Chairman of the Left-Green Movement and Member of Parliament
The interview was conducted by Proscovia Svärd on 24 October 2008.
Proscovia Svärd: I am happy that you have taken a few minutes despite the hectic moment that Iceland is in. I am here to establish if there is any documentation on the Icelandic people’s involvement in the liberation struggles of Southern Africa. The project that I am co-coordinating has so far mapped archives in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark that tell a rich history on the involvement of the Nordic countries in the liberation struggle but nothing yet on Iceland. What was your role in the liberation struggle?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: I came into parliament in 1983 and one of my first issues I raised was actually that Iceland had not yet joined the trade embargo on South Africa because of the apartheid regime. I thought this was unacceptable and I brought the case up in parliament in form of a questionnaire and proposals and I also joined hands with the grass root movement that was encouraging people not to buy South African goods. We had them in the shops at that time so because Iceland was rather late in the joining the international group to try and pressurize South African regime to give in. I think we were the last of the Nordic countries to join the trade embargo but we managed to do that and we were part of the embargo for a few years before it ceased to exist. A few years after I came, it was formalized and Iceland became formally part of the trade embargo. So that is in brief my involvement, I was active on both sides i.e. in parliament and politics and also out in the grass root movements.
Proscovia Svärd: What were these movements like?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: You will need to get some information from others who were active but from what I recall, there was a group of people or some kind of Committee that were loosely organized who campaigned against South African goods and pressed our government to join the trade embargo. We wrote a few articles in the newspapers and carried out discussions about it among young people at the University when I was there a few years and around 1980. The Student Union I think had some resolutions on it. So, there were activities among grass root young people.
Proscovia Svärd: What about the role of the media?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: The media were rather sluggish but there were newspapers that supported the anti-apartheid movement like which was one of most radical paper and was quite aggressive together with a few academics. So the support for the struggle was alive but it maybe was not well organized and strong like in the rest of the other Nordic countries and like I said, the politicians were very late in joining the campaign against apartheid.
Proscovia Svärd: If I am interested in reading more about some of the work that you were involved where can I turn to?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: This could be found on the Internet via the information service of the Parliament, but it is all in Icelandic.
Proscovia Svärd: During the time when you were politically involved, did you have any direct contact with the ANC?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: Very little. I had some contacts and picked some up at meetings and conferences overseas. I was active in the Nordic political co-operation and from relations with our sister parties in the other Nordic countries.
Proscovia Svärd: Did you ever invite any people from South Africa?
Steingrimur Sigfússon: Well, I am not quite sure, there could be a case but I am not sure.
Proscovia Svärd: Thank you so much.