The Letter That Ended Apartheid


On March 1960, 69 Black people were killed in Sharpeville, by the White Apartheid police in South Africa. The same year 1960, Nigerians had successfully liberated themselves from the British 160 years occupation.

The new Nigerian leaders reaction to the Sharpeville massacre would change everything from then on in South Africa.

Here is a letter the then Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, sent to the ANC militants on April 4, 1961


Immediately after sending that letter, Sir Abubakar’s lobbied fellow Commonwealth countries for the effective expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961.

Beyond political support, Sir Abubakar was the first leader to provide a direct financial aid to the ANC, from the early 1960s.

In 1976, Nigeria set up the “Southern Africa Relief Fund” destined to “be used to alleviate the plight of the victims of the apartheid oppression in South Africa, and to promote their education and general welfare”.

The military administration of General Obansajo contributed $3,7 million to the Fund. General Obasanjo made a personal donation of $3,000, while each member of his cabinet also made personal contributions of $1,500 each. All Nigerian civil servants and public officers made a voluntary donation of 2% of their monthly salary to the Fund. Students skipped their lunch to make donation, and just after 6 months, in June 1977, the popular contribution to the fund reached $10.5 millions.

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The fund was widely known in Nigeria as the “Mandela Tax”.

As result of the Fund, a first group of 86 Southern African students arrived in Nigeria in 1976, after the disruption of the education system, following the massacre of 700 students, most shot in the back, by the white police, while they were protesting against the decision by the Apartheid regime to change their education language to the Boers language.

Hundreds of South African students would benefit from the fund to come to study either in Nigeria and Broad for free.

Beyond welcoming students and exiles, Nigeria had also welcomed many South Africans in professional position like Thabo Mbeki (past South African president from 1999-2008) from 1977 until 1984 when he left to the ANC headquarter in Lusaka, Zambia.

For South Africans who could not travel abroad because the Apartheid regime had denied them passports, the Nigerian government had issued more than 300 passports.

Nigeria had lobbied with fellow African countries for the creation of the United Nations Anti-Apartheid Committee, which it had chaired for 30 years, longer than any other country.

Between 1973-1978, Nigeria contributed $39,040 to the UN Education and Training Program for South Africa, a voluntary trust fund to help the education of the Black South African elite.

At trade level, Nigeria has refused to sell Oil to South Africa during decades in protest of the white minority rule, losing an estimate of 41 billions dollars during the period.

Above all, Nigeria was the only nation worldwide to setup and fund a “National committee against Apartheid” (NACAP) as early as the 1960, which mission was the disseminate the evils of the apartheid regime to all Nigerians from primary schools to universities, in public medias and in markets with posters and billboards messages.

NACAP was also responsible of the coordination of the Nigerians government and civil society anti-apartheid actions, and beyond advise policy makers on anti-apartheid decisions. Over three decades, the NACAP had successfully built alliances with labor movement, student groups, progressive elements within Nigeria and other international grassroots organizations, for effective anti-apartheid activities.

In fact, until the years 1960s, the ANC fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa was yielding very little result. The whole world was quite indifferent to the suffering of the black South Africans, and the apartheid regime was still strongly supported by western countries providing the regime with technology transfer, intelligence and favorable trade agreements.

Things had started to change dramatically only after the independence of African countries in the 1960s, and when Nigeria unequivocally took the leadership of the anti-apartheid movement worldwide.

Regardless of the volatile nature of the Nigeria politics and the passage of numerous military and civil leaders, Nigeria as a nation, has never defaulted on its unwavering commitment to the freedom for our brothers and sisters in South Africa.

From the years 1960 until 1995, Nigeria alone has spent over 61 billions dollars to support the end of Apartheid, more than any other country in the world, According to the South African Institute of International Affairs. And the country has never let go of any opportunity to denounce apartheid, from the boycott of Olympic games and Commonwealth games, to the nationalization of the assets of British Petroleum (BP) in 1979.

Unfortunately our bothers and sisters in South Africa, and the ANC had not been grateful to Nigeria. When Mandela died in 2013, the Nigeria president was ignored, not even given the opportunity to speak, while the representative of the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries which supported the Apartheid regime were the one who go the spotlight, and the tribune to speak.

Nigerians still need to Visa to travel to South Africa, while the French who had strongly backed the Apartheid regime could just buy a ticked and land there whenever they want.

Maybe Apartheid had not yet ended in South Africa.

source: source: Silicon Africa

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