"WORK COLLECTIVELY, EXECUTE SEPARATELY" Posted by Picasa

We – the interns of SANGOCO – would like to introduce our work and ourselves to the readers of this blog.

Thanks to the generous donation of the Eskom Foundation the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) was able to employ six young interns for the year 2006.

The six interns came form different skills and academic/working backgrounds:

Jacobeth Makhubele is doing her honours in Media Studies at the University of Witwatersrand.

Muelelwa Khosa has accomplished her Bachelor Studies in International Relations and Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2005.

Simon Schaefer has accomplished his Bachelor Studies in African Development in Geography and Economics at the University of Bayreuth (Germany) in 2005.

Mohammed Ziyaad is doing his Bachelor Studies in International Relations and Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Theenegran Chetty is currently completing his degree in Computer Studies through UNISA. Previously, he worked as a network/IT technician for Sun-International (Carousel Casino).

Marius Kotze was a fulltime worker in Layout and Design before he joined SANGOCO.

For further information view our profiles on the blog, which will be uploaded soon.

Collectively, we are assigned to track down the historical and institutional mandate of the coalition by doing research, collect and distribute relevant information on SANGOCO’s core activities and campaigns.

Further, we assist our Manager Hassen Lorgat and SANGOCO’s Executive Director Zanele Twala.

Thanks to the Eskom Foundation that made it possible for us (interns) to be part of the Coalition, at the same time being trained in the NGO sector fighting against poverty and inequality to make South Africa a better place.

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PNGO VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA

PNGO VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA


INTRODUCTION



The South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) hosted members of the Steering Committee from the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) for a weeklong visit. On Saturday the 25th of February 2006, SANGOCO welcomed the five delegates representing the Palestinian NGO Network at Johannesburg international airport. The aim of the visit was to strengthen NGO relations between South Africa and Palestine. The visit was planned since 2005, but could not be possible because the Isareli boarders were closed and as a result the visit was postponed. SANGOCO would like to acknowledge the help from the Foundation for Human Rights, which made the visit be a success through the funds that were given.


PNGO Delegates


Dr Allam Jarrar , who represents the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (PMRS), which is a community-based Palestinian health organisation. PMRS seeks to improve the overall physical, mental, and social well being of all Palestinians, regardless of racial, political, social, economic or religious status. Basically the organisation focuses on the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society: women, children, and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centres. (www.upmrc.org)




Ms Nina Attalah representing an organisation called Al-Haq, which deals with monitoring and documenting human rights violations. Al-Haq is the one of the only Palestinian human rights organisations that systematically collects information on human rights violations using standardised procedures and forms. It is also the one of the few human rights organisations in either Israel or Palestinian territories with a comprehensive databank of systematically-compiled information on human rights violations that have occurred in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). (www.alhaq.org)

Ms Siham Rashid representing the Palestinian Counselling Centre, which is a community based counselling and consultancy organization that advocates for positive mental health and well being for the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) through provision of quality care and capacity building. The Onion was chosen as a symbol for the centre because it signifies the individual. From a cursory look at people we can only see the outer skin of individuals. However, if we want to delve deeply into a person's character we have to peel the layers of skin and feelings to see a whole outlook for the individual. This process might prove to be painful for some. (www.pcc-jer.org)

Mr Mohammed El-Bakri representing the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which is a non-profit organization that protects the land from being expropriated by the Government of Israel, and to improve the performance and professionalism of Palestinian farmers. The Union also aims to help Palestinian farmers market their products and provides agricultural employment opportunities through a framework of cooperation with domestic, Arab, and international agricultural development institutions. (www.uawc.net)


Mr AbdelKarim Aashour representing the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), which was founded in 1983 by a group of Palestinian agronomists responding voluntarily to the deterioration in agricultural extension programs in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank as a result of the Israeli occupation by offering expert advice to marginalized, poor farmers in the area. This voluntary effort gained momentum and recognition over a short period of time, and, transformed into a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development in rural areas in Palestine. PARC, over the years, has become the leading organization serving Palestinian farmers and helping them overcome their problems. (www.pal-arc.org)



OBJECTIVES OF THE VISIT

· To learn from Palestinian NGO’s about their struggle for nationhood, and sustainable democracy under trying circumstance of occupation. PNGO believed that there was a lot to learn from the South African experience as it achieved its struggle for liberation and democracy under globalisation.
· To allow NGO bodies from different struggles and histories to exchange information and experiences;
· Creating an atmosphere of lobbying, support and advocacy within South African civil society towards the people of Palestine.
· To explore means and ways of working together in the future;
· To explore lessons of struggles and building sustainable democracies in South Africa and Palestine beyond race, ethnic and economic exploitation and
· To take lessons from the South African struggle during the apartheid regime and how to constructively negotiate a peaceful amicable agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli’s.



SANGOCO organized meetings in Johannesburg as well as Cape Town with different groups representing government, civil society and the Palestinian Ambassador, Mr Ali Halimeh.


DAY 1: 25 FEBRUARY 2006

Arrival
The seven day visit began with the Palestinian delegation arriving. Mr. El-Bakri and Mr Aashour from Gaza Strip were the first to arrive on Saturday morning at 10:00. Both men are from Gaza and thus had to go through Egypt in order to get to South Africa. Dr Jarrar, Ms Attalah, and Ms Rashid from the West Bank arrived later that evening at 21:40. They had to bypass Jordan from the West Bank in order to travel to South Africa. During their visit, the Palestinians highlighted the difficulty of traveling within the territories due to the numerous amounts of checkpoints by the Israeli military. Although the Palestinians work together on the Steering Committee of PNGO, they were only allowed to interact with each other once they arrived in South Africa. It is almost virtually impossible for Palestinians living in the West Bank to travel to Gaza, and vice versa. The movement of the Palestinian people is currently being controlled by Israel.


DAY 2: 26 FEBRUARY 2006

Educational Tour
The Palestinian delegation and members of SANGOCO undertook an educational tour in the morning of the landscapes and politics of townships in post apartheid South Africa. The Palestinians were stunned that although apartheid had ended more than a decade ago, the socio-economic conditions did not improve much for the working class. The tour included a visit to Eldorado Park, Soweto, Klip River and Lenasia. The Palestinians were able to visit homes in these areas and interact with people who live in the respected areas.


Lunch
The PNGO representatives were treated to a lunch and discussions pertaining to the current political situation in Palestine. Many present at the lunch became emotional about whether a two-state or one-state solution should be adopted; and the political groupings that the people present affiliate themselves with. However, it was agreed upon that the most important thing at this point in time is the support for an exploited people.

Meeting with MRN
After which Iqbal Jassat, Firoze Osman and others from the Media Review Network (MRN) were able to interview and discuss with PNGO the problems facing Palestinian Solidarity in Palestine, South Africa and throughout the world. MRN is an advocacy group that aims to monitor, analyse, dissect and evaluate distortions fabrications and double standards in the mass media. The questions they posed to the Palestinians regarded the elections that were recently held in which Hamas was voted as the Palestinian Authority. As well as, the problems that are being faced in Palestine and the role that South African organisations can help in assisting the Palestinian NGO’s.

Visit to Apartheid Museum
The Palestinians were then taken to visit the apartheid Museum. The Apartheid Museum was chosen because it has so much to learn about the apartheid era in South Africa, it illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid, transition to democracy in 1994, up until today. The museum documents apartheid and the effect it had on the people of South Africa. Visiting the apartheid Museum is always an emotional experience for many South Africans. However, it was clearly seen that the Palestinians were extremely emotional as they still face the struggle for liberation and democracy. Siham Rashid was extremely taken back by the historical violence that she saw on a screen, commenting that this type of violence still exist in Palestine. As South Africans, we look back at our painful past of Apartheid and we begin to appreciate the numerous amounts of freedoms we have been granted. Unfortunately, for the Palestinians, the struggle still continues, as the situation gets worse.



DAY 3: 27 FEBRUARY 2006

At SANGOCO
After breakfast, the PNGO delegation met the staff of SANGOCO at the national office in Gauteng. Ms Zanele Twala, the executive director, gave a short background of the organisation, its members, what SANGOCO does, and a short version of what has been done lately. Dr Allam Jarrar, is the one who gave PNGO’s background as well as what the organisation does in Palestine. He stated the current situation in Palestine, the struggle that the Palestinians are facing with the Israelis.

In Soweto
We went to meet with the Bishop of the Methodist Church, Paul Verryn and his students in Soweto. The Bishop has been helpful to some of the refugees in Johannesburg. He provides shelter inside the Methodist Church building to refugees from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, and other African countries. The purpose of meeting the Bishop was for the students (the Bishop call them ministers) to learn about the current situation in Palestine, and because the Bishop had visited Palestine several times, as a result, he knows most of what is happening in Palestine.

The students were addressed with a basic understanding about the background, history, resolutions and the current situation of the Palestine struggle for liberation. After the delegation gave a brief introduction of Palestine situation, the ministers had few questions, which showed their interests in getting more information of what is happening in Palestine. As a result a distinction was made between Palestine and South Africa in the apartheid era. According to the programme, the delegation was supposed to meet with the Bishop and the students for 45 minutes, but the session was extended for one and half hour, which was good, after noticing that the ministers wanted to know more. In actual fact, the ministers did not know much about Palestine. The Palestinians highlighted the need for civil society to play an important role in educating broader society about their struggle.

Mandela’s House
Whilst in Soweto, the Palestinians were fortunate enough to visit the old home of former President and apartheid struggle icon Nelson Mandela. The visit was to pay their respects to the freedom fighter that fought for, and achieved liberation.
The Palestinian delegation and members of SANGOCO attended an open forum roundtable dialogue with many other solidarity groups, in hoping to learn from each other. One of the outcomes of the meeting was to solidify ties of South African and Palestinian civil society.

Roundtable discussion at CSVR
An open forum dialogue was held at the center for studies of violence and rape in Braamfontein. Many other NGO’s and solidarity organistions attended such as People opposing women abuse (POWA); the Action-Support Center; the Zimbabwe Refugee’s Association; the Swaziland Locality Network and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Reform. Each organisation highlighted the causes in which they stand for, as well as the problems that they face. They had however attended the meeting in support and solidarity with the people of Palestine. The PNGO members spoke about how Israel is setting up Bantustands in the West Bank and Gaza and the problem that the wall is creating in the lives of the Palestinians. Mr Aashour suggested that the Gaza strip is the worlds biggest prison because they are not allowed by any chance to go out of Gaza, but to stay inside the borders.



DAY 4: 28 FEBRUARY 2006


Foundation for Human Rights Roundtable Meeting
SANGOCO and PNGO travelled to Pretoria where the Foundation of Human Rights hosted them. The meeting was once again a roundtable discussion of building Palestine-South Africa Solidarity. A representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs attended, as well as the new Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Ali Halimeh. The meeting began without Dr Allam Jarrar and Ms Siham Rashid as they were invited as guests on a radio station (702). After a brief introduction, of everybody who attended the meeting, report backs from Nina Atallah, Mohammed El-Bakri and Abdelkarim Anshour soon began. Those present at the meeting were told about the problems facing Palestinians in Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem. Once Dr Jarrar and Ms Rashid arrived, the floor was opened to a question and answer session. After which, all those present began working on a way forward in solidifying a relationship between South African and Palestinian civil society. After the meeting in Pretoria, the Palestinians were taken to the airport. This by no means meant that their solidarity visit had ended. It only meant that they would seek solidarity in another province of South Africa. They then left to Cape Town.

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DAY 5: 01 MARCH 2006

Elections Tour
This was the day of the local government elections nationally as a result there were no formal meetings scheduled for this day. The PNGO delegation was visiting the voting stations in Cape Town.
DAY 6: 02 MARCH 2006

Muslim Judicial Council Roundtable Meeting

The Palestinian delegation graced the offices of the Muslim Judicial Council. The group which deals with the difficulties of living a life under occupation, reported on what was the actual situation in Palestine. They said the experience of the Palestinians was completely different to what the media portrays.

The Oslo agreement gives a false message of peace to the world. The government gives the impression to the world that Palestine is moving forward, but on the ground, this is not so. Palestine has no independent economy. Everything is controlled by Israel. It is very important that the world realises that the situation in Palestine is not a Muslim issue, it is a HUMANITARIAN CRISIS. This crisis is not a natural disaster, it is a man-made one. The international world are clueless as to the situation, and only if you are in Palestine itself, can you have a true picture of what is really happening.

The Palestinians are tired of the injustices, and corruption of their previous government, which is why they voted HAMAS into power. The Israelis control everything; even the Palestinian taxes are held back by the Israelis. Money that belongs to Palestine.

The media only concentrates on the negative symptoms of occupation, such as the suicide bombings. While the media and the world are happy and focusing on the disengagement of Gaza, Israelis confiscate land on the West Bank. It is time that the realities are made known. The psychological warfare, the OCCUPATION, the destruction and most importantly the control of the Israelis over almost everything.



DAY 7: 03 MARCH 2006

Educational Tour
On this day, the PNGO visited South Africa’s parliament, as well as Robben Island, where the rulers were sent who were regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society. They looked agitated to see where the honorable Nelson Mandela spent his 27 years while in prison. It was not only about Nelson Mandela, but also Robben Island came to symbolise, not only for South Africa and the African continent, but also for the entire world, the triumph of the human spirit over enormous hardship and adversity.
Table Mountain was one of the pleasant places the PNGO visited, one of South Africa’s most famous landmarks. The mountain is home to approximately 1470 species of plants; more than on the entire British Isles! Complimenting this vast array of flora is a stunning range of fauna, some, like the Table Mountain Ghost Frog, being found in no other place in the world.

Challenges that Palestinians Face:
Occupation & Economy
The group which deals with the difficulties of living a life under occupation, reported on what was the actual situation in Palestine. They said the experience of the Palestinians was completely different to what the media portrays. The Palestinian delegation also highlighted that the other problem that they face is illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel. Secondly, Palestinians are reliant upon the Israeli economy, as they do not have an economy of their own. Thirdly, there was not enough advocacy and lobbying outside of Palestine. Therefore, in order to truly assist the Palestinians in their struggle of liberation, it is imperative that South African civil society begins to build consensus, build a cooperation network, and work towards pragmatic practical projects.

The Destruction of Property & Land
Jerusalem is also in grave danger. The Zionists are trying to push the Palestinians out of Jerusalem. People are not allowed to build on their own land without special permits. When they apply for these said permits, it is not granted. Homes, which are built without permits, are then demolished.


80% of Gaza Strip belongs to the Israelis

The Palestinians are facing a big problem because the Israelis own almost everything in Gaza Strip. The Palestinians do not get their tax monies; it goes straight to the Israelis


Media

Although the media was not present in all these roundtable meetings, Media and Communication Manager of SANGOCO, Hassen Lorgat managed to get the PNGO delegation an interview on 702-radio station, on this day before they left for Cape Town. Dr Allam Jarrar and Ms Siham Rashid are the ones who went for the interview.




OUTCOMES OF THE VISIT

The visit was a great success as many South African NGO’s are committed to creating solidarity with Palestine in order to assist their struggle against oppression. Many tangible outcomes were the result of the visit. Both SANGOCO and PNGO agreed that there could be support in many sectors such as Human Rights, Democracy, Health and Agriculture in trying to create an attitude of support and help by NGO’s.
The visit has been useful to SANGOCO, because the delegation has provided information that was not known. For example the issue of the checkpoints, the gate and the wall built to separate the Palestine and the Israelis is one of the major problems in Palestine. Their freedom has been taken away from them. If the gate is closed while people are still on the other side, they have to wait until the gate is opened again. This is one example of showing how difficult life is for them. Palestinians staying in Gaza strip are not allowed to go out of the city. Two our delegates form Gaza strip; Mr Mohammed and Mr Karim are experiencing the same thing, as a result they only met their colleagues from the West Bank here in South Africa after a long time.

SANGOCO, PNGO, as well as other solidarity groups agreed that they had to help in some ways in Palestine. PNGO thought it would be best if the civil society outside Palestine is given more information about the current situation in Palestine because most of the people do not understand the situation.

We need to resuscitate the solidarities of South Africa. We need to work together. We need to put pressure on the government to cut all trade with Israel. We need to support the Palestinian market by purchasing their goods. We need to educate people about the struggle of the Palestinian people.
We need to support the struggle of the Palestinian people, because their struggle is the same as our struggle was in the Apartheid regime.




SANGOCO would like to thank the following people who made the PNGO visit be a success:


Foundation for Human Rights- Funding

Hassen Lorgat- Coordinator of the visit & Editor of the PNGO report

Khosa Muelelwa – Compiled the report, Organising the visit

Marius Kotze - Layout of the Programme, Organising the visit

Mohammed Ziyaad Hassen – Compiled the report

Theeny Chetty – Transport, Organising the visit

Marcelle Moses- Organising the visit

Farell Hunter- Organising the visit

Joseph Adams- Organising the visit

Fiona (Palestine) – Organising the visit

Simon Schaefer- Layout



* We also want to acknowledge the great support of our friends who provided lunch and dinner for the delegates.