Tamela is the international secretary for the South African Transport and Communications Workers Union, which gained international attention during Israel’s recent 22-day war on Gaza by refusing to off-load Israeli cargo. In doing so, it consciously sought to replicate the boycott activity of European dockworkers who refused to handle South African goods during the dark days of the apartheid regime.
Badil Resource Center organized a day’s activity for Tamela including a tour of Deheishah refugee camp led by members of of Laji’ cultural center, also in Aida refugee camp; and a visit to the Church of the Nativity.
In the afternoon, Badil hosted a roundtable discussion with Palestinian union leaders, civil society activists and Palestinian Authority officials.
“In South Africa we are familiar with the struggle of the people of Palestine for freedom and self-determination,” Tamela noted.
“As a previously oppressed people ourselves we forged alliances with freedom fighters around the world.”
The gathering with Tamela included representatives from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), the Palestinian Transport Union, organizers of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Palestinian Legislative Council member Issa Qaraqa’, in addition to journalists and members of BADIL.
Tamela shared aspects of the South African struggle against apartheid highlighting the centrality of maintaining mobilization at the popular base before, during and after negotiations with a movement’s adversary. He also called for strengthening the movement’s institutional depth, while relaying a clear and united message to solidarity forces internationally, without which they will become disoriented or inattentive to developments. Tamela stressed that there were no short cuts to a “struggle on all fronts,” because the oppressed must frame their agenda according to their rights and demands for liberation, and not according to what is deemed palatable.
“Because of our work, the UN declared Apartheid a crime against humanity. Palestinians must do the same, must insist that Zionism is a crime against humanity.”
Tamela’s visit to the OPT also included a meeting with members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National steering committee, and an appearance at the Fourth Annual Conference on Non-Violent Resistance, held in the West Bank village of Bil’in between 22 and 24 April, 2009.