Campaigners urge 'reverse boycott' to aid South Africa

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The Independent Online

A campaign aimed at encouraging people to buy South African goods will be launched today, 45 years after anti-apartheid supporters began a boycott of products from the same nation.

A campaign aimed at encouraging people to buy South African goods will be launched today, 45 years after anti-apartheid supporters began a boycott of products from the same nation.

The "reverse boycott" was set up by Action for Southern Africa, to help the South African economy and create jobs in a country with high unemployment.The group has evolved from the Anti-Apartheid Movement, which spent decades urging Britons not to buy South African food, wine and other goods.

The launch coincides with the 10th anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections, and comes 45 years after a small group of South African exiles and their British supporters called for a boycott of imported fruit, cigarettes and other goods from the racially segregated nation.

The impressionist Rory Bremner and the former secretary of state for health Frank Dobson are among those backing the reverse boycott.

The campaign will hold events outside supermarkets, off-licences and travel agents across the country, promoting South African fruit, vegetables, wine, holidays and music.

Mr Dobson said: "What the anti-apartheid movement managed to achieve was stupendous. Getting rid of apartheid was a relatively simple, straightforward target, but running a country is a much more complex thing, and South Africa needs just as much help now as it did then. If you supported the boycott and didn't buy products from South Africa, you once helped to promote democracy by self-denial. Now you can help it by self-indulgence.

"But if you didn't support the boycott, you can support this reverse boycott. I have had one or two Conservative MPs come to me and say that while they didn't support the boycott, they think this campaign is a very good idea."

The original boycott was launched on 26 June 1959, in London, a year after the African National Congress party urged black South Africans to shun bus companies, products from farms which used forced labour and goods manufactured by firms which supported the ruling National Party.

The British boycott got off to a slow start, but by the following year, the TUC, Labour and Liberal parties were supporting the campaign, and 22 local authorities had banned South African fruit from their schools and works canteens.

The boycott campaign turned into the Anti-Apartheid Movement, which spent many years calling for sanctions against the South African government and putting pressure on big businesses not to deal with the nation.

Since the first democratic elections in 1994, however, South Africa has struggled with massive debts, rising unemployment and endemic poverty, as well as the Aids crisis.

The official unemployment rate is 28 per cent, but experts say that the real figure is probably double that.

The new campaign will promote the "Proudly South African" logo for goods which meet the criteria. They must comply with South African labour and environmental laws, and have a minimum of 50 per cent local content.

Martin Feinstein, chief executive of the Proudly South African group, said: "One of the most effective ways to promote jobs in South Africa is through increasing quality exports. British consumers are helping to grow the South African economy and create jobs, and for that we are really grateful."

Rory Bremner said: "I think this is a fantastic way to help the South African people celebrate 10 years of democracy.''

He added: "Big speeches and kind words are great, but here is a direct and practical way that people all over Britain can really make a difference to South Africa."

THE GOODS TO BUY

WINE:

One job will be created in South Africa for every 1,100 bottles of the nation's wine bought here.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:

For every £4,000 spent on South African produce in Britain, one extra job will be created.

TOURISM:

Eight British tourists visiting South Africa will add another job to the economy.

CDs:

The campaign will promote "Afro-rock"stars the Kalahari Surfers and soul group the Soweto String Quartet.

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