The Nordic Africa Institute

Bo Westman


Bo Westman was employed by Sida in 1971 at the economic secretariat and had a short stint in Lesotho in 1972, but first confronted the liberation struggle in 1974 when he joined a support group for Frelimo, while working for one year as a desk officer at the Sida office in Dar es Salaam. More formally he worked with the liberation movements for the first time when joining the Swedish mission in Mozambique in 1976. From Mozambique they administered part of the support to ANC and most of the support to ZANU at that time in Mozambique. He stayed for a long time until 1981. In Stockholm he worked with Africa in the Regional Department both with eastern and southern Africa but not directly with the liberation movements. 1983-86 he was head of the Sida office in Angola and thereafter worked again in the Regional Department until he became head of the Sida Office in Dar es Salaam 1991- 1994. Bo was all the time very engaged in the development of Africa but never part of the Africa Groups or any other similar institutions.
Lennart Wohlgemuth: So your first encounter with the liberation movements was in 1974 when you worked in Tanzania?

Bo Westman: This was a very low-key engagement on a private basis. We were a group of people who were interested in the future of Mozambique. Many of us became so interested in Mozambique that we later moved there including myself. We helped Frelimo to develop an information plan. This was interesting but I did not meet any persons of the leadership and have no spectacular memory from that encounter. Coming back to Sida’s headquarters I worked with Mozambique.

Lennart Wohlgemuth: You went to Mozambique in 1976. What happened?

Bo Westman: Yes I arrived in 1976. I was the first permanent member of the Swedish mission after a two-month stint by Anders Möllander. The ambassador and the head of mission (Jan Cedergren) came later. It was an extremely interesting period with many contradictions. The bridge from party to government for Frelimo was extremely complex and for us onlookers fascinating. I was the economist at the embassy who was also supposed to work with the support to the liberation movements. However until the office had been properly staffed I did most chores. So my encounters with the liberation movements were most active in the first two-three years of my stay in Maputo.

ZANU had its head office in Maputo. We gave them very little support at the beginning to find out how it worked and when we were satisfied we added more and more funds. I participated in negotiations with Mugabe and got to know most of the people in the head office. However I never became personal friends with any of them in the same way as for example Jan Cedergren. I mostly had political contacts and was responsible for the reporting and was therefore not very much involved in the detailed operations. I remember that the office of ZANU was extremely small and simple. I do not remember any security problems with regard to ZANU.

We had a special relationship with some of the people like Muzenda and Kangai. You saw yourself the consequences of the relationship when we arrived in Zimbabwe for the first aid negotiation in connection with the independence celebration in 1980. Muzenda – the foreign minister - who met the dignitaries at the airport left the presidents and came to take care of us two giving us VIP treatment. The leadership of ZANU were very aware of the support that they had received from Sweden without which they would have been very handicapped. It was not I as a person but Sweden they celebrated – but of course they knew me from our many encounters. Actually the participation in the independence celebration in Harare was one of the best memories I have from that encounter.

With ANC I had more personal relationships. We had a close working relationship after I arrived in Maputo. The most interesting part was our special trips to Swaziland. ANC had appointed people we should meet in Swaziland and to whom we carried cash in a big trunk to take into South Africa for financing administrative costs of ANC inside South Africa. Such deliveries were made at the beginning . After some time we found other methods to send money via a bank in Swaziland. Stanley Mabisela was at that time ANC representative in Swaziland. His wife worked in a local bank and she was the link. I also met them many times personally particularly when they visited Maputo. We discussed and negotiated with them and also with Jacob Zuma who was stationed in Swaziland at that time. He also came to Maputo later. It was really dangerous for them in Swaziland and they had to move daily from house to house. We combined our visits to Swaziland as a recipient country with visits to the local ANC office. Again I had most of these contacts during the first years of my stay.

The situation for ANC in Maputo was also not very easy. Their representatives also had to move around on a daily basis. Their office in Matola was bombed at one time. Sweden also helped to ship ANC refugees to Tanzania. South Africa pressured Mozambique to move ANC refugees away from Mozambique (see Tor Sellström). The attack against Ruth First was after I had left. We had close contact but Ingrid Löfström had much more contact with them and many of my contacts were through her.

Lennart Wohlgemuth: Do you have any interesting recollections from your years in Angola?

Bo Westman: As head of the Sida Office in Luanda I had considerable contacts with SWAPO. Together with the desk officer Gunvor Ngarambe I met most of the people of SWAPO and went a number of times to Kwanza Zul. It was interesting to work with them and a lot of fun. We were taken care of by SWAPO’s own security when we went to visit their camps. I also recollect speaking to a crowd of over 1000 persons in Kwanza Zul something I have never done either before or after. My contacts were mainly official and not on a personal level. However Swapo officials were often invited to my home. Pohamba was our major counterpart during my time in Luanda and we met him more than anybody else. We also delivered some support to ANC during my time in Luanda but on a small scale and very low profile.