of people taking active part in their work. That is not to
say they were not influential; their representatives were clearly competent in
their use of the media, study groups, demonstrations etc. They issued
several publications about the situation in Rhodesia, providing an alternative
source of information on the conflict. In 1977 the Norwegian Council for
Southern Africa organised a large hearing about Southern Africa that
brought awareness about the situation to the public and credibility to the
Rhodesia was but one of the questions these NGOs were concerned
with, and only in 1978 and 1979 was Rhodesia the most important of these.
Angola and Mozambique were important both before and after their liberation,
and South Africa was always regarded as the key problem. Rhodesia
was certainly important to them, but it is questionable whether they had any
real influence on Norwegian foreign policy. Their support of the liberation
movements was strong, but they had less to say about how the government
should treat the case of Rhodesia, apart from increasing financial support to
ZANU and ZAPU. Their main merit was the public interest they were able
to prompt through the media, demonstrations, their information service,
and their ability to raise public awareness about the situation in the region
as a whole.
With the decreasing importance of the dissenting voices, opposition
against the government’s continued support for the two PF-partners (ZANU
and ZAPU) in late 1978 and 1979 was mainly restricted to Aftenposten. The
Christian newspaper Vårt Land had severely criticised the non-Socialist
parties for not condemning Muzorewa and the elections of 1979.17
As war dragged on in Rhodesia it became clear that it was only a question
of time before the internal solution was to collapse. In spite of the Norwegian
non-Socialist parties’ efforts to redirect support to ZANU and ZAPU
to the UNHCR or the International Red Cross, Norway had continued to
give direct support to these two liberation movements. There had been
repeated Norwegian signs of frustration regarding the liberation movements
inability to unite in their fight for majority rule. Viewed from one of the
world’s most homogeneous societies it was difficult to understand why
ZANU and ZAPU could not better co-ordinate their efforts to overthrow the
Smith regime. Indeed, there had been Norwegian threats to cut off support if
the movements not able to stop fighting each other.18
There are several factors that make Norway’s role in the final stages of
the Rhodesian drama interesting. Apart from the other Nordic countries,
there was little support for the liberation movements by the Western gov-
17 Vårt Land launched a comparison of Ian Smith and the South African PM John Vorster with
Adolf Hitler and his German commissioner in Norway, Josef Terboven, 23 November 1978.
18 UD 25 4/25, 40, memorandum talks Stoltenberg and Muzorewa, 2 September 1976.
ernments. Some financial aid did trickle in from Holland and from West
Germany, but the main support came from Norway and Sweden. Norway
was a member of NATO and depended totally on her allies for her security
needs. Traditionally, Britain had been the single most important guarantor
of Norwegian security, although this role was perhaps taken over by the US
and West Germany in the late seventies. As mentioned above, the Labour
government refused to see the situation in Southern Africa as solely an
East/West conflict, and clearly intended to demonstrate to the African countries
that at least some Western countries were trustworthy. On repeated
occasions, but not with great success, Norway tried to drive this point home
with Britain and her other allies.
Another fact that put Norway in an interesting position in 1979 was the
election to the UN Security Council. Norway’s membership at the time that
the case of Rhodesia was actually solved, was of course partly coincidental.
On the other hand it was in harmony with the more ambitious foreign policy
initiated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Knut Frydenlund in the late seventies.
This development took place as other important political changes
happened in the West. In the US, the Carter administration had greater respect
for the integrity of small countries than some of the preceding administrations.
A much stronger emphasis was placed on human rights, and the
US ambassador to the UN, the African-American Andrew Young, took profound
interest in finding a solution for Rhodesia.
In Britain, the Tories under their new leader Margaret Thatcher resumed
power in May 1979. Lord Carrington, the new Foreign Secretary, was in the
words of the British Permanent Representative to the UN, Anthony Parsons
“determined to shed the albatross of Rhodesia from the neck of British foreign
policy”.19 Norway would have to find a balance between the more
liberally inclined US government and the expected pro-Muzorewa line of
Mrs. Thatcher. As a member of the Security Council, Norway was seated at a
most important table, together with her Western allies France, the USA,
Britain and Portugal. Norway’s powerful neighbour, the Soviet Union was
also represented, as were important African nations like Zambia and
The membership of this selected circle made Norway a most interesting
interlocutor in 1979. In this last year of Rhodesia’s existence, Norway was
heavily involved in the “diplomats’ liberation” of Southern Africa. Knut
Frydenlund, State Secretary Thorvald Stoltenberg and special adviser in
Security Council matters, Tom Vraalsen, were leading figures in the Norwegian
diplomatic efforts. On several occasions they met with the PF leaders
Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, while contact with Muzorewa had
ceased in the second half of 1979. There were also repeated meetings with
19 Neil Parsons: The new history of Southern Africa. London: Macmillan, 1995, p.131.
Andrew Young and Lord Carrington as well as with US vice-president
Walter Mondale.
One point Norwegian officials always stressed in their talks with British
representatives was the importance of finding a solution that was acceptable
to all parties concerned. In talking with the British, that meant a solution not
excluding the PF. The British were frustrated by what they perceived as the
PF’s lack of interest in real negotiations about Rhodesia’s future. Indeed, the
liberation movements had two interests in these final stages of liberation;
majority rule, of course, was one. However, differences between the two
organisations comprising PF, ZANU and ZAPU, were great and mutual
trust was limited. Both movements, accordingly, sought the best possible
basis to negotiate from, which meant securing as much as possible through
military strength. After all, negotiations with Smith had failed numerous
times, trust in him was non-existent, and victory on the battlefield was
coming closer. Over and over again, the point of including all parties was
made by the Norwegians. The British were not uncomprehending, and
knowing the liberation movements’ respect for Nordic views, British officials
worked to persuade their Norwegian colleagues to seek to moderate
the PF’s demands. This was a repeated pattern in both the negotiations in
Geneva in 1976 and later in connection with the final talks at the Lancaster
House conference in London in 1979.
Norway had a tight rope to balance as the case of Rhodesia came closer
to a settlement, for what kind of settlement would it be? On the one hand,
Britain was Norway’s chief trading partner and a prominent ally. There
were indications that the British government was heading for a solution unacceptable
to PF, the OAU and to the Frontline States. On the other hand,
Norway had strongly advocated majority rule in Southern Africa, and the
country’s political credibility was at stake. The ties with the liberation
movements had grown strong, so had the ties with the Frontline States,
Norway had repeatedly supported Zambia in the UN, and president Julius
Nyerere in Tanzania was also regarded as a friend and ally.
What then was to be done? As some sort of end dragged near, the main
worry of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo was that a solution unacceptable
to the PF was going to be reached. This explains the increased
diplomatic efforts made by Norwegian officials in 1979, they did not wish to
make a choice between such parties. Secretly though, a choice was prepared
by State Secretary Johan Jørgen Holst of the Labour Party. There was an
obvious frustration over what was deemed a British lack of flexibility, and
Norway worked hard to avoid a choice. At the end of the day, however,
Holst drafted a memorandum to Frydenlund, in which he argued that if a
choice had to be made, the relationship with Britain had to prevail. This was
based on the long-time ties between Britain and Norway. Holst stressed that
this choice would have to be made in a manner not jeopardising the relationship
with Third World countries, but was unable to explain just how.20
Luckily however, this option was never tested. An agreement was
reached at Lancaster House 24 December 1979, paving the way for democratic
elections and independence in 1980. The one subject of negotiation
identified by Holst, the length of the period of transition, was solved by the
parties. The fact that Norway would have chosen solidarity with Britain if
forced to, must not obscure the fact that repeated efforts were made to avoid
such a choice. Indeed, the Britons had emphasised their displeasure at the
very pro-African stance of the Norwegian government. More than once
there had been warnings from the British ambassador and from the British
delegation to the UN. It had been made clear that Mrs. Thatcher would be
“very cross”, should the Norwegian representative in the Security Council
cause any difficulties. On one occasion Lord Carrington told the lawyers of
the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sensing their search attempt to
hide in judicial questions, plainly to “go to hell”.21
In supporting the cause of the liberation movements in the Security
Council, Norway was in the fortunate position of not being the only small,
Western member. There was also Portugal, slowly trying to rebuild her
reputation in Africa. Only few years after ceasing to be a colonial power in
Africa, Portugal had been able to restore some respect in Southern Africa.
Needless to say, Portugal had a lot to lose from once again letting a African
majority down. So to some extent, Norway and Portugal had concurrent
interests in Southern Africa, and the two countries were able to work
together on several occasions in the Security Council, making it easier to
disagree with Britain.
Norway was but a minor player in the liberation of Southern Africa, but her
role should still not be trivialised. Lasting support for African liberation
movements was rare in the West, and it was even rarer among NATO members.
There was a strong altruistic element in this support. For long, the
political costs of this support had been limited, but as the political costs were
rising, support continued. In the Third World, the Western powers were
often regarded as supporters of the white suppresser regimes in Southern
Africa, and Nordic efforts were made to show that strong forces in the West
did in fact support majority rule.
The Nordic countries are small and the funds they could provide were
limited. This support had a moral side and an economic side. It filled a
moral void that other Western countries had been unwilling or unable to fill.
20 UD 25 4/25 B, 29, memorandum Holst, 13 November 1979.
21 UD 25 4/25, 51, Norwegian Embassy in London to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo, 20
November 1979.
Few, if any strings were attached to this aid. There had been statements that
aid might be restricted if the liberation movements were not able to unite.
Norway to a certain degree also tried to influence her major ally in Africa,
Tanzania, to pressure the PF to accept a settlement. Separate letters were
sent from Norwegian prime minister Nordli and the Danish prime minister
Anker Jørgensen, in which Julius Nyerere was urged to use his influence, at
the same time as Norway and Denmark were to put pressure on Britain.22 If
this yielded any results may be an open question, but an effort was clearly
made. There were never any threats, though, to cut development aid.
Largely, the Norwegian aid was given without ulterior motives. It was selfserving
only in the sense that it would promote peaceful relations in international
politics—an important point in a small NATO country sharing a
border with the Soviet Union.
22 UD 25 4/25, 51, Confidential memorandum Vraalsen, 6 November 1979.
Chapter 5
“Fuelling the Apartheid War Machine”: A Case Study of
Shipowners, Sanctions and Solidarity Movements
Tore Linné Eriksen and Anita Kristensen Krokan
The supply of crude oil was vital for the survival of the apartheid economy
and the South African war machine. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand
why the African National Congress (ANC) and the international antiapartheid
movement singled out oil as a critical issue in the struggle for
sanctions against the South African minority regime. While the Norwegian
trade with South Africa was rather modest in terms of commodities (see
table 1), Norwegian shipowners in the tankers market occupied a prominent
position as transporters of crude oil and oil products. The main focus of this
chapter will, therefore, be on the shipping of crude oil by Norwegian
tankers. (For a further discussion of the Norwegian debate on sanctions, see
chapters 1, 6 and 7). The idea is to take a closer look at how the Norwegian
shipowners, the anti-apartheid movement, the main political parties and the
successive governments responded to the ANC call for oil and transport
sanctions as a step towards ending apartheid. The period in question spans
from the early 1980s to the adoption of the Norwegian sanction laws in 1987.
As is evident from other parts of this study, the sanctions issue is only
one element in the Norwegian policies towards Southern Africa. There are,
however, several reasons why the role of the Norwegian shipping industry
merits special treatment as a case study. The most important reason is the
fact that the support to the liberation movements and the Frontline States
was accepted across the political spectrum, while the deliveries of oil to the
apartheid regime turned out to be a highly contentious issue.
1 This case study is largely based on Anita Kristensen: Norske myndigheter og boikotten av Sør-
Afrika. Thesis, University of Oslo, 1996; R. Hengevold/J. Rodenburg (eds.): Embargo. Apartheid’s
Oil Secrets Revealed. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1996 and Tore Linné Eriksen:
“Norge, sanksjoner og Sør-Afrika” (“Norway, sanctions and South Africa”) pp. 83–112 in Norsk
Utenrikspolitisk Årbok 1985. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 1986. The authors
also thank Karin Beate Theodorsen for her generous assistance during the initial phase of this
Background: Norwegian official policy until 1984
During the Labour Party minority government (1973–1981) Norway imposed
various unilateral sanctions against South Africa, such as prohibiting
new bank loans, investments and export credit insurances. At the same time,
sports and cultural links were kept at a minimum. Apart from these actions,
Norway—together with the other Nordic countries—was consistently calling
for mandatory sanctions within the UN system. From the late 1970s the
official Norwegian policy also stated that there was to be no sale to South
Africa of oil produced from the North Sea oil fields.2 This position resulted
from a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the Norwegian government and
the companies exporting Norwegian oil. There were, however, no legal restrictions
on Norwegian tankers transporting oil originating from other
countries to South Africa. This seemingly inconsistent attitude was dramatically
exposed at the beginning of the 1980s, mainly as a result of the concerted
efforts of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (NOCOSA) and
the Shipping Research Bureau (SRB). While NOCOSA had been formed in
1967 (see chapter 6) as an umbrella anti-apartheid movement, SRB was set
up in Amsterdam in 1980 to monitor and make public the involvement of
shipping companies in supplying oil to South Africa.3 According to SRB, the
first aim was
… the publication of comprehensive lists of oil tankers which had visited
African ports during at least 24 hours in 1979 and 1980, together with their
owners, flags and cargo capacities; the publication of a black list of shipping
companies and ships (especially those of the major oil companies) which had
made themselves guilty of shipping oil to South Africa; the extension of this
basic data with the “voyage histories” of the tankers in question, with the
specific goal of determining whether a pattern of any kind could be
elucidated from the data respecting the origin of the oil and the various
detours and tricks of the embargo-breaking trade by means of which oil
eventually wound up in South Africa (swap arrangements, transhipments in
Rotterdam, the Netherlands Antilles, Singapore).4
The first publication produced by the SRB was a special report on Norway,
presented in Oslo on 3 December 1980. This report especially featured the
2 Stortingsmelding nr. 26 (1985–86): Om norske tiltak mot Sør-Afrika, p. 9.
3 According to Øystein Gudim: “A defeat for the shipping lobby? The Norwegian experience”
in R. Hengevold/J. Rodenburg (eds.), op.cit., there was a distinct Norwegian input to the establishment
of The Shipping Research Bureau. In late 1979, the left wing weekly Ny Tid (New
Times) carried a story about Norwegian oil tankers from the Bergesen Group delivering crude
oil to South Africa in June and July in the same year. The source for this piece of information
was a report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the General-Consulate in Cape Town.
While other newspapers paid little attention to the story, the issue was brought up at the UNsponsored
International Seminar on the Role of Transnational Corporations in South Africa,
held in London in early December 1979. Øystein Gudim, who attended the conference, explains
how some of the first informal contacts on the oil sanctions issue were made during the course
of this conference.
4 R. Hengevold/J. Rodenburg, op.cit., p. 59.
history and movements of the Norwegian tanker “Havdrott”, which according
to public reports had made two trips to South Africa between January
1979 and October 1980. Investigations by the SRB showed, however, that
possibly 12 trips had been undertaken during this period, without having
been disclosed to the international shipping press (read: Lloyd’s).5
Based on the 1980 report issued by the SRB, the shipowners were criticised
for sabotaging resolutions by the OPEC countries to not supply South
Africa with oil, as well as neglecting resolutions passed by the UN General
Assembly calling for a mandatory oil embargo on South Africa. Antiapartheid
activists in Norway, as well as the mass media, showed a keen
interest in the material provided by the SRB. Close links were also developed
with the ANC London Office, where Frene Ginwala on many occasions
showed great interest in exposing the role that was played by a large
number of Norwegian tankers.
Following extensive mass media coverage of the documentation provided
by NOCOSA/SRB about the heavy involvement of Norwegian
tankers in transporting crude oil to South Africa, the shipowners were met
by strong moral reactions from broad sections of the political establishment
as well as the general public. Even if the oil transports were not prohibited
in a legal sense, they were considered morally and politically unacceptable.
The shipowners began to censor the information they regularly provided to
the business newspaper “Norges Handels- og Sjøfartstidende”.6 In the
weekly “Shipping List” they would no longer include Cape Town and
Durban as destinations for tankers, and they were trying their best to camouflage
trips to South Africa.7
The public pressure for oil and shipping sanctions was increasing in line
with the general acceptance of the need for trade sanctions as a means of
fighting apartheid. In the question hour in Parliament in January 1983,
Bjarne Ytterhorn from the rightwing “Progress Party” wanted to know if the
Conservative Party minority government agreed to the proposal from Kaci
Kullman Five (MP, Conservative) to instruct the shipping companies to report
all calls at South African harbours to the Norwegian authorities. Even if
the Minister assured the questioner that no actions to restrict the shipping
companies would be taken, his answer reflected the anxiety shared by representatives
from most political parties, the Conservative Party included,
about the need for actions of some kind against Norwegian shipping companies
involved in trading with South Africa.
This anxiety was becoming more pronounced when the conservative
minority government, headed by Kåre Willoch, was succeeded in June 1983
5 Ibid., p. 62. The case of “Havdrott” had already been exposed by Norwegian newspapers, see
for instance a front page report in the liberal newspaper Dagbladet, 12 April 1980.
6 The newspaper has since changed its name to Dagens Næringsliv (Daily Business).
7 Gudim, op.cit., p. 282–283.
by a coalition which also included the Centre Party as well as the Christian
People’s Party. The latter was well known for having strong anti-apartheid
activists as members, and the Church of Norway played a prominent role in
the anti-apartheid movement (see chapter 7). It is also worth noting that the
Minister for Commerce and Shipping, Asbjørn Haugstvedt, belonged to the
Christian People’s Party. The anti-apartheid organisations, as well as the
Church, expected him to stop the shipping companies from transporting
crude oil to the racist regime, whereas his fellow conservative members of
government were far more reluctant to interfere with the commercial interests
of the shipowners community. The Norwegian Shipowners Association
(NSA) had historically developed close links with the government, irrespective
of its political colours, and the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping in
particular, and was used to getting their way. The NSA was, consequently,
prepared to fight to continue their traditional relationship with South Africa
and to avoid any kind of restrictions or sanctions. As we will see, the NSA
also had a well functioning lobby system that could easily be mobilised for
this purpose.
When Bishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
October 1984, the banning of Norwegian oil transports to South Africa became
an even hotter political issue. A call for sanctions had been made by
Desmond Tutu earlier in the same year when addressing a hearing on South
Africa’s aggression against its neighbouring countries, which was hosted by
NOCOSA in Oslo (see chapter 6). Researchers and activists associated with
the anti-apartheid movement contributed several newspaper articles focusing
on Desmond Tutu’s strong request for economic sanctions against the
apartheid regime. A recurrent theme was the inconsistent behaviour of giving
the Peace Prize to Bishop Tutu while simultaneously allowing Norwegian
ships to oiling the war machine. It was also claimed that as much as one
third of the South African oil import was delivered by Norwegian tankers,
and that South Africa was storing oil and securing enough deliveries to continue
the illegal occupation of Namibia.8
Registration of oil transports
As a step towards a more comprehensive sanctions law, the NOCOSA in the
early 1980s consistently argued for a system of registration of oil transports
to South Africa. The aim was to identify the number of shipping calls to
South African harbours and to increase transparency concerning these calls.
In making this call for registration, the NOCOSA also hoped to avoid being
accused by the NSA of publishing exaggerated estimates of the volume of oil
deliveries to South Africa by Norwegian tankers. The proposals were
8 Tore Linné Eriksen: “Fredspris og oljefrakt”, Norwegian Institute for International Affairs,
Pressetjeneste, 23 October 1984.
promptly and vehemently rejected by the NSA, which were not used to
public investigation of this kind.
The files of the NSA from 1984 to 1987 concerning this issue reflect the
great resistance within the shipping community towards any measures to be
taken to reduce the involvement in transporting oil to South Africa. In particular,
the NSA—not surprisingly—strongly objected to the principles of
making information about each individual call public and to including
Norwegian-owned ships flying under foreign flags. The wide range of
letters and memoranda sent to the Parliament, to the political parties, to the
civil service, to the government as well as to high-ranking and influential
individuals clearly demonstrate how much was considered to be at stake.9
The number of newspaper articles, the frequent correspondence with the
shipping companies as well as other organisations within the shipping
industry, in addition to the co-operation with the other Nordic shipowners’
associations, also indicate that any effective measures to limit the deliveries
of oil to the apartheid regime were regarded as a serious threat to the Norwegian
shipping industry. The tone of voice in the correspondence, including
the hidden and more open “warnings” from the shipowners about the
economic consequences for the country of any limitations or banning legislation
being introduced, also add to this viewpoint.
On 15 March 1984 the NSA responded to an inquiry from the Ministry
of Oil and Energy concerning statistics from the Shipping Research Bureau,
showing that from 1981/82 thirty-four Norwegian tankers called at ports in
South Africa for possible oil deliveries. In their reply the NSA did not deny
that oil may have been delivered by Norwegian registered tankers, but instead
chose to focus mainly on the origin of the oil, concluding that it must
have been loaded in one of the Arab states. This may have been the case, due
to the complicated and less transparent ways in which contracts were entered
into. Most shipowners involved with oil transports operate in the spot
market, which means that the ships are rented to contractors for a certain
period of time without the owner having information about the final call of
the ship.
In response to her call for an embargo on oil transport to South Africa,
the leader of the opposition—Gro Harlem Brundtland (MP, Labour)—also
received a personal letter and a lengthy statement on the various aspects of
oil deliveries to South Africa, in which the NSA reiterated that shipowners
exercised limited control in deciding the destination of oil deliveries. Apart
from emphasising the point that oil cargoes on board tankers might be sold
a number of times before being unloaded, the NSA argued that unilateral
regulations omitting certain harbours might destroy the possibility for Norwegian
shipowners to compete in the international market. According to
9 What was at stake did not necessarily have to be in terms of lost income. It could just as well
be the fear of losing a market position.
NSA the main actors in the international oil market were the oil-exporting
countries and the major oil companies, while the transporting companies
played a modest role. The NSA also pointed to the possible effect the proposed
system of registration might have on employment, concluding that
restrictions on transports of oil to South Africa was only acceptable as a part
of a broader agreement between the major shipping countries, preferably
within the framework of United Nations.
The NSA provided the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the same arguments,
adding that out of a total yearly freight income of NOK 750 million
on transports to and from South Africa, the income on transport of oil did
not amount to more than approximately NOK 70 million.10 In the same
letter, the NSA also questioned the allegations by the Shipping Research
Bureau that Norwegian tankers delivered about 35% of the total South
African oil import. Furthermore, the NSA rejected claims that Norwegian
tankers had been concealing their identity or destinations when involved in
the transport of oil.11 This conclusion left no doubt that any unilateral
restrictions on Norwegian shipping companies were totally unacceptable.
Figure 1: Exports and imports of commodities between Norway and
South Africa, 1962-1995
Million NOK
———- Imports
_______ Exports
Source: Kristensen (1996) based on Historical Statistics, Statistics Norway, Oslo–Kongsvinger,
1985/86: Increasing pressure for sanctions against South Africa
During 1985 the struggle for international sanctions against the apartheid
regime was intensified in Norway as well as in the international community
10 NSA letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 July 1984.
11 Several examples were given by Norwegian newspapers during 1985, see for instance Arbeiderbladet,
11 July 1985 and Dagbladet, 12 and 17 July 1985.
at large. As is shown in chapter 6, NOCOSA was also very active lobbying
local authorities to support and implement sanctions. This campaign also resulted
in harbour authorities boycotting ships that made trips to and from
South Africa. At the same time, the trade figures graphically documented
that the trade with South Africa, which had always been at a fairly low level,
significantly picked up in the years up to 1984. (See figure 1.) The intensification
of the debate on sanctions also reflected the mounting resistance towards
the South African apartheid regime, as witnessed by the resurgence
of mass protests led by the United Democratic Front. In addition to the ANC
call for sanctions, which had been consistently made since the late 1950s, the
same request came from the UDF, the trade unions (COSATU) and the
South African Council of Churches. In Norway, the debate was particularly
linked to the increasing trade figures, which peaked in 1984, and the fact
that Norwegian tankers were involved in transporting a substantial part of
the oil needed by South Africa. Desmond Tutu had also called for oil sanctions
during his visit to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in December
1984. In Lusaka in March 1985 ANC and SWAPO issued a joint “Call for
an Oil Embargo”, signed by Oliver Tambo and Sam Nujoma. The call was
accompanied by an ANC press statement entitled Oil Fuels Apartheid, which
included a black list of “shipping companies and traders known to have
been involved in supply and transport of oil to South Africa since 1979”.12
In January 1985 discussions had already opened between the Ministry of
Commerce and Shipping and the shipowners, based on a set of proposals
submitted by NOCOSA a few months earlier and supported by the trade
unions, requesting public registration of all ship calls on South Africa. The
NSA still strongly argued against any public registration of Norwegian
ships, and warned that even modest measures might have serious consequences.
In a letter to the Minister for Commerce and Shipping in February
1985 it was also warned that any negative effects from preventing Norwegian
ships calling at South African harbours would be followed by demands
for economic compensation.
27 March 1985 the Minister for Commerce and Shipping, Asbjørn
Haugstvedt (Christian People’s Party) presented a programme of action,
containing some rather modest proposals on the oil issue.13 The Parliament
was also informed that the Ministry of Justice was considering, in co-operation
with all parties concerned, a ban on the sale of Norwegian crude oil to
South Africa. As for the registration of ships calling at South African harbours,
the Minister announced that a voluntary system would be established
in co-operation with the NSA, whereby the NSA would provide quarterly
12 ANC/SWAPO: A call for sanctions. London, 7 August 1985; Frene Ginwala (ANC): “A question
of political will”, The Observer, 25 August 1985 and R. Hengevold/J. Rodenburg, op.cit.,
p. 105.
13 Stortingsforhandlingene 27 March 1985.
reports to the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping about the number of
Norwegian-registered tankers which had delivered crude oil to South Africa
as well as the quantity in question. According to the proposal, no names of
ships or shipping companies were to be mentioned. It can only be speculated
to what extent the Ministry had been influenced by its high-ranking
civil servants, who were generally known to echo the views of the NSA.
When debating the programme of action in early June 1985, the Foreign
Affairs Committee of the Parliament called for more comprehensive and
strict measures to be taken.14 The committee unanimously asked for a system
of registration that included all Norwegian-owned ships—not only oil
tankers—including those registered under a “flag of convenience”. It even
went further and recommended that the registrations should be carried out
by a government body (The Ministry of Commerce and Shipping) instead of
by the NSA, and that the lists of names of the ships be made publicly available.
The Foreign Affairs Committee was at this time headed by Jakob Aano
(Christian People’s Party), who was known for his interest in Third World
issues and for his longstanding involvement with the liberation struggle in
Southern Africa. Together with other prominent MPs, the chairperson of the
committee also served on the parliamentary “contact group” which had
been established by NOCOSA (see chapter 6).
During the plenary debate in Parliament on 7 June 1985, the recommendations
made by the Committee on Foreign Affairs were supported by all
the parties except for the right wing “Progressive People’s Party”, which objected
to any actions being taken against the South African regime. On the
other hand, the Socialist Left Party favoured a sanctions law banning all
trade and shipping links with South Africa.
The activist position taken by the Parliament came as a great surprise to
the NSA, which now had to conclude that a system of registration could not
be avoided. The lobbying activities of the NSA, consequently, were aimed at
a system of registration to be undertaken by NSA itself on a voluntary basis.
In addition, an internal memorandum reveals that the strategy chosen included
efforts to postpone the final political decision15. When approaching
the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping, the NSA also favoured a method
of registration that did not include Norwegian-owned ships flying foreign
flags. In a comprehensive memorandum to the Ministry, prepared in early
September, it was argued that publication of the names of the ships could
violate confidentiality clauses in contracts, thereby resulting in their cancellation
altogether. This could, furthermore, lead to the shipowners being
forced to sell their ships, which in this case might result in loss of employment
opportunities for Norwegian seamen. The NSA memorandum also
estimated that gross income of the 20 calls to South Africa by Norwegian-
14 Innstilling S. Nr. 284 (1984–85), 4 June 1985.
15 Executive meeting of the NSA, 28 August 1985.
registered oil tankers amounted to NOK 50–80 million, while other earnings
from the South African shipping links—bulk cargo (coal, iron ores) and special
tankers transporting chemicals—were estimated to NOK 700–800
According to the minutes from an NSA executive meeting on 25
September 1985, the NSA had already received the draft registration law
from the Ministry for comments. The Minister for Commerce and Industry
had also indicated at a meeting with the NSA that he would have preferred
a voluntary agreement, but that he felt obliged by the recommendations by
the Foreign Affairs Committee. The draft proposals, therefore, included
three points that were completely unacceptable to the NSA:
– The registration was to include all ships calling at South African ports.
– The arrangement would also include Norwegian ships flying foreign flags.
– The information about the ship calls was to be made public.
In order to strengthen its case against the draft proposals, the NSA decided
to ask the renowned Boston consultancy firm, Arthur D. Little Inc. to prepare
a report on the consequences for Norwegian shipping of the various
systems of registration or a banning of all ship calls at South African ports.
Enclosed with the request was an English version of the comprehensive
NSA memorandum presented to the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping
on 2 September 1985. The Arthur D. Little report was based on interviews
with 32 brokers, charterers and representatives from other organisations
within the shipping industry, and was presented at a press conference on 4
November 1985.16 The conclusions of the report were partly related to the
general situation in the international shipping market, which was described
as being depressed and overtonnaged. Concerning the consequences of a
public registration of Norwegian ships, the report stated that: “The official
publication of the names of Norwegian ships calling at South African ports
could be as damaging to owners as a total ban, regardless of whether the
name of the charterer is also identified”.17
When presenting the Little Report, the managing director of the NSA,
David Vikøren, estimated that if adopted the proposed law on registration
might mean a loss of approximately 5–10% of their share in the international
shipping market for Norwegian shipowners. He also stated that previous
estimates indicating losses of approximately 200–300 jobs and an income of
NOK 700–900 million were too conservative, and that the consequences
16 Arthur D. Little: Impact on Norwegian shipowners’ charter prospects of possible government legislation
on calls to South African ports. Report to The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association. November
17 Ibid., p. 18.
would be considerably larger.18 It was also argued that the publication of
the names of the ships calling at South African ports constituted a violation
of South African laws, which made all information concerning imports of
chemical and oil products illegal. According to David Vikøren, the consultancy
report concluded that the proposed arrangement of registration would
represent nothing less than the closing down of the Norwegian shipping
industry altogether.19
The NSA intensified their lobbying activities throughout the autumn.
Apart from distributing the Arthur D. Little report to various seamen and
sea officers’ organisations, the relevant Parliamentary committees and the
most influential newspapers, the press at large was provided with a great
number of press releases and articles describing the possible damage for the
shipping industry if the proposed law were to be adopted by the Parliament.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Kåre Willoch, it was reiterated that Norway
would lose between 10–20% of its total shipping market if the law was
adopted.20 The Prime Minister, who was known for having shipping interests
close at heart, was asked to adhere to the original agreement between
the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping and the NSA to introduce a voluntary
registration without revealing the names of the ships or shipping companies.
The lobbying activities of the NSA during the autumn of 1985 turned
out to be highly successful in forcing the government to reconsider its position.
When the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping announced the Government
proposals on economic measures against apartheid in December
1985, the methods of registration were quite different from the ones recommended
by the overwhelming majority in Parliament. According to the proposals,
the arrangement for registration did not include Norwegian-owned
ships flying foreign flags, the registration was to be undertaken by the NSA
and only the number of calls and the total tonnage were to be made available
to the general public. The Government also requested the shipowners
not to enter into contracts specifically designed for deliveries of crude oil to
South Africa.22 In addition, the Ministry gave notice that they would propose
a law enforcing total sanctions on sale of Norwegian crude oil to South
18 These figures obviously include indirect costs and the loss of income from all shipping links
with South Africa.
19 Introduction by David Vikøren 4 November 1985 upon presenting the Arthur D. Little report.
20 Letter from NSA to Kåre Willoch 4 November 1985.
21 While serving as a member of Parliament, Kåre Willoch had additional income from the
business lobby, including the NSA. See Gudim, op.cit., p. 284.
22 NSA press release 18 December 1985.
When the limited economic actions to be taken against South Africa
were presented, not only the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party but
also the three centre-liberal parties represented in the coalition government
expressed their disappointment with the weak measures concerning registration
of ships transporting oil to South Africa. This strong reaction should
also be understood as a response to the SRB report on the Bergesen d.y. &
Co shipping company, which maintained that the major Norwegian company
was most probably the world’s foremost transporter of crude oil to
South Africa in the 1979–1985 period.23 Even the primate of the Church of
Norway, bishop Andreas Aarflot of Oslo, reacted strongly. In his New Year
Message delivered on January 1 1986, he criticised both the Government and
the shipowners and called for a total oil embargo against South Africa. Both
parties reacted vehemently, and the managing director of the NSA wrote a
personal letter to the bishop explaining the consequences of a total ban on
Norwegian transport of oil to South Africa.24 Andreas Aarflot was also
criticised by members of the government representing the Christian People’s
Party, among them the Minister for Church and Education, Kjell Magne
Bondevik. On the other hand, he was fully supported by the Secretary-
General of the Lutheran World Federation (Gunnar Stålsett) and the
Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches (Beyers
The Government White Paper presented in January 1986 was clearly a
compromise between the interests of the NSA and the viewpoints of the
Church, NOCOSA and other anti-apartheid organisations.26 The Government
had obviously been caught in the crossfire between contending forces
that had employed effective lobbying methods. The decision was eventually
made to include all Norwegian-owned ships, whether they were registered
in Norway or abroad. On the other hand, only tankers involved in transport
of crude oil would be part of the arrangement. From the NSA point of view,
it was also noted with satisfaction that only quarterly statistics of calls and
the volume would be made public. The implication of this was that the
names of the ships and shipping companies involved were not to be disclosed.
According to the guidelines introduced by the Government, the
23 The Shipping Research Bureau: Oil shipments to South Africa by tankers owned and managed by
Sig. Bergesen d.y. & Co of Norway, January 1979–January 1985 (Amsterdam: SRB, 1985). This report
followed on a similar study on A/S Thor Dahl: Oil shipment to South Africa by the tankers Thorsaga,
Thorshavet and Thorsholm, owned by A/S Thor Dahl of Norway 1981–1984 (1984). See also SRB:
West European involvement in breaking the oil embargo against South Africa (1985).
24 Letters to Andreas Aarflot from the managing director of the NSA, David Vikøren, 3 January
1986 and 13 January 1986.
25 The debate following the intervention by bishop Andreas Aarflot is covered more fully by
Tore Linné Eriksen, op.cit., p. 104–108. See also chapter 7.
26 Stortingsmelding nr. 26 (1985–86), 31 January 1986.
shipowners were expected to gradually reduce their deliveries of crude oil
to South Africa. If not, the threat of a legal ban was kept in reserve.
A press statement from the Managing Director of the NSA, David
Vikøren, shows that the compromise introduced had already been accepted
by the NSA as the lesser of two evils. In this statement, it was emphasised
that the final proposals from the Government would cause far less damage
than the ones proposed by the broad majority in the Parliament. Even if the
NSA still objected to unilateral measures, the registration in question would
only affect parts of Norwegian shipping , and would allow time for rearrangements.
In addition the NSA noted that Norway—together with the
other Nordic countries—was committed to working for comprehensive and
binding UN Security Council sanctions against South Africa.27
The system of registration and publication related to transport of crude
oil to South Africa was operational from 1 April 1986 to 30 June 1987, when
it was superseded by a sanctions law banning such transport. Table 1 shows
the deliveries as reported by the NSA in this period. Table 2 shows the deliveries
as reported by the SRB.
Table 1. Deliveries by Norwegian-owned tankers during the voluntary registration system
Quarter Number of Flag: Tons of
deliveries Norwegian Other crude oil
1986 Apr–June 4 2 2 926,438
1986 July–Sept 2 1 1 527,466
1986 Oct–Dec 1 – 1 250,000
1987 Jan–Mach 0 – – 0
1987 Apr–June 4 3 1 1,200,000
Source: NSA in letters: 7/7–86, 14/10–86, 23/6–87, 21/4–87, 7/7–87
Towards a crude oil embargo
As in all Western countries, calls for comprehensive sanctions and other
actions to be taken against the apartheid regime were made by broad sections
of the Norwegian society in 1986. This development made the limited
measures—based on the compromise which was described in the previous
section—seem far too cautious and out of touch with the public opinion. The
NSA, now enforcing the system of registration, was undoubtedly aware that
proposals for a total ban on transport of oil to South Africa might well be
raised once again, and that the NSA and the shipowners were continuously
being questioned on their willingness to register ships transporting crude
oil. In a circular distributed to member companies on May 29 1986 it was
noted that an arrangement for full publication of names of tankers calling at
South African ports might well be around the corner.28 The NSA were also
27 NSA Circular no. 3, 3 February 1986.
28 NSA Circular, 29 May 1986.
concerned by the fact that the Ministry of Commerce and Shipping was considering
a law banning all economic relations with South Africa. A step in
that direction was taken when the Parliament in June 1986 passed legislation
that banned the sale of Norwegian crude oil. The law was in the following
month extended to include refined oil and gas products from the North Sea
Table 2. Deliveries by Norwegian-owned tankers during the voluntary registration system(
1986–87). Registrations are by the Shipping Research Bureau. The list includes ships
that were less than 50% Norwegian-owned.
Sailed to South Shipping Owner of Month in Dwt.
Africa from company oil cargo South Africa Tonnage
Quatar/UAE/ Periscopus
Oman Norman Intern. – Mars/Apr-86 224,607
UAE/Oman Mosvold – Apr-86 274,938
Pers. G. Ugland – Apr-86 230,683
Iran/UAE Bergesen Marimpex Apr-86 230,683
Saudi-A/Pers. G. Bergesen – May-86 284,919
UAE/Oman Bergesen – May-86 284,522
Bahrain John Frederiksen Marimpex May-86 103,332
South Yemen Ugland – May/June-86 54,626
UAE Periscopus
Norman Intern. June-86 224,607
UAE Mosvold Marc Rich June/July-86 274,938
UAE/Oman Bergesen Marimpex July-86 289,981
Pers. G Bergesen Marc Rich July-86 284,522
Pers. G John Frederiksen Marc Rich Aug/Sept-86 218,035
UAE Bergesen – Oct-86 284,522
UAE Mosvold – Des-86 274,938
Iran Bergesen Marc Rich Mars-87 284,507
Oman Bergesen Transvorld Oil Apr-87 289,981
Saudi-A/UAE/ Bergesen Marimpex/
Quatar Mark Wolman Apr-87 360,700
Iran Bergesen Marimpex Apr-87 284,522
France Andreas Ugland AOT Ltd. Apr-87 54,500
Iran/Pers. G Mosvold Marimpex May-87 274,938
UEA/Oman Bergesen Transworld Oil June-87 360,700
Saudi-A/Pers. G Bergesen – June-87 284,522
Source: Shipping Research Bureau; Hengevold/Rodenburg, 1995.
The pressure for comprehensive sanctions reached a peak when the Government
White Paper was debated in Parliament in June 1986. The debate,
29 Although the Ministry of Oil and Energy had notified all companies operating in the North
Sea fields that it disapproved of the sale of Norwegian oil to South Africa, small quantities had
found their way to South Africa. A report to this effect had been published by the SRB during
the NOCOSA hearing on South Africa’s Aggression against Neighbouring Countries, held in
Oslo in March 1984. See Gudim op.cit., p. 283.
which coincided with the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising, followed
a change in government from a conservative/centre coalition to a Labour
Party minority government headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland. During the
debate, representatives of the Labour Party strongly indicated that the new
government intended to introduce comprehensive sanctions—including a
ban on all transport of crude oil—in the immediate future.30
Throughout the summer and autumn of 1986 the NSA were actively
lobbying against unilateral Norwegian shipping sanctions. This time, the
other Nordic shipowners’ associations were called on to write identical
letters to their governments advocating that Nordic shipping sanctions alone
would have no effect on the South African regime unless forming part of a
UN embargo.31 The member companies were also asked to approach the
Ministry of Shipping and Commerce explaining the severe consequences for
Norwegian shipping if further steps were taken to limit their international
market competitiveness.32 A detailed and comprehensive paper was also
presented to the Parliament, to the Prime Minister and to trade unions
within the shipping industry. The letter pointed very specifically to the loss
of income for the Norwegian shipping industry, as well as the great number
of employees affected, if a boycott law against South Africa was introduced.
Compared to previous figures presented by the NSA, it was now argued
that the indirect losses might amount to NOK 4 billion and that 1,000–1,200
Norwegian crew members might lose their jobs with immediate effect. The
NSA also warned that many shipping companies would be forced to close
their businesses in Norway and move abroad. If this were the case, no less
than 90,000 jobs within the shipping business were said to be in danger. As
part of their lobbying activities directed towards the government, the political
parties and the public opinion, the NSA also argued that there was no
need for legal sanctions as the published figures showed that only two
Norwegian-owned tankers had unloaded crude oil in South Africa in the
period 1 July–30 September.
At this point the NSA strategy was obviously to postpone any legal
sanctions, arguing, inter alia, that it was reasonable to wait for a proper evaluation
of the arrangement of registration. In a paper presented to the Foreign
Affairs Committee on August 7 1986, it was, however, indicated that
the NSA might consider legal sanctions if they only applied to the transport
of crude oil. The NSA probably recognised that legal sanctions of some kind
or another were inevitable, and that the most successful strategy would be to
restrict them to sectors where they would have the least economic effects.
Correspondence with the shipping and brokers’ companies clearly indicates
30 Innstilling S. Nr. 227 (1985–86).
31 Letters sent to the shipowners’ associations in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, 4 August
32 Letter to the NSA members, 7 August 1986.
that the NSA was well informed about the ongoing work in the Ministry of
Commerce and Shipping and in the Foreign Affairs Committee.33
The Labour Party government eventually introduced its sanctions law
on 14 November 1986.34 As expected it put less severe restrictions on the
shipping industry than on most other industries. The sanctions were limited
to a ban on transport of crude oil only, while refined oil products could still
be shipped to South Africa. Neither were general cargo, bulk and chemicals
transport in cross-trading for other countries banned. It was also stated that
a delivery of crude oil would not constitute a violation of the sanctions law if
the Norwegian company in question could not reasonably have known that
the cargo was destined for South Africa. Since the sanctions law also opened
for exemptions in other vital areas, such as manganese ore import, it has
aptly been described as a “Swiss cheese”, full of holes (see chapter 6). The
exemptions made for manganese ore explain why Norwegian import from
South Africa actually increased in the 1987–88 period. Several violations of
the sanctions law were also reported without any action being taken by the
proper authorities.35
In accordance with estimates presented by the NSA itself, it can safely
be concluded that the most profitable parts of the shipping links with South
Africa were not affected by the legislation. In a circular informing the
shipowners about the law, the NSA made a point of confirming that the
Government had taken into account the warning that severe consequences
would follow if more extensive limitations were to be introduced.36 In fact,
selected parts of the law proposal were a direct copy of the text that had
been contained in the letters from the NSA.
The NSA, however, were not satisfied with the term “Norwegian ships”
and called on experts at the Faculty of Law in Oslo to present their views on
whether the law could be applied to Norwegian ships flying foreign flags.37
They were also trying to convince members of Parliament, and the members
of the Foreign Relations Committee in particular, that applying sanctions on
an industry as international as the shipping industry would imply economic
as well as psychological consequences. The correspondence with key MPs,
among them Kjell Magne Bondevik (Christian People’s Party) and Kaci Kull-
33 Circular sent to shipping and brokers’ companies 30 October 1986. That the NSA had access
to privileged information is also indicated in a letter to Kaci Kullman Five (MP, Conservative)
on 23 December 1986, signed by Arild Wegner. In the letter, which expresses disappointment as
to statements made by Kjell Magne Bondevik (Christian People’s Party), Kaci Kullmann Five is
asked whether “we may reveal what we know without causing you trouble” (authors translation).
34 Ot.prp. nr. 14 (1986–87). Om lov om økonomisk boikott av Sør-Afrika og Namibia for å bekjempe
35 AFRIKA-Informasjon, nr. 5, 1989, p. 5–9.
36 NSA Circular to shipowners, 14 November 1986.
37 Letters to Finn Seyerstedt (21 November 1986) and Eivind Smith (4 December 1986).
man Five (Conservative Party) shows that the NSA were now worried that
the Committee would consider additional measures affecting the shipping
industry, i.e. including the deliveries of refined oil and gas products as
When the Foreign Affairs Committee finally presented its recommendations
in February 1987, the NSA seemed to be relieved that they largely corresponded
with the government proposals39. Most importantly, the law was
limited to transport of crude oil only, and this did not apply to the transport
of oil products or any other goods. In a circular to their members, the NSA
referred to the political pressure for stronger sanctions, even voiced from
time to time by the Prime Minister herself, and concluded that “compared to
the political opinions expressed, the arguments from the shipping industry
have no doubt been taken into consideration”.40 Regarding the contested
issue whether sanctions adopted by Parliament could legally be applied to
Norwegian-owned ships flying foreign flags, the NSA seemed satisfied with
the interpretation given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that in
such cases the law was not to be applied.
The sanctions law was finally debated in Parliament on 16 March and 19
March 1987, and came into effect from 20 March.41 The Minister of Commerce
and Shipping at the time, Kurt Mosbakk, has later revealed that there
were differing opinions in the Labour Party on the issue, but that those who
found the law to be too weak lost out in the end.42
As we have seen above, NSA to a certain extent succeeded in their lobbying
activities. No efforts seemed to have been spared to put pressure on the
government, the political parties, the Church as well as the general public.
The correspondence shows particularly strong ties between the NSA and the
Ministry of Commerce and Shipping. The arguments employed were of a
rather dramatic kind, based on figures and presenting conclusions exaggerating
the consequences of unilateral sanctions against South Africa. Much
money was also spent on the campaign. (The Arthur D. Little report commissioned
to support the case of NSA, for instance, cost NOK 350,000).43
38 Letters to Kaci Kullman Five (23 December 1986) and Kjell Magne Bondevik (5 January 1987).
39 Innstilling O. Nr. 29 (1986–87). Innstilling fra utenriks- og konstitusjonskomiteen om lov om
økonomisk boikott av Sør-Afrika og Namibia for å bekjempe apartheid.
40 Circular to shipowners, 17 February 1987.
41 20 March 1987, no. 15 1987: Lov om økonomisk boikott av Sør-Afrika og Namibia for å bekjempe
42 Gudim, op. cit., p. 292.
43 NSA, internal letter, 25 September 1985.
When the Norwegian government initially suggested a registration of
tankers transporting crude oil to South Africa, the proposals coincided with
a difficult period in the international tanker market.44 While it is reasonable
to believe the NSA recognised that one kind of restriction or another was
unavoidable, the intensive lobbying activities were aimed at delaying a ban
on oil transports in order to await the developments in the tanker market.
While the first calls for a ban was made in the early 1980s, the law was
eventually not implemented until 1987. It is fair to conclude that the campaign
of the shipowners significantly contributed to the postponement and
that they, therefore, succeeded in one of their main aims. Since all products
other than crude oil were exempted from the transport ban, the profitability
of the Norwegian shipowners was not severely affected. The transport of
refined oil products did continue, although it was heavily criticised by the
broad anti-apartheid movement. The ban on crude oil transport also came at
a fortunate time for the shipowners. With a booming international tanker
market, the consequences of the restrictions imposed on shipping links with
South Africa were rather limited.
On the other hand, Norway in the end was the first major shipping
nation to impose a legal ban on crude oil transports to South Africa. Neither
is there any doubt that even the limited measures introduced by the Norwegian
government went far beyond what the NSA had originally wanted. For
the first time, the Norwegian shipowners experienced that their economic
and juridical arguments lost to the political and moral arguments. The question,
therefore, has to be asked: How could the anti-apartheid forces of
Norway, with limited resources, fight such an influential business group
with enormous resources at its disposal?
In his contribution to the Shipping Research Bureau study on the history
of oil transports and sanctions, Øystein Gudim of the Norwegian Council
for Southern Africa (NOCOSA) points especially to the close co-operation
between anti-apartheid activists and the mass media press in disclosing the
transport of oil to South Africa and in raising public awareness on the issue.
In this respect, the importance of the reliable information from the SRB cannot
be overestimated. In spite of its limited resources and its close ties to the
ANC and the anti-apartheid movement, the Bureau was often referred to by
the Norwegian press as a “well-respected research institute”. When explaining
why the oil transports could become such an important public issue in
Norway, Øystein Gudim also emphasises that the shipowners were a visible
44 The 1979 Iran Revolution and the temporary cessation of Iranian oil exports precipitated a
major increase in the price of crude oil. This increase is referred to as “the 2nd tank-ship crisis”
(Victor Norman and Tor Wergeland ,1981): Stortankmarkedet frem til 1985: En analyse av markedet
for tankskip over 200.000 dwt. Skipsfartsøkonomisk markedsforskning. Senter for anvendt forskning.
Norges Handelshøyskole, Rapport nr. 5/1981). The first tank-ship crisis came in 1974, and was
partly a result of a decrease in demand of transport and an increase in supply of tonnage. The
second crisis had significant repercussions for the world economy in general and especially for
the shipping market (Martin Stopford: Maritime Economics. London: HarperCollins Academic,
1992, p. 72.).
target and “enemy” easy to identify and attack.45 Whereas the NSA were
used to economic and legal arguments, they now had to enter the terrain of
moral and political arguments. In this new terrain, an alliance of the Church,
the trade unions and the anti-apartheid activists dominated.46 This alliance
seemed to be strengthened when the Christian People’s Party entered the
centre-conservative government in 1983. The fact that the Ministry for
Commerce and Shipping was led by a representative of a party hosting
many anti-apartheid activists, especially made the government more open to
pressure from the Church. With the Christian People’s Party back in opposition
again in May 1986, the party could more freely pursue a policy of requesting
a ban on all oil transports. At the same time, the change in government
obliged the Labour Party to stand by at least some of its promises
from their days in opposition. This development made the NSA reluctantly
to reconcile themselves to the political realities.
When explaining the outcome of the struggle for sanctions, it should
also be emphasised that the demands were not formed in isolation, but were
part of an international pressure building up against South Africa. In the
mid-1980s, the attention of the mass media was also focused on the aggression
of the apartheid regime against the black majority as well as against
neighbouring countries. The pressure was increased when the state of emergency
was declared in South Africa in 1985 and more countries, especially
the US, were seriously considering sanctions. It, therefore, made sense to describe
oil as a strategic product of utmost importance for the apartheid
regime. This was, as we have seen, also the way in which oil transport was
being regarded by the ANC and SWAPO of Namibia. The fact that the
apartheid regime itself also looked upon oil as a strategic product, was evident
from the legislation which made it a criminal offence to disclose any
information about the import, distribution and storing of oil.
Although Øystein Gudim argues that “the shipping industry managed
to protect most of its interests and probably the most important part of the
trade” and that “crude oil transports were sacrificed in order to be able to
maintain the other shipping links with South Africa”47, he nevertheless
claims that the sanctions law was a moral victory for the solidarity movement
and a political defeat for the NSA. With limited resources at their dis-
45 “Some people found it easier to engage themselves in the struggle for freedom in South
Africa when there was a target within Norway to protest against. The shipowners transporting
oil to South Africa became an ideal target for anti-apartheid activists from diverging backgrounds.
NOCOSA’s membership grew thanks to Bergesen, Mosvold and other shipowners.
‘The enemy’ was no longer a white regime far away but its friends in Norway”, Gudim, op. cit.,
p. 283.
46 This alliance included several trade unions, although it should be noted that the Seamen’s
Union mainly restricted itself to demanding public registration. Unlike its counterparts in
Denmark and Great Britain, it decided against joining the Maritime Union against Apartheid
when it was established in 1983. See Gudim, op. cit., p. 289 and chapter 8 in this study.
47 Gudim, op.cit., p. 292.
posal, he also maintains that it was probably a wise decision for the antiapartheid
forces to concentrate on certain areas, in this case sanctions of
crude oil transports, and to get as much publicity as possible on that particular
issue. It is also a fact that stronger ties were developed between
NOCOSA, the trade unions, the churches and sections of the mass media,
and that this broad alliance—as has been shown in chapter 6—was of critical
importance in the final years of the struggle against apartheid. Thus, the
lesson has been aptly summed up: “If David is to beat Goliath, it is important
to create strategic alliances”.48
48 Ibid., p. 294.
Chapter 6
The Norwegian Council for Southern Africa (NOCOSA):
A Study in Solidarity and Activism1
Nina Drolsum
Madserud Tennis Club, Oslo, 1964. A Davis Cup tie, South Africa vs. Norway,
where tennis is known as the “white sport”. Demonstrations against
the South African players are forbidden. On the spectator stands sit 200 antiapartheid
demonstrators who have bought tickets for the opening match.
The match is in progress, and the demonstrators get up from their seats and
start throwing black tennis balls onto the court, then quickly invade the
court and sit down, linking themselves together and holding onto the net.
The police have great difficulty in carrying the demonstrators out, and the
match has to be abandoned for the day. Next day no tickets were available
to the public.
The demonstrations at Madserud attracted attention in both the Norwegian
and international press. The Oslo national daily, Aftenposten, was indignant;
the demonstrators wore jeans and other suspect articles of clothing,
and the males had beards. The demonstrators, however, came from all the
political parties and organisations which formed part of Norwegian Action
Against Apartheid, and wanted to ensure that the Norwegian Sports Association’s
urgent request that the match not be played was complied with.
The history of this and other similar events dating from the early 1960s
resulting in ultimately significant information activities and effective political
approaches to the Norwegian authorities, is an important but relatively
unknown aspect of Norwegian support for the liberation of Southern Africa.
This chapter aims at presenting the most important events in, and results of,
the history of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa—NOCOSA, from its
inception in 1967 and until the first universal elections were held in South
Africa in 1994.
NOCOSA’s solidarity work cannot first and foremost be measured in
terms of money. Although the funds collected by the Council were trans-
1 For a more extensive discussion of the role of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa, see
Nina Drolsum: For et fritt Afrika. Oslo: Fellesrådet for Afrika/Solidaritet Forlag, 1999.
ferred without deduction to the liberation movements, they were merely
symbolic in comparison with the amounts channelled to the liberation
movements by the Norwegian Government via the Norwegian Church and
the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The mainspring of
NOCOSA’s involvement was idealistic and its principle objective was to
keep a close watch on and to influence Norway’s official policies towards
the freedom struggle in Southern Africa. The Council’s efforts in creating
public awareness, influencing attitudes and providing information, came to
represent an important contribution to the shaping of Norwegian foreign
policy towards the apartheid regime in South Africa and indeed liberation
movements throughout Southern Africa. These efforts were above all significant
in constantly directing attention towards the problems caused by
apartheid at times when there was no clear Norwegian political policy.
Awareness and knowledge of these issues among politicians and the general
public remained comparatively insignificant for a long time. It was therefore
especially important for the Council to invite representatives of the liberation
movements in Southern Africa to Norway and to acquaint the Norwegian
authorities with their struggle. These efforts were an important contribution
to establishing connections between the liberation movements and
the Norwegian Government and to promoting Norwegian involvement.
The Council was also characterised by an activist approach to a greater
extent than other organisations engaged in anti-apartheid activities, for instance
the Norwegian Church’s Council on Ecumenical and International
Relations (CEIR) and the labour movement. It was a matter of active intervention,
both in involving the grass roots and in participating in information
work. The number of demonstrations and events organised by the Council,
the stands, “Action Weeks”, the exhibitions, the campaigns, participation in
debates in the news media, and the issuing of press statements, was extensive.
Initiatives were also taken in connection with a number of fund-raising
events on behalf of the liberation movements. The magazine Afrika Dialog
(1967–68) and later Afrika Informasjon with four annual issues commencing in
1978, were the only publications of their kind in Norway. NOCOSA also
produced several study booklets, information bulletins, pamphlets and
leaflets in the interests of informing the public.
The study booklets were an important feature of the Council’s production.
In these, the apartheid system and the conflicts in each of the countries
in Southern Africa were described and discussed in depth. The most important
current events were taken up, contributing to issues being placed on the
political agenda and the Norwegian position being debated. Many of these
booklets were written by Norway’s foremost researchers in the field of
African studies: Tore Linné Eriksen, Arne Tostensen and Elling Njål Tjønneland,
who were or had themselves been, active participants in NOCOSA.
The mobilisation of the grass roots was one of the Council’s foremost
objectives. Broad public support was important in attempts to prompt the
Norwegian authorities into putting increased political pressure on South
Africa directly or through international involvement. Schools, colleges and
universities were among the major arenas chosen for this work. The activists
also to a large degree consisted of committed students and pupils. The ultimately
large number of local branches scattered around the country followed
up centrally planned arrangements or took their own initiatives.
Through daily efforts over a lengthy period, the follow-up of specific
cases, contact with political organs, the writing of articles and the issuing of
press statements, NOCOSA built up an action-oriented apparatus and a significant
network of contacts embracing Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and the press. Though there were periods when intensity may have
seemed to diminish, the daily work for, and involvement in, solidarity with
the freedom struggle in Southern Africa was consistently present to a high
degree. While the Council’s level of activity and impact were stronger in
some periods than in others, such variation was particularly associated with
international events which stimulated intensified effort and afforded the
Council increased attention on the part of authorities and the mass media.
NOCOSA’s strength has in particular been in its impact on and through
the media. The reason for this was firstly that the injustices of the apartheid
system have always made good copy. But it is also significant that NOCOSA
has itself had competent media people, and through them enjoyed excellent
contact with the newspapers. Revelations concerning violations by Norwegian
shipping companies of the international oil-boycott resulted in the
apartheid issue acquiring a Norwegian dimension, and additional impact.
The Council also often felt that correctives to Norwegian mass media coverage
of Southern Africa were called for.2
The Council’s appointment of a special information worker in 1984 resulted
in this aspect of the work being professionalised. Through the introduction
of a special information strategy and by integrating its use of the
media with its political activities, NOCOSA itself could often set the agenda
for the debate on Southern Africa.
A progressive tightening of media censorship in South Africa in the
1980s made it difficult to obtain reliable news and information from South
Africa. The Council was anxious lest this resulted in news coverage on South
Africa drying up and that the world would forget South Africa in the
shadow of press censorship, which moreover probably was the apartheid
regime’s objective. At the same time the South African authorities engaged
in propaganda activities in order to delude the world with the message that
the unrest in South Africa had quietened down and that the situation was
not nearly as bad as some were making it out to be. NOCOSA therefore re-
2 In 1979 Tore Linné Eriksen and Øystein Gudim presented a paper at a mass media conference
at the Nordic Africa Institute on Aftenposten’s coverage of the final days of the illegal settler
regime in Zimbabwe, concluding that it had been pervasively negative throughout its discussion
of the liberation movements. See chapter 4.
garded information gathering as of paramount importance, as also the possession
of adequate knowledge of the situation prevailing in the whole of
Southern Africa; moreover the mediation of such information to the press
was coupled with participation in public information campaigns through
holding lectures and making presentations. News was constantly coming
from South Africa of the killing of whites by blacks and of the fear under
which the whites were living because of the unrest in the country. It was
thus important for NOCOSA members to speak up and remind the public of
the historical background to the armed freedom struggle: the use of violence
during the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, the banning of the ANC, and the
impossibility of making headway through non-violent means. In 1988, the
Council launched Nytt fra Det sørlige Afrika, a small newspaper presenting
news derived from independent news agencies which could serve as a corrective
to the propaganda and the censored news emanating from South
During the first few years of its existence, NOCOSA’s activities were
performed by a few enthusiastic souls, but the expertise acquired by the
organisation in the process resulted in the authorities gradually turning to it
for information and consultation. It is a measure of the Council’s strength
that its critics often complained that Norwegian foreign policy was governed
by NOCOSA rather than by the elected political organs. Naturally this
was not so, as in reality the policies implemented were far from those
wished for by the Council. Indeed it was precisely in this circumstance that
its significance as a promoter and provider of information lay.
The Council comes into being
As a result of the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960 and the award of the
Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli of the ANC the same year, the early
Norwegian anti-apartheid involvement became consolidated in organised
forms. Norwegian Action Against Apartheid (NAMA) saw the light of day in
February 1963 to promote the isolation of, and sanctions against, the South
African apartheid regime. The Crisis Fund for South Africa was started in
December the same year, in order to provide legal support for political prisoners
and their families in South Africa, the fund being established as a
sister organisation to the British International Defence and Aid Fund which had
been in existence since 1959.3 Both NAMA and the Crisis Fund were umbrella
organisations with largely overlapping membership. Since the same
persons were often involved in both organisations, it was deemed appropriate
to merge the two into one and the same organisation. There was, moreover,
a need for a broadening of public awareness so as also to encompass
the entire region of Southern Africa, not least because of both Mozambique’s
3 For more on the Crisis Fund and IDAF, see chapter 1.
and Angola’s freedom struggles, and to create a joint council for all of
Southern Africa. The new Council became more than merely a combination
of the two previous organisations. The area of involvement came to embrace
the whole of Southern Africa and—to a lesser degree—the Portuguese
colonies of Guinea-Bissau, the Cape Verde Islands, and Sao Tome and
Principe. The idea was to exercise active political pressure on the basis of the
broad support enjoyed by NOCOSA among its member organisations.
In this manner, the Council was launched in 1967, founded on the same
kind of organisational structure as the two former organisations. Initially
there were approximately 20, most of them political and other youth organisations.
Gradually, trade unions and teachers’ and students’ unions joined
NOCOSA, as well as organisations engaged in international development
and other solidarity work. In 1976, the Council was opened up to individual
membership, and several local branches were formed. At its maximum, the
Council embraced 44 organisations, over 2,000 individual members, and 18
local branches.
The umbrella organisational model turned out to be both an asset and a
liability in the performance of the Council’s work. A joint organisation could
not be dominated by a particular political direction, as was the case with
many other solidarity organisations at that time. On the other hand, this
could present difficulties in mobilising activists. Its compass was nevertheless
significant for political impact. The scope of the member organisations
also facilitated reaching a large number of people with information through
annual meetings and conferences. Several of them were sizeable youth
organisations such as The Norwegian Youth League and The Norwegian Rural
Youth. This avenue of disseminating information would not have been possible
if NOCOSA had been a single, independent organisation. At the same
time, the active members who kept the Council going had to create internal
credibility and have the support of all the member organisations in all its activities,
and this often represented an additional workload.
During the initial period of the Council’s existence, it remained, as had
been the case prior to 1967, only a small group of people worked on a voluntary
basis, with no permanent office staff. Public subsidies covering running
costs gradually increased, starting with support for purely informational activities
in the early 1970s, later increasing also to cover recurrent expenditures.
This enabled the Council in 1976 to engage a secretary on a half-day
basis. Towards the end of the 1980s, the Council had 8–9 fulltime workers,
including two conscientious objectors (as an alternative to military service).
1967–1981: The initial period
During the initial period, the Council’s activities to put the struggles of the
liberation movements in Southern Africa on the agenda was for a long time
overshadowed by other events such as the Vietnam war and Norway’s EEC
referendum in 1972. The transformation came about as the result of dramatic
events such as the military coup in Portugal in 1974, which set in train the
decolonisation of Portugal’s overseas possessions, South Africa’s war
against Angola in 1975, and the Cuban military support to Angola’s liberation
movement, MPLA. These events engaged the press, providing fresh
impetus to the work of the Council. There was an increase in its activities,
particularly in 1976 following the Soweto uprising, which aroused enormous
international attention, prompting many to become actively involved in the
work of the Council.
An important task during the initial years was arranging contacts between
the liberation movements and the Norwegian authorities, knocking
on office doors, accompanying visitors to meetings and keeping the press informed.
In this manner, interest in the liberation of Southern Africa was kept
alive. The attitude of Norwegian authorities toward the wars of liberation
and the struggle for a democratic and non-racial South Africa up to the beginning
of the 1970s was, as has already been mentioned, reserved, and at
best marked by uncertainty and ignorance.4
Activities associated with the spreading of information were particularly
directed at schools and youth organisations, through lectures and the distribution
of information material. In 1969, the Council opened special bank accounts
on behalf of Angola’s liberation movement MPLA, Mozambique’s
FRELIMO, and Guinea-Bissau’s PAIGC, while simultaneously encouraging
institutions and organisations to contribute funds to the movements. In
addition, Members of parliament were requested to donate funds to the
work of the respective liberation movements in the liberated territories.5 For
a long time (and right up to 1973) support of any significance was provided
by Norwegian authorities only to refugees and not directly to the liberation
movements. (See chapter 1.)
From 1973 on, NOCOSA organised nearly annual so-called Africa
Weeks. The first of these came in connection with a conference held in Oslo
under the auspices of the United Nations and the Organisation of African
Unity (OAU). These Africa Weeks had as their main objective to convey to
the general public information on conditions in Southern Africa. During the
first few years (apart from 1973 when there were also events in Bergen,
Trondheim and Tromsø), the Africa Weeks were held in Oslo and its surroundings,
but gradually they came to be spread all over the country.
Many of the Africa Weeks were held jointly with other organisations,
frequently in co-operation with The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International
Assistance Fund (SAIH), which was also actively involved in the antiapartheid
struggle. The Africa Weeks always demanded a great deal of time
4 See Ole Kristian Eivindsson: Norge og raseproblemene i Sør-Afrika, 1845–1961. Thesis, Department
of History, University of Oslo, 1997; Ragnhild Narum: Norge og rasekonflikten i Sør-Afrika.
Thesis, Department of History, University of Oslo, 1998.
5 Executive Committee’s Activity Report for the period 16 June to 9 November 1970.
and effort on the part of the Council’s members, and mobilised many who
were not otherwise active.
NOCOSA’s first international contacts came about first and foremost
through its membership of the International Defence and Aid Fund—IDAF,
which it had taken over from the old Crisis Fund for South Africa. IDAF was
an international organisation based in London, in which several of the
members were South Africans living in exile. The organisation raised funds
for the legal defence of political prisoners in Southern Africa, and the support
of their families. The Council channelled funds from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs through IDAF for this purpose until such time as direct connection
had been established between Norwegian authorities and IDAF in
the 1970s. NOCOSA’s chairperson in 1969, Bjørg Ofstad, was for a while
Vice-President of the organisation and in this way contact was established
with other British organisations. During this period there was also frequent
contact with the Angola Committee in Amsterdam as well as with other
Dutch anti-apartheid organisations. The activities in Holland were intensive
and information acquired from this source was important for the Council.
However, much of the information was obtained directly through the news
bulletins produced by the liberation movements themselves.
In Sweden, The Swedish Committee for Isolation of South Africa (ISAK)
and The Africa Groups of Sweden (AGIS)were involved in anti-apartheid
activities, and in Denmark there was The Danish Association for International
Co-operation (MS). Contact with these organisations, and in particular
the Swedish ones, was of importance for the exchange of information and
for co-operation on various events. Visits by representatives of the liberation
movements were frequently co-ordinated by the Nordic organisations.
The Council rings the doorbell
Before the Council came into being, there had already been a considerable
amount of contact with the liberation movements, and several of their representatives
had visited Norway. This contact continued, and from 1967
NOCOSA frequently played host to these visitors. The Council’s most important
role was to establish contacts between representatives of the liberation
movements and Norwegian authorities, in particular the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, political parties and trade unions. Press coverage was also
arranged during their visits. Leaders of liberation movements regarded the
Scandinavian countries as their most important supporting players in the
Western world and were themselves eager to establish fruitful contact. Such
visits thus often came about through the offices of the liberation movements
in Sweden and London, or they were mediated through the British Anti-
Apartheid Movement. The Council itself often invited important persons to
their own events or arranged itineraries for such visitors in order to meet
people outside Oslo. Such round trips entailed a number of lectures at regional
colleges and folk colleges all over Norway. The informational value
was clear, as NOCOSA was often approached for information following
such visits.
The visit of the leader of the Mozambican liberation movement immediately
prior to the establishment of NOCOSA in 1967 was a special occasion.
Awareness in Norway of Portuguese colonial policies had increased in concert
with the radicalisation of the Norwegian youth and student environment.
Thus Eduardo Mondlane received a warm welcome by a specially
created committee consisting of 15 political and cultural youth organisations,
headed by the chairperson of the Norwegian Action Against
Apartheid, Lars Alldén. Norwegian activists were familiar with some of
Eduardo Mondlane’s writings and speeches, and his charismatic personality
inspired and motivated NOCOSA, which was established shortly after
Mondlane’s visit, to continue its efforts. His book, The Struggle for Mozambique,
was later translated into Norwegian.6 Mondlane’s attack on Portugal
and in this connection also on NATO, was fierce, making it difficult both for
the conservative Norwegian government and Members of Parliament from
other parties, apart from the Socialist People’s Party, to meet him. The invitation
for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be represented on a debating
panel with Eduardo Mondlane was rejected without any reason being given
(see chapter 1). At a public meeting attended by over 300 persons, Mondlane
underlined the importance of supporting the Mozambique Institute in Dar
es Salaam, which provided schooling and training for Mozambican refugees.
Press coverage of Mondlane’s visit was comprehensive, with banner headlines
and editorials both before and after his visit.
Another important visitor to Norway in this period was the leader of the
Angolan liberation movement MPLA, and subsequently Angolan President,
Agostinho Neto. On this occasion, (which took place in 1970), NOCOSA together
with the Labour Party (which at that time was in parliamentary
opposition), acted as hosts. Agostinho Neto received a great deal of attention
from the press, was interviewed on radio and television, and had meetings
with several political parties.
In 1971, Sam Nujoma, the leader of Namibia’s liberation movement,
SWAPO, paid his first visit to Norway. He met the Norwegian Prime Minister
Trygve Bratteli. This was the first time Nujoma was received by a Prime
Minister from any of the Western countries. Relationships with SWAPO,
however, were of a rather different character as Namibia was a country
under occupation and the liberation movement was in a way seen to be
more legitimate than for example ANC of South Africa.7
One year after Nujoma’s visit, the Council also received the leader of
Guinea-Bissau’s liberation movement, Amilcar Cabral. Through the visits of
6 Eduardo Mondlane: Kampen om Mocambique. Oslo: Gyldendal 1970.
7 However, ANC’s Oliver Tambo had met with Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen as early as in
1962 (see chapter 1), but this connection was not followed up.
these prominent liberation leaders, as well as a number of other representatives
from the liberation movements, the Council hoped to be able to persuade
the authorities to make public contributions to their struggle for freedom.
Moreover, issues related to the liberation of Southern Africa were
given prominence as a result of these visits i.a. through the mass media, and
Parliament could no longer side-step them in foreign policy debates.8
The transition to recognition of the liberation movements on the part of
Norwegian authorities was gradual. Both the Norwegian Confederation of
Trade Unions (LO) and, as we have seen, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
hesitated for some time to meet with liberation movement representatives
who were visiting Norway. As far as representatives of ANC were concerned,
the difficulties were partly associated with the close connection
between the apartheid-regime and Great Britain, France, the USA as well as
other NATO-partners, while ANC by many Western observers were seen to
be close to “the other side” during the Cold War. Within the NATO alliance,
there were a strong desire for close direct links between South Africa and
NATO. South Africa, desiring close links with the Western military apparatus,
played up the spectre of communism and maintained that the apartheid
regime was an important bastion against communism. These factors had
certainly influenced internal attitudes in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for
some time. As for leaders of the liberation movements from the Portuguese
colonies, it was not without problems for Norwegian authorities to receive
them in order to discuss Portugal’s warfare, with which Norway was in
alliance through its membership of NATO. Diplomats from the Portuguese
Embassy usually turned up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after
meetings with liberation movements to enquire as to what had been said
and whether the visitors were still in the country.
Thus leaders and representatives of the liberation movements were up
to the early 1970s mainly confined to meeting Norwegian officials through
the UN office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’. Often the meetings took
place in town or at NOCOSA’s office. This hesitant attitude was replaced by
intensified interest, as the conflicts in Southern Africa were often debated at
the United Nations, and it was important for the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to keep itself informed. After the Council had drawn a large
number of leaders of liberation movements to the offices of politicians and
civil servants. Norwegian authorities must gradually have felt themselves
under a certain amount of pressure to establish direct contact with the
8 In the course of succeeding years, NOCOSA received visits from i.a., Peter Katjavivi (1969 and
1971), Uazuvara Katjivena (1971) and Ben Amathila (1971 and 1972), all of SWAPO; Raymond
Kunene and Tany Mlobiso (1969) of ANC; George Peake (1968) of PAC; Henry Hamadziripi
and Richard Hove of ZANU; Kotsho Duve (1969) of ZAPU; Janet Mondlane (1969 and 1971),
Armando Panguene (1972) and Marcelino dos Santos of FRELIMO; Antonio Neto (1971, 1972
and 1973), Saydi Mingas (1973) and Dr. d’Almeida (1972) of MPLA; Onésimo Silveira (1971 and
1972), Aristides Pereira and Gil Fernandez (1974) of PAIGC. Also Denis Brutus (1969), South
African poet and activist who, as leader of SAN-ROC (South African Non-Racial Olympic
Committee) campaigned to have South Africa excluded from international sports arrangements.
liberation movements. This applied in the first instance to liberation movement
leaders in the Portuguese colonies, and to the Namibian liberation
movement, SWAPO.
Areas of involvement: NOCOSA at the crossroads
The Council’s strategy was initially to concentrate its work in areas where
the potential for achieving results was optimal. At that time, the Council undoubtedly
regarded the Portuguese colonies as more vulnerable than the
regimes in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The priority given to the struggle in
the Portuguese colonies had broad support among the member organisations,
although Portugal was a member of NATO and thus an ally of Norway.
In political milieus, however, it was precisely the fact that Portugal and
Norway were members of the same military alliance that constituted an important
element in the resistance to a weapons boycott of Portugal. The
Council did not neglect the proffered opportunity to express fierce criticism
of NATO. In 1971, a study booklet on “Portugal and NATO” was produced
in which Portugal’s economic and military oppression of its colonies was
described, as well as the country’s economic and military agreements which
underpinned the support of Portugal’s colonial wars on the part of several
NATO-countries. NOCOSA’s criticism of NATO was not unproblematic internally
in the organisation either. The Young Conservatives could not accept
this criticism and after a while withdrew their membership of the
Council.9 Some members of the Young Conservatives nevertheless from
time to time participated in the work of the Council.
When, in the spring of 1971, Parliament was to debate for the first time a
proposition drafted by the Foreign Relations Committee concerning Portugal’s
colonial policies in Africa, NOCOSA made a direct approach to the
government and to other Members of Parliament relating to the deployment
of jet fighters in the Portuguese colonies, which previously had been used in
the Norwegian Air Force. The Council tried on several occasions to direct
public attention to Portugal’s brutal colonial wars in Mozambique, Angola
and Guinea-Bissau, and NATO’s involvement in these wars. This activity
continued at the meeting of NATO Ministers in Lisbon in June 1971 (see
chapter 1) and in Copenhagen the following year, as appropriate occasions
for once more drawing attention to the matter. Meetings of both NATO’s
Council of Ministers and of the Nordic Foreign Ministers were always
closely followed up, and the Council encouraged its member organisations
9 When Willy Brandt, who was a popular figure in Norway, received the Nobel Peace Prize in
1971, NOCOSA organised a demonstration protesting against West Germany’s military support
of Portugal. Young Conservatives dissociated themselves from this demonstration, feeling that
it was out of place and unsuitable as an instrument for promoting liberation of the Portuguese
colonies (letter to the Council from Young Conservatives dated 6 December 1971, signed by
Helge Ole Bergesen).
and other sympathisers to hold meetings and engage in political activities
related to these meetings.
Seminars and study circles were organised, and great efforts were made
to raise public awareness concerning Portugal’s military offensives and the
African liberation struggles. NOCOSA’s study booklet on Portugal and
NATO was sent to members of Parliament. The Minister of Foreign Affairs
received open letters questioning NATO’s role, and these were also published
in the press. As a result of addressing itself to members of Parliament,
the Council on several occasions found that important issues were taken up
in Parliament, either during foreign affairs debates or during question time.
This applied i.a. to demands that the government raise the matter of Portugal’s
colonial policies with NATO, that it should dissuade member countries
providing military and economic succour to Portugal from continuing such
support, and that Norway should use its veto rights in connection with the
provision of NATO-weapons to Portugal.
The matter of development assistance to the liberation movements had
regularly been raised since the beginning of the 1970s. It was first through
Parliamentary White Paper No. 29 (1971–72)—Concerning Certain Topics Relevant
to Norway’s Co-operation with Developing Countries, which was debated
in 1973, that the way was opened for providing direct support to the liberation
movements (see chapter 1). It was, however, a matter of humanitarian
assistance in the form of commodities and not of the transfer of funds.
NOCOSA demanded direct financial assistance and much larger sums than
the total of NOK 5 million which in 1973 had been allocated to PAIGC,
MPLA and FRELIMO together. The Council was nevertheless pleased that
assistance was now being provided and felt that it was an important step in
the right direction.
The Council also launched a campaign to get Norway to recognise
Guinea-Bissau as an independent state. This had been recommended by 65
countries at the UN General Assembly in 1973. 93 countries voted for, 7
voted against and 30 abstained from voting, among them Norway and several
other Western European nations. The Council felt that the government
had not made sufficiently clear representations on the matter and therefore
challenged the Foreign Minister in an open letter to provide concrete and
precise answers to a number of questions. Clarification was requested as to
which liberation movements the government regarded as legitimate representatives
of the people in the three Portuguese colonies, and, viewed
against the background of innumerable resolutions at the United Nations
and the fact that Norway had in recent years given both material and political
support to PAIGC, whether the government did not feel itself politically
obliged to recognise Guinea-Bissau.10
10 Open letter from NOCOSA to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (undated and unsigned).
During the liberation war in Angola and following independence in
1975, the Council had been in little doubt that it was MPLA which represented
the people and were leading the struggle for the independence of
Angola.11 In 1975, efforts in support of MPLA and attempts at providing a
truer picture of Angola in the Norwegian mass media laid claim to a great
deal of the Council’s attention. On repeated occasions, the Council pressed
the Norwegian authorities to declare Angola a main partner country for
Norwegian development co-operation, but never succeeded in having this
accepted. The effort to get Mozambique adopted as a main development cooperation
partner country was, however, crowned with success in 1977.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Zimbabwe had naturally enough become
a principle area of involvement for the Council. Relationships with the two
liberation movements Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and Zimbabwe
African People’s Union (ZAPU) became a topic of debate at NOCOSA’s
annual general meetings. There was no essential disagreement within the
Council that ZANU was the most representative liberation movement. Many
of the Council’s representatives wanted its support to be exclusively
concentrated on ZANU, while the majority felt that there was no reason to
choose sides before the elections in 1980. Support was therefore concentrated
on the Patriotic Front, the political organisation, which had been set
up jointly by ZANU and ZAPU in connection with negotiations held in
Geneva in 1976.12
Upon Zimbabwe achieving its independence in 1980 following an overwhelming
election victory for ZANU under the leadership of Robert
Mugabe, the question arose as to NOCOSA’s role vis-à-vis Zimbabwe as a
liberated and independent state. The Council’s chief areas of involvement
would from now on be Namibia and South Africa. It was nevertheless regarded
as important to support the reconstruction of Zimbabwe, and co-operation
with the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance
Fund (SAIH) in sending a medical team to the country was initiated.
This was followed by an educational project with a total of seven Norwegian
teachers working in Zimbabwean secondary schools. The proceeds of fundraising
campaigns were additional to the support provided by NORAD and
later also the Operation Day’s Work (OD).13 Zimbabwe was thought to be
the only country in Southern Africa capable of withstanding pressure from
South Africa, and which could contribute to making the entire region less
11 In some of the member organisations there were discussions as to whether one should not
also support FNLA, but there was no official disagreement that MPLA was the most representative
12 See chapter 4.
13 The Norwegian Schools’ own annual solidarity campaign. In 1971 and 1972 the proceeds
went to liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. In 1982 it went to
Zimbabwe. In 1985 there was a joint Nordic solidarity campaign for Southern Africa. In 1988
the money raised through this campaign again went to educational activities in Southern Africa
(see p. 234), and in 1994 to education for liberation in South Africa.
dependent on its apartheid neighbour. It was therefore important for
NOCOSA to continue focusing on Zimbabwe for several years after the
country had achieved independence. At the same time, the Council wanted
Norway, in conjunction with the other Nordic countries, to follow up the
agreement on co-operation with the SADCC-countries14 more comprehensively
than had originally been planned.
New fund-raising approaches were devised in financing projects in
Zimbabwe. One proposal was to introduce a solidarity tax. All NOCOSA
members were requested to contribute a small sum through giro transfers
every second month. Another method was to encourage project sponsorship,
requiring three annual payments of NOK 500 over three years. In return,
sponsors received regular reports from project workers in Zimbabwe.
Since a large number of sponsors were teachers, this information was also
used as teaching material in the schools.
The UN/OAU Conference in Oslo, 1973
The cautious diplomatic approach of the authorities in the 1960s underwent
some change during the early 1970s. The breakthrough came when Norway
hosted the OAU/United Nations World Conference for Support of Victims of
Apartheid and Colonialism in Southern Africa in 1973. At the conference, the
liberation movements and their leaders were acknowledged, and political
leaders from Southern Africa met their political counterparts in Norway.
However, NOCOSA was not pleased with the arrangements at the conference,
fearing that diplomatic manoeuvres might shift the focus to the victims
of apartheid and colonialism at the expense of support given to the liberation
struggle.15 In a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council
requested to be allowed to participate at the conference in line with other
solidarity organisations and experts who had been invited to attend. The
Council felt that the host country’s own solidarity organisation should have
an automatic right of participation at the conference, not least on account of
the continued supportive solidarity work remaining to be done in Norway.
They therefore hoped for an official invitation, but had to be satisfied with
an offer of observer status on one of the conference days.
In its activities NOCOSA felt a strong need to focus on crucial problems
which the organisers of the conference either were unwilling or unable to
deal with. This applied in particular to NATO’s role and to foreign
(including Norwegian) capital investment and trade with the oppressors in
Southern Africa. The Council therefore proposed that an alternative Africa
Week be held during the OAU conference. It was organised in co-operation
14 Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference (today; Southern African Development
15 The conference, however, turned out to be more along the lines that NOCOSA (and the liberation
movements themselves) had wanted, see chapter 1.
with the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, PRIO. The Norwegian solidarity
endeavours on behalf of the liberation movements were presented in their
full breadth. The statement released by the Council had the following text:
The aim of the Africa Week is to provide information to the public in order to
acquaint people with the themes to be discussed at the conference. Solidarity
work on behalf of the liberation movements must be organised in Norway,
and we wish to involve people in active participation against oppression and
for liberation. So information is important. But there is a danger that the
conference may come to be of a closed nature, concerning itself with technical
The Council concentrated on these topics: the responsibilities of NATO’s
member countries and the role of multinational capital in the areas of conflict
in Southern Africa; Norway’s responsibility imposed by its membership
in NATO and the relationship between the European Free Trade Association
(EFTA) and Portugal. The increased trade and shipping with South Africa
were also discussed. Among innumerable activities during the Africa Week
were a photo exhibition, films, stands, news sheets, demonstrations, meetings
with leaders of liberation movements and separate seminars in Oslo,
Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø. A wide range of information material on
the various liberation movements and their struggle for independence, on
apartheid, and on the wars of liberation, was made available. Representatives
of the liberation movements, as well as other participants at the OAU
conference, participated at activities organised by the Council, thus making
the liberation movements also known outside the conference halls. MPLA’s
leader, Agostinho Neto, who participated at the conference, called on the
Council and opened a meeting at the Nobel Institute.
PAIGC’s, MPLA’s and FRELIMO’s flags were carried in processions
during demonstrations, and it was demanded that Norway, should increase
its aid to the liberation movements to at least NOK 50 million as the next
step. “Should one compare the support provided (to liberation movements)
with Norway’s trade with the colonial powers and the apartheid regime, it
becomes apparent how pathetically little we have contributed to the liberation
struggle so far”, said NOCOSA’s chairperson Stig Utnem in his appeal
on behalf of NOCOSA.
NOCOSA’s Hearing on South Africa, 1977
While the OAU/UN-conference in 1973 was organised by the Norwegian
Government, the next conference on South Africa was set up by NOCOSA in
Oslo in the autumn of 1977. The hearing was an important step forward in
bringing the conflicts in Southern Africa into focus. It was a major event,
with extensive participation and broad press coverage. The immediate
16 Press statement by NOCOSA, 30 March 1973.
background to the hearing was the recent Soweto uprising and the increasing
tension in South Africa which had once more made the international
community turn a spotlight on the brutal oppression of the people by the
apartheid regime. Such an arrangement was at the same time important in
stimulating the Norwegian anti-apartheid movement into stronger commitment
and an intensification of its activities.
The objective of the hearing was to reveal the true nature of the
apartheid system and at the same time contribute to increased sympathy
and support for the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. The idea was that
persons who had suffered directly under the oppression inflicted by the
South African regime should appear as witnesses. Centrally placed representatives
of the ANC, the South African Congress of Trade Unions
(SACTU), South African church organisations, student and other movements,
as well as prominent experts and relevant witnesses, made statements.
Selection of experts and witnesses was made in conjunction with the
International Defence and Aid Fund, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement,
and the ANC-offices in London and Stockholm. In addition, representatives
of SWAPO and the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe were present. Statements
made by witnesses and their credentials presented during the hearing were
to be assessed by an Investigative Commission and included in a report, together
with a communiqué on South Africa. The Commission consisted of 25
persons and had broad representation; leaders of political parties, trade
union spokespersons, representatives of religious and humanitarian organisations,
lawyers, scholars, journalists and others. Egil Olsen, today best
known as “Drillo” and for many years manager of the Norwegian national
football team, at that time politically involved as an active radical, was also
included in the panel. The Labour Movement’s International Solidarity
Committee, AIS, at first declined to participate, as they at that time were accustomed
to doing when approached by NOCOSA for support or participation.
However, after consideration, AIS nevertheless attended. The Norwegian
Foreign Minister, Knut Frydenlund, opened the hearing.
The official communiqué issued after the hearing took as its starting
point the 1976 UN Programme of Action against Apartheid, the Lagos Declaration
from the UN Conference in Nigeria (August 1977), and a number of
other articles, declarations and UN reports which were presented to the
hearing as background material. Witnesses’ reports on imprisonment, torture
and killings made a strong impression on those assembled and confirmed
that conditions in South Africa were steadily worsening. A representative
of SACTU requested the trade unions in the Nordic countries to
organise boycotts and to exert pressure on the authorities to stop all trade
and other economic collaboration with South Africa. Against this background,
the Investigative Commission fully endorsed the descriptions of
conditions in South Africa set forth in the UN Programme of Action, and the
Lagos Declaration:
We express our support for the legitimate struggle being waged in Southern
Africa against apartheid and oppression. We support the international
campaign to isolate the present South African regime. We regard the fact that
South Africa is able to construct an extensive modern military machine as
extremely serious. This represents a direct threat to other African states as
well. It necessitates a compulsory weapons embargo and sanctions in
accordance with Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Norway must give added
support to those African states subject to South African aggression. We
further demand that the Norwegian Government begin an official
investigation into, and charting of, the military connections between members
of NATO and South Africa. Norway must do its utmost to prevent South
Africa from, directly or indirectly, being incorporated into NATO’s projects, if
such projects involving South Africa exist.17
Through this Declaration, the participants at the hearing expressed their
support for the UN Programme of Action (see box). Norway, as the only one
of the Nordic countries which had voted for this UN Resolution, was requested
to implement the boycott with immediate effect and not to wait
until broader international agreement had been reached. Norway was also
asked to co-ordinate sanctions, not least within the Nordic countries.
The investigating committee regarded the hearing as a significant step in
the direction of increased attention to the conflicts in Southern Africa, both
in the mass media, in the labour unions, among the churches and in political
and other organisations. According to the Declaration, there was also a hope
that the hearing would generate stronger public reaction to, and consequently
increased pressure on, political organs to implement the UN programme.
The hearing marked a turning point for NOCOSA. From being a small,
Oslo-based anti-apartheid group, it became a major, countrywide grass roots
movement. The member organisations were drawn more actively into the
Council’s activities, which afforded it increased impact, both politically and
in public opinion.18
1981–1990: Expansion, co-operation and struggle
The struggle for a democratic and non-racial South Africa was always
fundamental to NOCOSA’s commitment. After both the Portuguese colonies
and Zimbabwe had become independent states, the struggle against the
apartheid regime occupied centre-stage once more. There had been tendencies
in some solidarity environments, including the Norwegian Students’
and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), to prefer supporting
the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), which was a mass movement but
lacking in effective organisation. There were, however, no strong political
17 Declaration from the hearing on South Africa in Oslo, 12 and 13 October 1977, p. 4.
18 Interview with Elling Njål Tjønneland, chairperson of NOCOSA in 1977, 9 June 1998.
divergence between the Black Consciousness Movement and the ANC, although
some, for a variety of reasons, wanted to build up an alternative to
ANC. NOCOSA produced a booklet in 1978, “The Liberation Struggle” as
part of a series under the title South Africa in Focus, in which it was clearly
emphasised that ANC was the organisation which had the necessary organisational
strength to lead the liberation struggle.19
We see the UN Programme of Action as a natural point of departure for a strengthened
struggle against South Africa’s apartheid regime, and against South African
occupation of Namibia and their aggression against other African states such as
Angola and Zambia. We particularly want to draw attention to the following section
of the programme, which calls upon all governments to:
Terminate all economic collaboration with South Africa, and in particular refrain from
extending loans, investments and technical assistance to the racist regime of South
Africa and companies registered in South Africa;
Implement fully the arms embargo against South Africa without any exceptions or
Prohibit airlines and shipping lines registered in their countries from providing
services to and from South Africa;
Suspend cultural, educational, sporting and other exchanges with the racist regime of
South Africa;
Provide financial and material assistance, directly or through the Organisation of
African Unity, to the liberation movements recognised by that organisation;
Encourage the activity of anti-apartheid and solidarity movements and other organisations
engaged in political and material assistance to the victims of apartheid, and to
the South African liberation movement;
Ensure, in co-operation with the UN and the South African liberation movements, the
widest possible dissemination of information on apartheid and on the struggle for liberation
in South Africa.
We stress that these recommendations are made to the Norwegian Government as
well, as there are still many sections it has done nothing about. We particularly want
to deplore that Norwegian trade with South Africa has increased sharply in recent
years, in addition to the co-operation, which exists concerning shipping. The authorities
must guarantee that individual sectors and places of work do not suffer unilaterally
due to the ending of economic links with South Africa.
In order to strengthen and effectuate its work, NOCOSA in 1981 established
a number of special committees: a South Africa Committee, a Zimbabwe
Committee, a Namibia Committee, and a Boycott Committee, so that each
group could concentrate on specific tasks. In this manner it became easier for
NOCOSA to devote itself to several tasks simultaneously, and it was also
easier to involve a larger number of its members at the same time. Political
19 Elling Njål Tjønneland: Kampen for frigjering. Oslo: Norwegian Council for Southern Africa,
goals were defined, such as bringing the trade unions and the churches into
closer co-operation with NOCOSA and gaining access to Parliament more
readily. Through a Trade Union Committee created in order to co-ordinate
more closely the work of the various labour unions and the Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions (LO), there came gradually to be built up a relationship
of trust towards the trade unions and the international trade union
offices. Through the establishment of a Parliamentary Contact Group for Southern
Africa, co-operation with Members of Parliament became more firmly
established. The new strategy proved effective and gave NOCOSA the lift it
needed to be able to meet the challenges of the 1980s. Asbjørn Eidhammer
headed NOCOSA from 1981 to 1984 and played a crucial role in strengthening
the Council. At the annual meeting in 1985, the previous year was
summed up as a year of breakthrough for the anti-apartheid movement in
Norway. The intensification of the mass struggle in South Africa itself and
the award of the Nobel Peace prize to Desmond Tutu in 1984 were deemed
to have been part of the reasons for this. However, NOCOSA also regarded
the increased co-operation with parliamentarians via the Contact Group and
with representatives of the labour unions as important factors.
During the early 1980s, South Africa came to feature firmly on the political
agenda in Norway. The pressure generated by the solidarity organisations,
Members of Parliament, the labour movement and the church organisations,
had grown so strong that the authorities were compelled to take
action, i.a. in order to give sanctions against South Africa renewed consideration.
The Norwegian attitude towards sanctions had until then been too
confined to getting a binding resolution passed by the United Nations, arguing
that a boycott would be ineffective if implemented solely by Norway.
The Council nevertheless at that time felt that Southern Africa was being
given far too little attention by the Norwegian government, and that the
political leadership in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hesitated to express an
opinion or to participate in public discourse.20 NOCOSA’s letters and requests
often received evasive replies. One case confirming perceptions regarding
the lack of involvement on the part of the authorities was that Norway
neglected to react when the IMF granted loans to South Africa. The
Council moreover felt that Norwegian support for the victims of apartheid
was of little value as long as Norwegian commerce and industry, and in
particular the transport of oil, made it possible for South African aircraft to
bomb Namibian refugees in Angola and to destroy villages in Mozambique.
That the Norwegian government in 1982 readily acceded to Great Britain’s
request to introduce sanctions against Argentina during the Falkland Island
conflict, made the Council enquire as to why the government could not do
20 Between 1981 and 1983, Norway had a Conservative Party government, while from 1983 to
1986 there was a coalition made up of the Conservative Party, the Christian People’s Party and
the Centre Party. Svenn Stray from the Conservative Party was Foreign Minister for the whole
the same in the case of South Africa whose occupation of Namibia was illegal,
and whether Norwegian jobs were not of equal importance when seen
in relation to Argentina as in relation to South Africa.21
It was not only NOCOSA which felt that the involvement of the Norwegian
authorities towards Southern Africa was lukewarm. In 1983, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs refused to continue supporting the World Campaign
against Nuclear and Military Collaboration with South Africa, which Norway
had supported since the beginning of 1979. This triggered disillusionment
and the Council argued strongly for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reverse
their decision. The Norwegian authorities had supported the establishment
of the World Campaign, as had the Swedish Prime Minister, the
Frontline heads of government, and the leadership of ANC and SWAPO.
The aim of the campaign was to launch an effective weapons embargo
against South Africa. Abdul Minty, who directed the campaign, opened an
office in Oslo and carried out exhaustive investigations, in co-operation
with, among others, the United Nations, into weapons supplies to South
Africa, and into the country’s nuclear capabilities.22
Southern Africa hearing in 1984
In order to put Southern Africa on the agenda and to acquaint public opinion
with the aggression of the apartheid regime and with the sufferings of
the peoples of the region, NOCOSA in 1984 organised a new international
hearing on South Africa’s Military Aggression against Neighbouring States. The
setting for the hearing was a situation becoming steadily more acute in
Southern Africa resulting from repeated military assaults and threats against
its neighbours. It was important for the apartheid regime that the Frontline
States should not become so strong that they could provide direct support
for the ANC’s freedom struggle. It was also of great importance for Botha’s
regime that Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe did not succeed in their
policies so that South African propaganda on dissolution, chaos and decline
as a result of black majority government could continue. Seen as a whole,
South Africa, in collaboration with terrorist groups, conducted destabilisation
policies through military aggression, economic blackmail and sabotage.
South Africa’s brutal attacks and terrorist activities particularly seriously
affected Mozambique and Angola. Namibia was caught in a grip of steel and
in 1984, nearly 20 years after the UN deprived South Africa of the right to
administer the territory, there were few prospects of change.
The idea of a new hearing came into being in 1982 after a successful
Africa Week (then known as Action against Apartheid) in which most of the
21 Aftenposten, 28 April 1982.
22 Background Memorandum on the World Campaign against Military and Nuclear Collaboration
with South Africa, NOCOSA, 1983. Abdul Minty is today Deputy Director-General, Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, South Africa.
active members, both locally and centrally, had participated, so that it could
by now justifiably be described as nation-wide. Twenty of NOCOSA’s
member organisations participated and there were activities in 30 places
scattered throughout the country. The media coverage was extremely positive
and provided a broad, strengthened foundation upon which antiapartheid
activities could in future be built.23
One of the reasons for the success of the 1982 campaign was the cooperation
with the Namibia Association in Elverum, which had been established
after a major Namibia campaign in 1980 (see chapter 9). The Namibia
Association had an approach to mobilisation of local support, which was altogether
different from NOCOSA’s. The Namibia Association directed its
efforts at all manner of associations and organisations; schools, colleges,
housewives’ associations, trade unions, sports clubs and missionary societies,
to name a few. This modus operandi was highly instructive for the
Council. The Namibia Association, led by the enthusiastic Dag Hareide,
thought more expansively than NOCOSA was used to, and this co-operation
resulted in a higher level of ambition on the part of the Council.24
Ambitions to hold a large international hearing developed into a joint
effort involving NOCOSA, the Africa Groups of Sweden, and the Danish
Association for International Co-operation, resulting in an event which had
a lot of impact in Norway. Key figures in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the
trade union movement and church circles, were invited to participate. Funds
for the arrangement started rolling in, most of them from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Support from participants, audiences and the press, was extensive,
and a total of between two and three thousand persons participated
in the hearing. The final session, at which the well-known historian Basil
Davidson was the main speaker, drew 1,200 people. Among specially invited
speakers were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize later the same year, and Archbishop Trevor Huddlestone
(who as a priest in the Johannesburg slums had drawn international attention
to the injustices of apartheid through his book Naught For Your Comfort,
and who now headed the anti-apartheid movement in Britain). Among other
prominent guests was Thabo Mbeki from the ANC. In addition, representatives
from Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Botswana,
Tanzania and Nigeria participated.
Besides focusing on South Africa’s military aggression against neighbouring
states, the hearing also intended to debate the role of the Nordic
countries in Southern Africa. South Africa’s military aggression was confirmed
through eyewitness accounts, videos and the presentation of research
reports. A multi-media presentation by the photographers Aslak Aarhus
23 Annual Report 1981–82.
24 Interview with Asbjørn Eidhammer, NOCOSA’s chairperson between 1981 and 1984, 19
September 1997.
and Ole Bernt Frøshaug, White Shadows, illuminated both the master-servant
relationship between whites and blacks in South Africa and the aggression
of the apartheid regime against its neighbours. The presentation was an important
documentation, which was later widely used by other organisations
as well as by the NORAD Information Division. The hearing lasted all of
three days and resulted in a declaration by the Panel, which summed up
matters and made recommendations in respect of Nordic action vis-à-vis
Southern Africa. On the Panel sat Members of Parliament from Norway,
Sweden and Denmark, researchers and representatives from trade unions
and the churches. The declaration confirmed that the hearing had produced
proof of “the build-up of the South African war economy and war-machine
since the 1960s, facilitated by deliveries of weapons, technology and oil
from—in particular—Western countries, where also the Nordic countries
have participated”.25
The Panel also established that there could be no lasting peace in the
region as long as the apartheid regime continued to exist. It was therefore
the duty of the Nordic governments, for the trade union movement, the
churches and other political organisations, to do their utmost to eliminate
apartheid, to assist Namibia to achieve independence and to establish peace
in the region.
Raising support and activism
A great deal of the work consisted of involving others in active support for
the liberation movements. Labour unions and clubs at the workplace were
important in this connection. The Council solicited support for its endeavours
for direct financial support to ANC. Information was provided in the
form of lectures at annual meetings, articles in technical journals, and the
dissemination of general information at meetings and rallies. In 1986, an
agreement was worked out with Norges Bank (The Bank of Norway) for
fellowships of 6-months’ duration for ANC-trainees. Two members of the
South African labour organisation, SACTU, received practical training at
Aftenposten’s printing works and two others commenced training as electricians
at Sogn High School in Oslo.
Many trade unions collected equipment of various kinds, which was
sent to ANC’s refugee camps at Mazimbu and Dakawa in Tanzania. Magnor
Glass Works were about to celebrate their centenary and wanted to combine
this with practical support for the causes championed by NOCOSA. This
took the form of casting a crystal block with a “Biko” motif, and the profits
were sent to a school for children in Mazimbu. The project realised NOK
70,250. In a postcard campaign under the motto “Set the Children Free”,
100,000 postcards were sent to the country’s primary and secondary schools
25 Declaration of the Panel in the report from the International Hearing on South African
Aggression Against Neighbouring States, Oslo, 1984.
all over the country. The cards were intended to be posted direct to the
South African President P.W. Botha, demanding that all children and young
people held in South Africa’s prisons for political activities be freed.
The declaration of the Panel asked the Nordic Governments to:
Increase their support to the liberation movements in South Africa (ANC and
SWAPO), as well as to the independent trade unions, the church organisations and to
other forces … struggling for national independence, democracy and a non-racist
Substantially increase the assistance to the Frontline States and to their organisation of
economic co-operation, SADCC, in order both to assist in reconstruction after the
massive South African destruction and to enable them to resist South African economic
and military pressure in the future …;
intensify efforts to secure full implementation of the arms embargo against South
Africa, and to oppose all forms of nuclear and military co-operation in the future …
An important contribution to the effort to supervise the arms embargo and to disclose
any military collaboration between South Africa and other states, is to provide support
to the World Campaign against Nuclear and Military Collaboration with South Africa;
strengthen the efforts to obtain binding international sanctions against South Africa.
Until such sanctions are adopted by the UN Security Council, the Nordic governments
must halt the increase during recent years in trade and transport services …;
instruct Nordic representatives to the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) consistently to oppose any credit facilities to South Africa;
enact national legislation prohibiting any involvement in extraction of natural resources
in Namibia as well as import, transport and sale of such resources as long as
that country is occupied by South Africa;
provide increased support to the solidarity organisations and anti-apartheid movements
in our part of the world which carry out valuable work to disseminate information
about the conditions in Southern Africa, and which mobilise political, material
and moral support to the Frontline States and the liberation movements.
NOCOSA also published the book Ingen tårer. Vår framtid er lys. (Cry no tears.
Our future is bright), written by Tore Linné Eriksen.26 The book, which was
mainly directed to younger readers, told the story of Nelson Mandela and
Winnie Mandela in the South African struggle for liberation. (It was later
translated into Danish and published by the Danish Association for International
The political pressure on the Norwegian authorities to embark on a full
boycott campaign against the apartheid regime occupied much of the
Council’s energies. Included in this was the task of influencing public opinion.
Campaigns against those who traded with South Africa increased in
26 Eriksen, Tore Linné: Ingen tårer. Vår framtid er lys. Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag and
NOCOSA, 1988 .
frequency, and the Shell boycott in particular attracted a great deal of
countrywide attention. This is further discussed below.
NOCOSA had long wanted ANC to open an office in Oslo. This finally
took place in 1986 and was welcomed by the Norwegian anti-apartheid
movement. Raymond Mokoena ran the office for the first few years. Later
Thandie Rankoe (now South African Ambassador to Tanzania) took over.
The ANC office was a tower of strength to the anti-apartheid movement in
Norway through expanded co-operation between the two bodies and the
potential for increased information on the freedom struggle, as well as direct
knowledge of what was happening in South Africa. In a press release by
NOCOSA, Raymond Mokoena underscored that the establishment of ANC’s
office was an expression of a desire for increased co-operation with the
Norwegian authorities and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
While praising the important task, which Norway had taken upon itself in
connection with the boycott campaign, he called for even stronger international
pressure to be brought to bear on the apartheid regime. He felt that
one of the most important contributions Norway could make would be to
introduce a ban on all transport of oil and petroleum products to South
Africa by Norwegian owned tankers.27
Mozambique in focus
In 1987 and 1988, Mozambique’s problems came to occupy the foreground
in the Council’s work. The country was being attacked by the South Africansupported
terrorist organisation RENAMO, while drought and famine were
simultaneously afflicting parts of the country. At the beginning of 1988, an
estimated 4 million people were threatened with starvation, and 2 million
became internal refugees in their own country. Health posts, schools and
development projects, were burnt to the ground and destroyed by
RENAMO, and the civilian population was under constant threat of attack
and of being massacred.
In 1987, NORAD and the Mozambique-Norway Friendship Association,
in close co-operation with the Council, organised a cultural event, The
Mozambique Manifestation. This consisted of a major art and culture exhibition,
film shows, a multi-media presentation of Mozambique, lectures,
seminars, and exhibitions of traditional dances and songs by the Companhia
Nacional de Canto e Danca. The Council’s main responsibility was to produce
and distribute information material and to arrange a two-day seminar on
Mozambique, concentrating on South Africa’s destabilisation and military
aggression against Mozambique and how Norway could best support the
country. The Mozambique Manifestation was well attended and received a
great deal of positive attention in the press and through radio and television.
27 Press communiqué by NOCOSA, 21 October 1986.
This laid a solid foundation for starting a campaign in 1988 for support
to Mozambique. The aim of the campaign was to inform the public on conditions
prevailing in the country and to bring pressure to bear on the Norwegian
authorities so that they would allocate Norwegian development aid
funds to be used in the defence of Mozambique. During the February press
conference at which the campaign was presented, the Council’s chairperson,
Reidar Andestad, demanded that the government present a proposition to
Parliament to ensure that additional funds for civil military equipment for
Mozambique, such as communications equipment and trucks, be made
available. This gave rise to a debate in the press, and Arbeiderbladet, Verdens
Gang and Dagbladet, three of the largest national daily newspapers, supported
NOCOSA’s demands in editorials. The Norwegian Agency for
Development Co-operation, NORAD, recommended that support be provided
for passive protective measures at Norwegian development projects where this was
deemed necessary for security.28 This met the Council’s demands only to a limited
degree, and efforts were continued to persuade the Norwegian authorities
to provide direct civil military support.
The promotion of cultural activities and fund-raising on behalf of
Mozambique were two other important tasks associated with the Mozambique
campaign. NOCOSA launched a nation-wide fundraising campaign
jointly with the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance
Fund (SAIH) and invited the Mozambique Radio Orchestra, Marrabenta,
together with dancers, to do a tour of Norway. The previous year’s
successful visit by the Mozambique National Dance Ensemble had demonstrated
that cultural arrangements represent an excellent vehicle for the
mediation of information, and Marrabenta’s countrywide tour was the
highlight of the campaign. Money collected through the fundraising campaign
and resulting from Marrabenta’s tour were used for the provision of
warning equipment (requested by the Mozambique government for a particular
district) so that the population could seek refuge against imminent
attack, as well as for a more long-term school rehabilitation project in
The final years of the 1980s
During the final years of the 1980s and at the commencement of the 1990s,
the Council could view with satisfaction the increased scope of activities
against apartheid. Operation Day’s Work (OD), the Norwegian Schools’ own
annual solidarity campaign, launched their 1988 campaign under the slogan
“Education against Apartheid”. NOK 5 million was collected, and the
money was devoted to the upgrading of schools in Mozambique, education
28 Annual Report, 1988–89.
29 Annual Report, 1988–89.
of SWAPO refugees in Angola, SAIH’s alternative educational programmes
in South African townships, and the continuation of NOCOSA’s teacher
projects in Zimbabwe. The Council was responsible for much of the
preparatory work associated with Operation Day’s Work, and i.a. led OD’s
study tour of the region. A great deal of the work consisted of providing information
material for the schools. OD was immediately succeeded by the
Schools against Apartheid campaign run by the Norwegian Union of School
Employees, one of NOCOSA’s member organisations. This campaign was
carried out jointly with the Norwegian Ministry of Church and Education,
as well as a number of teacher and pupil organisations and NGOs. Once
more the Council provided information material and, not least, speakers. In
connection with the campaign, NOCOSA produced the booklet “Amandla—
South Africa in the 1980s”, which was distributed as class sets to the schools.
A booklet from NOCOSA written by Tore Linné Eriksen; “Den brutale
naboen” (“The brutal neighbour”), which in detail described the involvement
of the South African apartheid regime in regional warfare and destabilisation,
was also used in the lessons at school.
In 1989, Women Together was the motto of the Norwegian television
campaign, and the Council was involved in its promotion. The funds raised
were used i.a. on the construction of a women’s centre in Katutura in
Namibia. In 1990, a similar centre for ANC-women was constructed inside
South Africa.
Upon attaining independence in 1990, Namibia was given the highest
priority by NOCOSA in a similar manner to Zimbabwe when it had
achieved independence ten years earlier. The spreading of information was
of great importance, and a study tour to the country was given wide coverage
by newspapers and magazines. A major hearing on Namibia was
arranged specially for journalists and organisations. A fundraising activity
in connection with SWAPO’s election campaign and the Namibian trade
unions realised NOK 340,000. After the elections, NOCOSA arranged a visit
to Namibia (financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) for a delegation
comprising Young Conservatives, The Norwegian Young Christian
Democrats, The Norwegian Labour Youth, and Socialist Youth League of
Norway. It also participated in an initiative for a similar visit (financed by
NORAD) by a delegation of journalists.
The Council’s co-operation with the labour movement
There was a great deal of sympathy for the struggle against apartheid at all
levels of the labour movement, and its own organisations were involved in
supporting liberation movements and refugees from South Africa and
Namibia. Nevertheless, NOCOSA still felt that the political pressure exerted
by the labour movement was limited. For instance, the labour movement
had not pressed the Norwegian authorities with a key demand to implement
a boycott of South Africa. At the same time, the labour movement provided
an important channel for exercising political influence.
The need for overtures towards the Norwegian labour movement became
especially strong at the beginning of the 1980s. Throughout the 1970s,
relations between NOCOSA and the labour movement had been strained as
the latter’s International Solidarity Committee (AIS) was not only sceptical
towards the ANC, but also refused to recognise its trade union, SACTU.
Among other reasons, this was because SACTU was affiliated to the communist
dominated World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) (see chapter
9). The Council felt the decision by the AIS/The Norwegian Federation of
Trade Unions–LO to be one-sided, with potentially unfortunate consequences.
It thus became increasingly important for the Council to have the
necessary perspective and knowledge as a corrective and counterbalance to
the labour movement’s approach. For its part, LO regarded the Council’s insistence
on LO-recognition of, and financial support to, SACTU as “interference
with LO’s internal affairs”.30
As part of its endeavours to involve the labour movement in joint
efforts, the Council in 1981 invited Andrew Molotsane to inform the Norwegian
labour movement on SACTU’s work. Molotsane’s meetings with the
trade unions were very successful. Everywhere he went interested audiences
received him, and he inspired confidence and sympathy. The meeting between
Molotsane and the Norwegian Graphical Union resulted in the latter
expressing a positive attitude toward both SACTU and the Council, and an
interest in supporting boycott efforts. One proposal was to provide financial
assistance to refugees from Southern Africa by arranging for them to be
trained in graphics. This idea became reality when Aftenposten’s printing
works hosted two youths from SACTU.
In Bergen, a meeting was held with the Bergen Council of Trade Unions,
which wanted to start a local NOCOSA branch. It also desired improved relations
between LO/AIS and the Council, and disagreed with LO’s attitude
towards the Council. Many of the groups with whom Molotsane met expressed
similar sentiments as well as an interest in joining efforts aiming at
the introduction of a boycott. The Council had not expected such a warm response
and felt encouraged to increase its efforts in relation to the labour
In the early 1980s, the Council initiated the preparation of a report on
Norwegian trade with South Africa and the consequences a boycott might
have for Norwegian jobs. As we shall see later, efforts to implement a boycott
had gained momentum through numerous campaigns and demonstrations,
as well as through systematic efforts to prevent Norwegian contacts
30 Vesla Vetlesen: Frihet for Sør-Afrika. LO og kampen mot apartheid. Oslo: Tiden Norsk Forlag,
1998, p. 42.
31 Report on Moletsane’s visit to Norway, 15–23 November 1981.
with South Africa. The report was produced by Norwegian economists at
the Norwegian School of Economic and Business Administration, establishing
NOCOSA as an organisation with more to offer than merely calling for
boycotts. It provided a detailed overview over Norwegian trade with South
Africa, the number of workplaces involved, and what it would cost to
maintain them in the event of a boycott.
In the foreword to the report, which became known as the Bergen
Report, the Council borrowed Julius Nyerere’s words:
Those who invest in South Africa, and those who trade with the country, help
to pay the costs of apartheid. They contribute to the growth of the apartheid
economy while profiting from it themselves. In this process, they themselves
become a corrupt part of apartheid. They are participants in the process, no
matter how far away they live or how free they may be of racial prejudice at
the personal level… Those who are opponents of racism as an ideology and
way of life can make no other honest choice than to isolate the current
government of South Africa.32
The report was presented during the inauguration of the Council’s campaign
“Action against Apartheid” in 1982. To coincide with the campaign, a
report arguing the case of sanctions was prepared by Tore Linné Eriksen.33
The Bergen report was presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as
well as a number of trade unions. Together with the Bergen Council of Trade
Unions, NOCOSA later that year held a labour conference on South Africa,
attended by shop stewards from all the unions. The Bergen report was
presented, and the following statement was adopted and issued by the
The conference holds that a total embargo of oil is the most effective tool in
the struggle against the apartheid regime, and we are alarmed by the fact that
20–25% of South Africa’s import of oil is carried on Norwegian ships. We feel
that Norway can play a pivotal role in this area, and we call on the
Norwegian government to take immediate steps to effect a boycott of oil
transport in accordance with the resolution of the Bergen Council of Trade
Unions at its annual meeting on 25th March this year… In keeping with the
UN resolution which Norway supported, we must take steps toward a total
economic boycott of South Africa… A number of jobs in certain areas of
industry are currently dependent on trade with South Africa. We call on LO
and the government to follow up the resolutions made in the Bergen Report
in order to reduce this dependence.34
32 Ø. Gladsøe, E. Holm, O. Norderhaug, A. Ofstad, H.K. Voldstad: “Norske arbeidsplassers
avhengighet av handelen med Sør-Afrika” (“Norwegian workplaces dependent on trade with
South Africa”), Bergen, March 1982.
33 Tore Linné Eriksen, “Sanksjoner, Sør-Afrika og Norge” (“Sanctions, South Africa and Norway”),
NUPI-memorandum No. 239, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, March 1982.
34 Statement adopted at labour union conference on South Africa, Bergen 27 March 1982.
At this point, NOCOSA’s work in respect to trade unions was making
headway. There was strong motivation to continue the work, and in the following
years this was given priority by the Council. A Trade Union Committee
consisting of representatives and members of a large number of
unions was established in 1983. Ellen Stensrud from the Oslo section of the
Iron and Metal Workers Union chaired the committee, with Gunnar Myrvang
from the Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers as deputy.
The Committee was to involve trade unions in organised and systematic solidarity
activities, and not least, to get trade unions and organisations to
throw their weight behind a call for a boycott of South Africa. It became especially
important to get local clubs and unions to raise the issue of trade
with South Africa with management.
This labour bore fruit. Norsk Kabelfabrikk (producing cables) stopped
its export to South Africa as a result of pressure from the local trade union
club. In a letter to the club, the Council congratulated it on the success of its
efforts and informed members that it was inspiring to those who worked
with these issues on a daily basis to see local branches beginning to raise
such issues.35 The Council encouraged the local branch to exhort colleagues
in the same field to follow its example by exerting pressure within their
companies. In the autumn of 1985, Elkem Aluminium at Lista stopped its
import of South African manganese, and the management admitted that it
had been under heavy pressure from the local branch to do so.
As in Bergen, the labour movement in Tromsø instituted co-operation
with the local branch of the Council and with the United Nations Association
in Norway. Their joint efforts were based on the labour movement’s desire
to lend its weight to anti-apartheid endeavours, as well as to utilise the
resources available in the two organisations.
Since many of the politically influential persons in the labour movement
were sceptical towards the Council’s boycott efforts, much of the involvement
took place at the local level. At local annual meetings, a large number
of resolutions were adopted, calling on LO’s central administration and individual
unions to implement a total boycott of South Africa. In 1985, for instance,
the local Trade Union of Vinmonopolet (the Norwegian state
monopoly selling wine and spirits) adopted the following statement: “The
grass roots must be activated by union and local club involvement, but LO
centrally should retain the main responsibility and be in charge of co-ordination”.
36 The Council wrote to all the trade unions in the country, inviting
them to join. Following this, many unions did become members and every
year small and large contributions came into the Council’s coffers for information
and campaign work.
35 Letter from NOCOSA (Asbjørn Eidhammer) to the Iron & Metal Workers’ local branch at
Norsk Kabelfabrikk, 1 January 1984.
36 Letter from Vinmonopolets Arbeiderforening to NOCOSA, 7 March 1985.
Relations with the LO’s central administration improved. As a result,
LO, the Church of Norway and NOCOSA arranged a joint activity in connection
with the Nobel Peace Prize award to Bishop Desmond Tutu in 1984.
This was the first time the Church of Norway and LO engaged in a joint
event, and the Council’s contacts with both bodies played a significant role
in furthering their co-operation.
In 1985, the following trade unions were represented on the Council’s
trade union committee: the Norwegian Iron and Metal Workers Union, the
Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers, the Norwegian Civil
Service Union, the Norwegian Union of School Employees, the Norwegian
Graphical Union, the Norwegian Union of Railway Workers and the Norwegian
Union of Building Industry Workers, as well as a representative of
the Oslo branch of the Labour Party. Not all of these were appointed by their
trade unions as official representatives, some having agreed to participate at
the request of the Council which was continuously seeking to increase the
breadth of representation and invited the Norwegian Union of Transport
Workers to be represented on the committee. The Norwegian Seamen’s
Union declined a similar invitation.
The Council and the Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers (NKIF)
The Council’s relationship with the Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry
Workers (NKIF) was particularly close. At its annual meeting in 1984, NKIF
passed a resolution in favour of boycotting South Africa and at the same
time granted NOK 50,000 each to ANC and SWAPO. Representatives from
the two liberation organisations were invited to keep NOCOSA informed of
conditions in Southern Africa and to participate at a press conference organised
in co-operation with the Council. Given the fact that major Norwegian
ferro-manganese corporations considered that they were dependent on
manganese imports from South Africa, the annual meeting’s resolution was
sensational: NKIF will together with the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa and LO, strive to find alternatives to the current trade between the
chemical industry in Norway and South Africa.37
It was in particular the chairperson of the union, Arthur Svensson, who
established contacts and made the union’s policy known. In February of
1985, the Council and NKIF arranged a two-day conference on the Norwegian
chemical industry and trade with South Africa. NKIF’s deputy leader,
Olav Støylen, included the following in his opening remarks at the conference:
The union has joined the Council in organising this conference as it is an
organisation enjoying broad support within the Norwegian community, and
37 The Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers (NKIF)/NOCOSA: “Norsk kjemisk industri
og handelen med Sør-Afrika” (“The Norwegian Chemical Industry and the Trade with
South Africa”), report from a conference at Leangkollen, 19–20 February, 1985, p. 3.
because it has managed through its work to make South Africa a more
burning issue for the Norwegian public than it might otherwise have been.38
At the conference the Council also presented a report revealing that Norwegian
trade with South Africa had increased by 37% over the preceding year,
and that it was larger than it had been for many years.
For NKIF, a total boycott of South Africa was a difficult matter because
it would adversely affect many workplaces in Norway’s industrial sector.
NKIF nevertheless wished to tackle the problem head on, and in co-operation
with NOCOSA, called a meeting to examine the scope of the Bergen report
and to examine whether there might be alternative high quality sources
of manganese to replace imports from South Africa. Both shop stewards and
company management involved in export to, or import from, South Africa
attended the seminar, together with a representative from LO. Parliament
had recently passed legislation to reduce trade with South Africa. This led
participants to agree to work together on following up the new bill. The
meeting agreed to promote with renewed vigour a proposal to Norwegian
authorities to create a transitional fund for Norwegian industries and businesses
that might be affected by restrictions on trade with South Africa.
These lobbying efforts were primarily to be directed at the Ministry of Trade
and the Cabinet. NKIF was to approach the aluminium industry, i.e. Årdal
og Sunndal Verk, Elkem and Norsk Hydro, to review the import of manganese
and ferro-manganese, and to approach Norsk Hydro in order to terminate
phosphate imports from South Africa.39
At a conference which shop stewards at the Sunndal section of NKIF,
the Årdalstangen section of NKIF and the Høyanger section of NKIF held,
the stewards demanded that Årdal og Sunndal Verk (ÅSV) should find suppliers
in other countries than South Africa:
ÅSV currently imports large quantities of electrolytic manganese from South
Africa. We request ÅSV to put a stop to this trade. ÅSV must therefore find
suppliers in other countries… If ÅSV does not intensify its efforts, we will
have to consider measures for stopping trade with the racist regime.40
NKIF’s involvement may be surprising, since many jobs would have been
endangered by a full embargo.41 In her book, Frihet for Sør-Afrika. LO og
kampen mot apartheid (Freedom for South Africa. LO (Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions) and the Struggle against Apartheid), Vesla Vetlesen
38 Ibid.
39 Minutes of meeting on chemical industry and trade with South Africa, 17 June 1985.
40 Statement from conference of representatives, Spåtind, 23–26 October 1985.
41 Approximately 4–5,000 Norwegians worked with the manganese imported from South
writes about LO’s co-operation with the Council and suggests that NKIF’s
involvement was not merely a result of idealism:
Nevertheless, the above-mentioned areas of conflict, … did not prevent the development
of an improved climate of co-operation between the Council and
LO/AIS. The Council’s efforts deserved respect, and LO had to take the
organisation seriously. One organisation, NKIF, decided it would be
expedient to appoint a representative to the Council as an insider in order to
exert influence. As Olav Støylen, at the time NKIF deputy leader, argued, “If
you can’t beat them, join them!42
However, Arthur Svensson, who for many years was chairperson of NKIF,
repudiates this: “We became involved first and foremost because of the
ANC and SWAPO, and our participation in the labour union committee had
nothing to do with protecting Norwegian workplaces. Even though more
than 1,000 jobs were in jeopardy, we felt that a boycott was the correct line of
The struggle for sanctions
Boycott of South Africa was an important part of the struggle against
apartheid right from the beginning, when Norwegian Action Against
Apartheid and the Crisis Fund for Southern Africa were established in the
early 1960s. When on behalf of ANC the Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert
Luthuli in 1960 called for a full boycott of South Africa, it became an important
motivation for the anti-apartheid movement. It was nonetheless heavy
going, possibly because the level of public awareness concerning apartheid
was low. The Council’s information campaigns contributed strongly toward
raising such awareness, and, following the Soweto uprising in 1976, it became
easier to gain public support for the Council’s efforts.
It was only at the beginning of the 1980s that efforts in this direction began
to take form. The Council’s boycott committee, established in 1982,
worked on cases referred to it and also raised issues at its own discretion.
There were two avenues of attack: the first of these involved campaigns at
the local level in order to promote grass roots public involvement. A
“boycott package” was put together and mailed to all NOCOSA’s local
branches and to others showing interest. The package contained background
information and practical hints on areas in which the Council felt it possible
to achieve results. A municipal boycott campaign launched in the late 1970s
only really started paying off in the mid-1980s. The other main avenue of
approach was at the highest political level, with special emphasis on efforts
to end exports of oil and weapons to South Africa.
42 Vesla Vetlesen: Frihet for Sør-Afrika. LO og kampen mot apartheid. Oslo: Tiden Norsk Forlag,
1988, see p. 43.
43 Interview with Arthur Svensson, 17 June 1998.
The main argument against boycott as a weapon in the struggle against
the apartheid regime was that it would prove futile if Norway were the only
country to implement the policy. Consequences for South Africa would be
negligible, but for Norwegian industry and jobs they could be severe. Although
the Council was convinced that a boycott would eventually yield results,
an equally important argument was that the liberation movements
themselves had repeatedly called for Norway to boycott South Africa. In the
opinion of the Council the main concern was to support the liberation
movements’ plea for a boycott of the apartheid regime, primarily because
their leaders themselves had faith in boycott as an effective means of forcing
the regime into submission.44 But in Norway, as in the rest of the world,
economic interest was often the weightiest consideration.
In many instances, NOCOSA won through with their pleas for a boycott.
Following an appeal from the Council, the University of Oslo requested
its employees not to participate in scientific and cultural events at which
South Africa was represented. South African participants were barred from
attending numerous conferences, seminars, etc. in Norway. The Norwegian
Mountain Touring Association stopped selling canned goods from South
Africa at its hostels and tourist cabins. The Norwegian Dairies ceased exporting
cheese to South Africa. Two Norwegian banks, (The Norwegian
Bank and Kristiania Bank) had also decided to stop selling Kruger Rands.
Representatives of the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation
(NORAD) no longer travelled via Johannesburg with Scandinavian Airlines
(SAS), and SAS eventually for a variety of reasons discontinued flying to
South Africa. In the autumn of 1986, The Norwegian Union of Postal Workers
joined an international trade union campaign to boycott South Africa
and refused to handle post to South Africa for the remainder of the year.
Other issues were more complex and, despite concerted efforts on the
part of NOCOSA, were less successful. This was especially true of deliveries
of oil and petroleum products by Norwegian tankers to South Africa (see
chapter 5). The Council was unsuccessful in stopping the sale of SWAKARA
furs from Namibia, which even the Norwegian Red Cross used as prizes in
its lotteries. The Norwegian Red Cross was unwilling to discuss the issue.
The local Oslo NOCOSA branch ran a campaign against all the shops in
Oslo which sold SWAKARA furs. Activists handed out pamphlets and informed
the public that the shops were selling stolen goods (on the strength
of UN Decree No. 1, which decrees that it is illegal to remove or participate
in the removal of natural resources from Namibia). The police, however, interrupted
the peaceful information campaign and arrested eight of the
44 See Tore Linné Eriksen, “Sanctions, South Africa and Norway”, Norwegian Institute of International
Affairs, 1982.
In January 1986, the Norwegian government introduced a “sanctions
package” aimed against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Licenses were
now mandatory for all trade with South Africa, and all Norwegian transportation
of oil to South Africa was to be registered. It had originally been
proposed that vessels transporting oil to South Africa would be identified by
name but the government later backed away from this provision.45 The
Council was not satisfied with these measures and felt that the government
had bowed its knee to shipping interests despite the fact that the Norwegian
public, through its support of municipal boycotts, had clearly indicated that
it was ready for a total embargo of the apartheid state.
In October 1986, NOCOSA brought to light the fact that the Labour
Party government had, in contravention of the above-mentioned UN decree,
granted Norsk Hydro a license to continue the export of explosives to
Namibia. The explosives were used for extraction of uranium. Moreover, the
license was granted after the Norwegian parliament imposed restrictions on
trade with Namibia and had introduced license requirements. This case
became a serious embarrassment to the Brundtland government. Reidar
Andestad, then chairperson of the Council, told the press that it was a political
scandal and a crass example of the gap between Norwegian rhetoric and
practice in relation to South Africa. A seriously aggravating consideration
was that it was widely assumed that Namibian uranium was being used in
the manufacture of nuclear weapons in South Africa. Minister of Trade, Kurt
Mosbakk, regretted the sale, but claimed in an interview with the left-wing
newspaper Klassekampen that there was no legal basis for denying Norsk
Hydro a license for this trade. Nevertheless, this incident led to hectic meetings
in the Ministry and the sale immediately fell through, the management
of Norsk Hydro having at their own discretion decided to discontinue deliveries.
Herøya Trade Union (a local branch) had already declared that it
would under no circumstances continue to load calcium nitrate onto ships
bound for Namibia.
In addition to all the efforts aimed directly at those involved in Norwegian
trade or co-operation with South Africa and at putting pressure on
Norwegian authorities, much of the Council’s activity took the form of
organising demonstrations. Many of these were staged in connection with
demands for a total embargo of South Africa, and NOCOSA could not complain
about the level of participation. On 11 October 1985, the UN-declared
Day of Solidarity with political prisoners in South Africa, events were staged
all over Norway, with town-square meetings and torchlight parades in
many of the largest cities. Norwegian transport of oil was the focus of attention.
In Oslo alone there were over 1,600 demonstrators. Jostein Nesvåg, the
pastor of Bøler Lutheran parish, and Frene Ginwala of the ANC, both made
public appeals.
45 See chapter 5.
On 13 June 1986, while the Norwegian parliament was considering new
boycott measures, a joint demonstration was arranged by NOCOSA, the
Oslo Council of Trade Unions, The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’
International Assistance Fund, the Council on Ecumenical and International
Relations, calling for a total boycott of South Africa. Two thousand demonstrators
shouted “Full boycott of South Africa NOW” so loudly outside Parliament
that several MPs went to the windows to see what was going on. A
few days later, on 16 June, a number of events were planned to commemorate
the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising. Pioneer Mogale of the
ANC addressed the gathering in Oslo and called upon the authorities to
stop oil and petroleum trade with South Africa, because “This oil lubricates
the weapons that kill in South Africa”. He had himself been a part of the
Soweto uprising in which a lot of youths were killed. Memorial meetings
and demonstrations were held all over Norway to commemorate the day.
The Norwegian Students Christian Movement, the Norwegian Youth Council
and NOCOSA arranged a spontaneous vigil in Stavanger Cathedral, with
prayers, hymns and information about the situation in South Africa. This
was the first time a vigil was spontaneously arranged in a cathedral on the
basis of a political situation.
The consumer boycott
The UN sanctions resolution, which was passed in the early 1960s, was primarily
aimed at sports events and the arms trade with the apartheid regime.
The consumer boycott was initiated by the Norwegian labour movement
and political youth parties, which got their own boycott campaigns going in
the early 1960s (see chapters 1 and 8). From the mid-1970s, a number of boycott
campaigns against shops selling South African products were organised,
primary targets being Del Monte canned food and Cape grapes. The
Council produced a list of all South African trademarks being imported and
sold, and local branches contacted wholesalers and shops and held frequent
demonstrations protesting against shops selling such “forbidden fruit”. The
Socialist Youth League of Norway, student groups and other local activist
organisations also arranged regular protests.
It was not until January 1986 that the Norwegian parliament passed
legislation requiring licenses for all trade with South Africa. At that point,
only a few shops still carried South African products and some factories and
shops, which had imported cheap fruit, were stuck with large surplus
stocks. The Heistad factories in Telemark, for instance, were stuck with
20,000 cans of fruit when the ban on imports was imposed. In order to dispose
of the fruit, the county administration offered to buy the entire stock
for NOK 60,000, provided that a third of the money was donated direct to
the liberation struggle in South Africa. The basis for the agreement was
Heistad’s desire to deal with the fruit in a morally acceptable way. Because
of this, the Administrator of Telemark County, the factory manager and
NOCOSA signed a contract. The fruit was distributed and served as dessert
at the more than 30 retirement homes and other institutions in the county.
The municipal boycott
Although a number of contacts between Norway and South Africa were
severed as results of the Council’s boycott efforts, it proved impossible, at
least for a long period, to achieve unified policies at the national level. Thus
towards the end of the 1970s, the idea of a municipal boycott emerged. In
1977, Målselv Municipality in Troms began boycotting South African products,
setting an example to the rest of the country. There were at that time a
number of “nuclear free zones” around the country, and it is possible that
municipal boycotts of South Africa took their inspiration from this concept.
The idea was to encourage involvement at the local level, thereby generating
public opinion, which would force the government and parliament
to take action. The scope of the campaign was extensive—and labour-intensive!
In May of 1978, the Council sent a letter to all the municipal councils in
Norway calling on the business community and the citizenry not to purchase
South African products:
On behalf of the African people, we hope for a favourable and timely
response from the municipal council, and that Norway might set an example
for the rest of the Western world as the first country to adopt a boycott of
South African products. This may become a concrete symbol of the
Norwegian people’s solidarity with the oppressed black majority in South
The petition was supported by prominent politicians from most of the leading
Norwegian parties. The chairman of the Norwegian Confederation of
Trade Unions (LO) was asked to sign it, but brusquely refused the request.
To cite LO’s reply: “In connection with the above-mentioned petition we
would again like to remind you that LO runs its own solidarity efforts
through the International Solidarity Committee, AIS. LO has no intention of
changing this practice”.47
The Council hoped that the municipal campaign would reinvigorate the
debate concerning trade with the apartheid regime. Norwegian trade with
South Africa increased in 1978 despite the anti-apartheid year of 1977. Many
local councils were quick to follow up NOCOSA’s request by approving
boycott measures. Others felt that it was not up to municipalities to become
involved in foreign policy issues and decided “on principle” not to deal with
the issue. By July of the same year (1979), 39 (out of 454) municipalities had
voted to follow the Council’s request.
46 Letter from NOCOSA to the county’s local administrations, 9 May 1979.
47 Letter from LO signed by Thor Andreassen and Kaare Sandegren, 3 April 1978.
In 1985, after some years with little activity in the area of municipal boycotts,
the Council made renewed concerted efforts to involve the municipalities,
which until then had not passed any resolution on a boycott of South
Africa. Once more all the municipalities were contacted, and by 1986 nearly
80% of Norway’s municipalities had approved anti-apartheid boycotts. In
October 1985, Telemark became the first county in which every municipality
had introduced boycotts against South Africa. In all, ten county councils (out
of twenty) passed resolutions supporting the boycott. Public interest had by
now reached a higher pitch of intensity, and the most recent boycott campaign
put South Africa on the agenda in numerous circles and sparked
debate in the local media.48
Oslo was one of the municipalities that by 1979 had petitioned the
administration to adopt boycott measures against South Africa. In 1985, Oslo
Municipality followed up their boycott policy by proposing a number of
new measures. One such measure was to chart producers, exporters and
transports of Norwegian products to South Africa, as well as to boycott
artists and performers who had appeared in South Africa and consequently
appeared on the UN “black”-list.
The exertions on the part of NOCOSA in addition to the multitude of
activities initiated by local branches throughout Norway contributed to
heightening the population’s awareness and deepening its concern for these
issues. At the same time, the Council made strenuous efforts to get the government
to adopt a total trade embargo of South Africa and to introduce
boycott legislation. For many a long year the municipalities were well ahead
of the government in this respect.
The culture and sports boycott
The Council entreated the Norwegian Confederation of Sports and the
Norwegian Gymnastics Federation not to participate in a gymnastics event
in South Africa in 1970. This was one of the first boycott incidents since the
Madserud demonstrations in 1964 to attract public attention. No Norwegian
athlete had competed in South Africa for a long time. The Council now
called on sports organisations to take steps to have South Africa excluded
from the International Gymnastics Federation. Athletes, team managers, individuals
and youth organisations supported the campaign, but this was not
enough to keep the Norwegian gymnasts at home. The campaign obtained
broad coverage both in the newspapers and on television, thus providing a
welcome opportunity for the Council to draw the public’s attention to conditions
in South Africa. It was also hoped that this and similar campaigns in
48 This strategy for creating debate was welcomed by many local politicians who were concerned
with international issues but without any possibility of discussing foreign affairs with
local administrations. A form of alliance between solidarity movements and local politicians
thus came into being.
other countries might lead the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and
other sports organisers to exclude South Africa from all international sports
The IOC had for many years attracted attention because of its dithering
approach to South African participation in the Olympic Games. In 1968 it
was decided that South Africa would be permitted to participate in the
Summer Games in Mexico City because the apartheid regime had agreed to
send a mixed team. The Olympic Committee voting procedures allow for
secret ballots, and the Norwegian representative on the committee, Jan
Staubo, did not disclose how he had voted, but he never repudiated the
assumption that he had voted in favour of South African participation. The
Council felt that it was in any event “quite incredibly hypocritical” of Staubo
to say that the IOC’s decision was a victory for black athletes in South
In 1981, NOCOSA vehemently protested a South African scout group’s
participation at the Norwegian Guide and Scout Association’s jamboree held
in Norway. This was in clear violation of the UN call for a cultural boycott of
South Africa, especially since the South African scouting movement operated
within the apartheid system and the leaders had shown no involvement
in relation to apartheid politics. The Council stated in a press release that if
the South African flag were flown at the scout camp, it would be a disgrace
to the Norwegian scouting movement. The Council sent a letter to the
Norwegian Guide and Scout Association informing it about South Africa’s
apartheid policy and calling on it to exclude South Africa from the
international scouting movement.
In 1984, the Council requested the Norwegian Musicians’ Union to promote
an artistic boycott of South Africa. The issue was of current interest as
a Norwegian pianist had recently performed in that country. At the very
least, the Council called on the Musicians’ Union to inform its members on
apartheid issues and to encourage them not to visit South Africa.51 The
Union, which was not in a position to make a decision before its annual
meeting in 1986, agreed that it was important to keep members informed
and requested information material from the Council. The Musicians’ Union
raised the issue with the Norwegian Artists’ Council, an umbrella organisation
for all Norwegian artists associations, which requested each of its member
organisations to deal with the issue.52
Little by little the Council’s boycott efforts paid off. In the autumn of
1985, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra reported that musicians who per-
49 Activity Report from the board for the period 16 June 1969–9 November 1970.
50 Lars Borge-Andersen: “Today we continue speaking about South Africa and IOC”, from a
debate 1 March 1968.
51 Letter from NOCOSA to Norsk Musikerforbund, 16 October 1984.
52 Letter from Norsk Musikerforbund to NOCOSA, 22 October 1984.
formed in South Africa would no longer be allowed to stand on their
stage.53 The television-division of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
(NRK) decided to boycott South Africa in compliance with UN guidelines,
while NRK’s radio division decided to leave the decision up to individual
radio journalists. All local radio stations in Oslo decided to heed the Council’s
request to boycott artists who had performed in South Africa. In situations
where there was ambiguity concerning a guest’s relationship to South
Africa, NOCOSA was consulted.
Two incidents in particular threw the spotlight on the Norwegian culture
and sports boycott. The first was the South African runner Zola Budd’s
invitation to participate in an important Oslo road-race in 1984. The following
year it was the invitation to two British singers, Cliff Richard and Shirley
Bassey, to perform at the Momarkedet summer concert, an annual televised
event arranged by the Norwegian Red Cross. The latter were on the UN list
of artists who had performed in South Africa, thereby violating the cultural
boycott of that country.
Zola Budd had in 1984 assumed British citizenship in order to make it
possible for her to participate in the Olympic Games that year. However,
South African newspapers still spoke of her as a representative of their
country, and the Council felt she was being exploited in South African propaganda
tactics. The South African Minister of the Interior confirmed that
she still held a South African passport in addition to her British one.54 When
NOCOSA first heard about the situation, Zola Budd was relatively unknown
and the Council felt that it was unlikely that protests would be staged. The
Oslo race-committee interpreted this to mean that the Council welcomed her
to Norway. When this was publicised in the Norwegian media and also in
Britain, the Council felt compelled to make it clear that Zola Budd was
unwelcome unless and until she denounced apartheid and renounced her
association with her native country’s apartheid policy. On the day of the
race, a flock of journalists turned up as did a large number of protesters
armed with banners, one Council representative following Budd across the
finishing line sporting a large poster with the accusation “Zola Budd—
There’s no running away from apartheid”. This incident generated wide
newspaper coverage and the picture of Zola Budd and the poster-bearer
appeared in print all over the world.
Some of the Council’s leaders asked themselves in retrospect to what extent
Zola Budd could be held responsible for government policy of her
country. She had become a means of attracting attention to the situation in
South Africa, but was also a victim of political tactics. It had been the first
boycott protest to gain such prominence in media coverage in a long time,
53 Nationen, 12 October 1985.
54 Press release by NOCOSA, 2 May 1984.
and the Council’s gain was that the UN’s cultural boycott of South Africa
had become well publicised.
Zola Budd may have been a victim, but one could hardly say the same
about Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey and the fuss surrounding their performance
at the Norwegian Red Cross concert. Artists who had performed
in South Africa had themselves decided to do so, and it would be a conscious
decision with known consequences. When the Council learned that
the two artists would in August 1985 be performing at the concert, it immediately
informed the organisers that the performers were on the UN blacklist
and that they had not expressed any regrets regarding their visits to South
The Council nevertheless agreed not to stage protests against these concerts,
primarily because the UN boycott list was not sufficiently well known,
and because the organiser was a humanitarian organisation.55 Arne Skouen
of the daily Dagbladet telephoned the Council and reprimanded it for not
protesting against the concerts. In his column “Plain talk”, he wrote that the
Council had failed in its duties as watchdog. A protest was nevertheless
staged at Momarkedet when a group of demonstrators from the Socialist
Youth League appeared to protest at the holding of the concert. The organisers
had hired military police to stand guard at the concert, and fierce altercations
arose between the demonstrators and the soldiers. Joakim Winters,
then chairman of NOCOSA, strongly criticised the Defence Ministry in a
press release. He claimed that it had allowed soldiers to intervene in a civilian
Nothing like this has happened in Norway since Prime Minister Kolstad and
Minister of Defence Quisling sent in soldiers in the battle of Menstad in
It is especially shocking that the military are employed against people who
are demonstrating against, among other things, the use of soldiers against
civilians in the racist nation of South Africa. This is no less than a national
The Council demanded an immediate and unreserved apology from Prime
Minister Kåre Willoch. These statements were perhaps crass and somewhat
ill considered, but in situations like these there is little time for reflection,
and the situation was serious enough. The press showed tremendous interest
in the issue and ran several stories while Winters was interviewed on
television. There was no response from Willoch and the Council had to be
55 Press releases by NOCOSA, 18 June 1985 and 23 August 1985.
56 The Battle of Menstad was the result of one of the largest labour conflicts in Norwegian history.
After workers at Norsk Hydro had been on strike for six months, the authorities sent in
the police to end the strike. The police were chased away, however, and soldiers were then sent
into action against the strikers.
57 Press release by NOCOSA, 25 August 1985.
satisfied with a statement from the Ministry of Defence, which could be
interpreted as an apology.58
What was sensational about this incident was that NRK, which every
year broadcasts this concert live, decided to boycott it. Swedish television
was also supposed to have broadcast the concert but decided to follow suit.
Norwegian transport of oil to South Africa
One of the Council’s most important areas of interest, moreover calling for
substantial resources, was to prevent Norwegian shipping from transporting
oil to South Africa. The Council repeatedly called for Norwegian legislation
against such transport to the apartheid regime. Press releases were sent out
untiringly and endless press conferences were held. Occasionally the Council
only learned of oil deliveries by reading the newspapers, but more frequently
it was the Council that informed the press. This gradually became
popular media material and led to major stories in all the country’s newspapers.
Co-operation with the Dutch organisation, Shipping Research Bureau
(SRB), which was established in 1979, was of great importance. SRB kept
track of all shipments of oil to South Africa and its reports clearly demonstrated
that Norway was responsible for the major share of oil deliveries
to the apartheid regime. There was extensive exchange of information between
SRB and NOCOSA, Øystein Gudim being an indefatigable anchorman
in this tug-of-war between NOCOSA and the shipping companies.59 A
joint NOCOSA-SRB report published in 1982 received a great deal of media
coverage, both at home and abroad.
In 1982, the Council had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, Eivinn Berg of the Conservative Party, to discuss Norwegian
trade with and transport of oil to South Africa. The Council referred to SRB’s
report and demanded legislation to prohibit the continuation of this activity.
The Council also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to consider the proposals
contained in the report for the reduction of trade with South Africa,
and to write to companies trading with that country, informing them of
Norwegian policies relating to such trade. During the meeting with Mr.
Berg, the Council further requested that Norway play a more active role in
the planning of an international conference on the shipment of oil to South
Africa, and that Norway initiate the establishment of a group of experts to
work on preparations for the conference.
At the meeting, Eivinn Berg rejected a unilateral boycott out of hand,
whether in the area of trade or the shipment of oil. The reason for this refusal
was the argument that a unilateral Norwegian boycott would have
58 Interview with Joakim Winters, 27 April 1998.
59 See chapter 5 and Øystein Gudim: “A defeat for the shipping lobby? The Norwegian experience”,
in R. Hengevold/J. Rodenburg: Embargo. Apartheid´s Oil Secrets Revealed. Amsterdam:
Amsterdam University Press, 1996.
minimal effect on South Africa but have potentially serious consequences for
Norwegian companies. The government saw no reason for intervening in
Norwegian transport of oil to South Africa so long as there was no binding
resolution by the UN Security Council to that effect. His position was that if
Norway implemented such a decision on its own, Norwegian transport
would be taken over by other shipping companies, with consequently unacceptable
financial losses in an already difficult market. For the same reason,
Norway wanted the focus at the UN conference to be on export, not the
transport, of oil. However, Berg said that a law against Norwegian oil transports
might be possible provided the political will was there, but felt that
this was not the case at that time.60
During the international hearing on South Africa’s military action
against neighbouring countries (held in Oslo in March of 1984), the Shipping
Research Bureau (SRB) not only documented that Norwegian oil transports
were continuing, but also presented evidence that Norwegian North Sea oil
had found its way to South Africa. Almost all the political groups represented
at the conference condemned this state of affairs so that the government
had to promise to increase its efforts to ensure that Norwegian oil did
not benefit the apartheid regime.
The potential economic consequences of a boycott could be serious for
shipping companies, and they therefore tried to keep their oil deliveries
literally under cover by covering the name painted on the ship’s side and
lowering the flag upon entering harbour, common practices in attempts to
prevent the vessels from being identified. In addition, ships made arrangements
with harbour authorities to use code- and not ship-names. Also ship
radios were kept as silent as possible on entering South African harbours.
In 1986, the Shipping Research Bureau (SRB) presented a new report
disclosing that Norwegian ships and owner interests were involved in 51 of
83 oil shipments to South Africa. This demonstrated that parliament’s call
for Norwegian shipping companies to voluntarily boycott South Africa had
had no effect. In an interview with the daily newspaper Arbeiderbladet, the
head of LO’s international division, Kaare Sandegren, declared the numbers
to be shocking. The Council remarked that the SRB figures revealed that
Norwegian shipping companies were the leading transporters of oil to South
Africa. At a press conference, NOCOSA’s chairperson, Reidar Andestad,
said: “Norway’s South Africa policy will remain a bluff until the government
introduces a law prohibiting transport of oil on Norwegian keels”.61
In order to demonstrate that the Norwegian public was opposed to
Norway’s role as supplier of oil to the apartheid regime, the Council initiated
a postcard campaign. This formed part of Campaign Against Apartheid–
60 NOCOSA’s record of a meeting with Eivinn Berg at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22
September 1982.
61 Nytt fra Norge (News from Norway), 22 September 1986.
86, and letters were sent to all NOCOSA’s member organisations, local
branches and individual members, to mobilise them in the collection of signatures.
The postcards had the inscription: “Contribute to making this a
good year for more people: Prohibit Norwegian oil transport to South
Africa”, and were to be addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.62
In June 1986, a UN oil boycott conference was held in Oslo, and another
conference on South Africa was held in Paris later that summer, providing
unique opportunities for Norway to take a leading role on the boycott issue.
“When Norway argues that a total embargo of South Africa would cost too
much, it gives countries with even closer economic ties with that country an
even better excuse. There is no excuse for supporting the apartheid regime
in Pretoria. What are we waiting for?” asked Reidar Andestad, chairperson
of the Council, at a press conference in Oslo in June of 1986, the day before
the above-mentioned oil embargo conference in Oslo. He praised the Norwegian
Union of Railway Workers which, along with the Union of Transport
Workers, had voted to boycott South African shipments. “The next step
must be for the Norwegian authorities to demand that oil companies seeking
concessions for exploration or operation in the North Sea, cut out their
activities in South Africa in order to continue their activities in Norway”,
said Andestad.63
Sanctions legislation
NOCOSA’s painstaking boycott efforts contributed towards the organisation
gaining a stamp of quality. The Council’s constant pressure on the authorities
through boycott activities, the municipal boycott and co-operation with
Members of Parliament, trade union representatives, church members and
others, was undoubtedly one of the contributing factors in the government’s
decision to propose boycott legislation in late 1986 (see chapter 5). It is also
important to see this work as forming part of international co-operation in
which impulses and ideas from an international anti-apartheid movement,
and especially Britain, the Netherlands and the USA, were followed up in
Norway. Pressure created by the international boycott became more and
more noticeable in South Africa. The oil embargo made it increasingly expensive
for the apartheid regime to procure this important commodity. At
the same time, a bank and finance boycott threatened the regime’s renewal
of loans. The culture and sports boycott struck individuals especially hard,
particularly as this was the boycott that was most consistently enforced.
Another four years passed following the Council’s meeting with Secretary
of State for Foreign Affairs (Eivinn Berg) before Norway, with Knut
Frydenlund (Labour) as Minister of Foreign Affairs, mended its ways in re-
62 Press release, NOCOSA, 11 February 1986.
63 Press release by NOCOSA, 3 June 1986.
spect of the boycott issue.64 At that time, Denmark had introduced a trade
boycott and legislation against tankers delivering oil to South Africa. At a
UN conference on economic sanctions in Paris during the summer of 1986,
Frydenlund stated that the government had previously regarded a unilateral
boycott as pointless because it would not have had any effect. Now, however,
the government was willing to put into effect binding sanctions against
South Africa, irrespective of how few other countries were prepared to do
the same. “Because one country sets an example for others”, he explained.
NOCOSA’s head of the boycott committee, Øystein Gudim, rebuked Norway
in no uncertain manner for its double standards when in a later speech
he had to apologise on behalf of Norway for supporting the apartheid
regime in a number of ways:
Although Norway conducts a better policy than many other Western
countries do … Norway must be judged not only by what it says, but also
what it does. This is especially true of the transport of oil to South Africa …
Approximately one third of South Africa’s oil imports are transported on
Norwegian owned tank ships. This has been the case for more than seven
years. Norwegian shipping companies earn blood money by transporting oil
to the war machine in South Africa and Namibia.65
In the boycott legislation enacted in February of 1987, a full year after the
majority of Members of Parliament had indicated they were in favour,
transport of unrefined oil remained the weak link (see chapter 5). At the
same time, the boycott law provided dispensations for Norwegian companies
importing manganese ore and other minerals. Such loopholes in the law
provoked the Council into making a number of statements and into taking
fresh initiatives. A “doughnut campaign” was staged outside the Parliament
to symbolically illustrate the Council’s views on legislation, which was full
of holes.
The import of manganese ore represented another major problem for the
Norwegian boycott of South Africa. Norway was the world’s largest producer
of manganese alloys for the global steel industry, and South Africa
provided 40%–50% of the manganese ore imported by Norway. This manganese
was especially important because of its low phosphate content, and it
was feared that a Norwegian boycott would instantly affect the entire production
at Elkem in Sauda and Elkem in Porsgrunn. The Council felt that it
was time to reorganise production and that government funds should be
made available for this purpose in order to minimise the detrimental effects
of the boycott. To the Council’s undisguised dismay, the ferro-alloy industry
was given dispensations from the boycott year after year. And as if that was
64 It would perhaps not be correct to say that the government mended its ways. The boycott legislation
was initiated by the Conservative/Centre coalition which was in power from 1983 to
1986, but adopted by the Labour government in 1987.
65 Klassekampen, 19 June 1986.
not enough, the companies used their dispensation to purchase and build up
large surplus stocks in anticipation of possible tightening of such regulations.
Imports increased rapidly immediately after the Act had been passed.
In 1988, imports from South Africa more than doubled in relation to the preceding
The Council repeatedly reported violations of boycott legislation to the
police, but almost all such cases were rapidly laid aside, either because of
the inadequate nature of the evidence or as a result of lack of policing
The Shell Boycott
Besides exposing Norwegian transport of oil to South Africa, the Council’s
work in connection with a boycott directed at the Shell Oil Company was
the issue that attracted most attention and demanded the hardest work and
level of involvement from NOCOSA. In 1986, a united international antiapartheid
movement made the international Shell Company its main target
for boycott activities. This was a determining factor for the Council’s decision
to implement a boycott of Shell in Norway. Protests had been staged in
several Western countries: Great Britain, the USA, Sweden, Australia and
the Netherlands. The reason for selecting Shell as a main target was that the
company delivered much of South Africa’s oil and was the largest investor
in a number of South African industries, including mining and chemicals.
While other companies were disinvesting and pulling out of South Africa,
Shell continued to increase its investments.
The boycott was a twin-stage affair in which NOCOSA first approached
municipalities, large companies and institutions to ask them to boycott Shell.
The intention was to strike against Norwegian Shell and not against individual
filling station owners who were distributors for Shell. At that time,
almost 80% of Norway’s municipalities were supporting the Shell boycott,
and there was reason to hope that it would be effective. Should this persuade
Shell to terminate its involvement in South Africa, it was probable
that it might induce other companies to follow suit.
At first, the Council limited the boycott to nine companies wholly
owned by Shell. Local Shell distributors in privately owned petrol stations
were merely requested to display a poster showing that they had dissociated
themselves from Shell’s investments in South Africa and to send a letter to
Shell International protesting against Shell’s activities in the country. Should
these measures not have the desired effect, a more comprehensive consumer
boycott would be started. In the course of 1988, Shell lost 1.7% of its national
market share in Norway, while in the northern part of Norway, the decrease
was up to 3.3%. In an article in the magazine for the motor industry Motor260
bransjen, a Shell representative said that Shell’s involvement in South Africa
was a negative factor for the company.66
An important aspect of the boycott was to make repeated requests to
Shell in Norway to pressure the parent company to withdraw from South
Africa. Shell Norway invited NOCOSA to a meeting at which it tried to persuade
the Council to call off its boycott. Neither party was willing to budge:
Shell in Norway would not take any initiative by way of asking Shell International
to pull out of South Africa, and the Council vowed to continue its
There were mixed reactions to the Shell boycott with some name-calling.
The Norwegian Shell immediately reacted by dubbing the campaign political
terrorism.68 The Norwegian Association of Motor Car Dealers and
Service Organisations called it a harassment campaign. Petrol distributors
themselves felt that the campaign was unfair and incomprehensible. But
many of the privately owned petrol stations that distributed Shell products
followed NOCOSA’s request and asked Shell to pull out of South Africa. By
the end of 1986, 475 of almost 500 petrol stations had protested against
Shell’s involvement in the apartheid state and committed themselves to displaying
posters at filling stations to this effect. Roughly 25 filling stations
wholly owned by Shell were, however, subject to boycotts and demonstrations.
The Council requested municipalities to go a step beyond the municipal
boycott already in effect by approving a boycott of Shell products. Several
municipalities approved such actions, including the city of Oslo, which was
a large consumer of Shell’s furnace oil.
When the City Recorder (“Namsretten”) in Oslo during the autumn of
1987 judged the boycott of Shell to be illegal unless all petroleum companies
in the same situation were treated equally, the Council expanded its boycott
to include BP, Total, Mobil, Chevron and Texaco. Nevertheless Shell retained
top priority. The municipality of Oslo among several others followed
up with a general boycott of all companies involved in South Africa. They
acquired their information from the Council.
As sponsor, Shell was involved in many sectors and the boycott therefore
affected more people than those who merely bought or sold Shell products.
Many sports teams had to turn down sponsorship agreements with
Shell besides having problems with other oil companies which the NOCOSA
encouraged them to boycott. At the University of Tromsø, students had long
had to put up with poor housing conditions, and in the autumn of 1987 the
oil company Total offered to donate NOK 5 million towards new student
accommodation. At a meeting of the student body, a large majority voted
66 Motorbransjen, No. 3 1989.
67 NOCOSA press release, 24 November 1986.
68 Norges Handels og Sjøfartstidende, 12 November 1986.
against receiving what they referred to as “blood money” from Total. The oil
company had 700 petrol stations in South Africa and had been singled out as
the prime target of a French boycott campaign. It was a very tough decision
indeed for students who would have to sacrifice sorely needed housing.69
Shortly after the refusal to accept money from Total, the University of
Tromsø became the centre of another red-hot issue; this time it was Shell
that wanted to finance a project involving medical research under Arctic
conditions. However, the University did not want to be associated with
Shell, especially after the controversy involving Total and the students at the
same University.70
The Shell boycott was followed up by the Council’s special committee,
Artists Against Apartheid, which asked all artists organisations in Norway
to encourage their members to turn down financial support from Shell, as
well as to refuse to enter into agreements with institutions receiving financial
support from that company. The Harstad Music Festival followed this
up by withdrawing from a sponsorship agreement with Shell.
Publicity surrounding the Shell boycott and the Council reached new
heights towards the end of 1988 and at the beginning of 1989. This was evident
from NOCOSA’s news-clippings-file of articles in which it featured. In
1987, the Council scored 767 press mentions, and the following year this
number had increased to over 1,300. Shell felt pressured to respond to the
bad publicity resulting from the boycott, and countered this through advertising
campaigns costing millions of Norwegian kroner.
Most turbulence surrounded the Norwegian Football Association’s negotiations
with Norske Shell concerning a multimillion (Norwegian kroner)
contract, which would make Norway’s premier division central to Shell’s
marketing strategy. The Council immediately requested a meeting with the
Football Association to inform them of the background to the Shell boycott.
Eivind Arnevåg, captain of Vålerenga, one of Norway’s most popular football
teams, and also a member of the Council, warned that he would not
play in the premier division if Shell were to become a major sponsor, and the
Norwegian Football Association decided to cancel its contract with Shell. In
the wake of this incident, discussion arose concerning other cultural and
sports organisations sponsored by Shell. The Council participated in a number
of panel debates and gave lectures at the request of organisations and
trade unions. The leader of the South African National Union of Mineworkers,
Cyril Ramaphosa, contributed to the boycott campaign by visiting
Oslo. During press conferences and on television news, he denounced
Shell’s activities in South Africa, particularly in the mining sector. He reported
i.a. that in mines of which Shell was a joint owner, security guards
69 Finnmarken, 19 November 1987 and NTB, 20 November 1987.
70 Nordlys, 1 December 1987.
shot at strikers, and that workers were dismissed for joining the trade
Relations with Norwegian authorities, particularly the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, were somewhat touchy for a while. The Shell boycott and
demonstrations against the establishment of a South African consulate in
Oslo were contributing factors. At a meeting with the Council, Knut Vollebæk,
who at the time dealt with matters affecting NOCOSA at the Ministry,
begged the Council to show more understanding and to be team players
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sjurd Tveit, NOCOSA’s chairperson at
the time, replied that they were indeed on the same team, but that the Council
was a striker while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the defence
The consular issue
The establishment of a South African consulate in Norway in 1988 gave rise
to a great deal of activity and public debate. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
explained to NOCOSA the importance of the Norwegian consulate in South
Africa as it was being used to channel funds to the organisations involved in
the struggle against apartheid, and that there was a risk of it being closed if
Norway refused to allow a reciprocal South African consulate to be established
in Norway. While the Council had some sympathy for this position, it
was committed to severing all ties with South Africa and could make no exception
in this case. The issue had great symbolic value and the Council
protested the establishment of the consulate and recommended that the
South African Consul, Wilhelm Bosman, be isolated. As a result, a number
of demonstrations and protests were organised.
At first Bosman had great difficulties in renting suitable premises for the
consulate. The Council had written to all of Oslo’s real-estate agents requesting
them not to assist Bosman with finding a home or offices. All the same,
Bosman obtained a lease in Bærum after an individual homeowner contacted
Bosman to offer him his villa.
From his very first night at the SAS hotel in Oslo, everywhere Bosman
went demonstrators were sure to go. In October and continuing well into the
onset of winter in December, the Council initiated a “demonstration relay”
in front of the consul’s house in the Oslo suburb of Jar. Every day, a different
member organisation of the Council marked its protest against his presence
in Norway. The demonstrations were legal, but activists from Blitz (a controversial
sub-culture of youth living on the margins of society) sometimes
took over with rather more forceful demonstrations against the South
African consul, leading to violent clashes with the police. After a number of
such confrontations, Bosman’s neighbours insisted on the consulate being
71 Letter from NOCOSA’s Runar Malkenes to Knut Vollebæk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
10 January 1989.
moved. The relay concluded with a demonstration in the centre of Oslo with
approximately 700 participants.
NOCOSA further highlighted the boycott by consistently refusing all
requests to participate on panels and in meetings attended by the South
African consul. Amnesty International in Norway, however, chose to seek
Bosman out and have a direct confrontation with him concerning the Consulate’s
views on the apartheid regime. According to the Council, this tactic
was a blind alley. “Bosman will not allow himself to be influenced. He is a
representative of the worst regime in the world and must be isolated”,72 said
Jørn Riise to Arbeiderbladet. During his meeting with Amnesty, Bosman had
stated that claims of racial discrimination, torture and abuse were mere propaganda.
In connection with the campaign Schools Against Apartheid in 1989,
Wilhelm Bosman wrote a booklet about South Africa which he sent to all the
upper secondary schools in Norway. The packages had no return address
and the book identified neither author nor publisher. The only identifying
feature was Oscars gate 15, Bosman’s home address. The book was considered
a whitewash portraying South African authorities in a favourable light,
which Bosman tried to sneak into the schools. This incident attracted a lot of
attention, especially because Bosman’s foreword characterised the book as a
contribution to the campaign supported by the Ministry of Church and Education,
NOCOSA, and several teachers’ unions.73
When Bosman was to return to South Africa on 25 November 1992, he
held a farewell party at the South African consulate. As a memorial to all the
victims of apartheid, the Council had every day since All Saints day on 1
November laid wreaths, flowers or mourning bands outside the consulate.
During the farewell party, fliers were handed out to all arriving guests. On
19 November, a brief commemorative service for the victims of apartheid
(arranged jointly by the Norwegian Students’ Christian Movement and
NOCOSA) was also held outside the consulate. The service was led by the
Students’ Christian Movement’s secretary general, Trygve Natvig, and
university chaplain Anne Hege Grung, and eleven ANC-representatives
from all over the world attending a course held by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs participated.
Cultural activities
The cultural dimension of the Council’s work has played its part in making
the organisation into more than a conventional solidarity organisation. By
organising tours and festivals for African artists, musicians, dancers, actors
and poets, NOCOSA has succeeded in conveying African culture directly to
72 Arbeiderbladet, 20 February 1989.
73 Adresseavisen, 15 March 1989.
the Norwegian public. Through art sorrow, joy, war and oppression, daily
life, love and sensuality were expressed in a manner which won respect and
sympathy for the freedom struggles of the African people. Icy Norwegian
winters were warmed by an explosion of colourful dancers, fiery rhythms
and the joys of music. In this way, NOCOSA’s endeavours were not confined
to politics and censure, but also engaged in cultural mediation which
lent a positive spirit to the important cause for which it was fighting. In
addition to being a positive counterbalance to the negative image of Africa
often created by the media, the Council could in this way reach out to a
wider audience than those already involved in solidarity work.
A cultural activity especially worthy of mention was ANC’s Amandla
Cultural Group which visited Norway in 1980, holding concerts in Oslo,
Lillehammer, Elverum and Kristiansand. NOCOSA thus realised for the first
time that through this kind of approach it was easier to reach people who
would otherwise not have become particularly involved in Southern Africa.
In 1986, a record, Amandla, featuring both Norwegian and African musicians,
was produced. The Council, as already mentioned, was now in 1987
focusing on Mozambique, so it was fitting that a Mozambique Manifestation
consisting of cultural events and seminars, was held between 22 April and 6
May. The greatest attraction was Companhia Nacional de Canto e Danca,
Mozambique’s national dance group. People had to queue up to get hold of
tickets for their performances, and the public was taken by storm. In the
same year, a “South Africa Festival” was held. Cultural groups with over 40
artists from the ANC, SWAPO, and others drawn from Angola, Mozambique,
Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, toured Sweden, Denmark and
Norway. The aim was to share with Scandinavian audiences a fragment of
African culture through song, dance and drama. Mozambique’s radio
orchestra, Marrabenta, accompanied by four dancers, toured Norway for
three weeks in 1988 to enthusiastic acclaim. The dance ensemble from
Mozambique and the Bagamoyo Dancers from Tanzania toured Norway for
ten days in 1990, a cultural fireworks display with 50 dancers, musicians and
actors. Also worthy of mention was the Soweto poet Mzwakhe Mbuli and
the band, The Equals, who in November 1990 toured Norway with performances
of music, dance and poetry.
The cultural dimension was also encompassed by many Norwegian
artists who engaged in anti-apartheid work, and who lent a hand at many of
the Council’s arrangements. After the Norwegian Association of Musicians
had become involved in the boycott issue in 1984, the Association encouraged
its members to make an appearance at the Council’s anti-apartheid
activities. This resulted in Artists Against Apartheid being established by the
Council in 1989 as a separate committee. Artists Against Apartheid cooperated
with the Council on joint actions and special artists’ performances,
and efforts were made to discourage artists from performing in South
Africa. Some of the events in which Artists Against Apartheid participated
were: “Soweto Day” on which occasion the inhabitants of this South African
city were celebrated in the foyer of Det Norske Teater (The Norwegian
Theatre, Oslo) with the exhibition Pictures from Soweto, as well as with cultural
events accompanied by political appeals; upon Mandela’s 70th birthday
in 1988 he was honoured by Norwegian rock-artists performing gratis at
the Rockefeller music hall, a festival which lasted a full 24 hours; ANC’s 77th
birthday was marked by a major performance at the National Theatre at
which a number of actors participated and at which NOCOSA and ANC
made appeals; a large Soweto-event in 1990, again in the centre of Oslo; and
the solidarity presentation “Skjebnetime” (The Hour of Fate) on behalf of the
ANC, held at the Norwegian Opera, also in 1990. In connection with an art
lottery in 1988, Artists Against Apartheid mediated contacts with Norwegian
painters, resulting in the donation of paintings to a value of NOK
Artists Against Apartheid also followed up the initiative “The Freedom
Pledge”, by Little Steven and Harry Bellafonte. All Norwegian artists were
requested to sign a pledge in which they undertook once a year to donate to
the anti-apartheid campaign the income from a concert, exhibition or some
other artistic arrangement.
In 1988, NOCOSA got its own choir Inkululeko (meaning “freedom” in
Zulu and Xhosa) launched by the Council’s Oslo group. The idea was to use
the force of the freedom songs in the liberation struggle in South Africa to
inspire and lend colour to anti-apartheid arrangements in Norway. Inkululeko
chose to be an independent choral group, but according to its statutes,
the choir has all along been “a cultural group supporting NOCOSA’s political
platform”. The choir has performed on innumerable occasions, at rallies,
arrangements, seminars, conferences, and at schools. When it was at its most
active, Inkululeko gave over a hundred performances per year. In 1991,
Inkululeko produced a successful cassette and accompanying booklet with
songs, and these have been used a great deal in schools and by other choirs.
Inkululeko also performed before many legendary anti-apartheid figures
such as Frank Chikane in 1989, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki in 1990,
Alfred Nzo in 1992, and also Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in connection
with the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in 1993. In 1995, the choir
finally had the opportunity of visiting South Africa and among other events
performed in several townships.
1990–1994: The final years before democratic elections in South Africa
The announcement of the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of
ANC on 2 February 1990 were experienced as a victory for all who had been
actively involved in the anti-apartheid struggle. In Norway, a Release Nelson
Mandela Reception Committee was established. Such committees were simultaneously
created in a number of countries, at the initiative of Archbishop
Trevor Huddleston in England. The Norwegian committee, which consisted
of representatives from NOCOSA, several of the largest aid organisations
together with the local ANC office, was to celebrate Mandela’s release and at
the same time direct attention to the remaining work to be done. The media
event represented by Mandela’s release was also to draw attention to the
plight of other political prisoners. The committee organised a reception on 5
March 1990 and a festival on 11 March in honour of Nelson Mandela.74
However, the guest of honour did not come to Norway before 1992.
Mandela had been invited by the Norwegian government as its guest, and
the visit took place from 17 to 19 May. Under the leadership of Thandie
Rankoe at the ANC-office in Oslo, NOCOSA, in co-operation with Artists
Against Apartheid, the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations
and the Labour Movement’s International Solidarity Committee (AIS),
planned a festival with many artistic presentations and speeches in honour
of Nelson Mandela. This event coincided with the celebration of Norway’s
Constitution Day, the 17 May. The festival was highly successful with a full
house and excellent media coverage. Constitution Day was strongly marked
by the presence of the renowned guest, and the school bands taking part in
the street procession played “Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika” in his honour.
The Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and
Frederik de Klerk in 1993 for the peaceful dismantling of the apartheid
regime and for having laid the foundation for a new democratic South
Africa. NOCOSA had mixed feelings about the dual award but decided not
to criticise it as it was hoped that the award would promote the democratisation
process in South Africa. Nelson Mandela himself stated that he was
willing to share the Peace Prize with de Klerk. The Council emphasised that
it did not feel that the award had been made to two equal parties, and many
felt that the prize should have gone to Mandela alone. During the final three
years of the apartheid regime, 11,000 people had been killed, with de Klerk’s
complicity. However, in order to ensure that the elections could be implemented,
the Council concluded that political realities dictated the necessity
of co-operating with de Klerk.
Despite scepticism towards the shared award, Mandela’s visit to Norway
turned into a renewed popular celebration. Artists Against Apartheid
were invited by the ANC-office to hold a celebratory breakfast at the Grand
Hotel in honour of the distinguished guest and his delegation, and it was
indeed a grand occasion. Folksinger Lars Klevstrand sang “Velkomna med
æra” (Welcome in honour) and Mandela clearly appreciated being lionised.
“I want to thank you for all your support, and to tell you that our victory is
your victory”, he said.75
A cheering procession of nearly 2,000 honoured Nelson Mandela with
song, torches, ANC flags, and posters portraying Mandela as they marched
74 Annual Report 1989–1990, Klassekampen, 9 December 1993.
75 Klassekampen, 9 December 1993.
in procession down Karl Johan (Oslo’s main street) on the evening after the
award ceremony. Frederik de Klerk was not mentioned with a single word
in the appeals, which were held before the procession started. Outside the
Grand Hotel the procession halted and, led by Inkululeko, ANC’s national
anthem resounded rhythmically as Mandela and his daughter stood together
with de Klerk and his wife on the balcony and received the enthusiastic
acclaim of the multitude. Just before the prize-winners withdrew from
the balcony, 20 or so demonstrators arrived on the scene and shouted
slogans such as “Kverk de Klerk” (Choke de Klerk), and “de Klerk is a
racist”,76 and removed all doubt as to who they felt the peace prize should
really have been awarded to by the Norwegian people.
Negotiations between the ANC and the de Klerk government continued
for three years before agreement on transition to a democratic system of
government was signed in November 1993. The negotiations were complicated
and often ground to a halt, as in 1992 when Africans were massacred
in the Ciskei “homeland”. The assassination of Chris Hani at Easter in 1993
nearly destroyed the entire process and also gave rise to strong feelings of
desperation and sorrow in the Norwegian solidarity movement. There was
real anxiety that people would be too scared to participate in the elections
planned for April 1994. There was particular fear that Nelson Mandela
might become the victim of assassination, as there was no reason to believe
that the extreme right wing would accept democratic elections.77
In order to contribute towards the democratisation process, NOCOSA
co-operated with the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations, the
Norwegian Ecumenical Committee for Southern Africa, AIS, Norwegian
People’s Aid, the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance
Fund (SAIH) and the Norwegian Church Aid on a campaign
“Democracy for South Africa”. The campaign was launched in connection
with the Nobel award to Mandela and de Klerk in 1993. Nelson Mandela
had requested continued international assistance in the final act of the liberation
struggle leading up to South Africa’s first free elections. It was the first
time that 17–18 million South Africans were to participate in elections, the
majority of them could neither read nor write, and political violence at times
made it difficult to engage in electioneering. The campaign was an information
and enlightenment campaign, and was simultaneously to raise funds
for ANC’s election preparations.
Continuation of the boycott?
When the Transitional Council in South Africa was established, the Council
released the following statement:
76 Arbeiderbladet, 11 December 1993.
77 Article in Folkets Framtid (The People’s Future) by Øystein Gudim, 7 July 1993.
This is a day of joy, a day for which we have longed for many years. The
establishment of a transitional electoral council (TEC) in South Africa sends
the signal that economic sanctions against South Africa can be dismantled. …
The Boycott has worked. … It is apparent that we would not have come this
far in the democratisation process in South Africa without sanctions. The
challenge for Norway and the rest of the world is now to contribute towards
ensuring that the construction of the South African economy does not
consolidate an economic apartheid system.78
It was ANC which had called for the establishment of a Transitional Council
as one of the conditions for lifting sanctions against South Africa. Another
condition was the fixing of the date of free elections. The Transitional
Council was established on 23 September 1993, and ANC instantly cancelled
its demand for sanctions. Norway had six months previously declared that
Norwegian sanctions should be lifted as from 15 March 1993. The Council
was in strong disagreement concerning this. In an appeal at a memorial for
Chris Hani on 19 April, Hege Hertzberg, at that time NOCOSA’s chairperson,
regretted that “the Norwegian government had renounced its responsibility
as the former most prominent opponent of apartheid by terminating
the boycott, without there being any (safeguarding) clause on real
negotiations”.79 When Norway decided to lift sanctions in March, the
government had clearly hoped that a multi-party conference in South Africa
that same month would have led to the establishment of an interim government
as well as setting a date for the holding of free elections. The conference
did not produce the hoped for results, and the Council proved right in
its pronouncement that Norway already prior to the conference had sold its
chickens before they were hatched.80 It might appear that NOCOSA was
“more Catholic than the Pope” at a time when relations with South Africa
were slowly but surely being normalised. But the Council feared that the
negotiations in South Africa would fail, and in common with the ANC,
wanted international pressure to continue until there remained no alternative
to a democratic system of government.
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been, things remain.
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819–1861
With the success of the South African people in their struggle to dismantle
apartheid as a political system, the goals of the Norwegian Council for
78 Press release by NOCOSA, 24 September 1993.
79 Press release by NOCOSA, 19 April 1993.
80 Press release by NOCOSA, 23 February 1993.
Southern Africa had been reached. At the same time, its members could look
back on an eventful involvement which had mobilised all kind of people
from school children to pensioned members of Parliament, from all trade
categories and political parties (except the right-wing Progress Party). Certainly
the Council had had many curses heaped upon its head, particularly
from the conservative end of the political spectrum. Such characterisations
as “self-constituted power group”, “unscrupulous activists”, “leftist guerrillas”
and “amateur terrorists”, often scorched the air in heated debate or
singed the pages of the conservative press. The Council could, however,
strike back by saying that its credentials were in order, the organisation represented
all political youth organisations (again with the exception of the
Progress Party Youth), received financial support from three ministries, and
had been consulted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on specific
The non-sectarian position and the support from members from all over
the political spectrum contributed to the strength of NOCOSA. There were
also close bonds between the Council’s leadership and important organisations
such as the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations, SAIH,
prominent scholars and gradually also with sections of the trade union
movement. Many major arrangements came into being as a result of joint
efforts from among them, and several of those who wore their rompers in
the NOCOSA nursery are to be found today as journalists, researchers,
workers in large and small organisations, or at the Ministry of Foreign
Another important aspect of NOCOSA’s work was that it managed to
involve people in thinking globally but acting locally. Information from the
organisation reached even the remotest corners of this far-flung country,
into every tiny local newspaper editorial management, into schools, colleges,
universities and halls of informal learning. The presentation of the struggle
of the liberation movements to ordinary Norwegians was strongly emphasised,
resulting in several countrywide tours being arranged for their representatives
from abroad to every region of the country. At the same time its
approach was goal-oriented in order to influence Norwegian policies in
areas such as economic assistance to the liberation struggle or isolation of
the apartheid regime.
The mass media were an important and forceful instrument in the performance
of these tasks. The Council managed to gain a foothold in the
media, thanks to both contacts with press circles and its own production of
articles, contributions to debates, and commentaries on current events. The
scope and extent of press attention related to the Council’s activities was at
its widest towards the end of the 1980s.
The results of the kind of solidarity work engaged in by the Council are
not immediately apparent. It is nevertheless obvious that by seeing to it that
the public had constant access to and was supplied with a steady stream of
information, NOCOSA played its part in ensuring that Southern Africa was
prominent on the agendas of Parliament and other Norwegian institutions
of governance and authority. In doing so it kept alive the interest of the mass
media in the freedom struggle, and NOCOSA’s information activities were
of great significance. As an ancient Norwegian proverb has it, many streams
makes a mighty torrent (“Mange bekker små blir til en stor å”), and the
pressure put on the Norwegian authorities applied by the many who were
actively involved, ultimately contributed to a change in policies. The Council
had served as an important instrument for some 40 popular organisations
joined together in the common cause of supporting the struggle against
apartheid and colonialism.
Instead of dissolving the organisation immediately after South Africa
had finally held free elections in 1994, the Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa reorganised itself as The Norwegian Council for Africa. Its political
sphere of interest would henceforth embrace all African countries south of
the Sahara. South Africa nevertheless continues to be central to the Council’s
work, as Zimbabwe and Namibia had been during the years immediately
after attaining their independence. Above all, the Council has—within its
admittedly limited resources- continued to provide support for people-centred
participation in the construction of a democratic South Africa.
Chapter 7
The Freedom Struggle in Southern Africa:
The Role of the Norwegian Churches 1948–1994
Berit Hagen Agøy
I visited South Africa for the first time, as a student, in 1986. On 17 May,
Norway’s Constitution Day, I went to the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission
Church in Durban to take part in the celebrations. A lot of people were gathered,
mostly descendants of Norwegian traders and missionaries who
arrived in South Africa more than a century ago. Others were newcomers
working for The Norwegian Missionary Society for a short period. My host
was one of these, a Norwegian pastor working for the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in South Africa. Some months earlier he had, as one of very few
Lutherans, signed the Kairos Document, and he was known to be a committed
anti-apartheid activist. He had introduced me to some of his South
African friends, people whose Christian faith had inspired them to take an
active part in the struggle against the racist regime. I was now looking forward
to meeting Norwegians living in the Durban area, hoping to find more
of these dedicated freedom-fighters. After a while, an elderly lady came towards
me and gave me a small leaflet which read “Let us pray that Mandela
must be kept in prison until he is saved”. I was taken by surprise, and asked
what it meant. Her reply was: “Don’t you know that Mandela is a Communist
and a terrorist and that the ANC is fighting against all Christians?”
When I carefully tried to dispute this, I was for the first time in my life told I
could not be a true Christian.
On 17 May, six years later, I was sitting in the Oslo Cathedral listening
to the “terrorist” standing at the pulpit reading from the Bible. Nelson Mandela
thanked all those whose prayers had kept him alive during the long
years in prison, and he told us how God had given him and his fellow prisoners
strength to continue the struggle even in the darkest hours. I was
reminded of the words of the lady in the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission
The history of the Norwegian Churches’ attitude towards the struggle
for freedom and democracy in Southern Africa embraces both the radical
and ANC-friendly missionary and the Christian lady in Durban who gave
the impression of supporting the policy of apartheid. It is also a story about
those who in 1992 were welcoming Mandela to Oslo, singing Nkosi Sikelel’i
Afrika and praying together with him in the Cathedral. Among them were
bishops and prominent church leaders, but most of the congregation were
ordinary lay-people. Some of them had been involved in solidarity work for
decades, and at last, Mandela was there right in front of them, alive and
The Church of Norway was one of the main protagonists in Norway for the
liberation of Namibia and South Africa. The late Foreign Minister Knut
Frydenlund put it like this:
Without the work performed by the (Church of Norway) Council of
Ecumenical and International Relations, we would never have been able to
win Parliament’s approval of the support for the liberation struggle in
Southern Africa. The church’s attitude has been decisive in forming a
favourable opinion.2
Almost NOK 250 million (approx. USD 35 million) was given by the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the church who transferred it to antiapartheid
organisations and individuals within Namibia and South Africa.
How was this possible? Why did the church act as a channel for government
money? Was it on the instructions of the Norwegian government or did the
church itself ask to perform this task? If the latter, why was the Church of
Norway so concerned about the liberation struggle in such a distant part of
the world? This chapter will try to answer these questions. We will describe
how the Norwegian churches got involved in Southern Africa and outline
their main activities in the region from when the apartheid regime came to
power in South Africa in 1948 and up to the elections of 1994.
There are at least four starting-points for a history of church relations
between Norway and Southern Africa:
1. Norwegian settlers and white Lutherans
Descendants of Norwegian traders and missionaries make up a small congregation
in the Durban area. In 1880 they established the St. Olav church in
Durban, a so-called “white” Lutheran church.3 Many of the members of this
1 In the interest of objectivity, I wish to state here that I was employed by the Council on Ecumenical
and International Relations (CEIR) from 1987–1997, working on Southern African
affairs, human rights and development education. I have also been a board member of the
Norwegian Ecumenical Council for Southern Africa (NEKSA) and the Norwegian Council for
Southern Africa.
2 Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Årbok. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 1981.
3 Literature about St. Olav Church and Norwegian settlers: B.J.T. Leverton: The Natal Norwegian
Centenary, 1882–1982. Latern, 1982; F.M. Lear: St. Olav Lutheran Church 1880–1980. Durban, 1980.
church sympathised with the policy of the Nationalist Government after
1948. When the St. Olav church in 1975 insisted on not joining the newly
established national Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (ELCSA),
the Church of Norway was presented with a delicate problem, because the
bishop of Oslo had for many years been the spiritual supervisor of the St.
Olav church. Bishop Andreas Aarflot visited the congregation in 1985 and
tried, in vain, to persuade its members to join their fellow black Lutherans.4
The St. Olav congregation was split a while later, and those in favour of joining
ELCSA established the new congregation St. Michael.
The Church of Norway also got involved in the difficulties the Lutheran
World Federation (LWF) experienced with the white Lutherans in South
Africa and Namibia. The two bishops Gunnar Lislerud and Andreas Aarflot,
together with the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International
Relations secretary-general Gunnar Stålsett (secretary-general of LWF
from 1985–94), were all personally involved in LWF’s effort to motivate the
white churches to denounce apartheid as a sin, and to merge with the nonracist
Lutheran churches in South Africa and Namibia.
2. Norwegian missions and ELCSA
The Norwegian Pentecostals established mission work in Swaziland,
Mozambique and South Africa in the early 20th century. The Norwegian
Lutheran Mission5 has for many decades been working in Tanzania and the
Methodist Church in Angola and Mozambique. Since these missions got involved
in the political liberation struggle, only to a small degree, they will
not be further discussed here.
Instead, we will look at the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS) which
started its work in 1844 in the Zulu kingdom, and was active in South Africa
to 1997. This society is an independent organisation but defines itself as
working on behalf of the Church of Norway. Striking similarities are to be
found between the Lutheran missionary practice and the creation of daughter
churches according to race by the Dutch Reformed Churches. It is argued
that the main reason why the Lutheran churches were not multi-racial was
that the missionaries wanted to create national churches (so-called people’s
churches) which they were familiar with from Europe. But in Africa a
‘nation’ was understood by the missionaries as an ethnic group living in one
limited area, and not a state created by colonial governments. This Lutheran
missionary practice differs from that of the English-speaking churches
4 A. Aarflot’s letter to St. Olav Church of 3 July 1986: ‘I feel compelled to suspend my relations
to St. Olav congregation until you have found a solution regarding your relationship with
ELCSA. As I tried to tell you during my visit, it seems odd that as a bishop of the Church of
Norway, I shall enjoy full spiritual fellowship with our Lutheran sister church in South Africa,
and at the same time keep up a spiritual supervision of a congregation that has virtually backed
away from such full spiritual fellowship with the same church.’ CEIR-archives.
5 Norsk Luthersk Misjonssamband.
where all converts became members of the same church irrespective of race
(due to the colonial government’s policy of territorial race segregation, the
local congregation however normally consisted of only one ethnic group).
At the end of the 1950s the European missionaries in South Africa took
the initiative to try and establish a Lutheran co-operation on a national level
between the different mission churches and the white churches. The first
(out of five) regional Lutheran churches in South Africa was established in
Natal in 1960 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa–South East
Region), and the Norwegian Zulu Synod was integrated in it. None of the
white churches in Natal joined the new church. In 1975 the regional
churches merged into the national Evangelical Lutheran Church of South
Africa (ELCSA). But still no white churches wished to mix with black
Lutherans.6 The role of the Norwegian missionaries in the establishing of
Lutheran churches is an interesting subject. Even if the missionaries never
intended to create race-segregated churches, this was the result. Unfortunately,
the space available does not allow us to elaborate on this subject.
The Lutheran churches’ attitude to apartheid is tangled and difficult,
both due to the complex church structure, the division between white and
black Lutherans, and not least the Lutheran teaching of the Two Kingdoms.
Traditionally Lutherans have been very reluctant in involving the Church in
politics, holding this should be left in the hands of the secular authorities. In
Natal ELCSA had in addition big problems because many church members
belonged to Inkatha, and the church was dragged into the violent conflict
between Inkatha and ANC.7
It has been difficult for both the Norwegian Mission Society and the
Church of Norway to relate to ELCSA’s unclear relations both to Inkatha
and to the government’s policy. After 1960 the missionaries were formally
employed by ELCSA-SER, and from 1975 by ELCSA, and in loyalty to their
church they did not want to speak out in political matters on their own. The
Scandinavian missionaries encouraged the church to give an official criticism
of apartheid, which ELCSA did, as the first Lutheran church, in 1963.
The missionaries, particularly Gunnar Lislerud8, also tried to stimulate an
internal debate in the church on its role in society. But it was not until NMSmissionary
Per Anders Nordengen, working for ELCSA in Durban, signed
6 Literature on the Norwegian Mission and the establishing of Lutheran Churches in South
Africa: G. Lislerud: “Luthersk kirkedannelse i Sør-Afrika”, Norsk Tidsskrift for Misjon, no. 2 and
3, 1998; B. Hagen Agøy: “Norske misjonærer, lutherske kirker og apartheid i Sør-Afrika 1948–
1963”, Historisk Tidsskrift, no. 2, 1993.
7 A.H. Grung: “Den ‘svarte’ lutherske kirken i Natal/KwaZulu og Inkatha”, Kirke og kultur,
no. 3, 1991.
8 G. Lislerud was employed by the American Lutheran Mission, Schreuder Mission. This mission
was established when the Norwegian missionary pioneer H.P.S. Schreuder in 1873 left the
Norwegian Mission Society.
the Kairos Document in 1985 that a Norwegian missionary’s politically motivated
action caused problems in ELCSA.9
The Church of Norway tried during the 1980s and 1990s to offer both
moral and financial support to Lutheran pastors and their families who, due
to their political involvement in the struggle against apartheid, got into
trouble either in relation to the government or with church leaders in
ELCSA. The Norwegian church also tried to motivate the leadership of
ELCSA to take up its responsibility to work for peace, justice and human
rights issues.
However, it was the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and not
its sister church ELCSA, that became the Church of Norway’s closest church
partner in work against apartheid in South Africa. This is remarkable due to
the fact that missionaries belonging to the Church of Norway have been
working in South Africa for more that 150 years and that they played an important
role in the establishing of Lutheran churches in this country.
3. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)
Norwegian Church Aid is an ecumenical and independent organisation, but
is also regarded as the Church of Norway’s international relief organisation.
Norwegian Church Aid co-operates closely with the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). It got involved in
these organisations’ work among refugees and persons linked to different
liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1960s. NCA never operated
on its own in these countries, but gave financial support via the LWF, the
WCC and the national and regional church councils. They were responsible
for carrying out the activities that were supported. Some of the money was
forwarded to organisations other than churches.10 Some Norwegian church
people were also working in the region together with the international ecumenical
organisations, for instance Øystein Tveter. During his years in
Africa working for the LWF and the Norwegian Church Aid, Tveter played
an important role in establishing relations between the liberation
movements and the Norwegian church and government.
Ever since the 1960s there has been a very close relationship between
NCA and the Church of Norway in their common effort to support the lib-
9 Nordengen was sharply criticised by ELCSA’s leaders in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, and they complained
to NMS’ leaders in Norway when he joined the Lutheran Confession Fellowship.
10 In Namibia NCA supported the Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek, and schools run by
different churches. In Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique NCA gave financial assistance to
LWF’s work among refugees. The Ecumenical Development and Information Centre for Eastern
and Southern Africa (EDICESA) in Harare was also partly funded by NCA. In Zambia human
rights groups got support, both women groups and the regional human rights office
(AFRONET). In Botswana NCA supported the church’s work with indigenous people and
women and co-operated with the Kgolagano College. In South Africa SACC, Diakonia and
some other church-related organisations received support from NCA. Material about these
matters is to be found in NCA’s archives in Oslo.
eration struggle in Southern Africa. But when it comes to the more politically
oriented struggle against apartheid, the work of the Church of Norway
was clearly the most important.
The scope of this chapter unfortunately does not allow a full discussion
of the Norwegian churches’ involvement in Southern Africa from all perspectives.
This chapter will therefore concentrate on the Church of Norway
involvement in Southern Africa, particular in South Africa and Namibia,
4. The Church of Norway
The Church of Norway is the national so-called state church. The Norwegian
constitution decrees that Lutheranism is the official religion of the State and
that the King is the supreme temporal head of the Church. Church administration
is shared between the Ministry for Church, Education and Research
centrally and the municipal authorities locally. The Church of Norway
embraces 88% of the Norwegian population (1998). Most of them, however,
go to church only in connection with church rituals like baptisms,
marriages, confirmations and funerals, or during Christmas. Only about 3%
turn up at ordinary Sunday services. Nevertheless, the church has a strong
position in Norwegian society, not only because it is a so-called state church
financed by the taxpayers, but also because it is seen as an accessible people’s
church for all Norwegians. The Church can be regarded as a Non-Governmental
Organisation paid for by the Government, self-contradictory
though this may appear. The laity has traditionally held a strong position in
the Church of Norway, and the church is a natural partner for other NGOs
both in the local communities and when it comes to national organisations
or government institutions.
The Church of Norway General Synod (annual assembly) is the highest
church authority. Three councils are connected with the General Synod. The
responsibility for the Church of Norway’s engagement in Southern Africa
rests mainly with the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations
11 The secretary-general, the chairman of the Council and its Committee for International
Affairs were the main actors. In addition some of the bishops and Norwegian representatives to
bodies within the LWF and the WCC played an important role. A group of only 10–15 churchmen—
almost all were male—shaped and implemented the Church of Norway’s strategies regarding
Southern African affairs. As will be seen later, some of them changed posts over the
years. One missionary was appointed bishop, another became responsible for the Church’s
Development Education Service. Two secretary-generals of CEIR became politicians for a
period, and several of the more central persons switched between working for CEIR, Norwegian
Church Aid, the LWF and other ecclesiastical organisations at different periods. Having
this relatively small group of people who knew each other well through different connections
was an asset particularly when CEIR’s project activities in South Africa were defined and
developed, but also when it came to lobbying in Norwegian political circles. Secretary-generals
of CEIR: G. Stålsett, C. Traaen , T. Bakkevig, A. Sommerfeldt and S. Utnem. Chairmen of CEIR:
Bishop K. Støylen, Bishop A. Aarflot, P. Voksø, S. Møgedal. Other bishops involved in Southern
African affairs: G. Lislerud, K. Støylen, P. Lønning.
CEIR co-operated with a wide range of different institutions and organisations
in Norway, both official and private. The struggle against apartheid
also created new alliances between the church and groups that traditionally
had a distant relationship to the church. These include most of the political
Left, including most of the Labour movement. Just as in Southern Africa the
work to abolish apartheid not only strengthened ecumenical relations but
also brought together groups that did not usually meet. This happened both
at the national level and, not least, in local communities. The church’s strong
commitment on the apartheid issue clearly strengthened its credibility
among political radicals. In this sense the church’s work against racism in
South Africa became a part of its preaching of the Gospel.
When the anti-apartheid work outside the ecumenical movement was
established in Norway in the early 1960s (see chapter 1), church people
played an active role. Many (if not all) of those who were most active in
CEIR’s anti-apartheid work had personally been involved in the Norwegian
Council on Southern Africa and the Namibian Association both as members
and leading activists. On the other hand, Christians who got involved in the
struggle against apartheid through the Council or the Namibian Association
often became useful resource people for the church.
The World campaign against military collaboration with South Africa
was led by Abdul Minty who was a close friend of CEIR. The information,
which this organisation provided for CEIR, was highly appreciated. CEIR’s
project work in South Africa and Namibia led to close co-operation with the
two other main “channels” for governmental funds, the Norwegian Confederation
of Trade Unions (LO) and the Students’ and Academics’ International
Assistance Fund.
When it comes to the Church of Norway’s partners abroad the Nordic
Lutheran churches, LWF, WCC and churches and church councils in Southern
Africa were the most important, in addition to CEIR’s project organisations
in South Africa and Namibia (listed in the last part of this chapter).
Literature and sources
Some research has been done by historians and theologians on the pioneer
days of Norwegian missions in Zululand.12 The different missionary societies
have also published historical accounts, yearbooks and magazines, of
their work in Southern Africa. Some few missionaries have published articles
on the question of apartheid. A very comprehensive archive may be
found at the Norwegian Mission Society’s College in Stavanger.
12 Literature on NMS’s history in South Africa in the early days: J. Simensen (ed.): Norsk misjon i
afrikanske samfunn, Sør-Afrika ca. 1850–1900. Trondheim: Tapir, 1984; T. Jørgensen: Contact and
Conflict—Norwegian Missionaries, the Zulu Kingdom and the Gospel, 1850–1870. Stavanger, 1987.
The only systematic work on the role of the Church of Norway’s involvement
in the struggle against apartheid, is the book The Church of Norway
and the Struggle against Apartheid, written by former secretary-general of
CEIR, Trond Bakkevig.13 It is available in English, and gives an overview of
CEIR’s involvement together with a description of the different projects in
South Africa and Namibia.
The secretary-generals of CEIR wrote several articles on the political situation
in Southern Africa, and modified versions of their travel reports were
occasionally published in magazines or newspapers. The annual report from
CEIR and from 1984 on from the Annual Church Assembly also gives an
impression on the Church of Norway’s involvement in Southern Africa. But
we need to look at the unpublished documents in the Church of Norway’s
archives in Oslo to find the details. The most interesting documents are the
official statements on apartheid, travel reports from the secretary-general
and other staff persons, internal policy documents written in connection
with internal or external meetings, and correspondence with partners both
in Norway and abroad. Much of this material, especially the correspondence
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the partners in South Africa and
Namibia is not publicly available. On request, researchers will however be
given permission to use parts of it.
Material on the Church of Norway Aid’s involvement with Southern
Africa is to be found in Church of the Norway Aid’s archives in Oslo. For
more thorough studies the archives of the WF and the WCC in Geneva and
the ELCSA and SACC in South Africa would be of interest.
Why care about apartheid?
Before we investigate the history of the Norwegian churches’ involvement in
Southern Africa, we need to ask the question of why the Christian church
should care about the region in the first place. It did not commit itself to the
same extent to liberation struggles going on in other parts of the world. Why
did apartheid in South Africa cause this strong commitment, not only from
the Norwegian churches, but first and foremost from the churches in South
Africa and from the international church family.
One obvious reason was of course the terrible oppression of the majority
of the population in South Africa and Namibia. The racist policy of the
Nationalist party deprived all those who did not have a white skin of
fundamental human rights. This led to unanimous condemnation from the
international community. But what about the equally poor and oppressed
people you could find in other parts of the world? Why did they not get the
same attention from the Nordic churches? Was it because of the great number
of whites in South Africa for instance? Did Western opinion care more in
13 T. Bakkevig: The Church of Norway and the Struggle against Apartheid. Oslo: Church of Norway
Council on Ecumenical and International Relations, 1996.
cases where whites were involved in conflicts than where civil wars were
going on between different African ethnic groups? Or is there another explanation?
Apartheid is heresy
The answer is simple: when the National Party in 1948 introduced the policy
of apartheid it declared it to be based on the Bible. God created people of
different races, it was asserted, and meant them to develop along their own
lines and not mix with each other. Theologians from the Dutch Reformed
Churches were among the main architects of the apartheid ideology. This
Biblical legitimisation of racism made it into a theological issue, which could
not be left to the politicians alone. Therefore the English speaking churches
watched the policy of the new government carefully. Every step they took
which could be regarded as contrary to the Gospel was condemned by most
of the churches, not only in South Africa but later on also by the international
church community. This made South Africa a very special case. “It
was the Christian foundation of the racial segregation policy, which for the
churches made this into a situation with a qualitatively other character than
other forms of oppression. It was this which in a special way meant that
churches around the world could not be indifferent” according to Trond
Almost all of the official statements on apartheid-related issues from the
Church of Norway during the years 1963–1994 give as a reason for the
church’ s involvement the fact that the policy of apartheid is a charicature of
the Gospel. One typical example is a statement in 1975:
When a state which calls itself Christian, so fundamentally violates basic
Christian and humanistic values as the case is with South Africa, this can only
call for a unanimous condemnation by Christians in all countries. The Church
of Norway Council on Foreign Relations encourages all Christians in South
Africa, especially our Lutheran sister Churches, to give a clear and fearless
witness against apartheid, and to work for a non-violent change in the society
in obedience to the will of God.15
In 1977 the General Assembly of the LWF adopted the following resolution,
approved by the Norwegian delegates:
Under normal circumstances Christians may have different opinions in
political questions. However, political and social systems may become so
perverted and oppressive that it is consistent with the confession to reject
them, and work for changes. We especially appeal to our white member
churches in Southern Africa to recognise the situation in Southern Africa
institutes a status confessionis. This means that, on the basis of faith and in
14 T. Bakkevig, 1996, p. 12.
15 Statement from CEIR-meeting 20 June 1975, CEIR-archives.
order to manifest the unity of the church, churches would publicly and
unequivocally reject the existing apartheid-system.16
LWF was the first ecumenical organisation to take such a clear theological
stand. Apartheid was no longer just an important issue for the Lutheran
churches, it was in fact a matter of “status confessionis” which meant that it
affected the very core of the Christian faith. When the LWF General Assembly
met again in 1984 the delegates discussed the consequences of the 1977
resolution for the white Lutheran churches in South Africa and Namibia
who had not been willing to declare apartheid a sin. When they still refused
to do so, two of them were suspended from membership of LWF. All the
Norwegian delegates, particularly the bishop of Oslo Andreas Aarflot, were
eager to vote for the suspension. This event made it clear that a church
which defended apartheid “renounced the church’s own nature as a true
church. From the pulpit of a Christian church must always be preached a
message which implicitly and explicitly condemns all forms of Apartheid
ideology”, according to CEIR.17
When one member of the body suffers …
But there was also another important reason for the church to take action.
The English-speaking churches in Southern Africa were asking for solidarity
from fellow Christians belonging to the universal church. The call for
prayers and acts of solidarity from the oppressed sisters and brothers was,
together with the issue of theological heresy, the main reason for the
churches in Norway to involve themselves in the struggle against apartheid.
The outcry from churches and liberation movements decided to a large
extent what kind of action the churches in Norway chose to make. As the
church saw it, it did not act only for itself, but on behalf of the African Christians.
Their wishes were considered very important when choosing which
organisations to support. This goes for both the missionaries and for CEIR’s
more politically oriented work.
The appeal for support was directed to Norwegian churches, but also
via LWF and WCC. The numerous international ecumenical conferences
were important meeting places where Christians from the North listened to
testimonies from the victims of apartheid. To meet these fellow Christians
from the South face to face encouraged Norwegian church leaders to get
personally involved in the struggle against apartheid. The same happened
when African Christians met politicians, school children or members of local
congregations in Norway.
16 Bakkevig, 1996, p. 26.
17 Unpublished note by T. Karlsen Seim (CEIR–Committee for Theological Affairs) of 4 August
1985, (’Teologiske perspektiver i Mellomkirkelig Råds arbeid med menneskerettighetsspørsmål’)
In October 1977, a special service took place in the Oslo Cathedral. The
congregation sent the following message to the South African Council of
We, Christians in Norway, have been gathered to a service of worship to give
expression to our solidarity with and our intercession for the Church and the
oppressed of South Africa.
We have seen the sufferings which have been brought upon the African
population of the land, and we concur with the apostle in … When one
member of the body suffers, the entire body suffers […] Your sufferings,
therefore, are our sufferings. We abide with you in our prayers and in our
actions, in our common struggle against injustice and oppression. May God
be with you.18
The reason for the service was the South African Government’s banning of
eighteen anti-apartheid organisations. In this way it tried once again to outlaw
all internal opposition. Due to the extreme restrictions on any form of
political work against the regime, especially after 1960, the churches became
one of very few institutions still allowed to speak out and criticise apartheid.
This of course gave the churches an important role as a spokesman for the
oppressed population. The churches’ many and regular links abroad
through sister churches and international organisations were extremely important.
Through them opposition groups in South Africa and Namibia
could share information and also receive financial support from partners in
other parts of the world.
1948–1960: “Neutral” missions19
The history of the Church of Norway’s involvement in Southern Africa
begins in 1844 when H.P. Schreuder, sent by the newly-established Norwegian
Missionary Society, received, as the first white man ever, royal permission
to settle in Zululand. At the time of writing, the last NMS missionary
has recently left South Africa. For the NMS, more than 150 years of continuous
work in preaching the Gospel, building churches, running schools and
providing health services in South Africa has come to an end.
For some years following 1948 the Norwegian missionaries had no clear
position on apartheid, but adopted a policy of “wait and see”. Prime Minister
D.F. Malan and his ministers claimed to be devoted Christians, and the
missionaries hoped to continue their traditionally good relations with the
South African Government. Like all NMS missionaries they were under instruction‘
not to take part in the politics or strife of the country they worked
in. Nevertheless, as early as 1949 they stated the following:
18 Message to SACC from people gathered at a service in the Cathedral of Oslo 23 October
1977, CEIR-archives.
19 This section is based on the author’s thesis in History: “Den tvetydige protesten”, University
of Oslo, 1987 (about the Norwegian Mission Society and the Policy of Apartheid 1948–1970).
It is a fundamental principle for the Norwegian Missionary Society and its
missionaries, the Zulu Church and its workers that they do not meddle in the
political controversies of the country. Our regulations bar us from all actions
or protests based solely on politics. On the other hand we are committed to
further the edification and general well-being of the people we are working
among, and we are called to foster a particular concern for the conservation
and growth of the church. Situations may therefore arise where it will be
necessary for us to uphold Christian principles vis-à-vis the country’s
authorities as well. If, for instance, the Bible is wrongly used to support
political action or measures which are contrary to a Christian view of life or
society, then a church has not only the right, but the obligation to protest in
unambiguous terms. To take apartheid (segregation of the races) as a specific
example, at the present time when the concept is not yet, as far as we know,
satisfactorily defined, we as a mission (church) find it difficult to declare
ourselves in favour or against. But we reserve the right to appeal and if
necessary also to protest if the freedom of conscience and of religion, other
fundamental human rights or clearly established legal norms should be
violated by the enactment of an apartheid programme or other plans of vital
importance for the future of the different ethnic groups which directly affects
the position or the work of the Christian church.20
It may be noted that Africans working in the church were also subject to the
instructions concerning non-involvement in politics.
During the early 1950s the policy of separate development was put into
practice, and the brutal and increasing oppression of the black population
led to frustration and anger on the part of the missionaries. They were
worried, and in line with the instructions from 1949 they carefully watched
every new law and all steps taken by the Government. But their analysis of
apartheid was extremely narrow, limited to one question only: what would
be the consequences for the work of the mission and the church? The missionaries
drew a clear distinction between apartheid as ideology and
apartheid as policy. Regarded as ideology apartheid was racism and in conflict
with a correct understanding of the Bible. The ideology of apartheid
was a matter for the church. But as long as the apartheid policy did not interfere
with internal church matters, it should be left to the secular government.
This distinction may be seen as springing from the Lutheran teaching of the
two Kingdoms.
This tendency to regard apartheid mostly from an ideological point of
view, was intensified by the South African churches’ involvement. In
1953/54 representatives from different denominations met at several conferences
to discuss the theological implications of apartheid. The debates ended
with the Dutch Reformed churches defending apartheid while the Englishspeaking
churches, with whom the NMS missionaries closely identified
themselves, harshly criticised the Dutch Reformed churches’ understanding
of the Bible. These churches protested strongly against the segregation of
20 Report from NMS annual conference in South Africa 1949, NMS-archives.
races within the churches. The missionaries took active part in these debates.
To some extent the discussions made the question of apartheid a discussion
of Dutch reformed theology, which of course was a matter for the church.
The missionaries were on the other hand seldom present at meetings when
the political or economic consequences of apartheid were discussed. This
was simply not on their agenda.
In the first part of the 1950s the missionaries were preoccupied with the
process of making the Norwegian Lutheran Zulu Synod independent, and
they saw the gradual transferral of leadership to the Zulus as a way of
making the Zulu people more autonomous. The missionaries’ dream, like
that of liberal South African whites, was of progressively integrating
“civilised” and Christian blacks into the white society.
Mission and apartheid in conflict
As long as the apartheid policy did not create immediate problems for the
mission work, the missionaries wanted to avoid committing themselves.
However, the Bantu Education Act of 1953 changed this dramatically. For
the first time, apartheid created serious problems for the missionaries. NMS,
like many other European missionary societies, had established a large
number of schools on different levels. The schools were one of the most efficient
ways of introducing children and youngsters to the church. It came as
a shock to the missionaries that a Christian government would cause problems
for mission schools, and the Education Act more that anything else
opened the eyes of the missionaries to the realities behind the policy of
Separate Development.
The missions could be allowed to continue running their schools without
financial support from the State. They would not, however, be allowed
to decide on the curriculum themselves. As the NMS did not have sufficient
funds to run the schools on their own, their choice was either to close them
or hand them over to the Government. If they were closed, it would mean
that the children were left with no chance of ever getting an education. NMS
therefore chose to transfer their schools to the Government on certain conditions.
The missionaries were sincerely worried about the fact that the ideology
of apartheid was now going to be the basis of the education of the black
children, but what seems to have worried them even more was what kind of
education would now be given in Christianity. Would it be possible to ensure
that the children learnt the Lutheran catechism? When the Government
assured them that the missionaries would be welcome to continue their religious
education, their protest calmed down.21 This illustrated how the missionarie’s
narrow concern for the mission work led them to accept co-operation
with the apartheid government in introducing the new educational sys-
21 Mission secretary J. Skauge’s letter to N. Follesøe of 14 April 1954, NMS-archives.
tem, even though they strongly objected to the ideology on which the new
system was based.
The next major conflict came in 1957, when the Government wanted to
forcibly remove all the Zulus living on the mission farms. This was a part of
the Bantustans programme. In the early days of NMS the missionaries were
given some land on which to build mission stations. Some of these areas
were so large that Christian Zulus were allowed to settle there with their
cattle and carry out subsistence agriculture. The Land Acts of 1913 and 1936
defined the mission farms as White land and the Government now wanted
to get rid of these so-called “black spots” in white areas.
Not surprisingly, the NMS-missionaries once again tried to solve the
problem in such a way so as not to harm the mission work. Nils Follesøe, the
elderly supervisor of the missionaries, was not so worried about the policy
of bantustans, but much more about what would happen to “their” Zulus if
they had to leave. Would they be able to remain Lutherans? Maybe the Government
could move all the “Norwegian” Zulus to the same place, so that
NMS could follow in their footsteps and start a new church there? This
could even be an improvement, because the Zulus were currently spread out
on several different farms.22 The matter was not resolved since the Government
was unable to find any suitable land for the Zulus.
In 1962, however, the Government repeated that the NMS had to get rid
of all Zulus on their farms. But now the missionaries’ attitude had changed
completely, both because of the dramatic political events of 1960, but also
because a new and younger more politically oriented supervisor, Andreas
Løken, had replaced the conservative Follesøe in 1961. In 1962 NMS refused
to assist the Government in moving the Zulus. The reason was stated as
being that the missionaries could not in conscience share in the implementation
of the bantustans policy, which they now condemned in principle.
In the second part of the 1950s the missionaries had seen the brutality of
apartheid demonstrated. However, they did not protest openly because they
wanted to avoid mixing mission work and politics and because they feared
that any criticism would bring retaliations from the Government, which
would harm both the Mission and the Lutheran churches. Instead of open
protest, the missionaries demonstrated their point of view in their friendly
social relations with blacks:
Unlike other whites we bring the blacks into our homes as guests, and we
always try to show them a courtesy and respect which they have not been
spoilt with. We use the many ways we have to let them understand that we
are independent witnesses to everything that happens, on the racial front too.
We defend them and try to help them when they are ill-treated, we try to
influence the whites of our acquaintance to look at the blacks with less
prejudice […] We have a big obligation as bridge-builders, we create contact
22 NMS annual conference in South Africa 1957, NMS-archives.
and trust across the race borders, to the benefit of the church and the blacks as
a people.23
Norwegian missions and black resistance
Norwegian missionaries were present in South Africa during the 1950s, the
years of mass mobilisation of black resistance. They also witnessed the
decolonialisation on the African continent in the 1960s. At this time the missionaries
had a near monopoly on informing the Norwegian opinion about
what was going on in Africa. The picture the missionaries gave of the blacks’
struggle for liberation, was adopted by many Norwegians. It is therefore
interesting to ask what this picture looked like.
The missionaries seem to have had almost no contact with organised
political opposition within South Africa. This is notable because they repeatedly
assured their friends back in Norway that they were the black man’s
friend and defender and that they were on the side of the blacks in their
struggle against the racist regime. The missionaries gave the impression of
not knowing much about political developments. Supervisor Nils Follesøe
reflects on the year 1955 in his annual report: “politically, 1955 was a peaceful
year. Beside the usual political party squabbles there has been little evidence
of larger upheavals in the sea of people […] Not much has been heard
lately about the apartheid policy.”24 Was he not at all aware of the People’s
Congress which met this year and adopted the Freedom Charter? Actually,
1955 was one of the most eventful years in the resistance in the 1950s. We
must assume that Follesøe had heard about the events that took place, but
maybe he did not find them sufficiently important to include in his report.
The reports and letters from the missionaries very rarely contain any
information on the black resistance. Instead they describe the blacks’ terrible
social and economic conditions. The Zulus’ paganism and traditional culture
is seen as part of the explanation for their poor standard of living. One never
finds any black intellectuals in the missionary sources (except for pastors).
The missionary relates to the poor heathen in need of evangelisation or to
the church-member not engaged in politics. They never mixed with the
politically conscious activists.
Albert Luthuli is the only freedom fighter that is given a name in the
public reports from the missionaries from the 1950s and 1960s. The missionaries
admired him enormously, not primarily in his capacity as the president
of ANC, but because of his strong Christian testimony. The missionaries
wrote to the Nobel Committee to support his candidature to the Peace Prize:
Luthuli [is] a nationalist leader beyond the ordinary. Oppression causes
hatred, and this often characterises the fight for national liberation. But with
Luthuli it is different. He is a Christian and his Christian faith has passed its
23 A. Løken: NMS annual conference in South Africa 1960, NMS-archives.
24 Report from NMS annual conference in South Africa 1956, NMS archives.
test in the fight he is now fighting. […] What could not African nationalism
have brought of violence and misfortunes if Luthuli had not been there […]
The road to liberty goes by way of the cross, says Chief Luthuli.25
The missionaries regarded the black request for real influence in society as a
justified one. Gradually the blacks should be given responsibility and the
right to vote, according to education and level of spiritual maturity. The
decolonisation process was regarded as positive by the missionaries, but at
the same time they were sceptical towards the liberation movements and
African nationalism. The missionaries worried about what would happen to
the churches and Christian missions if the Africans took over power from
the Christian colonialists: “National pride, racial pride or an ungovernable
desire for self-assertion could make the co-operation between mission and
church more difficult.”26
What the missionaries feared most was Communism, and they were
afraid that the black nationalist was under the influence of this atheist ideology.
Communism, liberation struggle and nationalism seemed closely linked
to each other. During the cold war the missionaries believed that a new
battle of Africa was being fought between Communism and Christianity. If
the Christians did not stand firm, they would lose this battle, and all the
missionaries would be sent back to Europe.27 The fact that many liberation
movement leaders were Christians, Luthuli among them, did not affect the
missionaries’ general opinion.
1960–1967: NMS commits itself publicly
Towards the end of the 1950s the aims and consequences of apartheid became
more readily apparent. The missionaries’ dream of progressively integrating
the blacks into white society was dashed. As time went by, it seemed
obvious that the regime in power deprived the blacks of their basic human
rights, and that their policies were clearly contrary to God’s will. Did this
not mean that the missionaries had not only the right but an obligation to
protest? Had the time arrived?
The missionaries’ first public criticism of apartheid
Early in 1960 the missionaries met for their annual conference, and apartheid
was on the agenda. In his lecture on apartheid, the young missionary
Andreas Løken asked: “When shall we speak and when shall we remain
silent, when shall we speak carefully, when shall we speak openly, protest
or make demonstrations or do something else to influence, if possible, a
25 Norsk Misjonstidende, no. 36, 1961 (magazine published by NMS).
26 NMS Year Book 1948–1951, NMS archives.
27 NMS Year Book 1948–1951, Norsk Misjonstidende, no. 12, 1954, NMS-archives.
development which many of us view with grave concern?” The question
was no longer whether apartheid was objectionable: “we Norwegian
missionaries to South Africa all look with sorrow and concern upon the
apartheid legislation and practice we have witnessed lately. And we recognise
that the apartheid ideal is non-Christian and that its roots lie in the
prejudices and fears of the whites.”28
The question was what the missionaries were to do next. They decided
to dispatch Løken’s lecture back to headquarters in Stavanger as an expression
of their collective views on apartheid. The NMS leadership asked for
and received permission to make it public. The silence of the missionaries
had been noted and criticised from some quarters in Norway, and the NMS
leaders hoped to counter this criticism by publishing the statement, which
would be the first public protest against apartheid from any Lutheran mission
or church in South Africa.
The decision to publish the statement was taken before the shots were
fired in Sharpeville on 21 March, 1960. But these tragic events meant that the
missionaries’ protest was perceived as coming at the right moment and received
considerable publicity in Norway. “Thereby the missionaries of the
Church of Norway for the first time formally and openly declare themselves
opponents of the policy of racial segregation that is being pursued”, the
daily newspaper Verdens Gang declared, and its colleague Morgenposten
expressed its relief that the missionaries had now clearly and unambiguously
declared their condemnation of apartheid.29 The publication of the
lecture did not, however, meet with any reaction from the South African
The Norwegian bishops sent a letter of support to the missionaries, and
in June the same year the NMS General Assembly, too, for the first time
passed an official resolution condemning apartheid:
The Christian faith does not allow discrimination of other races. If we for
more than a hundred years have worked for the Gospel of Love in South
Africa we would fail both this gospel and our entire missionary effort among
the Africans if we did not now object to a racial policy which leads to violence
and injustice. […] In the actual situation which has now arisen for church and
mission in South Africa the position of the NMS must be decided in close cooperation
with our coloured brethren in the struggle for human dignity and
28 A. Løken, “NMS annual conference in South Africa 1960”. His lecture was published in Norsk
Misjonstidende, no. 12, 1960.
29 Verdens Gang, 6 April 1960 and Morgenposten, 7 April 1960.
30 Norsk Misjonstidende, no. 23, 1960.
The Church of Norway takes an interest
The Sharpeville massacre followed by the outlawing of the liberation
movements and the arrest of several prominent political activists, revealed
to the world what was happening in the apartheid state. In May 1960 the
WCC invited its eight South African member churches (no Lutheran
churches were members at this time) together with member churches from
other parts of the world to meet and discuss the critical political situation.
When they meet at Cottesloe College in Johannesburg in December the
same year, the tension between the Dutch Reformed Churches and the
English-speaking churches was high. The Dutch churches had supported the
policy of apartheid ever since 1948. It therefore came as a great surprise that
the delegates from these churches approved the final resolution, recognising
“that all racial groups who permanently inhabit our country are part of the
total population, and we regard them as indigenous. Members of all these
groups have an equal right to make their contribution towards the enrichment
of the life of their country and share in the ensuing responsibilities,
rewards and privileges”. The resolution went on to state, among other
things, that all adults should have the same right to own land and to participate
in the government of the country.31 This statement was the clearest rejection
of apartheid that had so far been made by such a representative
group of South African churches.
But the Dutch Reformed delegates were in big trouble. The Afrikaner
nationalists with Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd at the helm were furious,
and even though some of the delegates recanted and issued their own
modified statement after the conference, the harm was done. The result was
that the annual assemblies of the Dutch Reformed churches in 1961 decided
to withdraw from the WCC and thereby also from the international church
community and from fellowship with the English-speaking churches in their
own country. The outcome of the Cottesloe conference created a deep split
between churches in South Africa. Three decades were to pass before they
were on speaking terms again and any WCC leaders were allowed to enter
South Africa.
The Cottesloe conference, the Sharpeville massacre, and the award of
the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli and the subsequent visit by the
ANC president to Norway in 1961, all attracted attention from the international
church community, including Norwegian bishops and churchmen.
From now on, the Church of Norway took a lively interest in developments
in South Africa.
In 1962 the LWF invited the leader of CEIR to visit South Africa together
with representatives from the secretariat in Geneva to investigate what the
LWF could do to change the white Lutheran churches’ positive attitude to
31 L.A. Hewson (ed.): Cottesloe Consultation. Grahamstown, 1961, pp. 74–75.
the apartheid policy. These churches, which counted many people of German
extraction among their members, stood close to the Dutch Reformed
Churches in this matter.
In 1963 the Norwegian bishops for the first time directly broached the
apartheid issue with the Norwegian government. They asserted that
apartheid was contrary to Christianity, and they wished “to appeal to the
Government of the South African Federation to let the Christian view of the
inherent worth of Man—with the idea of brotherhood and the command
meant to love one’s neighbour as oneself—lead to a radical change of course
and a transformation of its entire racial policy before it is too late.”32
The involvement of the LWF and the WCC in Southern African affairs in
the following years came to be of decisive importance for the Church of
Norway. In 1964 several leading representatives of liberation movements in
Southern Africa participated at a WCC conference in Zambia, and the WCC
conference on Church and Society in Geneva in 1966 strengthened the ties
that were established between the ecumenical movement and the liberation
movements. For Norwegian church leaders, participation at ecumenical
meetings became the gateway to a strong commitment to the anti-apartheid
After the Cottesloe conference there was no debate in Norwegian
churches as to whether apartheid could be reconciled with Christian or
humanitarian values, but it was still not entirely clear what practical consequences
followed. The 1960s was a time of searching for suitable ways and
means for the church to combat apartheid. Except for the refugee support
from the Norwegian Church, verbal condemnations of apartheid from the
missionaries’, bishops’ and churchmen’s growing sympathy for the antiapartheid
movement, nothing much happened.
1968–1973: From why to what
1968 was a turning point. In connection with the 20th anniversary of the UN
Declaration of Human Rights, the annual bishops’ conference in 1968 issued
a lengthy statement on human rights. The bishops on the one hand gave a
theological defence of church involvement in social issues and on the other
urged the Church of Norway to step up its efforts to promote human rights,
peace and justice. This statement, which had been prepared by Per Voksø,33
served as an important call for commitment in the years to come, even
though it was very general in terms and restricted to traditional church
32 Statement from the Bishops’ Meeting, 1963, CEIR archives.
33 P. Voksø has been one of the most influential lay church members in the Church of Norway
after the Second World War. He has played key roles as moderator of both the Church of Norway
National Council and CEIR. He has represented the Church of Norway in the WCC and
several other international and ecumenical institutions. Working as a journalist, he has also had
a great influence on the general public.
activities; humanitarian assistance to suffering people, preaching of the
Gospel and prayers. 34
The debate over the WCC’s Programme to Combat Racism
The Church of Norway’s step towards more politically oriented work on
human rights came as a result of actions taken by WCC and LWF. In 1968
the WCC presented the idea of a new Study Programme to Combat Racism
(PCR) at the General Assembly in Uppsala. It was also proposed that the
WCC should establish a fund to provide economic support for the liberation
struggle. The next year WCC Central Committee at their meeting in Notting
Hill decided to establish both the PCR and the Special Fund. The president
of FRELIMO, Eduardo Mondlane, was invited to speak at the meeting, but
he was killed by a car bomb shortly before. The speech was instead given by
Oliver Tambo, the acting president of the ANC. The Norwegian bishop Kåre
Støylen was a member of the Central Committee, and voted in favour of
both the PCR and the Special Fund.
In 1970 the Executive Committee of the WCC granted USD 200,000 to
nineteen different liberation movements of which fourteen operated within
Southern Africa.35 The conditions were clear; the money could only be used
for humanitarian purposes, and not in the violent struggle. But at the same
time WCC accepted that some liberation movements could be forced to use
violence in situations where all other means had been shown to be in vain.
The WCC line met with mixed reactions. In South Africa the government
quickly equated the WCC with Communism, and the support to the
liberation movements was criticised from several quarters in Europe as well.
In Norway, the decisions of the Central Committee sparked an intense
debate about the church’s relations to the ecumenical organisations. Conservative
Christians and several missionary organisations claimed that the
Church of Norway through its membership in the WCC was supporting
armed liberation struggles and many called for a withdrawal from the WCC
and also from LWF which they regarded as closely linked to the WCC. During
the 1960s, Norwegian Church Aid had, through the LWF, provided
financial assistance to humanitarian relief work among refugees in Southern
Africa. Among the refugees were several political activists linked to libera-
34 Statement from the Bishops’ Meeting in 1968, CEIR-archives : “Throughout the entire history
of the church women and men have obeyed the command of their Lord and gone forth from
their own countries to live and work among other peoples. They have spread knowledge of the
Lord for whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, they have eased human suffering and they have
through their total efforts created the preconditions both for raising the standard of living and
for the liberation of the people which we have experienced in so many places. These efforts
must be intensified in the time to come. The Gospel is still fresh and powerful […] The chief
weapon in the struggle is and remains the Word of God. It is to be proclaimed to the people, the
powers and the authorities of this time.”
35 WCC, Ecumenical Press Service, October 1979.
tion movements. For this reason the Norwegian Church Aid was also a
target for criticism.36
This debate led, in 1970, to a momentous statement from the bishops’
conference on Church of Norway’s relations to the ecumenical organisations.
It had been prepared by the young secretary of The Ecumenical Institute
(which later on was reorganised into CEIR), Gunnar Stålsett (who in
1985 was appointed secretary-general of LWF and in 1998 bishop of Oslo).
The bishops expressed approval of the work the LWF and the WCC were
doing to combat racism in South Africa, but they were also concerned about
WCC being involved in situations of gross human rights violations wherever
they occurred. The situation in Eastern Europe was in the bishops’
minds. Support given to liberation struggles should never be politically
motivated, and the bishops restated the WCC’s conditions that the grants
from the Special Fund could only be used for humanitarian assistance. 37
The bishops had now given their go-ahead for a more action oriented
human rights effort in the Church of Norway along the lines of the WCC
and the LWF. But the Church of Norway did not yet have any office or
committee to carry out this work. This was soon to change. When the
Church of Norway Council of Ecumenical and International Relations
(CEIR) was established in 1970, the Church of Norway was given a more
effective instrument for handling the church’s international and ecumenical
LWF and WCC encourage the Church of Norway to work with human rights
In 1970 the LWF General Assembly, meeting in Evian, encouraged its member
churches to work concretely with human rights issues and to report results
back to the LWF. In early January 1971 a “post-Evian conference” was
held in Oslo; it resulted in a study programme on human rights in the
Church of Norway.38 In 1971 a similar call to work on human rights issues
came from the WCC Central Committee. The pressure from the ecumenical
organisations was to be an important, not to say decisive, factor in starting
CEIR’s human rights work. A committee for human rights was set up in
1972, linked to CEIR’s Committee for International Affairs. This committee
was given the task to make a report on Church of Norway’s human rights
work which was translated into English and presented at the WCC Human
Rights Conference in St. Pölten in 1974.
In 1972 the Church of Norway together with the Nordic Ecumenical
Institute and the Norwegian Missionary Society arranged a conference in
36 P. Voksø: Utfordringen. Oslo: Norwegian Church Aid, 1987 (Book about the history of NCA).
37 Statement from the Bishops’ Meeting in 1970, CEIR-archives.
38 Mellomkirkelig Institutt Nytt (newsletter from CEIR), no. 3, 1975. Protocol from CEIR-meeting
31 August 1981, CEIR-archives.
Oslo, “Mission and Church Aid—in the light of the problems in Southern
Africa.”39 This was a follow-up of a similar conference held in Sweden in
1970. Church leaders from the Nordic countries and from abroad were invited,
and the meeting was chaired by bishop Per Lønning who “showed a
very personal blend of authority and personal concern.”40 The bishop of
Oslo, Fridtjov Birkeli, at this time also chairman of the Norwegian Missionary
Society, gave the opening address.
The conference, which created more interest for Southern Africa in the
Nordic churches, adopted a resolution on Namibia and a programme of
action for Rhodesia. The final statement requested both the Nordic churches
and governments to intensify their work against apartheid. The Conference
expressed strong support for the work of the WCC-PCR:
We are challenged by the fact that a great number of African churches are engaged
in the social, economic and political struggles within their societies as
they proclaim human rights and human dignity. We believe that the churches
and Christians in our Nordic countries have not yet fully seen their total responsibility
in Africa. On the basis of the theology of creation, incarnation and
redemption, we maintain that the church must be deeply concerned with
justice, welfare and dignity of all people—regardless of colour, race and social
status. […] We express our solidarity with the suffering peoples in Africa who
are continually struggling for human dignity and human rights, and we see
the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism and its grants
to the humanitarian programmes of the liberation movements as a concrete
expression of this solidarity.41
The conference also introduced a new theme; Critical attention should be
given to trade relations and industrial investments of Western Countries in
Southern Africa. Although vaguely formulated, this is one of the first
appearances of one the major political questions in Norway’s policy towards
Africa: the question of economic sanctions.
Support for the Christian Institute
In the early 1970s there was a strong wish among Norwegian church leaders
to show through specific action that the statements of principle were real
commitments. But what kind of action could be taken? After the Cottesloe
conference and the withdrawal of the Dutch Reformed churches from the
WCC, Beyers Naudé, a former Dutch Reformed minister established the
Christian Institute. The Church of Norway knew of this institute through
39 The Conference “Our responsibility for Southern Africa today” took place in Oslo 24–26 January
1971. Minutes from the conference are to be found in CEIR-archives. Part of the report was
published in Mellomkirkelig Institutt Nytt, no. 3b, 1971 and no. 1, 1972.
40 Lars Thunberg, director of Nordic Ecumenical Institute in the preface of the minutes, CEIRarchives.
41 Final statement from the conference “Our responsibility for Southern Africa today”, Oslo,
24–26 January 1972, CEIR-archives.
LWF and WCC, and the Norwegian missionaries in South Africa were familiar
with it.42 The institute needed support, its funding was insufficient and
the government kept it under constant surveillance because of its outspoken
criticism of apartheid. Could this be a worthy cause for the Church of
Norway to support?
In the spring of 1971 the secretary-general of CEIR asked missionary
Andreas Løken in South Africa along with the former missionaries Odd
Kvaal Pedersen and Gunnar Lislerud this very question. Lislerud, who had
worked closely with Christian Institute as a “charter member” during his
time in South Africa, expressed the view that the “Christian Institute is the
most effective ecumenical link in the South African situation”, while Løken
thought that “supporting the Christian Institute is a much greater service to
South Africa—with all its deprived people—than WCC did by supporting
liberation movements with political and military objectives alongside the
humanitarian ones which received so much attention. […] Let me mention,
just between ourselves, that the NMS has quietly supported the Christian
Institute economically these last years, out of sympathy with its aims.”43
CEIR set up a special committee to investigate how CEIR could best
support the Christian Institute. Where would the money come from? After
having rejected the idea of a fund-raising campaign, it approached the Norwegian
Church Aid, which granted NOK 5,000.44 This was the first grant for
the struggle against apartheid within South Africa to be channelled through
the Church of Norway, and the church reported to the WCC that it
“participated in the fight against racism in South Africa by supporting the
Christian Institute and by trying to keep the public informed about the
objectives of the struggle”.45 This initiated a 25 year long effort to provide
economic support to South Africa and Namibia. In 1972 Naudé visited
Norway for the first time. He was to become one of the chief advisers for the
Church of Norway’s projects in South Africa through the entire period.
1973–1983: The church of Norway’s commitment finds its shape
The early 1970s saw another change in the nature of the Church on Norway’s
commitment. Not only did economic support begin, the commitment
also became more politically oriented. Attention was focused on South
Africa’s economic relations to other countries. Needless to say, this had to
42 Bishop P.G. Parkendorf, the leading Swedish missionary Helge Fosseus, Manas Buthelezi, all
working in ELCSA-SER worked closely with the Christian Institute (CI).
43 G. Lislerud’s letter to G. Stålsett of 29 March 1971, A. Løken’s letter to G. Stålsett of 22 April
1971, CEIR-archives.
44 Members of the CI-committee: Kvaal Pedersen, Hestvold, Stålsett, Birkeli and Lislerud. CEIR
annual report 1971. Minutes from CI-Committee Meeting 23 April 1971, CEIR-archives. Mellomkirkelig
Institutt Nytt published many articles about CI in the 1970s.
45 CEIR-meeting 1971, CEIR-archives.
do with the fact that these relations were at this time stressed by the antiapartheid
movements, the UN and the international ecumenical organisations.
At this time CEIR also established contact with representatives of the
liberation movements. Bakkevig claims that CEIR often helped the liberation
movements to get in touch with Norwegian government officials, and that
CEIR’s wide-ranging network made CEIR an asset in overall Norwegian
relations to Southern Africa. It also led to close contact with the Norwegian
In 1973 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved an application from
CEIR for NOK 75,000 to the Christian Institute. A very special relationship
between CEIR and the Ministry, which lasted until 1995, had begun. From
1973 onwards the Ministry regularly granted funds to the Church to be
transferred to churches and organisations within South Africa. That year
CEIR also managed to raise NOK 75,000 from the Ministry for the WCCPCR.
Balwin Sjollema, director of the PCR, visited Norway in 1973, in connection
with the OAU-UN conference (see chapter 1), and he established
further contacts with the church.
The Christian Institute: “The axe has fallen”
The Christian Institute was, as we have seen, CEIR’s first partner in South
Africa. However, the Institute also received unwelcome attention from the
South African Government. In 1973 Prime Minister Johannes B. Vorster
appointed a parliamentary commission to investigate the work of the institute
and several other organisations which were critical towards the
apartheid regime.46 They were accused of inciting violent revolution and of
encouraging socialism. The organisations were suspected of being in league
with foreign enemies of the regime, among others the WCC. In December
Manas Buthelezi, the Lutheran theologian in charge of the Institute’s
regional office in Natal was banned when refusing to subject himself to
secret interrogation.
The LWF appealed to all its member churches to protest against the
banning of Buthelezi, and the acting secretary-general of CEIR, who at that
time was the former NMS missionary Andreas Løken, did so in no uncertain
terms in an interview with the Church of Norway News.
In March 1974 the Chairman of CEIR, bishop Kåre Støylen, wrote to the
Foreign Minister, Knut Frydenlund, asking the Norwegian Government to
raise the banning of Buthelezi with the South African Government.47 The
secretary-general of the International Commission of Jurists observed the
court proceedings against the Christian Institute. The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs also granted NOK 50,000 for the Institute’s legal defence.
46 National Union of South African Students, University Student Movement, South African Institute
of Race Relations.
47 Letter from CEIR’s moderator K. Støylen to K. Frydenlund of 25 March 1973, CEIR-archives.
The CEIR was deeply worried about the future of the Christian Institute,
and discussed the matter at its meeting in March 1975. Soon after, on 6 June,
the Council got this message from Isle Naudé, Beyers’ wife: “The axe has
fallen. On 30 May 1975 the Government of the Republic of South Africa has
declared the Christian Institute an affected organisation”. This meant among
other things that the Christian Institute could no longer legally receive
money from abroad.48
SACC and churches all over the world protested strongly against this
verdict. At this time, several Norwegians had come to know Naudé and
other people at the Christian Institute personally, both because they had
visited Norway several times, but also because of the work the Institute had
been doing inside South Africa. CEIR published a statement on 20 June,
stating that the council was shocked by the accusations against the Institute:
“We express our wholehearted support for such work and appeal to all
Christians in our country to pray for Dr. Beyers Naudé and all the other
church leaders in South Africa.”49
It was no longer possible to support the Christian Institute financially,
but the Church of Norway continued to stay in close contact with the Institute,
even after the banning in 1977 of the Institute itself and several of its
staff, including Naudé. For a few years in the late 1970s the work of the
Institute was carried on in exile, and this was supported by the Church of
Norway. Two other organisations closely connected with the Institute also
received financial support from Norway: the Black Community Programme
and the African Independent Churches Association.50
Soweto and the banning of anti-apartheid organisations
In South Africa the situation went from bad to worse. The picture of the
dead child Hector Peterson, killed by police bullets in Soweto on 16 June
1976, appeared on the front page of newspapers all over the world. Both
SACC and the Christian Institute appealed to their friends abroad for support
and prayers in this dark hour in the history of South Africa. CEIR made
an official statement on 22 June assuring their friends in South Africa of their
full support in the continuing struggle against apartheid; “The church asks
Norwegian Christians to follow the developments in South Africa alertly.
We must stand together in prayer that the freedom and peace which we can
enjoy today in our country, must also become reality for those people who
in other parts of the world live in bondage.”51
48 Letter from I. Beyers of 3 June 75 to CEIR, CEIR-archives.
49 Statement from CEIR-meeting 20 June 1975, CEIR-archives.
50 CEIR annual report 1973, CEIR-archives.
51 Statement from CEIR-meeting 22 June 1976, CEIR-archives.
In October 1977 the Government banned 18 anti-apartheid organisations,
among them the Christian Institute. As we have seen, Beyers Naudé
and several others were either banned or detained. The government thereby
signalled to the world that no internal criticism of apartheid would be tolerated.
In CEIR’s opinion:
By this action the South African authorities have shown that they are willing
to make use of all conceivable means to ensure the privileged position of the
white population […] After this, the black population has practically no
institutions or organisations expressing their views, their needs and their
grievous need … It seems as if the churches are now the only organisations
who can plead the case of the black population. This situation calls upon our
solidarity and our prayers. For the international community in general and
for Norway in particular the development must have as a consequence that
all political and economic means are employed to bring the apartheid
government to an end.52
After the banning of the organisations the role of the churches became even
more crucial because it seemed that the churches were now the only organisations
still able to speak for the black population. This situation called for
our solidarity and our prayers, according to CEIR.
New partners in South Africa
In this situation it became even more important for CEIR to support organisations
within South Africa that could still work and receive financial assistance
from abroad. The most important among the new partners was SACC
which got financial support from CEIR from 1978, the same year that
Desmond Tutu took over as secretary-general. After the Soweto uprising
and the murder of Steve Biko, CEIR also started to support the Black Consciousness
Movement, and the Black Parents Associations in Soweto, led by
Manas Buthelezi
In 1983 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted a large sum to help
establish the Ecumenical Centre in Durban. This centre housed several
organisations, among others Diakonia and Legal Resources Centre which
were to become close partners to CEIR. In 1985 CEIR, in close co-operation
with the Norwegian consulate in Cape Town, set up the Social Change
Assistance Trust which distributed money to a large number of grassroots
organisations in the Cape Town area. These partners will be described in
more detail in the second part of the chapter.
The secretary-general of CEIR normally travelled to South Africa twice a
year to meet with the partners. CEIR also frequently received South African
guests in their Oslo offices. The round table meetings of SACC and other
international ecumenical meetings also brought the partners together. This
contact was of great importance for the development of CEIR’s work. Infor-
52 Statement from CEIR’s secretary-general and moderator of 19 October 1977, CEIR-archives.
mation was shared and advice given through personal contacts. In the
course of the 1980s, the church became the Norwegian organisation with the
most extensive and frequent communication with opposition groups within
South Africa, and this meant a lot in the church’s co-operation with Norwegian
government and non-governmental organisations, both when it came
to sharing information and to political lobbying. The annual support from
the Church of Norway was increased from approximately NOK 230,000 in
1976 to more than NOK 1 million in 1977 and about NOK 3 million in the
early 1980s.
1981–1983: SACC’s activities are scrutinised
Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha’s attack on SACC in 1981 became further
proof that the churches had to involve themselves in what was happening in
South Africa. Botha wanted to map SACC relations with churches aboard,
particularly concerning the large amount of money that was given to SACC
by the international church community. The so-called “Eloff Commission”
was ordered to investigate the sources of these funds and how they were
used. The Botha government hoped that the commission would reveal
irregularities in SACC’s accounting and generally discredit it.
The official hearings started in 1982. SACC called a large number of
representatives from their partner churches abroad as witnesses. The secretary-
general of CEIR (from 1978 on Carl Traaen), was present at the hearings
as an observer, and bishop Gunnar Lislerud testified to the Commission:
As a church in another part of the world, we may not always be fully
informed of all the projects of SACC, but we are in full agreement as to the
principle of social-ethical witness given by the Council. This is a prophetic
witness, which is the responsibility of the Church—at all times and in all
places […] Today many churches give a prophetic witness on the same issue—
that human rights and human dignity, freedom and justice be given to all
peoples of this country regardless of race and colour. It is exactly to this issue,
SACC has given its witness and devotes its work. And the churches of the
world work to support their witness. That is why we have come the long way
back to this country and to this hearing.53
The case did not turn out the way Botha had hoped. During the hearing
church leaders from all over the world expressed their admiration for
SACC’s work, and emphasised that it was financially independent of its
donors. The hearings demonstrated the considerable support SACC commanded
internationally, and the Commission was unable to find any irregularities
in its accounts. Instead of discrediting the council, the case brought
greater recognition for SACC both within and outside South Africa. The
Eloff Commission’s report, which exonerated SACC, was handed over to the
Parliament in 1984, but no one wanted to follow it up.
53 G. Lislerud’s statement to the Eloff Commission, CEIR-archives.
The liberation struggle in Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe
In 1975 the former Portuguese colonies achieved their freedom at last, and
five years later Zimbabwe became independent. The Church of Norway was
not so much directly involved in the liberation struggle in these three countries.
Apart from the Norwegian Methodist Church’s mission work in
Angola and Mozambique, there were few links between these countries and
the Norwegian churches, until the Norwegian Church Aid, in co-operation
with the LWF and the WCC and the churches in the region, started to support
the large number of refugees in Southern Africa with humanitarian aid
in the 1960s.
CEIR had of course followed the struggle going on in these countries
against colonial and settler regimes with great interest, not least through
information provided by international ecumenical organisations and the
Norwegian Council for Southern Africa. Norwegian church leaders were
also present at several ecumenical meetings in the region, and met with
representatives from the liberation movements in these countries. But the
Church of Norway took few initiatives of their own related to their struggle.
We have already mentioned that the Nordic Church conference in Oslo
in 1972 adopted a Programme of Action on Rhodesia. Some years later, in
1978, the WCC-PCR’s Special Fund gave financial support to the Patriotic
Front (ZANU) led by Robert Mugabe. Support was not given to the same
extent to ZAPU. This was widely regarded as a politically motivated choice.
CEIR were among those who opposed the PCR’s decision in an official
statement from 1 November 1987:
We support the provision of aid even to this type of liberation movement
when the prerequisite is that the money is used for humanitarian purposes,
relief for refugees and so on. […] The grant to the Patriotic Front was however
given a political motivation where one of two parties in the national liberation
struggle in Rhodesia was given preference. We think that the World Council
of Churches has in this way chosen sides in a conflict between different
nationalist movements. In our opinion, this is not in accordance with the
premisses and we dissociate ourselves from the way the Rhodesia grant was
CEIR also asked Bishop Per Lønning to make CEIR’s opinion on this matter
known to WCC’s Central Committee, of which he was a member. CEIR’s
Committee on International Affairs discussed the situation in Rhodesia and
CEIR’s statement at its meeting later in November, and asked CEIR to be
more flexible. The situation in Rhodesia was changing so rapidly that the
committee advised Lønning to wait and see before he spoke out against the
PCR’s support to ZANU.55
54 Statement from CEIR-meeting 1 November 1987, CEIR-archives.
55 Statement from CEIR-meeting 28 November 1978, CEIR-archives.
The only official statement given by CEIR on Mozambique came after a
meeting in February 1988 at Gran outside Oslo between representatives
from the Nordic churches and churches and liberation movements in Southern
Africa. At this meeting African church leaders asked for support in the
extremely difficult situation in Mozambique due to the South African
aggression and the civil war. The meeting, which CEIR hosted, adopted a
resolution that also included a passage on the situation in Mozambique:
The Churches’ delegation from the SADCC countries challenges the Nordic
countries to press their governments to provide means of self-defence for the
government of Mozambique. Delegates from the Nordic churches appreciate
the urgency of this plea from representatives of the churches in the SADCC
countries. Nordic church delegates agree to take this plea to their churches, so
that they can discuss it and raise the matter with the Nordic public and
When CEIR met soon afterwards it issued an open letter asking Norwegian
congregations to pray for the people of Mozambique and requested the
Norwegian Government to increase its support, both financially and politically,
for this country.57
On several occasions, both in meetings and in informal talks, CEIR tried
to prod the Norwegian Government to continue and also increase Norway’s
support to the countries in Southern Africa which were suffering because of
the South African military and economic destabilisation policy towards its
neighbours. CEIR also took part in information and solidarity campaigns
and cultural events connected with Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Most of these were results of initiatives from the Norwegian Council for
Southern Africa (see chapter 6).
The Norwegian churches’ interest in Namibia was mainly a result of the
South African occupation, especially after the apartheid regime came to
power in 1948. No Norwegian churches or missions have ever been working
in Namibia, and there have never been many Norwegian settlers. Nevertheless,
the situation in Namibia was given considerable attention first and
foremost from the Namibian Association, but also from the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa, the Norwegian Ecumenical Council on Southern
Africa, the Norwegian Church Aid and the Church of Norway. This was
because concern for Namibia was regarded as part of the struggle against
the apartheid regime in South Africa. The churches participated in information
and political lobby work vis-à-vis the Norwegian public and the government.
CEIR maintained close contacts with the Namibian Communica-
56 Statement from the conference on co-operation between churches in the SADCC member
sates and the Nordic countries at Granavolden, 4–7 February 1988, CEIR-archives.
57 Statement from CEIR-meeting of 28 May 1988, CEIR-archives.
tion Centre in London, and also provided financial support for it. Information
from this independent agency was distributed to churches, NGOs,
media and politicians in Norway. CEIR also had close links with the Namibian
Council of Churches (NCC) and representatives of SWAPO.
Several steps were taken to urge the Norwegian government to use its
influence internationally for an immediate implementation of the UN plan
for independence for Namibia (UN Resolution 435-1978). In 1986–87
Namibian church leaders visited Norway and urged the Norwegian
churches to keep up the pressure on their government over this issue. In
1988 CEIR’s Committee on Intentional Affairs followed this up by adopting
a resolution that asked the churches to continue to focus on Namibia by for
instance establishing contacts with local congregations within Namibia. The
Committee also criticised the Norwegian government for its lukewarm
efforts to work internationally for Namibian independence. The committee
“wishes to challenge the Norwegian government to become a more active
and consistent protagonist for Namibia’s right to freedom.”58
The churches also co-operated with other NGOs, in arranging solidarity
campaigns and church services on special occasions like Namibia Day (26
August) and 4 May, the day commemorating the Kassinga massacre in 1978
where 800 Namibian refugees were brutally killed by the South African
army in a refugee camp in Angola.
The Church of Norway also became involved in Namibia through
LWF’s effort to motivate the white Lutheran churches to become more critical
towards the South African Government. In 1986 LWF arranged a consultation
on this matter in Hannover. The interest shown by LWF also inspired
the Church of Norway to work on Namibia. The bishop of Oslo Andreas
Aarflot participated in a LWF delegation which in 1989 visited the “white”
Namibian churches which at that time had been suspended from membership
in the LWF.
Norwegian Church Aid and CEIR had for many years provided financial
support for church schools in Namibia, and they both supported the
Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek established by David Smuts. The
Norwegian churches were in close contact with the Namibian Council of
Churches, and CEIR gave financial support for the Repatriation, Resettlement
and Rehabilitation programme. In connection with the elections in
Namibia in 1989, Berge Furre59 representing CEIR, was an observer in the
WCC and the Namibian Council of Churches’ Information and Monitoring
Programme. He followed closely the work on the new constitution and also
58 Statement from CEIR– Committee on International affairs (KISP) 7 May 1988, CEIR-archives.
59 Berge Furre, a professor of history and theology, has been a member of both CEIR and the
General Synod of the Church of Norway. He has also been engaged in international end ecumenical
work, particularly in the European Conference of Churches. He has also been a member
of the Norwegian Parliament representing the Socialist Left Party.
the human rights situation in Ovamboland and discussed his observations
later with the Council of Churches in Windhoek.60
The Church of Norway and the liberation movements in the 1980s–1990s
Norwegian church leaders first got in touch with representatives from the
liberation movements living in exile, at meetings arranged under the supervision
the LWF and the WCC. We have already mentioned some of these
occasions. From the late 1980s Norwegian Church Aid also gave financial
assistance to ANC in Lusaka for its Human Resources Development Programme.
The Church of Norway never gave any financial support directly
to the liberation movements themselves. This was left to other organisations
in Norway.
Norwegian church representatives also met with representatives from
ANC and SWAPO visiting Norway after having been invited by the antiapartheid
groups, trade unions or other organisations. On some occasions,
like the Gran conference in 1988, the church was host. CEIR had an advantage
(over other Norwegian organisations) because their relations to LWF
and WCC brought the church leaders in contact with the liberation movements
“CEIR helped the liberation movements reach Norwegian authorities”
according to Trond Bakkevig.61
As we know, the WCC Programme to Combat Racism and the financial
support to the liberation movements caused an internal debate in the
Church of Norway in 1969–70. After the WCC-PRC meeting in Lusaka in
1987 the same debate arose again. Both the president of ANC, Oliver Tambo,
and the SWAPO President, Sam Nujoma, addressed the conference, together
with the chairman of PAC, Johnson Mlambo. The Lusaka meeting recognised
“that the people of South Africa and Namibia, who are yearning for
justice and peace, have identified the liberation movements of their countries
as the authentic vehicles of their aspirations for self-determination.”62
Even though the WCC only gave humanitarian assistance, the conference
accepted that the liberation movements in critical situations chose to use violence.
Bishop Gunnar Lislerud took an active part in the drafting of the Lusaka
statement. He was present together with Atle Sommerfelt, at that time acting
secretary-general of CEIR. The conference asked the member churches of
WCC to intensify their moral and financial support for the victims of
apartheid both in South Africa and Namibia, but also all those who were
suffering as a result of South Africa’s military aggression towards its neighbouring
states. The final statement called for international, binding eco-
60 B. Furre, Report from visit to Namibia 16 November–3 December 1989, CEIR-archives.
61 Bakkevig, p. 20.
62 Final Statement, report on Meeting in Lusaka, 4–8 May 1987, WCC-PCR.
nomic sanctions and several other specific actions which could increase the
international pressure on the South African government to abolish
In Norway the Lusaka statement led to renewed debate on the use of
violence, and CEIR arranged a seminar to discuss this matter. CEIR also
adopted a resolution supporting the Lusaka-statement:
The statement further acknowledges that the South African and Namibian
people have designated the liberation movements as their legitimate tools in
the fight for self-determination, justice and peace. CEIR accepts and affirms
these movements as representative spokesmen and instruments of the
liberation struggle in Southern Africa. As representative expressions for the
will of the people these movements must themselves be responsible for
choosing what means to employ. It will remain the primary task of our church
to help ensure that all possibilities for non-violent solutions are explored,
while we at the same time can understand that the oppressed party finds
itself forced to resort to armed resistance in the course of the liberation
The Lusaka statement was also discussed at the conference at Gran where
the Nordic churches and their partner churches in the SADCC region discussed
what kind of concrete actions should be taken to follow up their
commitments from Lusaka.
In 1988 ANC opened an office in Oslo. From now on much of the contact
between the church and ANC was handled by this office. Contact was frequent
between CEIR’s secretary-general and ANC’s representative in Norway.
This helped the church to understand ANC’s views on political developments
during the negotiation process. CEIR’s close relations with the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs helped ANC to get access to high rank politicians
in Norway.
1984–1989: Popular enthusiasm
In the 1960s and 1970s the apartheid question attracted the interest of a few
“specially interested people”, mostly those working with international
organisations or radicals who took a special interest in liberation movements
in Africa or in general. In Norway this changed tremendously in the mid-
1980s. Visitors from South Africa was surprised to learn that taxi drivers
asked about ANC, and that schoolchildren were familiar with Steve Biko
and Nelson Mandela. There were two main reasons for this change of attitude;
the question of economic sanctions became a hot political issue and the
Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Desmond Tutu and SACC.
In 1983 a group of Christians from different denominations but with a
shared interest for Southern Africa came together and established Norwegian
Ecumenical Council for Southern Africa (NEKSA). NEKSA’s aim was
63 CEIR annual report 1987, Statement from CEIR-meeting 30 November 1987, CEIR-archives.
threefold: to mobilise the Norwegian public, especially active church members,
to put pressure on the Government to implement economic sanctions
towards South Africa, to distribute information in Norway about political
events inside South Africa and Namibia in a situation with strict media
restrictions, and to establish links between the churches in Norway and in
Southern Africa.64 This council played an important role in mobilising
church people all over Norway to support the struggle going on in Southern
Former South Africa missionary Per Anders Nordengen, in 1987
appointed leader of the Church of Norway Development Education Service
and its twin organisation the Council of free Churches, together with
NEKSA carried out extensive information work and helped local congregations
and church-related organisations all over Norway to arrange local antiapartheid
seminars, prayer services and to organise campaigns against
shops selling South African goods. Nordengen’s personal commitment to
the struggle against apartheid was an inspiration, not least to many youngsters,
and he motivated youth organisations linked to the church to run their
own anti-apartheid campaigns.
An organisational change in the Church of Norway was also important.
In 1984 the General Synod was established. It gave CEIR the responsibility
for international and ecumenical issues on behalf of the Church of Norway,
and CEIR had to report back to the Synod. CEIR’s work with Southern
Africa thus became much better known publicly than it had been previously,
when only the bishops and a few interested individuals knew what was
going on. In 1984 Trond Bakkevig replaced Carl Traaen as secretary-general
of CEIR, and his close links to the Foreign Ministry were to be of considerable
importance for the Council’s work in the late 1980s.
1984: The Nobel Peace Prize
Tuesday 16 October 1984 was a busy day at CEIR’s office. The phones rang
continuously. Early that morning, the Nobel Committee had announced that
the Peace Prize for 1984 was awarded to the secretary-general of SACC,
Desmond Tutu. CEIR was the obvious place to call for journalists and others
who needed information on SACC and comments on the award. It came as
no surprise when the Nobel Committee asked CEIR and NEKSA to put together
a programme for Tutu and his companions during their stay in Norway.
Among the highlights of their visit was a service in the Oslo Cathedral
and an open party which the church arranged in co-operation with the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa, and the Norwegian Confederation of
64 Bishop G. Lislerud and Ø. Tveter were among the founding members of NEKSA. Today
NEKSA is connected to the Norwegian Church Council, and material relating to NEKSA is to be
found in NCC-archives in Oslo.
Trade Unions (LO) in the assembly hall of LO. Hundreds had to stay outside,
since the hall was overcrowded. The party was broadcast live.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony itself was memorable for more than
one reason. It was interrupted by a bomb threat. All the guests had to leave
the University Hall and wait outside in minus 10 degrees Centigrade. After a
while the police reported that no bomb had been found, and everyone could
go back inside. In the meantime the orchestra had disappeared. What
happened next will not be forgotten in a hurry: all the South Africans present,
led by Tutu himself, went up to the podium to sing Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika
with raised fists. The audience, among them King Olav V of Norway, all
rose in respect for this national anthem. The South Africans were deeply
moved to hear that the song was well known to many in the audience.
Tutu had brought with him both family members and colleagues in
SACC. At gatherings both in Oslo and in other parts of the country their joyful
singing and joking combined with testimonies about the terrifying situation
in their home country made an enormous impression both on ordinary
churchgoers and on those who normally kept their distance to the church.
“The Moment of Truth has arrived”
In 1985 a state of emergency was declared in Natal (in 1986 nation wide),
followed by a wave of new oppression as well as mounting resistance. 1985
was also the year of the Kairos Document. This document gave a critical historical
and theological analysis of the misuse of the Bible both by churches
and politicians in South Africa. It also criticised the English-speaking
churches for failing to perceive the serious threat in the political, economic
and social crisis in South Africa at that time, and for being reluctant in their
criticism of the apartheid government. The Kairos Document was studied by
theologians and lay people all over the world. It was translated into several
languages, Norwegian among them, and was followed by similar documents
relating both to South Africa (The Evangelical Witness), the global crisis
(The Road to Damascus) and to the situation in particular countries. The Kairos
Document helped Christians both in South Africa and abroad to understand
the seriousness on the South African crisis;
The time has come. The moment of Truth has arrived. South Africa has been
plunged into a crisis that is shaking the foundations and there is every indication
that the crisis has just begun and that it will deepen and become even
more threatening in the months to come. It is the Kairos or moment of truth
not only for apartheid but also in the Church.65
They were right; the crisis had just begun. On the morning of 12 June 1986,
Per Anders Nordengen was wakened by a phone call. He was told that
65 The Kairos Document, published by WCC-PCR 1985, chapter one. Also translated into Norwegian
by CEIR, ‘Sannhetens øyeblikk’.
armoured cars were surrounding the Ecumenical Centre in Durban. He hurried
to the centre. Pretending to be a journalist he started to ask the police
questions, but was quickly ordered to leave. The next thing he did was to
run into a cafe and phone Trond Bakkevig at CEIR. The Ecumenical Centre
had been established three years earlier with money from the Church of
Norway, and Paddy Kearney, the leader of Diakonia, was at this time one of
CEIR’s closest partners in South Africa. Later the same day the news came
that Kearney had been arrested. So had tens of thousands of others, among
them Francois Bill, connected to the African Scholarship Programme, which
was also supported by CEIR. Thousands more went into hiding.
But there were happy moments in 1986, too. On 7 September bishop
Desmond Tutu was made Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South
Africa. Among the many people present were Trond Bakkevig and the
Norwegian bishop Bjørn Bue, both of whom took part in the procession.
Soon after Frank Chikane was elected secretary-general of SACC. He visited
Norway for the first time in 1987, a visit to be followed by several others in
the years to come.
In South Africa the crisis escalated in the last years of the Botha regime.
In his desperate attempt to reform apartheid so that the political and economic
power could still rest in the hands of the white minority, he tried to
destroy all internal opposition by using more and more force. CEIR sent the
following telex to Botha on 16 March 1987 when the imminent hanging of
the Sharpeville Six had been announced: “To execute these young South
Africans will be contrary to the most fundamental principles of justice and a
crime against humanity”.
In February 1988 seventeen anti-apartheid organisations were outlawed.
These were organisations that were filling the space after those which were
outlawed in 1977. Church leaders who protested were arrested. In Norway
church leaders from different denominations decided, in their anger and
sorrow, to give a joint statement on the crisis in South Africa: “As leaders in
Norwegian churches we wish to declare our strong support for the South
African church leaders’ courageous testimony in the critical situation the
people and the church find themselves in. In a non-violent fight for peace,
justice and fundamental human rights they voice a central Biblical concern.”
The statement, signed by the Church of Norway, the Council of Free
Churches and the Catholic Church, was unique because it was the first time
ever that these churches acted together in such a way. In Norway, as in
South Africa itself and many other parts of the world, the struggle against
apartheid led to closer ecumenical contacts.
In September the same year a new and tragic message came through the
fax machine at CEIR’s office. The main office of the South African Council of
66 WCC, Ecumenical Statement 2 March 1988.
Churches, Khotso House, had been blown up by a bomb. Bjarne Lindstrøm,
the Norwegian consul-general in Cape Town, and one of CEIR’s closest
friends in South Africa, travelled immediately to Johannesburg, and within a
few days CEIR had made a deal with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs that Norway would contribute to a new office. The Council also
appealed to the congregations in Norway to pray for the churches in South
Africa.67 In 1998 it was confirmed at the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission that the bombing of the Khotso House was instigated by
the then Minister of “Law and Order”, Adrian Vlok.
The critical situation in South Africa during the State of Emergency was
the reason that CEIR took the initiative in 1985 to establish the “West European
Church Network on South Africa”. This network, whose aim was to
share information among West European churches involved in South Africa,
was co-ordinated by CEIR. Its meetings also gave opportunities to discuss
concerted church efforts to get Western politicians to implement stronger
economic sanctions against South Africa.
Theology from the South
Documents like The Kairos Document, The Road to Damascus , The Evangelical
Witness and The Rustenburg Declaration were translated into Norwegian and
used in Bible study groups or studied by individuals. The poems of Zephania
Kameta from Namibia were also translated, together with sermons by
Desmond Tutu, Allan Boesak, Frank Chikane and others. Music, liturgies
and hymns from Southern Africa became well known to many Norwegian
church members. Prominent Southern African church leaders were invited
to summer camps and national arrangements like the “Norwegian Church
Days”. The Norwegian Ecumenical Council for Southern Africa (NEKSA)
has most of the honour for bringing African theology to the Norwegian
churches. Several church and Youth choirs learned to sing African liberation
songs, and these songs are perhaps what most ordinary Christians in Norway
The theological institutions in Norway also have been involved with
Southern African Theology. The School of Mission and Theology (Norwegian
Mission Society) has ever since the pioneer days of the Norwegian mission
been in touch with Lutherans in South Africa. A special co-operation
was established with the Lutheran Theological College at Mapumulo in
Natal. Norwegian missionaries used to work as teachers at this college. The
co-operation with the school in Stavanger involved exchanges of both teachers
and student. The Norwegian Lutheran Hospital and College, Oslo, cooperates
with Kgolagano College in Botswana and is also involved in cooperation
with the Institute for Contextual Theology in South Africa. The
67 Statement from CEIR-meeting 2 September 1988, CEIR archives.
Finnmark College in Alta is involved in a programme on Contextual Theology
and co-operates with South African theologians.
Exchange-programmes and study tours have also been arranged and
have been of great importance in establishing personal relations between
Christians in Norway and Southern Africa. In 1988 NEKSA arranged for
around 25 church leaders and activists from different denomination to visit
several countries in the southern part of Africa. This visit made a great impact,
both emotionally and intellectually, and some of them encouraged
their own churches to increase their work on Southern Africa. One of the
travellers, Jon Magne Lund from the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church, did
not know much about this region when he left Norway, but after his return
he became an enthusiastic chairman of NEKSA. Øystein Tveter was a key
person in facilitating the theological co-operation and the exchange programmes.
Tveter encouraged other organisations and institutions to establish
contact with partners in Southern Africa. His many personal relations
with persons in the region were a great advantage in this matter.
When major crises occurred in South Africa, for instance the massacres
in Sharpeville in 1960 and in Soweto in 1976, the banning of organisations in
1977 and 1988 and the bombing of the Khotso House, Norwegian church
leaders asked the local congregations and Christians to pray for the people
of South Africa. These calls came originally from churches within South
Africa or from LWF and WCC. In different parts of Norway local congregations
arranged special solidarity services. Christians in South Africa
reported back that this kind of support meant very much to them, and encouraged
them to continue with the struggle. Calls for prayers were also
made in connection with the elections both in Namibia and in South Africa.
On special occasions the churches worked together on an ecumenical
and national level. This was done for instance in connection with the Peace
Prize to Desmond Tutu and Frederik W. de Klerk and prior to the election in
South Africa in 1994. In 1987 the Norwegian churches were responsible for a
Nordic arrangement on Namibia Day on 26 August 1998. National information
campaigns were initiated by the twin organisations, Church of Norway
and the Council of Free Churches’ Development and Education Service. A
few congregations became “friendships congregations” to churches in
Southern Africa.68
The NORDIC–SADCC Church Co-operation
Soon after the WCC’s conference in Lusaka in 1987, CEIR took an initiative
to establish closer co-operation between the Nordic churches and the
68 Examples of such friendship congregations are: Surla congregation and Highfield Church,
Zimbabwe, Strømmen congregation and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Tromsø congregation and
Koichas, Namibia and the Diocese of Oslo and ELCSA, South Africa. Material relating to these
matters are to be found in the Church of Norway Development Education Service–archives
(National Church Council, Oslo).
churches in the SADCC region. In February 1989 church representatives
from both regions met at Gran in Norway. This was the first of several conferences
arranged by the so-called “NORDIC–SADCC Church Cooperation”
in the years to come. The first years CEIR co-ordinated this programme,
later on this task was taken over by the Nordic Ecumenical
Council, based in Uppsala, Sweden.
The Gran conference took place against the background of “The Joint
Declaration on Expanded Economic and Cultural Co-operation between the
Nordic countries and the SADCC member states”. The aim of the conference
was to discuss areas of common ground and to share information, hopes
and aspirations. The conference was also seen as a continuation of work on
the concerns of the Lusaka statement. The participants agreed to work together
on these concerns:
– Eradication of apartheid
– Increased development and transfer of assistance to the SADCC countries
– Sharing of themselves as Christians and human beings.
The last one was a special concern for the conference. The participants
wanted to create a new form of church co-operation as an alternative and
corrective to the traditional one created by missionaries when the North
“assisted” churches in the South. The conference stated that:
The churches in the north feel that they are living through a spiritual crisis.
Even with peace, increased welfare and democratic rights, they see problems
of loneliness, meaninglessness, suicide and crime. They see more people
turning away from the churches. The churches of the north see a vitality and
richness in the worship, witness and spirit of the growing Southern churches.
They hope to share and learn.69
This was to be done through sharing of liturgy, theological study and exchange
and by bringing together both pastors and church workers and ordinary
church members from both regions. It was also discussed what kind of
concrete actions should be taken in the Nordic churches to follow up the
Lusaka statement.
The Gran conference, which was chaired by archbishop Walter Makulu,
was also attended by representatives from the liberation movements. Thabo
Mbeki and other ANC representatives dressed in warm traditional woollen
sweaters had the chance not only to experience snow, but more importantly
to meet with Nordic church people and establish closer relations.
The conference at Gran was followed by a new one in Lesotho in 1991
and another in Denmark in 1992. In addition theme conferences were arranged;
for instance a Youth Conference in Namibia in 1990, a “Workshop
69 Statement from the Gran conference, 4–7 February 1987, CEIR-archives.
on concerned women theologians” in Botswana, a conference on “Rightwing
Christian groups” in Namibia and a women’s conference in Swaziland—
all of them in 1991.70 The governments of the Nordic countries gave
financial support.
The debate on economic sanctions
The first signs of a church debate in Norway on the trade between the Western
countries and the apartheid regime appear in 1972. Both the Nordic
Conference on Southern Africa in Oslo in January this year and the WCC
Central Committee meeting in August raised the issue of economic sanctions
against South Africa.71 In 1973 the Church, at the request of WCC,
turned to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and protested against
Norway’s co-operation with South Africa in the Intergovernmental Committee
for European Migration. This international committee, of which Norway
was a member, worked to recruit European workers to South Africa.72
In March 1974 for first time the Church of Norway raised the question of
Norway’s economic co-operation with South Africa in a letter to the Foreign
Minister Knut Frydenlund. The letter asked the government to protest
against the banning of Manas Buthelezi, but it also mentions the question of
economic sanctions. CEIR had been disappointed to learn that Norway’s
trade with South Africa was increasing in spite of requests from the UN and
the OAU to limit economic co-operation with the apartheid state. CEIR
asked Frydenlund “to offer initiatives to prevent official participation in any
such engagement in the field of commercial policy in South Africa, and that
the authorities likewise encourage a reduction of the private trade relations
with South Africa.”73
In November the same year Frydenlund got another letter from the
CEIR [has] discussed the reports in domestic and foreign newspapers that
Norway is one of the countries still considering buying the Crotale missile
system. The Council does not have access to information allowing it to verify
the assertion that there is still a connection between South Africa and France
regarding the production of this system. The Council nevertheless finds that it
has to take as its basis the fact that leading African politicians, e.g. the Foreign
Minister of Tanzania, have expressed the view that there is such a connection,
and that purchase of the Crotale missile system will entail support, economic,
70 Today the Nordic-SADCC church co-operation is connected to the Norwegian Church
Council, and material relating to NEKSA is to be found in the NCC-archives in Oslo.
71 K. Støylen, Report from WCC Central Committee Meeting, Utrecht, 13–23 August 1972.
Papers to CEIR-meeting 23 October 1972, CEIR archives. Final statement from the conference
“Our responsibility for Southern Africa today”, Oslo 24–26 January 1972.
72 Church of Norway News, no. 3, 1973.
73 Letter from CEIR’s moderator K. Støylen to K. Frydenlund of 25 March 1974, CEIR
technic and moral, to South Africa. CEIR herewith turns to the esteemed
Foreign Minister and asks that the government must accord weight to the
reactions which have appeared concerning the Crotale project and abstains
from doing anything that could be construed as support of the apartheid
regime in South Africa.74
The reason for this letter was that the Norwegian Ministry of Defence was
considering buying the Crotale missile system from France. It was developed
in co-operation with the South African weapons industry, and even if
this co-operation had now ended, both South African and international antiapartheid
groups viewed any purchase of Crotale as an indirect recognition
of the apartheid regime. This case caused a heated debate in the Norwegian
Parliament, and it was thus a controversial political issue the church got involved
CEIR’s letter to Frydenlund also caused an intense debate within the
church. It was not really about the Crotale system itself (ecclesiastical experts
on missile systems were few), but on the church’s mandate in concrete
political issues.75 Anyway, Norway never bought the Crotale system, and
the debate both in the Parliament and the church calmed down.
But from the early 1980s the question of economic sanctions was again
on the political agenda in Norway. The import of South Africa goods, especially
manganese, which was crucial for the large Norwegian production of
aluminium, and the transport of oil on Norwegian ships were both difficult
since they affected Norwegian companies and a considerable number of jobs
both in Norway and on Norwegian ships. In 1979/80 approximately 18% of
all oil to South Africa was transported on Norwegian tankers.
CEIR involved itself in the debate and supported the efforts of the Norwegian
Council for Southern Africa to try to make Parliament outlaw all
trade between Norway and the racist regime. The church’s involvement in
the matter of sanctions was, not surprisingly, based on the moral condemnation
of apartheid and the call for actions of solidarity from the oppressed.
CEIR forwarded calls for sanctions from the churches in the region and from
the international ecumenical community. In August 1980, for instance, the
Central Committee of the WCC adopted the following resolution that it
would “press governments and international organisations to enforce comprehensive
sanctions against South Africa, including withdrawal of investments,
and end to bank loans, arms embargo and oil sanctions and in general
for the isolation of the state of South Africa.”76
74 Letter from CEIR’s moderator K. Støylen and secretary-general G. Stålsett to K. Frydenlund
of 29 November 1974, CEIR-archives.
75 This matter causes an intense debate both at internal church meetings, but also publicly in
several daily papers. Material on this issue is to be found in CEIR-archives.
76 Statement from WCC-meeting, August 1980.
In December the bishop of Oslo received a letter from the WCC, reminding
him of this resolution, and informing him that SACC and Desmond Tutu
were now asking the churches internationally to work for the implementation
of economic sanctions.77
This WCC initiative led to a statement from CEIR in February 1981 to
the Foreign Minster asking that “Norwegian authorities take action to keep
Norway’s economic relations at so low a level as possible.”78 The statement
went on to politely ask the government to continue working for binding resolutions
in the UN Security Council for economic sanctions against South
In March 1983 CEIR sent a new official letter, repeating the message
from 1981 and also informing the government that South African church
leaders had been shocked to learn that a significant amount of South Africa’s
oil imports were transported on Norwegian ships. On behalf of the South
African churches, CEIR demanded that the transport be stopped. It alsocalled
on the government to work for an international oil embargo.79
WCC’s General Assembly in July 1983 requested its member churches in
countries transferring oil to South Africa to demand that their governments
stopped this immediately. The request was followed up by CEIR, which in
December had a meeting with Asbjørn Haugstvedt, Minister for Trade of the
conservative-centre coalition government (1983–1986).
Bishop Gunnar Lislerud, secretary-general Carl Traaen, and Øystein
Tveter from the Ecumenical Council on Southern Africa told the Minister
that they were well aware of the difficult considerations concerning the
Norwegian workers who might lose their jobs as a result of sanctions, but
that the moral responsibility to work for the abolishing of apartheid had to
be given priority. Norway had to implement an oil embargo at once, even if
other countries and close trade partners did not do the same. Haugstvedt
listened, but gave no promises.80
In March 1984 the three church leaders met the Foreign Minister, Svenn
Stray, to repeat their demand for a total stop to Norway’s transport of oil.
They also asked for intensified efforts from Norway to work for an international
oil embargo. Stray, however, informed them that the government did
not have any immediate plans to implement a Norwegian oil embargo. After
the meeting, Tveter told the newspaper Vårt Land that “the Foreign Ministry
leadership and the church are obviously very far apart in their conception of
what political measures might have a positive effect in the struggle against
77 Letter from WCC to A. Aarflot of 11 December 1980, CEIR-archives.
78 Statement from CEIR-meeting, 2 February 1981, CEIR-archives.
79 Statement from CEIR Committee on International Affairs, 12 March 1983, CEIR-archives.
80 Letter from CEIR to A. Haugstvedt 16 December 1983, unpublished CEIR-note 21 December
1983, CEIR-press statement of 21 December 1983, CEIR-archives.
the racist regime in South Africa.”81 In 1984 (prior to the Peace Prize award
to Tutu) CEIR also arranged for Tutu to meet Stray, in the hope that he
would manage to convince the reluctant cabinet minister. Even though the
church leaders’ talks with the government gave no visible results, they were
noticed by the media and helped to increase the general pressure from public
opinion for more government action.
In 1983 a parliamentary committee was appointed to look into the question
of economic sanction towards South Africa in general. CEIR’s Committee
for International Affairs, after having read its 1984 report, issued a press
release expressing “deep disappointment”. CEIR criticised the report for
only considering economic implications, not the moral ones: “Efforts to isolate
the South African regime must not be assessed only on the basis of the
expected economic consequences in South Africa. Even if the effect may
seem limited and small to start with, it is important to see that such efforts
have a moral and opinion-building side both in Norway and in South
Africa.”82 In a more substantial comment on the report CEIR also suggested
a series of concrete steps that the government could take to make Norwegian
trade policy towards South Africa more restrictive.83
In addition the bishop of Oslo, Andreas Aarflot, took a personal interest
in the question of an oil embargo. In his New Year speech to the pastors in
his diocese he restated his position, condemning the oil transport to South
Africa on Norwegian tankers. This provoked a reaction from the Norwegian
Shipowners Association. But the bishop stood his ground and wrote in his
answer: “It is an intolerable situation that our country should make money
on the transport of oil to the police forces and war machine of the apartheid
regime. I am aware that this will impose costs on our society, but these are
costs we have to be able to bear”. The letter ended by stating:
The economic considerations and practical problems in this matter must not
overshadow the fact that we are, in this case, faced with an essentially moral
challenge. We are involved in the fate of the blacks in South Africa. Our
choices matter, simply because Norwegian ships are delivering oil to a state at
war with its own inhabitants. In this situation I as a bishop in the church of
Christ must assert that we have to listen more to the cry of distress from the
oppressed than to national economic interests which often receive a more
dominant role when policy is to be formed.84
81 Vårt Land, 2 and 21 March 1984.
82 Statement from CEIR, 20 December 1984, CEIR-archives. T. Bakkevig, article in Aftenposten, 6
April 1984.
83 Comment from CEIR on the report from the parliamentary committee, CEIR-archives.
84 Letter from A. Aarflot to the Norwegian Association of Shipowners of 7 February 1986,
In early 1986 the conservative-centre government presented a white paper
on its policy towards South Africa. CEIR was disappointed once more and
gave the following comment:
The Church of Norway has for many years urged that Norway as a nation
must show a strong commitment to contributing to the ending of the
apartheid regime in South Africa. The reason for this is that the case in
question is an institutionalised racism for which even a Biblical argument is
offered. We consider this argument for a classification system based on race
and with corresponding discrimination of everyone not belonging to the
white race to be blasphemous. The practical consequences to which this leads
are a fundamental violation of human dignity. The commitment which the
situation in South Africa invokes in itself is reinforced in that we in this case
have sister churches which are in the front line in the struggle against the
apartheid system. These churches ask for and need solidarity from churches
all over the world. On behalf of the Church of Norway we deem it right that
our solidarity with the churches and people of South Africa finds expression
in the work for political and economic efforts on Norway’s part which can
contribute to the termination of the unjust apartheid system. The South
African Council of Churches and other black leaders have asked for concrete
action from Western nations and financial institutions in order to contribute
in this way to the peaceful termination of the apartheid system. On the part of
the Church of Norway we feel an obligation towards the views put forward
by our brothers and sisters in South Africa.85
We may note that both bishop Aarflot and CEIR considered the respect for
the victims of apartheid to be decisive.
In March 1987, when a Labour Party government had replaced the conservative-
centre one, the Parliament at last agreed on a law on economic
sanctions. It outlawed all economic co-operation between Norwegian companies
and South Africa, and all transport of oil to South Africa on Norwegian
ships. The law had, however, some significant loopholes (see chapter
5). To the disappointment of those who wanted a total embargo, CEIR
accepted that this was as far as it was possible to get.
The Norwegian Council for Southern Africa had in the autumn of 1986
launched the international consumer boycott of Shell in Norway. The reason
for the boycott was the role the transnational company Shell played as one
of the main suppliers of oil to South Africa. This oil was crucial for the
apartheid regime’s military operations. The WCC Central Committee meeting
in August 1988 encouraged “the churches to support the International
Campaign to boycott the Shell Oil Corporation.”86 (The WCC PCR meeting
in Lusaka in 1987 had also asked the churches to support it.) Several
churches in other Western counties, particularly in the “home country” of
Shell, the Netherlands, were actively supporting the boycott. This put new
85 Statement from CEIR-meeting, 11 March 1986, CEIR-archives; T. Bakkevig, article in Vårt
Land, 29 April 1986; G. Lislerud, article in Arbeiderbladet, 27 August 1986.
86 Statement from WCC Central Committee meeting in Hannover, August 1988.
pressure on the Church of Norway. The Norwegian Council for Southern
Africa therefore hoped for the Church of Norway’s support, and was both
surprised and disappointed when CEIR in December 1988 declined to
recommend the boycott of one specific company. CEIR agreed that it was
important to work for an oil embargo in general, and that Shell International
ought to withdraw from South Africa, but when it came to the specific
question of Shell Norway the majority of CEIR’s members concluded:
In the struggle against the apartheid system, the Church of Norway Council on
Foreign Relations [CEIR] holds it to be ethically justifiable to boycott multinational
companies supplying oil and other strategic goods to South Africa. As a
church body, the Council finds it difficult to encourage boycott of specific companies.
A boycott of that kind should primarily be the responsibility of each individual
CEIR’s handling of the Shell boycott must be understood against the background
of the more critical guidelines for its Human Rights Work that were
approved earlier in 1988. 88
A more critical approach to human rights work in CEIR
In 1985 the newly established Church of Norway General Synod discussed
the Church of Norway’s involvement in South Africa, and the committee
responsible for CEIR’s annual report for 1984 had “noted the contacts with
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding Southern Africa and human rights
work in general. In this connection the committee thinks it important that
the Council continues to work on criteria for assessing what conditions both
in the East, the West, the North and the South demand the Council’s attention”.
A young theologian, Jan Olav Henriksen, was then asked by CEIR to
prepare a comprehensive report on the church’s work on human rights
The new debate on human rights work in the Church of Norway from
1985 on must be understood against the background of the political development
in Europe, the growing interest for human rights in general and the
escalating crisis in Southern Africa in the late 1980s. The renewed debate on
theological implications of the use of violence in the liberation struggle,
which followed after the meeting between the churches and liberation
87 Statement from CEIR-meeting 11–12 December 1988. One member voted against the
statement , another chose not to vote, CEIR-archives.
88 Statement from CEIR-meeting 27 May 1988: ‘where violations of these norms (human rights)
are apparent, there is in principle no limit to how specifically or directly the Council and/or its
sub-committees may speak. The practical limit in such cases must be drawn by the Council itself
and its sub-committees on the basis of consideration for the best interests of the victims and
of the specialist resources of the Council. […] Appeals to CEIR from other churches and ecumenical
organisations in specific human rights cases are a significant criterion for the Council’s
priorities. But such appeals cannot in themselves be decisive.’
89 Members of advisory committee: P. Voksø, A.G. Eikseth, B. Furre and Ø. Telle.
movements in Lusaka in 1987, also contributed. Henriksen made a 100-page
report about church involvement in Human Rights issues both from a critical
theological and historical perspective. It also discussed the mandate of
the church and the different methods it could use in Human Rights matters.
90 CEIR approved the report at its meeting in May 1988, and in that
connection the Council made a resolution summing up the report’s conclusions:
The church must and shall speak clearly where God’s law is broken and the
dignity of Man, bestowed by God, is violated. It cannot allow political
considerations to decide how directly to speak. Consideration for those
suffering from human rights abuses and for what serves them best must be
the criterion deciding how and at what level it should involve itself. To make
these decisions an expert knowledge of international human rights work is
necessary, and the Council must take responsibility for developing and
collecting this knowledge, which will provide the prerequisites and the
limitations for the specific actualisation of our concern in each particular
When the Annual Assembly of the Church of Norway met in November, (a
few weeks before CEIR decided on the Shell-boycott), it confirmed the conclusions
CEIR had drawn from Henriksen’s report, and also stressed that
“the work for human rights is a divine calling for all of us. Therefore, this
cannot be isolated by CEIR, but has to be part of our daily activities at work
and in the churches.”92 At the meeting the General Synod also gave its first
official statement on apartheid:
As a church we are called to combat this false doctrine, show care and
consideration for the victims of the apartheid system and support all good
forces working for its abolition. The Church Assembly therefore wishes to
express its full support to the high priority CEIR on behalf of the Church of
Norway gives the struggle against apartheid, the support for the oppressed
and the co-operation with churches and organisations in South Africa.93
1988–1994: New partners and other challenges
Talks with “the enemy”
A South African turned up in Oslo one day in 1988. He was not met by
warm words of welcome, but by protests from young anti-apartheid
activists. Willem Bosman had arrived to open a new South African General
Consulate in Oslo. The Norwegian and South African Ministries of Foreign
90 J.O. Henriksen: For menneskelivets skyld. Den norske kirkes internasjonale menneskerettighetsengasjement.
Oslo: Kirkens Informasjonstjeneste, 1988.
91 Statement from CEIR-meeting, 27 May 1988, CEIR-archives.
92 Protocol from General Synod, 1988, National Church Council-archives.
93 Protocol from General Synod, 1988, National Church Council-archives.
Affairs had agreed that the Norwegian General Consulate in Cape Town
should be allowed to continue to function if South Africa were allowed to
establish an office in Oslo. CEIR agreed to this because Consul Bjarne Lindstrøm
in Cape Town played a key role in organising CEIR’s financial support
to South African opposition groups. Because of this breach in the
diplomatic isolation of the apartheid regime, CEIR was heavily criticised by
members of the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa. Some also expressed
dislike of the close connection between the Church and the Norwegian
government. But after 1994, when CEIR’s project work in South Africa
and Lindstrøm’s crucial role in it became publicly known, it was easier to
understand why CEIR had accepted Bosman’s arrival in Oslo.
Bosman tried to establish friendly relations with the church and asked
for a meeting with Trond Bakkevig. Their first meeting in CEIR’s office
ended in a disagreement over the Bantustan policy, and after that the contact
was polite but lukewarm. Christmas greetings and small presents from the
South African Consulate to staff persons in CEIR were not enough to create
a warmer atmosphere.
CEIR had for some time been in contact with South African politicians,
and supported financially the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South
Africa led by the former members of Parliament Alex Boraine and Frederic
van Zyl Slabbert. From 1989 on Bakkevig also had talks both with people
working for the Foreign Ministry in Pretoria and with ANC leaders both in
exile and within South Africa.
In December 1989 Bakkevig was observing the opening of the CODESAconference
together with Knut Vollebæk, the political secretary to the Foreign
Minister. Vollebæk also used the opportunity to meet with colleagues
in Pretoria in spite of the fact that Thabo Mbeki in ANC had warned against
this. The time for such contact had not yet come, according to Mbeki.94
These talks were a sign of a new role the church started to play in the
late 1980s. Atle Sommerfeldt reflected on the new situation after a visit to
South Africa in 1987:
While the role of the church in the late 1970s and early 1980s was in many
ways the only voice for the majority population in South Africa, this is not the
case today. The strengthening of the trade union movement, the grass roots
organisations and the youth make it possible for the churches to withdraw a
little. It is therefore clearer than before that the churches are not the driving
force in the upheavals. The problem and debate now is what role the church is
to play and more specifically how it can serve the forces which first and
foremost will make the changes come about: the liberation movements, the
youth, the trade unions and the grass roots organisations. The church’s
function as a meeting place for and bridge-builder between different groups
within the liberation forces was pointed out, but also their role as spokesman
94 Bakkevig, p. 45.
for the oppressed, support for the suffering and facilitator for the different
A new situation for the churches
On 2 February 1990 President P.W. de Klerk in a historic announcement
lifted the ban on ANC and PAC dating from 1960. With the release of
Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, old players reappeared on the
South African stage. The role of the church now changed from being an
active partner to becoming more of a facilitator for others.
Trond Bakkevig travelled to South Africa in May to meet with church
leaders and partners who gave him a briefing on the new political situation,
the position of ANC and the new role of the churches. His old friend Beyers
Naudé, still going strong, now worked as an adviser for ANC even though
he had never been an ANC member. Another purpose for Bakkevig’s visit
was to discuss with the partners whether CEIR, in the new circumstances,
should continue to support the same organisations as before.96 Most of the
old partners continued to receive support, but in addition CEIR started to
support a new kind of organisation, namely those directly involved in the
political changes and the work to prepare for democracy, peace and reconciliation.
Examples are SACC and WCCs “Ecumenical Monitoring Programme
for South Africa”, the Matla Trust and the Truth and Reconciliation
Sensational things were also happening among the churches themselves.
230 church leaders from approximately 100 churches met in Rustenburg in
November 1990. Guests from abroad were invited and bishop Lislerud represented
the Nordic churches. This conference was the first opportunity for
the Dutch Reformed Churches, the English-speaking Churches and others to
meet and discuss apartheid since the Cottesloe conference 30 years earlier.
The churches still disagreed on several matters, but on one matter they
reached ‘full consensus; namely the clear condemnation of apartheid as
sin.’97 This finally ended the debate which had been going on since 1948.
After the Rustenburg conference no prominent theologian or church leader
would publicly support the apartheid ideology.
In October 1991 SACC was able to have its Round Table Partner Meeting
inside South Africa. This had not been possible during the years of cruel
political restrictions and oppression. SACC could also welcome secretarygeneral
Emilio Castro from the WCC to this meeting. For the Dutch
Reformed Churches, which left WCC after the Cottesloe conference, WCC
95 A. Sommerfeldt, Report from visit to Southern Africa, 7 April–3 May 1987, CEIR-archives.
96 T. Bakkevig and B.H. Agøy, Report from visit to Southern Africa, May 1991, CEIR annual report
1990, CEIR-archives; T. Bakkevig, article in Vårt Land, 31 October 1991.
97 Bishop G. Lislerud participated at the conference, and wrote both a report (CEIR-archives)
and an introduction to the Norwegian translation of the conference statement, Tidsskrift for
Teologi og Kirke, no. 2, 1991.
had been associated with the enemy and had represented a threat of international
Communist infiltration in South Africa. For the other churches the
attitude had been radically different. Frank Chikane expressed deep gratitude
for what the WCC had done for the struggling people of South Africa:
“You heard our cries when no one else did. You believed what we told you
and stood by our side.”98
Violence and reconciliation
Henrik W. de Klerk’s words about negotiations and political changes inspired
hope, but they were almost swept away by the wave of violence that
washed over South Africa during the last years of the apartheid regime. The
Church of Norway became particularly engaged in the struggle between
Inkatha and the ANC in Kwa Zulu-Natal. Some of the partner organisations
like Legal Resources Centre and Diakonia in Durban and Crisis Care Committee
in Chattsworth, were heavily involved in reconciliation work, and
Norway had a special connection to these areas, where Norwegian missionaries
had worked for so many years. The Lutheran Church, ELCSA, which
was formed with their help, was in a very difficult position because the
black Lutherans in Zulu-Natal were to be found on both sides of the conflict.
Relatives of Gatsha Buthelezi were members of this church. The close links
between ELCSA and members of Inkatha also put the Norwegian Missionary
Society in a difficult position, since the missionaries were at this time
employed by ELCSA. CEIR was on the other hand free to take a clear stand
against Inkatha. CEIR’s staff did comprehensive information work in Norway
about the violent situation and pointed to Inkatha’s and the de Klerk
government’s responsibility. CEIR also tried to encourage ELCSA to do the
Bishop Gunnar Lislerud had been working as a missionary in this area
for many years, he spoke Zulu, and knew all the bishops in ELCSA personally
from his previous post as the principal of the theological seminar at
Umpumulo. Lislerud enjoyed respect from leaders of both ELCSA and
SACC, and due to this unique position, he was called to act as a mediator for
peace in the conflict in Kwa Zulu-Natal.
In Norway, Willem Bosman wrote a newspaper article trying to convince
the readers that everything was moving in the right direction in South
Africa and that de Klerk was honestly toiling for the peaceful transformation
of his country into a democracy. Trond Bakkevig was not impressed and
wrote a sharp letter blaming Bosman’s government for the violence: “Dear
98 T. Bakkevig, article in Vårt Land, 31 October 1991.
99 T. Bakkevig, article in Dagbladet, 8 October 1992.
Ambassador Bosman: Something else is needed. We need a real conversion
and deeds to prove that the conversion is genuine.”100
In the critical period of 1992 CEIR, after receiving an appeal from SACC,
called on the churches in Norway to pray for peace and democracy in South
Africa at their different summer conventions in 1992.101
Welcome to Norway, Mr. Mandela!
From the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison as a free man, the Norwegians
started waiting for him to come to Norway. He attended the
“Conference on Hatred” in September 1990, but it was not until 1992 he
appeared in public. On 17 May that year, Norway’s Constitution Day, he
was welcomed at Oslo Airport by a choir singing freedom songs from South
Church representatives (from CEIR and NEKSA) were members of the
reception committee co-ordinated by the ANC office in Oslo. Mandela took
part in the celebration of 17 May, and watched the parade of tens of thousands
of children singing and waving their flags to greet the royal family on
the palace balcony. Later the same day Mandela was present at the service in
Oslo Cathedral. His sermon was his first official appearance in Norway. The
congregation was deeply moved by his words, and the police had problems
escorting him out of the church due to the large crowd outside waiting to
catch a glimpse of a great freedom fighter. On the occasion of the visit the
Church of Norway sent Mandela a message:
Together with churches all over the world, and with our sisters and brothers
in the South African Council of Churches, we have through these long years
of struggle prayed for your release, and for freedom and justice for the people
of South Africa. Through these intense days of negotiations and violence, we
continue to pray.
[…] Struggling churches and Christians in South Africa have helped us to
understand more of what it means that the church cannot withdraw from
society but needs to speak out and act when the will of God and basic human
values are violated. Our solidarity and commitment to the cause of justice has
been awakened, deepened and sustained through the way your people have
ensured access to information, and patiently, clearly and repeatedly have
interpreted the situation for us. This has made it possible for us to participate
in a number of ways, also with financial support and advocacy.102
In December 1993 Mandela was back in Oslo. This time he came together
with de Klerk to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This was the third time the
100 W. Bosmann, article in Dagbladet, 21 October 92; T. Bakkevig, answer in Dagbladet, 22 October
101 CEIR and the Norwegian Church Aid, Prayer for Democracy and Reconciliation in South
Africa, 29 June 1992, CEIR-archives.
102 Message to Nelson Mandela from the Church of Norway of 17 May 1992, CEIR-archives.
prize was awarded to South Africans. And like the two first times, the
church played a central role in organising the festivities in Oslo. CEIR
hosted an informal reception at the residence of the bishop of Oslo. Mandela
and his companions met with prominent church leaders. “For practical reasons”
de Klerk was not invited.103 Mandela was also invited to a service in
Oslo Cathedral, where he took the opportunity to thank the church “While
we were in prison Christians did tremendous work to keep up our spirits.
Thanks to the church we knew that no matter the suffering, the day of freedom
would come. Our hope never died.”104
At this time, late in 1993 the preparation for elections had already
started. The day of freedom arrived at last, and exactly five months after
Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize, on 10 May 1994 he became the new
president of South Africa. Secretary-general Atle Sommerfeldt from CEIR
was one of the many international guests witnessing this historic moment.
The elections
The Norwegian Council for Southern Africa took the initiative for the campaign
“Democracy for South Africa” which CEIR joined in October 1993.
The aims of the campaign were to collect money for the election
preparations in South Africa, but most of all to inform the Norwegian public
about the changes that were going on in South Africa. As part of this
campaign, a broad alliance of churches and church-related organisations
published information material, arranged several seminars, meetings and
facilitated visits by South Africans during Spring 1994. All the congregations
in the Church of Norway were asked to pray for the elections on the
preceding Sunday. A suggestion for a special prayer was sent from the WCC
Central Committee and translated into Norwegian.105
CEIR also participated in the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme for
South Africa initiated by the WCC, SACC and SACBC in 1992, and fourteen
church representatives from Norway went to observe and monitor the election.
One of these was Stig Utnem who in 1994 was appointed secretarygeneral
of CEIR when Sommerfeldt left the office to become the secretarygeneral
of Norwegian Church Aid. Bishop Gunnar Lislerud was appointed a
member by WCC and SACC of the “Eminent Church Leaders Group” who
supervised the elections by keeping contact with both the South African
government and with SACC.
On 27 May 1994 a short ceremony was held at the ANC office in Oslo. It
was no coincidence that ANC representative Thandie Rankoe had asked
103 CEIR annual report 1993.
104 Banneret, (paper of the Methodist Church), 16 December 1993.
105 Committee members: CEIR, Church of Norway Aid, NEKSA, Church of Norway Development
Education Service and Council of Free Churches Development Education Service.
Trond Bakkevig if he could say grace and symbolically close the office. Soon
after a representative for the majority of the South African population
moved into the Embassy in Oslo.
Co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: CEIR’s project work
in South Africa and Namibia
Before we can look into the church’s co-operation with the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry, a few general comments must be made concerning the relationship
between the church and the government in Norway. To some foreigners
the, generally speaking, close and trusting relationship between the
church and government in Norway is striking. Examples of disagreement
may of course be found, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.
South African guests were often astonished to learn that church people
in Norway could easily phone or meet with the parliamentary Foreign
Affairs Committee or the highest officials in the Ministry to discuss matters
of common interest. For them it was a new experience to accompany their
Norwegian hosts to Parliament and Government offices and meet friendly
politicians. It also surprised them that the church, along with other NGOs,
could receive millions of Norwegian kroner from the Government for their
anti-apartheid work, seemingly without any problems. It was difficult to
understand that the Norwegian government gave money to the Church and
NGOs even when these strongly opposed government policy.
From 1973 on all the funds transferred by the church to organisations in
South African and Namibia were granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sometimes the Ministry in Oslo or the Consulate in Cape Town asked CEIR
to transfer money to particular organisations which the Norwegian government
wanted to support for political reasons. Did this imply that the Ministry
dictated CEIR’s involvement? No, CEIR made its own appraisals, in cooperation
with trusted individuals and organisations in South Africa or
Namibia, before it decided on whether or not to support an organisation
financially, and in some cases turned down the Ministry’s requests. Usually,
however, the Ministry and CEIR agreed who to support.
The Nordic countries have traditionally enjoyed good mutual relations
between civil society and the governments, and the smooth relationship between
the church, NGOs and the Norwegian government may be seen as
one of numerous examples of this. A precondition for the close co-operation
on Southern African affairs was of course a common political understanding
on the apartheid issue. Even though government power shifted between the
Labour party and non-socialist coalition partners between 1948 and 1994,
nearly all parties to a large extent agreed on Norway’s policy toward the
Southern African countries. The broad consensus was made all the easier by
the fact that Norway did not have any colonial background in the region
and very few economic interests there. The only matters of some importance
were the import of manganese from South Africa and the transport of oil on
Norwegian ships. As we shall see later on, both these matters caused disagreement
in Parliament and between politicians, the church and other antiapartheid
In other West European countries and in the USA the churches often
had a much more contentious relationship with their governments. Great
Britain, Germany and Portugal were of course directly involved in the independence
wars going on in their colonies. Strong ties, political, economic
and emotional, had been forged during the colonial period. This made the
question of apartheid and especially the issue of economic sanctions much
more complex that in the Nordic countries. Some Western churches had
shares in companies that invested in South Africa or funds in banks that
gave loans to the apartheid regime. This caused intense debates in these
churches. For the Church of Norway such questions did not arise.
The relationship between CEIR and the government was made easy not
least because of many personal links. Bishop Per Lønning, active in the
Church’s relationship with LWF and WCC, was a member of parliament
(Conservative party). The secretary-general of CEIR, Gunnar Stålsett had a
break from CEIR to work as a Political Secretary to the Minister for Church
Affairs and Education and when he left CEIR he became chairman of the
Centre Party. Secretary-general Trond Bakkevig also worked a while as
Political Secretary to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Knut Frydenlund and
Thorvald Stoltenberg (Labour Party). Berge Furre, one of the main architects
behind CEIR’s Human Rights work, had for many years been a member of
parliament and Chairman of the Socialist Left Party. It is also interesting to
note that Knut Vollebæk, Foreign Minister from September 1997, had for
many years been one of the key persons in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’
co-operation with CEIR. Hilde Frafjord Johnson, until she in September 1997
was named Minister for Development and Human Rights, was a member of
CEIR’s Committee on International Affairs. The fact that so many of the
central people in CEIR