About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

19 Jul 1985: Diakonia Greetings

Diakonia spokesperson:

I would like to welcome our visitors from Ireland, Louise Richardson, Patrick O'Malley and visitor from the States, Pat Keefer. There has been quite a lot of confusion about the visit of the Irish workers and we expected that we were actually going to have some workers with us today. The people we have with us are journalists, reporters who came with that party and they were allowed into the country and the workers were not allowed in. They came to accompany the Irish workers on their visit to South Africa so that they could report in the Irish media on conditions in South Africa.

So it's very good that the reporters nevertheless came and have gone all round South Africa and will be reporting back in the Irish papers and we're very happy to have them with us today. Patrick O'Malley has agreed to tell us something about that strike which has been going on for a year. Today is the first anniversary of that strike and a little later in the proceedings we're going to have a birthday cake which we will invite you to cut and then Rev. Mabusa is also going to express the feelings of all of us about this wonderful action that has been taken by these Irish workers. So over to you, Patrick.

Padraig O'Malley:

One year ago today a young girl called Mary Manning, who works at a store called Dunne's Store in Dublin, refused at a check-out counter to handle two South African grapes. She said out of conscience she could not handle goods made in South Africa. The management suspended her. Eight other young workers immediately joined her on a picket line and one man later joined them. For one year they have maintained that picket line. They have been living on something like R10 R15 a month. Increasingly they have been getting the support of Irish people.

When Bishop Tutu was on his way to receive the Nobel Prize he invited two of them, including Mary Manning, to meet with him in London and he endorsed their action and he invited them to come to South Africa to observe at first hand the conditions of apartheid.

We, the three of us, Louise, Patricia and myself, met up with the group and were able to be of some assistance to them in arranging the trip here. We travelled from the United States, joined them in Dublin, went with them to London and arrived in Johannesburg with them. The nine strikers were immediately detained, as were myself and Louise, because we all had Irish passports. They held the nine strikers for ten hours, did not allow them to contact anybody in the Irish Embassy here, did not allow them to make any telephone calls to anybody, and immediately after the ten hours put them on a plane back to Dublin.

Well that was a major mistake on the part of the government here because when they arrived in Dublin they were met by cheering crowds, their actions were more endorsed than ever and the people of Ireland who before were perhaps unaware of the true conditions of what was going on in South Africa began to understand at first hand what a totally oppressive regime meant. And I am glad to be able to say to you that that strike is now receiving more and more support among ordinary Irish people and that the Irish government is now actively considering measures that will help break apartheid in South Africa.

As I said, the three of us were lucky enough to be allowed to get into the country because they were a bit confused as to whether we were Americans or whether we were Irish. We have been going around the country following the schedule of what the strikers would have seen and every place we go we ask the people we meet to send a message of solidarity to them to tell them that you admire their efforts, that you hope their efforts will not only continue but that you hope that they will inspire the Irish people and the Irish government to take even more vigorous action because a small nation may not be big in terms of economic power or military power but a small nation has, above all, at its disposal a certain moral authority and I thank you, and I want each of you to put a message on my tape recorder that I will deliver back to those strikers on the picket line next Tuesday morning. I want them to hear your voices and you telling them how much you not only appreciate what they're doing but that you hope their efforts will continue and that Ireland, even though as a small nation, will continue to exercise its moral authority to fight apartheid.

Thank you very much.

If I pass the tape recorder around, each of you can say who you are, where you live, and send a message of support to the strikers at Dunne's Store in Dublin. I'll start here.

My name is I live in South Africa. I am happy that the Dunne's Store employees have taken that action in sympathy with our position here in South Africa. I am quite happy that they have taken that stand and I appeal to their government to give them employment or also the employers, they must not punish them, they must understand their position that they are fighting the cause. I believe that they will succeed. Thank you.

I am speaking as Rev. Michael Nyandu. First of all I would like to say there is no apartheid in the heart of God so I dearly appreciate what the workers are doing in trying to bring down apartheid because their doing is going to bring down the kingdom of God here on earth.

I am Sue and I work for Diakonia, the Church Ecumenical Agency in Durban, and I just want to express appreciation for the solidarity of the people in Ireland and what they're doing to help us here who are trying to break down the unjust structures of apartheid.

I am Wesley Mabuza, black Methodist Minister from one of the townships in Kwamashu. We are feeling the real brunt of apartheid, and this is cheering to our hearts. I would like to say nothing short of war can really stop this and we believe that what they are doing is really working for peace by doing what they are doing and we hope that they will grow from strength to strength. They must know that God is on their side and is on our side.

Diakonia spokesperson:

Can I ask you all to gather round here for the cutting of this cake? Jeannie very kindly made this cake as a way of celebrating that action by the Irish workers. It's the first birthday of that action so this cake has got one candle on it and this cake says, 'Happy Anniversary Thanks for your effort.' But we'd like you all to gather round for the cutting of the cake and for the photographs.

(Cutting of cake and singing.)

I am very privileged indeed to respond on what we just heard and just to say how sorry we were that our friends were turned back at the airport. Of course, very angry too about this kind of action which is indeed typical of our government and just to say how much we appreciate what our friends have done which shows that we are one indeed. And what particularly made us very excited was the fact that what they were doing they were doing with a white skin colour which in this country is a kind of a passport for any kind of thing that you want to do. And particularly for us who are black and generally for all those who are involved in the struggle we just want to say how much that has meant to us and we wish that they may continue to get involved because you just have to be black in South Africa to understand exactly how apartheid cuts into your heart, into your soul, into your mind. It affects every facet of our life, be it school, be it church, be it in a work situation, it does not matter.

And most of us in South Africa really honestly and truly believe that apartheid is the work of the devil and that those who are engaged in the propagation of apartheid are nothing short, and this is not meant as an insult, this is from a deep theological insight to say those who propagate apartheid are nothing short of us saying they are devils, angels of the devil, and we just want to say that because of the hurts, because of the sorrow, because of the pain. As I am speaking to you now many people are not working. As I'm speaking to you now many children are dying. They've decided to leave school simply because they are aware that there is no point in having a certificate and remain uneducated. There is no point in having a certificate and have no job and therefore they know that apartheid affects us from the cradle to the grave.  They want to say to them, forward brothers and sisters and, to use the current South African term when we ask them to move forward, we want to say to them, and when I'm going to say this I know that the crowd present here is going to respond, to say please, never stop until the last vestiges of apartheid have been removed from our land. I am going to use the words that we normally use for forward when we say amandla, awezu, amandla, awezu.  Thank you.

Please come and get a piece of cake.

Padraig O'Malley:

All you have to do is just talk, say who you are and give them the message.

Hello friends. I am Norma Money. I live in Durban. I belong to a Catholic parish and I am involved in the work of Diakonia which is a church agency helping churches to get involved in justice and to promote justice. I'd like to tell you that I'm really sorry that I didn't see you. I was involved in organising a tour for you which the three people who came did manage to go on and I thoroughly enjoyed going with them. I'd like to tell you that I really appreciate all the efforts you are making to help us who are part of this unholy and evil regime here in South Africa. I'd also like to mention that I am also a citizen terribly affected by apartheid. I am a so-called coloured in this country and it has caused me and the people around a lot of pain and mainly for that reason I really appreciate it when people like you stand up and fight for us. I'd like to say that I will pray for you and be with you every inch of the way. Thank you very much for everything.

Hi, I'm Anita Kromberg from the Fellowship of Reconciliation based in Durban. I visited Dublin last year and met Mary and some of the other strikers outside Dunne's Store. I just want to say go for it, we're really encouraged by your long strike. I know how tiring it is out there on the pavement every day. Continue working for peace and justice.

I'm Paddy Kearney. I work for a church organisation called Diakonia and I must say I am very proud to hear that some people from Ireland have taken the wonderful action that you have taken to make known how strongly you feel that apartheid is an evil system which must come to an end. Three of my grandparents came from Ireland so I obviously feel especially proud of the fact that you're standing up for justice in a country which is so far away from your home. We have had a lovely gathering here today. We have celebrated the first anniversary of your strike action. We've had all sorts of people from community organisations, from church organisations, from trade unions gathered together to hear something about your action and to share in this first anniversary celebration. We've had a special birthday cake which we have cut and we have all joined in together. So thank you very much for your action and God bless you.

I'm Don. I'm from the Peace Long live the IRA!

Hi, I'm Danny Chetty from Port Shepstone, a clergyman. Keep going on. Thank you.

A message to the workers in Dublin.

Padraig O'Malley:

I'll play this back to them on Tuesday. Just your name and who you are and that you hope their strike continues.

I'm Themba in the NFW which is the National Federation of Workers Unions. I wish you all the luck and that we shall continue to hold each other with our hands and support each other. Thank you.

Padraig O'Malley:

Would you say something to the workers in Dublin who have been on strike? Will you say something to the workers in Dublin who have been on strike? They've been on strike for a year because they wouldn't handle goods that were made in South Africa and they were invited here by Bishop Tutu. They were thrown out by the government.

Oh I see.

Padraig O'Malley:

So I'm sending them back messages of support from the people here.

We have to say something because now although but some people who are not working and people are starving even though some are working and they are getting no wages and all that. Then reduction of staff also, they also reduce the people, they've got machinery being operated by the few number of the people. Then the rest of the people are outside the factory floor. Then those who are inside, if they are demanding their rights, then they know that now they cannot .

Padraig O'Malley:

Thank you very, very, very much.

I thank you, we thank you. Say to them thank you again.

Padraig O'Malley:

We will try to get them back. We're going to go back and try to reapply for the visas and then start all over again.

Tell them they are on the right path.

Padraig O'Malley:

OK, thank you very much.

I'm going to take it up to   She's coming down now to join us. I'm going to send my message and then let her do her message.

Padraig O'Malley:

You'll take it with you?

Yes I'm going to take it with me. So what do I do when I want to send the message, when she's going to send her message?

Hello friends. I want to send you this message from myself, also on behalf of the baby I'm expecting and the daddy of my baby who is in jail at the moment. I want to say that we together want to be part of building a new society in this country and that what you are doing is providing tremendous encouragement and inspiration and it's making a real contribution towards building that new society. Thanks a lot. Keep it up.

My name is Thoko Msani from Diakonia. I am staying in Hammarsdale. I would like to send this message to you. Happy birthday for your first anniversary and I would like to appreciate what you have done in commemoration and in being so vital in putting up with the strike as it is and the hardships you have encountered in visiting South Africa, the way you have been returned back. I would like to say keep it up, we are with you in whatever you are doing. We appreciate it more and we will try to help you in the way we can. Thank you.

Hello friends. I am Felicity Isaacs from Durban. I work for Diakonia, the Ecumenical Church Agency which promotes justice with people here in South Africa. I'd like to say that I'm very impressed, very happy with your actions. I hope you don't give up because we are not going to give up until we have our freedom. We are all very happy to have met some of your colleagues here. We had a terrific day today with them and I'd just like to say please keep up the good work, we are with you all the way. We will not, we will never give up until we have the freedom that we are fighting for. Thank you.

Padraig O'Malley:

You say your grandfather's Irish?

Hello, I'm Justin Money. I'm ten years old. I'm very happy to hear that we have some supporters in Ireland and I hope you have all the luck you need in keeping the strike.

I'm Curnick Ndlovu, presently the Executive National Chairperson of the United Democratic Front. I wish to say on behalf of the UDF, which is an affiliate organisation consisting of affiliated organisations, the Front consists of 600 affiliated organisations from the workers, the churches, student organisations, community organisations. All these came together to fight as a front against the SA government. Basically our struggle is a struggle for national liberation in the country, a struggle which we feel needs international support. We are very grateful that we find people like the Irish workers who have come out strongly to refuse to handle the SA goods. In the past we have had a number of approaches, the various international working class organisations, to take up this. Incidentally I have been one person who has been in the trade union movement in the fifties until the sixties when I was subsequently banned and taken over to Robben Island. I belong to the SA Congress of Trade Unions that is popularly known as SACTU. As a person who has been in the working class I feel that the people of Ireland and those of other countries should play a very important role in trying to support the oppressed people of this country. Now on behalf of the UDF, a body which also campaigns very strongly against SA, and, of course, we would say that we have had many people who have visited countries abroad. Our own people have met the anti-apartheid movement and they have been really going full out to look at the people coming for supporting our struggle here. Now on behalf of our people we very much appreciate it and they were very grateful that those people have realised that it is necessary to support our struggle. Thank you very much.

Billy Nair is the name and I am the Vice Chairman of the UDF Natal. I want to first of all congratulate workers of Ireland for their participation in the boycott of SA goods. The long struggle that you've launched over the South African policy of apartheid is indicative of the world-wide support that the people of SA enjoy, more particularly from Ireland. We want to actually congratulate you and we hope that you would not be satisfied with what you have done so far but continue with the struggle on our behalf, continue with the demonstrations on our behalf until apartheid is completely demolished in SA. We could then be in brotherhood with the people of not only Ireland but the entire world.

L Senodi is my name and I am the chairman of the Natal International Youth Year Committee and for us it is very encouraging that our people's struggle in SA is supported world-wide and in particular from the people of Ireland. For us, as young people, this is a very significant effort on the part of the international community. It shows us the responsibility that lies not only on our shoulders to carry on the struggle particularly as we see it supported like it is overall. It justifies the cost that our people in SA have taken to ensure that finally we are going to live in a society in which apartheid has been obliterated altogether. Your actions in Ireland are one of those actions that encourage us and will keep us going. Thank you very much.

I am Carmel Rickard and I am a reporter in Durban. I was very sorry that you couldn't make it because I was really looking forward to interviewing you. I hope you will come back so that I can do just that.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.