OPEN LETTER: Should Friends Criticize Friends? Should Supporters of South Africa Speak Out on Corruption?
By Danny Schechter
Author of The Crime of Our Time
Last night, I went to a dinner of a wonderful organization called SHARED INTEREST. Many of its leaders were involved during the fight against apartheid promoting corporate responsibility, reaching out to the business and investment community in America to support sanctions and corporate withdrawal to squeeze the apartheid system.
Working with church groups and economic elites, here and there, they played an important role challenging businesses profiting from apartheid.
When apartheid did fall, Shared Interest emerged in a let's help the new South Africa grow mode, seeking out investors and training opportunities for South Africa. They raised money from investors, networked with South Africans and played an exemplary role by organizing microfinance projects that have helped more than l.8 million people.
I support their work, and, having been to South Africa in the bad old days of apartheid, I marvel at the progress that has been made there with help from groups worldwide like Shared Interest and other NGOs.
But there are also serious problems we cannot overlook: deepening poverty and a growing gap between the white and black upper classes and the people trapped in poverty. The lives and livelihoods of many South Africans did not change much when the old system crumbled.
I think it is time for those of of us who worked so hard to support the movement for freedom in South Africa to become better friends with folks in South Africa by speaking out against some very deplorable trends now compromising South Africa's global reputation, marring its image, disaffecting iits supporters and, in some real ways, betraying the millions of people around the world who fought in South Africa, and in the global struggle, alongside South Africans, for their country's liberation.