By the mid eighties, political repression in South Africa had reached new heights. The apartheid government was involved in activities to suppress the democratic movement and in committing the myriad of human rights violations now coming to scrutiny under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Thousands of South Africans fled into exile, and the international anti-apartheid movement was established.
The South Africa Development Fund was founded in 1985 by exiles living in the United States to help the oppressed majority of their country. They were joined in this effort by Americans active in the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. Originally called “Fund for a Free South Africa, (FreeSA)”, the organization became a vehicle by which U.S. donors could show their solidarity with South Africans struggling for political and social justice.
Since its inception, the South Africa Development Fund has raised over $3 million for projects focusing on community and economic development, empowerment of women, children, education, elderly services, environmental issues, health, human rights and democracy building. The organization further responded to the need for economic development in South Africa with the establishment of Shared Interest/Thembani International Guarantee Fund to help individuals and groups in poor communities gain access to credit. SI/TIGF is now a successful and independent program.
Prior to changes that began in 1990 and culminated with the democratic elections of 1994, South Africa was isolated from much of the world community. South Africans travelling to the U.S. lacked the usual resources through which to gain access to policy makers, media and the American public in general. The South Africa Development Fund, with its unique link between the two countries, provided a venue for dialogue, exchange and public education. In 1990, the organization became part of the national structure for Nelson Mandela’s historic tour of the U.S.
The abject poverty that characterizes so many communities in South Africa is an immense challenge to the new democracy and an obstacle to the national goal of a peaceful and prosperous society for all. As in the past, the people of South Africa need support from friends and supporters in the international community.
The South Africa Development Fund is directed by South Africans who have both a vast knowledge of issues affecting their country and strong ties to the United States. For many years, the organization has maintained a link between concerned Americans and South African working to enhance economic and social justice. The Fund welcomes donations large and small to continue this work. All contributions are tax-deductible.