“The nations and people of Southern Africa desperately need our help as they seek peace, justice, and development. TecNica is providing crucial assistance in the pursuit of these objectives.”
Congressman Ron Dellums (D-CA)
Co-Chair, TecNica Southern Africa Program Advisory Board
TecNica Volunteers worked in Namibia, Mozambique, and Zambia on a variety of projects. TecNica’s work in Southern Africa stemmed not only from a desire to support the dismantling of apartheid, but also to assist the people of the region in attaining their economic self-sufficiency and development.
Please help us detail more of the work in Southern Africa by commenting on your experiences. We welcome work-related photographs!
The African National Congress
TecNica began working in Southern Africa as a result of a request for technical assistance from the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC). The ANC, founded in 1912, was the leading organization struggling to end the racist system of apartheid in South Africa. Many people in the West know that the ANC had its political headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia. But few were aware of the well-developed health, educational, agricultural, and general social welfare infrastructure the ANC had built to meet the basic needs of the tens of thousands of South Africans forced into exile by the apartheid terror in their homeland.
TecNica completed a number of projects for the ANC in Lusaka. Some examples are:
- A TecNica Volunteer set up and provided training on a desktop publishing system for the ANC’s Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). Previously, the DAC had no publishing facilities in Lusaka. Literature had to be sent to London for production. The Volunteer’s effort enabled the ANC to produce its own publications in Lusaka.
- A Tecnica Volunteer installed and tested a radio communication system enabling the ANC to better communicate with its activists struggling against apartheid. He also began initial work on setting up a new machine shop at the ANC’s 3,000-acre farm outside Lusaka.
- Volunteers carried out projects for the Department of Economics and Planning and the Department of Information and Publicity.
- During a visit to Thabo Mbeke’s home in Lusaka for a ANC-TecNica planning meeting, Mbeke’s wife was typing Oliver Tambo’s annual speech to the ANC on their home computer. When the file disappeared from her computer, it was clear that it had been accidentally deleted. TecNica Volunteer Lou Proyect from New York searched the behind-the-scenes VTOC (volume table of contents) of the disk, found, and restored the file.
After 74 years of South African occupation, in 1989 Namibians began to mobilize for the elections that were to consummate their struggle for independence. South Africa retained virtual control of all major media and information outlets, including newspapers, radio, and television. During the pre-election period, the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) enjoyed widespread popular support. SWAPO determined that the ability to communicate with Namibia’s widely dispersed population would be essential for there to be a viable democratic process in the historic elections. They requested TecNica’s assistance.
A team of TecNica volunteers responded to their urgent need. They trained their Namibian colleagues in desktop publishing and advanced newspaper publishing techniques. This enabled the Namibian people to launch a new independent newspaper, Namibia Today, that served to educate Namibians about voting procedures and major election issues. The integration of graphics into the paper made it an invaluable vehicle for reaching the 40 percent of Namibians who were non-literate.
The TecNica Volunteer team also helped set up a communications infrastructure linking regional centers with the capital, Windhoek. Technical proficiency and ingenuity were tested as Volunteers and their colleagues had to connect advanced communication systems to old-fashioned wind-up telephones.
For TecNica, it was a great honor to be of assistance in the birth of a free and democratic Namibia.
TecNica Projects in Zimbabwe
The ANC and SWAPO were not alone in their dedication to ending apartheid rule. They were also supported by the Frontline States, including Zimbabwe, a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of African Unity. Zimbabwe played a critical role in the struggle to withstand South Africa’s aggression against its neighbors.
Vounteer Work in Zimbabwe
TecNica Volunteers concentrated on training members of the cooperative movement. The formation of hundreds of collective cooperatives represented an important way that Zimbabweans brought the political power gained at independence to the grassroots level. The Collective Self Finance Scheme (CSFS) emerged out of this cooperative movement as an organization run by the cooperatives to assist them in securing loans to provide training in areas such as agriculture and accounting.
- A series of TecNica Volunteers trained the CSFS Technical Support Team in computer applications, financial management, and accounting. The effect of this training was multiplied many times as CSFS members then provided training and support to cooperatives across the country.
- TecNica Volunteers also worked with the Training Aids Development Group (TADG) to bring educational materials to all Zimbabweans. Intensive training in desktop publishing with members of TADG resulted in the production of adult literacy materials and self-help manuals, targeted for people who have, until recently, been excluded from access to formal education.
- TecNica Volunteers assisted the TADG in improving its joint publications with its sister organization in Botswana.
- TecNica conduced more than a dozen projects to provide assistance to Zimbabwe. If you have information or can describe other projects, please comment below!
Mozambique faced a desperate campaign of terror perpetrated by the South African-backed RENAMO contras. More than 100,000 people were killed and much of the social and economic infrastructure of the country was destroyed. Millions were displaced from their homes and became refugees in their own country.
TecNica Volunteers assisted by working with the Bureau of Public Information (BIP) as it produced educational materials about the crisis facing the Mozambican people.
A team of TecNica consultants assisted in the testing and installation of a computer network system for information management, literature production, and communications. The team trained BIP staff in installation, maintenance, and software application to increase the information flow to the outside world about the country-wide emergency.
Educating At Home
TecNica Volunteers returned from their working assignments to make an important contribution to raising the consciousness and understanding of the American public about the conditions faced by the people of Southern Africa and Nicaragua. A more informed and concerned public can be a strong influence in bringing about a more just and progressive U.S. policy in Central American and Southern Africa.
Please help us document other TecNica Volunteer work projects in Southern Africa. If you can provide more detail, please share it with us in the Comments box below. Please tell others who participated in this work about this website. We welcome your photographs.