Uppsala Africa Group and ISAK
As a high school student in mid-1970s, Magnus Walan became involved in solidarity work and was active in the Uppsala Africa Group. He was soon elected to the board of the Africa Groups of Sweden, worked in the ISAK office for a while, and for about 10 years was the AGIS representative on the ISAK board. During this time he visited South Africa every year, working closely with trade unions and the democratic movement. He made his living in Sweden as a freelance journalist and speaker on South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: How and when did you become involved in support for the struggle for liberation in Africa?
Magnus Walan: I was living in a town called Linköping and heard of African issues while a member of the Covenant Mission Church. Later when I was a high school student, I heard more specifically about the situation in Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Guinea‑Bissau. I attended some public meetings arranged by the Africa Groups in Linköping about Angola in 1975. Then I attended the Africa Groups congress in Uppsala. I am not sure what year that was.
Bertil Högberg: 1977.
Magnus Walan: That’s right. At that time I was basically a member of the local Africa Group in Linköping for a short period and then in Uppsala, of the Uppsala Africa Group.
Bertil Högberg: You came from a church background but were not really active in that setting on these issues?
Magnus Walan: No, I was not really organized in that way. We had some study circles related to development issues in the church. But it was specifically in the Linköping and Uppsala Africa Groups where I learned about Africa. So I don’t have a political ideological background, I have more of a moral value-based background, with an anti-colonial approach also.
Bertil Högberg: What would you say your role was?
Magnus Walan: A local activist.
Bertil Högberg: You were quite young when you started?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I was 17, 18 years old. I have a memory from 1978 when I was in Stockholm for a visit to the Africa Groups and I was invited to the Hotel Continental where ANC president, Oliver Tambo, was staying. A young man grabbed my hand and we walked through central Stockholm and he explained the South African issue, which I did not know very much about. I was told later that it was Thabo Mbeki, who was an assistant to Oliver Tambo at the time.
Bertil Högberg: So that is where you got your inauguration on South Africa?
Magnus Walan: That is my first memory of South Africa. Later on I learned more from the ANC during various visits and also from the ANC’s representative, Lindiwe Mabuza, when she came to Stockholm. She was very important to me and explained a lot of things.
Bertil Högberg: When did you start on the Board of the Africa Groups of Sweden?
Magnus Walan: I am not really sure, but it must have been in the late 1970s or 1980. My memories of those years are quite vague. When I was part of the board, I remember tense and sometimes almost endless discussions on various political issues. Many of them I think I did not really grasp nor understand at the time. Mostly they were political issues where I was not educated. I did not have a party political background. So that was a bit of a clash.
Bertil Högberg: Did you feel it was problematic for you?
Magnus Walan: Yes, it was problematic for me. I was then part of the Board and reported back to the Uppsala Africa Group, which I felt I was representing. I always had the principle of not just working on a national level without being active locally. So I was very active in the Uppsala Africa Group for many years. Almost all the time I was part of the Africa Groups Board, I was active on the executive of the Uppsala Africa Group.
Bertil Högberg: What did you do at the local level?
Magnus Walan: There we had more of an action-oriented approach. Arranged fund raising concerts, study circles, various kinds of visits. All these years there were a lot visitors coming to Stockholm and often the Stockholm Africa Group was thought to be quite weak while the Uppsala Africa Group has almost always been stronger. So the visitors often came to Uppsala and we organized various kinds of public meetings and so on. There was a lot of creativity. Activities like concerts, public meetings, study circles, and fund-raising events in town were among the things that we would do more regularly.
Bertil Högberg: Can you remember any of the important discussions in the early years on the Africa Groups Board?
Magnus Walan: I remember there were many discussions on various issues within the Africa Groups Board. I have very vague memories, but I think there was a lot of discussion on the importance of the ANC in South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: That was with the Trotskyites?
Magnus Walan: Yes.
Bertil Högberg: They were against our support to the ANC.
Magnus Walan: Yes, and they were sceptical about how strong the ANC was inside the country. Then there was the question of ZANU or ZAPU in Zimbabwe and the alliance between ZANU and ZAPU in the Patriotic Front. That is another discussion I remember. I have vague memories. Today I can see that the debate was focused on support for national independence, on the anti-colonial struggle in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. There were very strong ties to the political parties of MPLA and Frelimo, something that I see as a bit unhealthy today. How loyal can you be, what are the conditions of solidarity? I think that my memories of the discussions also relate to those issues.
Bertil Högberg: When you joined the AGIS Board, was the Isolate South Africa Committee, ISAK already created?
Magnus Walan: As far as I remember, the platform to create it circulated at the World Youth Festival in Cuba in 1978.
Bertil Högberg: And you were there?
Magnus Walan: I was there. In those discussions I was representing the Christian Covenant Youth. Maria Leissner was there from the Liberal Party Youth and Helena Nilsson from the Centre Party Youth. Possibly, Håkan Larsson and others like Robert Rydberg from SSU.
I was partly involved in the discussions when ISAK was formed, a bit from outside, but I remember the discussions. Dick-Urban Vestbro and Lennart Bengtsson I believe were central.
In 1979 ISAK was formed and quite soon after that I was employed as an assistant to the secretary Lennart Bengtsson and then to Lennart Renöfält. I was later employed part-time by the Swedish Pupils Union, SECO, to organize Operation Day’s Work in two or three months.
Bertil Högberg: It is an annual day where school pupils raise funds for solidarity projects through doing odd jobs.
Magnus Walan: This year there was a national campaign of fund-raising for Zimbabwe, which was almost impossible to organise in that space of time. Nevertheless it paved the way and was also the beginning of the joint SECO- Elevförbundets Operation Day’s Work for SOMAFCO, the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania.
Discussions with the ANC’s new representative, Lindiwe Mabuza, were starting at that time.
Bertil, you were also involved, representing the two organizations, Africa Groups and ISAK. I remember some meetings with Lindiwe and these organisations.
Bertil Högberg: Yes. You were campaign secretary for some time at ISAK? How long did you work at ISAK?
Magnus Walan: I was not the only campaigner, I was working as part of a team.
Bertil Högberg: You were campaign secretary at least one of the times when I was chairperson.
Magnus Walan: Yes, I have vague memories. I have a letter that describes during what periods I worked there. ISAK started off with a very small secretariat, mainly some political and Christian youth organizations were active, and it linked up with the liberation movements’ representatives in Stockholm. I think ISAK grew very much from building on a national level and from the local groups experiencing an enormous development during the years between 1979 and 1994.
Bertil Högberg: How were the local groups constituted?
Magnus Walan: ISAK was based on a platform of isolation of the apartheid regime and in support of the liberation struggle and any of the national member organizations that belonged to ISAK could form local groups consisting of local representatives of the member organizations of ISAK. Sometimes other organizations also took part and were active in the local groups. There were examples where the unions came in and backed ISAK’s activities and were also regarded as members for a certain period of time. I think that church groups that were not members of the national board took part locally in activities even if they were not national members, as I remember.
Bertil Högberg: How many local groups did ISAK have in the end, or when it was at its maximum?
Magnus Walan: It is very difficult to say. I think that one has to go back to the records, and it shifted from time to time, 10 or 15, I think. Of course they often overlapped with local Africa Groups that were very active in many of the local ISAK groups. But not always. I think ISAK had a life of its own in many places, or drained the local Africa group of activists, who possibly were also a bit hesitant about doing too much of the local ISAK work.
Bertil Högberg: You mean that some activists shifted from identifying themselves as Africa Groups to identifying themselves as ISAK?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I think this was a trend and it could be a bit problematic for the Africa Groups sometimes.
Bertil Högberg: Looking at Uppsala, where you had your own experience, how was the situation there?
Magnus Walan: We had a local ISAK group, which varied very much in how strong it was over the years. Many of the young people who came to the Uppsala Africa Group chose to be active in the local ISAK group because it was more flexible and more action-oriented. It was less that there were fewer ideological discussions, but rather that here were younger people and more creativity than the rest. I think that was a trend not only in Uppsala but also elsewhere.
Bertil Högberg: That means that ISAK groups didn’t necessarily represent the national organizations, which was the basic idea of ISAK from the beginning?
Magnus Walan: There was a mixture yes, but it was allowed as long as one was working along the basic goals of the campaign.
Bertil Högberg: And what was the reaction from within the local Africa Group?
Magnus Walan: The Uppsala Africa Group was divided into various sub-groups. There was a board, but the activities were decentralized. There was the health group, the study circle, the song group, the teachers’ sub-group, the agricultural group, etc. Each group had its own activities and the Board coordinated things. We had up to a hundred members, but it was very difficult to get them together because if they had any priorities they would give it to a sub-group and ISAK was one of the sub-groups, so to say.
Bertil Högberg: You later sat on the ISAK Board as the representative of the Africa Groups. Do you remember when that was? I think you were the longest serving board member of ISAK.
Magnus Walan: Yes I think so, too.
Bertil Högberg: More than ten years?
Magnus Walan: Yes, more than ten years. I think there were one or two years maybe that I wasn’t a member, but I think I was on ISAK’s board from around 1980 to 1994.
Bertil Högberg: Didn’t you succeed me when I left as chairperson after my second period, when you became the Africa Group’s representative? That would be 1983.
Magnus Walan: Yes, that is very possible.
Bertil Högberg: Can you describe what the organization looked like when you started and at the end? What development took place within it?
Magnus Walan: I think that it grew both in its own form of organized cooperation between more and more member organizations arranging its own campaigns, and in its work to influence the general public and lobby the government, as well as in influencing other bodies, like the political parties and the trade unions. It became a kind of catalyst, pushing political parties and the establishment to take a stand. I remember when former ANC representative Billy Modise was in Norrköping a few years ago and talked about historical relationships between Sweden and South Africa, he made a point by saying that the ANC used the anti-apartheid movement to knock on the doors of the Swedish people. That was a deliberate tactic and it is very true that it was the strategy. Maybe now the political establishment, the political parties, no longer see those historical relationships for different reasons.
Bertil Högberg: What do you mean?
Magnus Walan: Now the political parties do not want to say that we’ve had heated debates on sanctions and admit that they were influenced by the popular organizations. They don’t want to say that it was because the popular organizations created such popularity for the ANC and SWAPO, that they increased development aid. They don’t want to talk about all the arguments they had against sanctions.
It was the popular organizations that countered those arguments with the backing of the liberation movements that were doing investigative research on various issues and fought and drew up tactics and arguments to counter the defence of a status quo situation. That is one of the most important things that this broad anti-apartheid movement has done. It was the engine that consistently year after year was pushing parties in the political establishment forward, to take further steps on sanctions, increase support to the liberation movements, and they challenged the various groups in society when it came to unions, the media, the sports movement, teachers, etc.
This was a deliberate strategy of the broader anti-apartheid movement. Yet today there is very little explanation of these relationships in the history books. If you look back on the major achievements of ISAK, thanks to it not being locked up in any party-political alliance, it adopted this pro-active approach. It had clear goals on what it wanted to achieve.
Bertil Högberg: What political connections were there in ISAK? Were the youth movements of all the political parties members?
Magnus Walan: All, except the conservatives. We had the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party, the Liberal Youth, the Young Communists, the Social Democratic Youth. They were all active and we also had some of the women’s political organizations as members.
Bertil Högberg: But not the parties themselves?
Magnus Walan: Not the parties themselves.
Bertil Högberg: But the political youth and women’s organisations became vehicles into the parties?
Magnus Walan: Yes, they were important to challenge the parties and to challenge the political establishment. But in general, they were important for popular education. It was really true that, as Billy Modise said, we went to knock on the ordinary Swede’s door. If you combine the Africa Groups’ and ISAK’s activities locally, it was not the political establishment that met the ordinary man on the street and talked about what was going on in South Africa and Namibia. It was the local Africa Group and the local ISAK and if you calculate how many meetings and discussions we had, or how many leaflets we handed out over these years, it mayis quite a number.
Bertil Högberg: Can you remember some of the major campaigns that were run?
Magnus Walan: Yes, there were several. The major ones were the various sanctions campaigns, where we worked against Swedish investments in South Africa and for disinvestment from South Africa. When the first Swedish Bill on banning new investments was passed, it was not because of ISAK, which was launched in 1979. The Act was passed before that, in 1978. Maybe one can link that to the earlier Africa Groups’ work?
Bertil Högberg: It is more the churches that pushed that law through. Then ISAK took over that advocacy role. Now there was a law, but what was ISAK’s argument around disinvestment?
Magnus Walan: The argument was that the law banning new investments was very weak. It didn’t affect established investments in the Swedish companies based in South Africa. We said that and the government also said it, while the unions and some of the media said that Sweden has to be inside South Africa to challenge the system and to improve the situation by seeing to it that the unions were allowed to work, that conditions of employment would be fair, and so on. But we developed a counter-argument, which was crucial. We developed it together with Frene Ginwala of the ANC research department in London and with the South African organization for War Resisters, COSAWR (Congress of South African War Resisters), also in London.
We basically argued that a number of South African laws forced all companies in South Africa to be involved in and to support the military in the so-called anti-terrorist war. We pointed both at a series of laws and at evidence of companies’ involvement in support to the military machinery in South Africa. It was possible that ball-bearings produced by SKF were used by General Motors in the production of military vehicles at Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth. There was also the National Key Points Act that pinpointed a number of key industrial areas in South Africa. All the companies in these areas were compelled to take part in forming a local militia consisting of white employees. There were examples of white employees of SKF in Uitenhage being seen in Casspirs. ABB, Asea Brown Boveri, outside Rosslyn in Pretoria, was also in such a key industrial area where there was very sensitive production. This was important.
Bertil Högberg: And what did you achieve around that?
Magnus Walan: It became almost impossible to continue to claim, “We are trying to work from within to change the situation for the better,” if, with such strong arguments and facts, we could say, “If the companies are paying 75% of the salaries when their white employees are doing their two year military service, then they are subsidizing the South African military budget”. You can call that a paradox, but as we could point out that it was legislation, it became very difficult to counter this in arguments.
One thing I have learned is that if you press hard on one issue, it doesn’t necessarily change immediately, but something else comes up. The Swedish State, the Swedish Parliament, did not want to go further when it came to banning Swedish companies in South Africa. Yet the counter-arguments had a chilling effect and what came instead, was the whole question of trade and agricultural products. To me, there is of course a political link between these debates on sanctions and the increasing development aid to the liberation movements and to Southern Africa. It is very difficult to prove, but I think, if you talk to the key politicians of that time, that they might recognize that there is some kind of link, where the increased aid was a kind of compensation for not taking stronger action on sanctions. I have a vague memory of looking at the trade figures of the exports from Sweden to South Africa and looking at the amount of aid given to the struggle against apartheid and the figures are not too far from each other, while the tendencies to increase also followed each other, at least for a period at this time.
Bertil Högberg: You are saying that while ISAK failed to get Swedish investments to leave South Africa, it got trade sanctions instead. But was there not a trade sanctions campaign within ISAK?
Magnus Walan: Sure.
Bertil Högberg: How much would you say that the trade sanctions campaign in itself managed to do and what did ISAK do through the Swedish parliament?
Magnus Walan: I think we played an active role when it came to presenting arguments on the slave-like conditions on farms together with the anti-slavery society in London and with Frene Ginwala at the ANC’s research department. We could point out that the continuing trade in agricultural products was in support of virtual slavery, of slave-like conditions. That was a very strong argument for the government to pass the first legislation on banning imports of agricultural products in 1985/86.
I think Maj-Lis Lööw was then the agricultural minister and I’d like to ask her what she regarded as being the strong arguments for this legislation.
Bertil Högberg: How effective had the consumer boycott been earlier? Because that was the first target in anti-apartheid work.
Magnus Walan: I am not sure how effective it was when it comes to figures, financially and so on. I think that the boycott discouraged dealers and importers from importing and selling South African goods. One could look at the trade figures developed from 1994, which might provide a sign of how it might have looked like if trade wasn’t banned because of apartheid and the sanctions campaign.
Bertil Högberg: Did any of the big chains of food stores stop selling South African goods completely?
Magnus Walan: Not as far as I remember, not from what became public knowledge. It was a very efficient popular educational tool about what was going on in South Africa, that we had a linkage, that it was not something far away that we didn’t have any relations with. In that sense the campaigns also gave hope to people because it showed that we have linkages, we have choices. The world isn’t hopeless even if the situation may look hopeless; we have options. Although we knew how cruel apartheid was, I think this was a very positive campaign because we said, you can do something, you can take part in changing this.
Bertil Högberg: Any other campaigns that you remember?
Magnus Walan: I remember the sports campaign that came later with the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee, SANROC, in London. We took the initiative of linking the Swedish sport movements to them and later to the non-racial sports movement in South Africa. I think it was a unique campaign that ISAK ran to broaden our sports cooperation.
Bertil Högberg: How much cooperation did you manage to establish with the sports movements in Sweden?
Magnus Walan: At the top level I would say that we had good relations and we organized visits both to and from South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: Was the sports boycott working?
Magnus Walan: In many instances I would say yes. Some tennis players came to play in Sweden, but otherwise the sports boycott was supported by Swedish sports bodies.
Bertil Högberg: Any other campaigns?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I worked a lot with the trade unions, which took a different angle in relation to the sanctions debate.
Bertil Högberg: Yes, some of the unions were very much against sanctions.
Magnus Walan: Yes. I went to meetings with Göran Johansson when he was at SKF in Gothenburg and the argument he used then was that the ANC was an exile organization, it was communist and that sanctions would hurt the South African workers. We went around with visitors from South Africa, William Kanyile from SACTU, the South African Congress of Trade Unions, and later with Thozamile Botha (also interviewed in this series, Editor’s note), and it was a difficult debate. There were unions inside South Africa that did not support sanctions and, according to South African legislation, trade unions were not allowed to work with political issues.
Lars Hult and myself from ISAK were invited by the Swedish Metal Workers Union to be taught the real story about the union’s response to the call for sanctions. It was during a visit of one of the South African Metal Workers Union’s leaders, Daniel Dube from NUMSA. He was at SKF, a Swedish company, with a factory in Uitenhage outside Port Elizabeth. Swedish Metal Workers wanted to explain why they could not support ISAK and sanctions.
But I had an internal memo from the Central Executive Committee of COSATU with me. The document, a political position adopted by the Central Executive of COSATU, explained how and why COSATU supported sanctions and its strategies in relation to sanctions.
When we met Daniel Dube, he had to agree with COSATU’s position. He couldn’t support the Swedish Metal Workers critique against sanctions, which was not what the Metal Workers Union had expected him to say.
Bertil Högberg: Can you explain why the Metal Workers in particular were so much against sanctions?
Magnus Walan: Through being there and helping to build up the trade union movement, I think they had the perception that they could not support sanctions which might undermine that work.
Bertil Högberg: Wasn’t it also about their own jobs in Sweden? They believed that if they cut ties with South Africa, they would lose jobs here in Sweden?
Magnus Walan: That might also be one of the reasons. I think that many of them had a very honest belief that they could change the system from inside. They thought that Swedish companies could change the system from within, by giving good salaries, allowing unions, etc.
Yet a governmental enquiry during that time found that at the majority of the Swedish plants in South Africa, there were no real unions.
Our position was that Swedish companies were actually supporting the Apartheid system and its repressive arm, the military. So we didn’t buy that argument. But I think that they had good intentions.
There were a number of problematic areas around these questions. It was true that SACTU was very close to the South African Communist Party and was very loyal to the Soviet Union, and this was also part of the cold war on both sides.
I was personally not really aware of those dimensions at the time, but I supported the unions’ political stance that you cannot isolate unionist issues from general democracy work. In that context, it doesn’t matter if the workers get a few more rand a month in their pockets if they are still living under apartheid. That changed dramatically in the early 1980s, when the unions in South Africa became more political and took a political stance.
One important aspect of the historical relations between Swedish unions and COSATU was the cold war and its implications. I was suddenly invited to a meeting in central Johannesburg in early 1986. I met COSATU office bearers – Jay Naidoo, Sydney Mufamadi, Makhulu Ledwaba and others. They told me that the Swedish unions were not willing to support COSATU unless COSATU joined the International Confederation of Free Trace Unions, ICFTU, in Geneva. Yet COSATU did not want to align themselves to either of the international trade union federations.
I took this information to some social democrats in Sweden – I think they were Hans Göran Franck MP, Sigbert Axelsson, member of the party’s international committee, and through others to Anita Gradin, a cabinet minister.
I was later informed that this demand of LO, the largest Swedish trade union confederation, was withdrawn. Money was given to COSATU through the Dutch union federation and the various trade union federations.
I have a memory of one of my first visits to South Africa in 1984 where things were organized for me without me really knowing about it. I was asked to travel to meet the future Deputy President of COSATU, Chris Dlamini. COSATU was formed in 1985 and my meeting with him was only a few months before.
Chris Dlamini was working in Springs with the Food and Allied Workers Union, but he was also a leader of the Federation of South African Trade Unions, FOSATU. I had an interview with him on the question of sanctions and on the ANC. He came out almost in favour of sanctions, quite openly.
Then he said that there was somebody that I should see outside the office in Springs. I sneaked out and met Enoch Gondongwana and Sam Ntuli, who presented themselves as SACTU, which the labour confederation, LO in Sweden, regarded as an exile movement that didn’t exist in South Africa. Now it was clear that they had relations with FOSATU and it was one of the FOSATU leaders who introduced me to SACTU.
Enoch and Sam were then organizing at SKF. I think Enoch Gondongwana later became the Metal Workers Union Secretary general. Sam Ntuli was a community leader who was part of the civics organizations. I brought him to Sweden to build relations with a civic organization in Sweden (Hyresgästföreningen). Sam Ntuli wanted to come, so I arranged it.
He was later assassinated at the very time Lars Hult, KG Norén, myself and others from ISAK were on our way to meet him. We were going to see him as a representative for the Transvaal Civic Association, with Moses Mayekiso. When we met Moses Mayekiso, he said, “I have just received bad news. Sam Ntuli, who we were supposed to see, has been killed, assassinated on his way here sitting in his car.”
That was proof to me of the importance of the ANC inside the country, and that the networks were extremely strong and that SACTU existed, it was not merely an exile organization. I also understood the partly complex issues about how loudly the union should shout about apartheid and whether they were strong enough to defend themselves against repression if they really stood up against it. This became very clear in 1984, 1985 and 1986, and I think that when COSATU was formed it was a shock to the establishment in South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: You had so many contacts and you repeatedly went to South Africa during the rest of the 1980s, you had such deep contact with the trade union movement, how did that help in the campaign work back here in Sweden?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I went to South Africa several times from 1984. Basically I met people from the UDF, the United Democratic Front. Murphy Morobe and Cassim Salojee were here in Sweden and I met them in secret together with the ANC in Stockholm. The UDF people understood that I was not a security risk and invited me to come down to South Africa. They said they would take care of me.
I couldn’t resist that offer. When I came down Murphy Morobe had been arrested, so all the things that he was supposed to do to help me were not in place. But other structures definitely assisted me to get around, setting up all the meetings and so on. And the UDF at least kept track of me. Of course I worked a lot with the unions in South Africa. I really liked the unions and came to know many of them quite well. They were the strongest part of the broad democratic alliance of the UDF coalition.
It was also very practical. I was making my living by writing articles and the union papers in Sweden were often willing to publish the articles. They had to re-write them a bit, because I was not a trained journalist. They were interested because I had real stories about actions, what was happening in South Africa, and interviews with the right people.
Bertil Högberg: Did you use your ordinary name in the articles?
Magnus Walan: I could not use my ordinary name.
Bertil Högberg: What did you call yourself?
Magnus Walan: Herman Andersson. Herman was my grandpa, Anders is my father and I am his son. That was the way I earned my living, writing articles and speaking at engagements between 1984 and 1994. I was working very much with the unions. I think that the arguments around sanctions, the interviews, the congress statements coming out from South Africa were also extremely important for ISAK, partly coming through me and partly coming through public sources or the ANC. Of course that influenced the social democratic trade union movement in Sweden, especially when it came to recognizing the ANC’s central role and generally backing the idea of sanctions.
Bertil Högberg: Did you see any change in the attitude of the Swedish trade union movement during the 1980s?
Magnus Walan: Yes some of the unions became very close to ISAK like ST, the government employees, Kommunal, the Swedish Municipal Workers Union, and the Nurses Union, SHSTF. SHSTF joined ISAK and were also active in the local ISAK committees from time to time. It varied from area to area.
I have very warm feelings about the local groups, the song groups, the meetings, the tours we had with representatives from Southern Africa, and of colleagues.
Just to tell one story from 1984 when I did this interview with Chris Dlamini, a union leader who was the chair or deputy chair of FOSATU, the older federation of unions, before the launch of COSATU. I interviewed him as pro-sanctions. I had an interview with Piroshaw Camay from the union federation TUSA, whose leader also talked positively about sanctions. Another important union was SAWU, Sisa Njikelana, who came out even stronger.
Finally I had an interview with Winnie Mandela. Winnie was very direct and militant in a sense by saying, “We don’t want your bloody money! We don’t have to have golden chains. Our struggle is not about that, we want our freedom. Don’t tell us what we should say about sanctions, we can speak for ourselves, the ANC can speak for itself.”
These interviews were broadcast on national radio in a debate with leaders of the Swedish unions who said, “We have contacts with South African unions that don’t want sanctions”. In this live radio broadcast of the Swedish programme Kanalen, of course the Swedish union leaders were a bit embarrassed.
Bertil Högberg: So you had these interviews on tape?
Magnus Walan: Yes.
Bertil Högberg: Were you ever searched?
Magnus Walan: My first tape played the Rolling Stones for ten minutes before the interviews started.
Bertil Högberg: You were able to travel to South Africa over the years. Did you have problems in getting a visa?
Magnus Walan: No, I had a tourist visa. I think that they kept track of me. After 1990 I applied for a visa to visit the ANC’s headquarters in South Africa. Then I was invited to go to the South African legation at Linnégatan to meet them and talk about a visa to do media work in South Africa. I met a representative of the old diplomats who obviously knew what I had been up to.
He was sitting there with a bunch of papers and I think it was the file that he had on me, because he said, “Oh, I wanted to see you a long time ago. How nice to see you.”
I was able to see the files and saw a number of articles that I had written and some black and white pictures. My understanding was that he was keen to send signals to the ANC, that he was a man for reforms, for democracy.
So I wasn’t stopped in that way. What worried me was that if I were traced when getting hold of leaders that the South Africans wanted to get hold of, I might help them to track them. That was a bit worrying. Therefore I deliberately did not try to trace people who were living underground, but if they chose to come to me, of course I was happy.
So it happened on numerous occasions. I remember once I was in the Lutheran centre in Athlone in Cape Town, when a worker there came to me and said, “There is a strange man at the fence at the back who wants to see you”. I didn’t know whom, I hadn’t made any appointment, but there was Trevor Manuel, today he is Finance Minister. He wanted me to answer some questions, and this was a very important thing. It was not just me taping interviews with leaders and getting messages and pictures, it was also the other way around. They were extremely interested to learn about the debate in Sweden and the Nordic countries, what is the situation or my perception of the ANC, and so on. Many of the interviews that I did were also given to the ANC. They had copies and they really kept track of my records as well.
I remember once I went to Zimbabwe and next morning somebody came knocking at the door of a friend’s house where I was staying – Ola Jämtin, who was working for Sida. There were two members of the National Executive of the ANC (Thozamile Botha and SACTU’s John Nkadimeng). They said, “We heard from Cape Town that you are coming in today. Can we please borrow your tapes and make copies?” “Sure, that’s no problem.”
Bertil Högberg: And this was in the 1980s?
Magnus Walan: Yes. There was Murphy Morobe, who was really wanted by the security police and who came to a trade union congress, which I attended. He wanted to see me but came to this congress disguised as a truck driver, very dirty and so on. I was able to get an interview, then he was arrested just a week later. The interview was published in Sweden’s largest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter.
I met the youth leaders of SAYCO regularly and sometimes I pretended that they were my drivers or things like that. That was the disguise.
Bertil Högberg: Some people thought that you took enormous risks in South Africa. I remember that we in the committee in the Africa Group, which was dealing with support to projects inside South Africa tried to use you, since you were there so often. We were, however, told by SIDA that we shouldn’t use you as a contact with our organizations. Did you have any problems like that with SIDA or others?
Magnus Walan: No I can’t say that. I was involved in giving ideas to various organizations about various projects they could fund or linking organizations to each other, exchange of information.
I haven’t actually experienced that SIDA didn’t want me to do anything like that. I think there was a certain risk, but compared to other people inside South Africa, I was not high on the agenda for the South African authorities. Being white and a foreigner, I had money to get lawyers, etc. Being directly connected with the political establishment in Sweden and to ISAK, I didn’t see myself being at risk.
Except for accidents, ending up in cross-fire or things like that. That happened and in those instances there were definitely risks and people were being killed next to me. That happened in Katlehong, in Thokoza, in White City Soweto. I ended up surrounded by shooting policemen in Umtata in 1989 and that was close, and in KwaZulu-Natal.
But one instance was when I came to Zimbabwe on my way down to South Africa I was approached by Jaya Appalraju, an ANC member who I had met and heard of, but didn’t know well. I later found out that he was the leader of the PMC – the political military command of the ANC in Zimbabwe, a key military player so to say for the ANC. He was working in Harare for the Zimbabwean government.
I thought it would be nice meeting somebody who obviously was an ANC person, but I was not properly introduced to this person according to security rules. And he almost immediately pulled out maps of the uranium enrichment plant at Pelindaba between Johannesburg and Pretoria. He put out satellite photos of these things and asked me to take close-up photographs of certain things at these installations. I was shocked, I was not properly introduced, I had no clue what he was aiming at and what it was about, so I just flatly said no.
If I changed my mind, I should take part in a general guided tour as a tourist or visitor who could attempt to take photographs. I think you weren’t allowed to take photos of certain parts of this plant. He then asked me to contact a house between Pretoria and Johannesburg. On a map he showed me the place, a farm in Broederstroom. But I said no, I didn’t want to take the map with me, I didn’t want to take any phone numbers, I didn’t want to do it. But they said well if you get second thoughts, at least memorize where it is.
Then I went to South Africa and I was really afraid in case that room had been bugged. I mean there were people, a foreigner even, who’d been arrested and incarcerated for supporting the ANC military wing, Klaas de Jonge.
I heard about that and so knew there were foreigners who were arrested for supporting the ANC military wing and this request could be a setup and entail five years imprisonment, so it was something serious. It didn’t take long, a few days after I arrived in SA, before it was all over the news that an ANC cell with three white people in Broederstroom was raided. It was only a few days afterwards, the same cell.
Then I really was shocked, and almost gave up travelling because I didn’t know if they had any documents or notes on my trip, because that was the place that I was sent to. I had not planned to go and to see them because that would’ve jeopardized the non-violent activism that I was involved in and I had no mandate to do that. It would have weakened our work if I were to get involved in the ANC’s military work, though there were foreigners in the anti-apartheid movement elsewhere who were involved in this way. Luckily nobody came and knocked at my door.
The old woman who I was staying with at that time was the mother of a white student activist that I knew and always had a room for me to stay there. I confessed to her that I was a bit worried that the ANC cell might have had my name and I didn’t know if I should stay on.
She said, “Well don’t tell this to my son, don’t tell this to my husband. They used to come here from time to time and I can assure you they don’t have that address noted anywhere.” She was a wonderful old lady who confessed to me that she was also part of the ANC military structures and maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that I was offered a place to stay there. I didn’t know all these things, but it sounded strange that she could say, “I know Damien de Lange, Ian Robertson and Susan Westcott who were arrested, I know them”. The old lady told me that her home was one of Ian Robertson’s hideouts.
Bertil Högberg: Of course you have a lot of memories from your trips, but if you look at the broader work back home, are there any real highlights that stand out from all the years of activism, events or things, memories?
Magnus Walan: Yes, there are many things and they could be small and big, it could really vary. A small thing that I remember very strongly is how important outside pressure is. One night when we were looking at ANC videos in Soshanguve outside Pretoria during the very tense state of emergency situation, I met a young activist who was just released from detention. He had been badly beaten and tortured. This high school student asked me, “Are you from Sweden?” He had never met a white comrade before. “So are from you from Sweden or Switzerland? Is that the country where Västerås or Vesteroos is? How do you spell it? Yes, that is where my Amnesty group is from, they got me out of prison, they saved me from torture.” It was extremely powerful to hear this youth who was really young, who could pinpoint the Västerås Amnesty Group that helped him. ISAK did not work in this way, but I think that the overall achievement was the same.
For example, I think it was Constand Viljoen, a minister in WA de Klerk’s government who, after the 1990 unbannings, went to the Nationalist Party Conference in Bloemfontein and said it was the boycott and the threat of isolation and sanctions that “forced de Klerk to unban the ANC and to release Nelson Mandela”. These were a cabinet minister’s own words to his party colleagues. So I think that is a good example of the importance of the broad sanctions movement.
I was asked to speak at some union congresses and these are powerful memories. I found a second home in South Africa in a sense. I made so many close friends who I shared so much with, not just political issues and cultural and value based issues. I had as many friends in South Africa as I had in Uppsala if not more, because I was living with them. I was there for approximately two months a year, during each of these ten years.
Bertil Högberg: Do you maintain any of those contacts and relations?
Magnus Walan: Some of them. The whole anti-apartheid local leadership at that time, coming from various cities and “dorpies”, went to parliament, to government, to business. They were youths at the time - like me. I am no longer a youth. But some of them I have contact with, not that many, but it happens, both in the ANC leadership and also with a few of them who are not, who are ordinary citizens, ordinary businessmen or workers. Lindiwe Mabuza in London, Thabo Mofamane, Florence de Villiers, Aziz Pahad, etc.
Bertil Högberg: Do any of the big events in Sweden stand out? You attended the big ANC gala in Gothenburg, were you involved in it?
Magnus Walan: Yes. At least I had contact with the people in Gothenburg. I was quite shocked one day when Mikael Wiehe phoned and said that he wanted a “background paper on the ANC in South Africa” because they’d had a meeting, discussions with some artists, and were preparing a gala for the ANC.
I spoke to Mikael about that just two months ago, but he doesn’t recall it. I have a very strong memory because I was a bit shocked and happy to do that kind of work.
One other highlight was on the 2nd February 1990 when many of the National Executive members of the ANC including Thabo Mbeki and Joe Slovo were in Stockholm to see Oliver Tambo together with the old, newly released leaders, Mandela’s colleagues, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and the rest.
I was often used as a driver for the ANC office. I had no other fixed employment during those years and I liked doing that kind of work. I could meet a lot of the people who came to visit the ANC. Definitely one of the highlights for me personally was when I was also working as a driver for the ANC office, for the visitors late 1989 and in January 1990.
At the end of January 1990 we went out with some of the ANC’s NEC, and some of the old recently released old men, to see Oliver Tambo while he was at the clinic at Erstagård in Stockholm. The secret meeting was at Hasseludden on Värmdö, not far away.
So there were me, some of the ANC bodyguards and some of the ANC National Executive. It turned out to be an extraordinary meeting of the ANC National Executive.
I was allowed to stay in the room during part of their meeting. I was allowed to sit and to listen to OR’s speech, with Sisulu and the other members of the National Executive. I was allowed to stay, they didn’t kick me out. I mean, the other ANC representatives, who were not part of the National Executive, were not allowed to stay in the room. They asked me afterwards, how come you could be part of this? I don’t know. So that was a sign of trust, which I think at that time was very strong.
I remember that ANC National Executive member Joe Ndlandla took notes from this meeting. I read these notes later and what was so powerful was that when Nelson Mandela stepped out on the City Hall balcony in Cape Town on the 11th of February, some of the words that came from him were actually from Oliver Tambo sitting in this room in Stockholm. Large sections of Nelson Mandela’s words from the balcony were actually noted from Oliver Tambo’s words at Hasseludden.
Bertil Högberg: A few days before?
Magnus Walan: Yes. It shows many things but it also shows the trust that Nelson Mandela gave to Oliver Tambo and the importance of Oliver Tambo in the ANC.
Bertil Högberg: Before we leave ISAK, were there any particular controversies within ISAK over the years? On strategy or policy?
Magnus Walan: Of course, there were various issues. I was very happy for example that we made a statement when the report came out saying that the ANC had used torture against people suspected of being spies in the ANC camps in Angola. ISAK made a statement condemning this, based on information that we got from the Detainees Parent Support Committee and Human Rights Commission (later part of NIM). Audrey Coleman of DPSC and other human rights activists in South Africa came out very strongly on this issue and challenged us to make a statement. We did.
Bertil Högberg: It didn’t sour the relations?
Magnus Walan: I don’t know how personal one should be in this, but it was quite sensitive.
Bertil Högberg: You worked very closely with the ANC and with the ANC office. What were your relations to SWAPO in Namibia?
Magnus Walan: I felt that the SWAPO office was not that easy to work with. The ANC office was much more popular and friendly.
I did work with SWAPO. Lars Herneklint and myself went to Namibia 1989. We headed towards Anamulenge, a little Catholic station. We went with the Student Union and the Trade Unions in Namibia. Travelling by car in Namibia at the time, we were surprised that the soldiers let us through all the military roadblocks so easily.
At that time South African army were losing a lot of personnel and equipment in Angola. We met more than one convoy of destroyed tanks and casspirs.
When we arrived at Anamulenge we understood why the South African army let us through, as Anamulenge also was a military camp for mercenaries. When we referred to Anamulenge we referred to the catholic mission – the soldiers were thinking the military camp next door.
During our first night there was an attack at the military camp. There were rockets launched by SWAPO. I was extremely scared but the catholic fathers said that we should not worry.
Bertil Högberg: ISAK was an umbrella organisation with a lot of national organizations as members. How did this work within ISAK? How did the organizations cooperate?
Magnus Walan: I think it was more problematic for the political youth organizations compared to the religious organisations.
Bertil Högberg: Also around Shell campaign?
Magnus Walan: It was round the Shell campaign. The Shell campaign was initiated by the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa and against Shell that was giving apartheid South Africa oil.
In Sweden there were a number of anarchists who petrol-bombed petrol stations and this was of course extremely serious. I don’t think that any of us on the ISAK board had any contact with these individuals or any kind of knowledge of who did this. These individuals destroyed our campaign so we didn’t like them. They also put individual lives at risk.
We didn’t want them to have us stop the campaign. It was too serious to blow off the whole campaign due to this.
Bertil Högberg: Did any organization withdraw from ISAK as a result of this campaign?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I think there was public criticism.
Bertil Högberg: What about the Liberal Youth? Didn’t they withdraw?
Magnus Walan: Possibly they did, that might have happened.
Bertil Högberg: Even though ISAK was a very broad umbrella organization, there were also organizations outside ISAK. What was the way you could operate and cooperate with them?
Magnus Walan: As I mentioned, we had organized cooperation with the National Sports Federation and with some of the unions. Later on we also organized cooperation with the Swedish churches. The Swedish Ecumenical Council was a very small office at the time, but we had very good relations with them. We organized visits, conferences and campaigns together to lobby parliament against apartheid.
Bertil Högberg: What about ISAK and the Africa Groups secretariat?
Magnus Walan: A t the Africa Groups office there was Nina Larsdotter (now Dahlin) and maybe one or two more people who were working with more campaign-oriented things on South Africa.
But at ISAK there were Peter Göransson, KG Norén, Lars Hult, Lotta Johnsson, Annika Forsberg and others, the whole bunch of them. There was a very creative mood.
Bertil Högberg: This is now the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s?
Magnus Walan: Yes, the beginning of the 1990s.
Bertil Högberg: There was a dramatic difference in those years?
Magnus Walan: If you are talking about the role and the history of ISAK, I am willing to say it on record that looking at the history written so far on Swedish support to the liberation struggle in South Africa, the fact that a person like Lars Hult is hardly mentioned, is a sign that the history of the importance of the popular mobilization against apartheid to influence the political positions and actions of the state in Sweden is not yet written.
Bertil Högberg: He was the main coordinator of the ISAK activities from 1983, 1984 to the end.
Magnus Walan: Lars was a construction worker – an insulator from Karlstad. Lars was in ISAK for a very long time and his importance cannot be underestimated I think, both as being so creative, and encouraging all, especially all the local groups. But also as an organizer.
Bertil Högberg: Coming to an international level, were you involved in the Nordic cooperation at all?
Magnus Walan: Yes, but not that much. I took part in meeting them at international conferences, but we also had joint visits of, for example youth representatives, where we shared costs. We shared experiences on various campaigns and ideas like on the oil issues.
Bertil Högberg: What role did ISAK and the Africa Groups play on the international anti-apartheid scene?
Magnus Walan: I think that Sweden was unique amongst the industrial countries. The Nordic countries were giving unique assistance and giving so much development assistance to support political recognition of the liberation struggles in South Africa. Compared to other anti-apartheid movements all over the world that were our partners, we were fairly well off. We were funded by the state with full time staff; the liberation movements had political recognition by parliament/government.
Bertil Högberg: Well off, but only towards the end. Do you remember any controversies or disagreements within the solidarity movement?
Magnus Walan: Within the World Council of Churches both the ANC and PAC were recognized, as the UN recognised both the ANC and PAC. But the head of the anti-apartheid work within the WCC, Prexy Nesbitt was definitely an ANC supporter. This led to public critique by PAC at conferences that I attended.
Bertil Högberg: What about the anti-apartheid movement in the UK. What were the relations with them?
Magnus Walan: We were very impressed by them, having a hostile government and in spite of that being able to do so many things. But we had these discussions where they often told us to slow down on telling the Swedish government that they were not doing enough.
But that was not what the ANC was telling us, so it was not a very heated or tense debate, but it was repeatedly coming from them – Abdul Minty and Mike Terry.
The meetings with the AAM and with the UN Centre Against Apartheid’s ES Reddy were extremely fruitful and there was a very nice atmosphere.
There were representatives coming together from all over the world. I came to know anti-apartheid activists in New Zealand, Australia, the US, etc. Suddenly I had friends and homes all over the world.
Bertil Högberg: We’ve talked about the relations that you had through ISAK and the Africa Groups with the liberation movements and also with the trade unions in South Africa. Were there other organizations that you dealt actively with?
Magnus Walan: Yes, I was talking about the war resisters in South Africa – EEC, the End Conscription Campaign and they had also their London partners – COSAWR, the Congress of South African War Resisters.
The South African Council of Churches, and a number of individual churches where part of or close to the UDF, the mass movement called the United Democratic Front. And the unions that were close to ANC and UDF.
I remember when Chris Dlamini came to the LO congress in Stockholm. I met him and he asked me, “Where can I see the ANC office?” He did not want LO to set up the meeting and he knew from South Africa that I had some kind of ANC security clearance.
So I set up the meeting with Lindiwe at the ANC office.
Another example was Chief Mapumulo of the South African Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa - CONTRALESA. Chief Maphumulo came to Sweden to explain the role of the chiefs and the traditional leaders.
Or Sam Ntuli from the Transvaal Civic Associations, etc.
There was Howard Varney, a lawyer from the Legal Resources Centre, who came twice, the Human Rights Commission and the Detainees Parent Support Committee.
Bertil Högberg: That is quite a varied number of organizations. Did you collect money or anything like that for the ANC?
Magnus Walan: Well we did a lot of fund-raising within ISAK. I think it was around 1994 ISAK collected one million Swedish crowns for the ANC and other parts of the democratic movement.
Bertil Högberg: Per year or ?
Magnus Walan: Collected during a specific year for a specific purpose.
Bertil Högberg: And that was sent to the ANC office?
Magnus Walan: Yes, there were a number of us who went there to symbolically hand over the gift to them, to the Treasurer of the ANC, TT Nkobi, and to Walter Sisulu. They recognized the enormous debt the ANC had in relation to the election campaign.
Bertil Högberg: How would you say that the attitude of the Swedish media changed in relation to South Africa and in relation to the ANC?
Magnus Walan: In ISAK we developed strategies on media and lobbying as well. From being reactive earlier, by responding to various debate articles, we shifted to a proactive agenda, pinpointing, selecting journalists, formulating what the major messages were that we wanted to give, preparing ourselves for debate or counter-arguments. I think that we became more and more professional in our work. But that changed in relation to the process in South Africa.
Bertil Högberg: Would you say there was a clear media strategy?
Magnus Walan: Not from the beginning, but it developed. We learned, educated ourselves on the question of lobbying, interacting with parliament, how do we do that, encouraging individual parliamentarians to write proposals, to put questions to parliament. We worked as non-aligned to any political parties. We were not biased, we would support all parties that were interested in collaborating with us.
Bertil Högberg: What happened after 1990?
Magnus Walan: There was a debate on the armed struggle. We also had to battle with those forces that wanted to cut down aid to the liberation movements as negotiations progressed.
We argued that it was not a normal situation, we don’t have a democratic constituent assembly. Even if the ANC was unbanned and political prisoners were released, and various negotiations were going on, we said that the Nationalist Party proposal was not democratic. The negotiations were not between equal parties. So it was quite a complex situation.
Bertil Högberg: What was the effect of ISAK’s standpoint on the lifting of sanctions?
Magnus Walan: We consulted the ANC on this. ANC said that sanctions should be lifted in relation to the actual changes in South Africa. When a transitional Government was in place, when a date was set for general elections to a constituent assembly, then certain sanctions could be lifted.
Bertil Högberg: When sanctions actually were lifted, were both the ANC and you in agreement, or were they lifted earlier?
Magnus Walan: The Swedish conservative minister of Foreign Affairs did try to lift sanctions and end support to the ANC earlier. But I published a leaked report on DN-debate and exposed this.
The Committee of Foreign Affairs in parliament had not at the time set the conditions for this. The cabinet secretary at the ministry of Foreign Affairs (Nilsson) had acted prematurely in negotiating this with the Nationalist party led embassy in Stockholm without broader support in parliament and within the coalition government.
So this became a very hot potato and the conservative minister of foreign affairs had to back off and there was a clear majority in parliament to prolong continued support to the ANC. That is also one of the highlights. I think that we secured quite a number of millions of Swedish development aid to the ANC just because of this.
Bertil Högberg: When 1994 came, what became of ISAK?
Magnus Walan: I am very happy that we took a clear stand, saying that when we have a democratic constitution in South Africa, then we have fulfilled our mandate, and when we have democratic elections, then we should dissolve.
I think it was very good that we did. We didn’t want to cling onto something because there was still a lot of work that needed to be done. But we fulfilled the mandate we set out with and I am happy that we took that very clear decision. “This is it!”
Bertil Högberg: But something was created in its place?
Magnus Walan: Yes, but it was a voluntary transfer for those individual organizations who wanted to continue in some kind of cooperation for that other mandate. Some organizations took the decision that they wanted to continue and start a Network on Southern Africa. It became something much smaller and has battled for survival during certain periods as well. Its task was mainly to continue with the collaboration between organizations and twinning cities and so on.
Bertil Högberg: Did it find its role, do you think?
Magnus Walan: Not fully, but to a certain extent. I think that we were able to get some funding for local activities that wouldn’t have been funded otherwise. It was quite flexible in supporting local activities between organizations that related to some kind of cooperation or popular education about the situation in Southern Africa.
Bertil Högberg: You were the chairperson?
Magnus Walan: Yes, for a short period. And I was quite active in also getting European Union money for that organization.
Bertil Högberg: It became the first NGO I think in Sweden that got “public awareness money” from the Commission?
Magnus Walan: I think so too, for “development education”.
Bertil Högberg: What do you think that ISAK support meant for the struggle in Southern Africa?
Magnus Walan: Much more than has been recognized in the history books so far.
I think that among the practical reasons for this is that of course the new ANC government wanted to build relationships with governments, not with popular organizations. Now there was a shift for the ANC to take over the government in South Africa. While building relationships with governments, it needed almost to distance itself from the NGO community.
Now they wanted to promote trade and investments in South Africa. The ANC became a normal political party. ANC became a member of the Social Democratic Socialist International. I think it is reasonable that neither the leaders of the Swedish Social Democratic Party nor the leaders of the ANC would like to talk about their historical differences.
The Africa Groups and other popular organizations in Sweden had enormous support in challenging the government on sanctions, in mobilising support and aid for the liberation struggle. Swedish money, Nordic money stood for a majority of funding of both the ANC and the mass democratic movement.
There is a debate on development aid today – what good it does. The process of transfer to democracy in South Africa would not have gone that quickly, would not have gone that smoothly without development aid, all produced with strong popular support and with a lot of popular contacts. I am completely convinced that we were the ones who were pushing sanctions, we educated, we informed the general public, we took the debate, we presented the arguments on sanctions, on the armed struggle, on the ANC as being the non-racial force, being inside the country and challenging the media. The popular anti-apartheid movements were pushing the unions, the political parties and parliament to take progressive positions.
Once I was asked by Thabo Mbeki and Aziz Pahad to assist the ANC’s international department in Shell House in Johannesburg in organizing a visit by Pierre Schori, the International secretary of the Social Democratic party. I set up the program, carrying his briefcase, travelling around South Africa – that was a fun episode.
Bertil Högberg: What are you doing at the moment?
Magnus Walan: I work with community and parliament contacts, lobbying for Diakonia on various kinds of development issues, trade, on debt issues.
Bertil Högberg: And Diakonia is?
Magnus Walan: It is a Swedish church-related development agency, partially funded by individual gifts but also partly funded by Swedish state money.
Bertil Högberg: What you are doing now, how important do you think your time in ISAK was, and that you work for your present job?
Magnus Walan: It was very important for me. I learned politics, to work from a value-based platform, and how parliament and media function. Personal contacts with politicians etc, and the importance of grass root work.
Bertil Högberg: You became the most efficient lobbyist in Sweden in your field.
Magnus Walan: On international issues. The fact is that there are not that many lobbyists, so it is difficult to compare.
Bertil Högberg: Not much competition then?
Magnus Walan: Not that much competition, but I think that while pushing for value-based issues, I think there is oneness and interest to debate also, and to listen and sometimes also to pick up proposals.
Bertil Högberg: Thank you, Magnus.