The Nordic Africa Institute

Archives in Sweden

List of all Swedish archives

Swedish intellectuals and students started to raise their voices against the South African apartheid regime in the 1950s following the instalment of the apartheid system in 1948. A fund-raising campaign in support of the victims of apartheid was launched. This campaign and others that followed with support of the student and youth movements as well as church representatives led to the formation of a national anti-apartheid campaign against South Africa on all levels of society. One of the first concrete actions by the student movement was to offer study opportunities in Sweden to black students from Southern Africa. Though it was mainly individuals and political organisations in the liberal political centre that were first active against apartheid, the humanitarian concerns soon found an echo in the ruling Social Democratic government. The government decided in 1964 to extend educational assistance to African - mainly Southern African - refugee youth.

Notable amongst the various popular movements were e.g. The Africa Groups of Sweden, formed in 1974 by groups existing since the early 1960s. A main activity of AGS was lobbying the decision makers dealing with issues on Southern Africa through campaigns, fundraising and information activities. The Isolate South Africa Committee (ISAK), consisting in 1985 of more than 40 national organisations and 30 municipalities carrying out a boycott and representing 1.5 million Swedes, arranged the Swedish People’s Parliament against Apartheid at the beginning of 1986. More than 1,000 delegates from some 700 organisations at local, regional and national level in the country reflected a significant national opinion that represented the culmination of three decades of popular mobilization against apartheid. It attracted massive international attention.

Exiled leaders of Southern African liberation movements started to visit Sweden and were received at the highest level of government from the beginning of the 1960s. In the case of South Africa, there was thus a difference of some twenty-five years between the first Swedish contacts with ANC at the highest level of government and corresponding contacts between the ANC and the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain or the United States. Pushed by an active public opinion, Sweden, as the first Western country, launched a policy of proactive support to the movements struggling for democracy and self-determination in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique. This active stand and implementation in national politics continued until South Africa became independent in 1994. Apart from the other Nordic countries that followed suit, such consistent support was far from a trend in other parts of the Western world.