Reggio Emilia and SA’s liberation struggle

Ties between Reggio Emilia and liberation movements in South Africasonciniluis

The city of Reggio Emilia and the resistance movement in South Africa have enjoyed a long and significant relationship. In the 1970s, the city was actively involved in the promotion of the anti-apartheid movement abroad and the support of struggle exiles like Oliver Tambo and Anthony Mongalo. The city signed a solidarity pact with the African National Congress (ANC) in 1977. In 1978 Reggio Emilia hosted the National Conference of Solidarity for the Independence and Sovereignty of the Peoples of Southern Africa Against Colonialism, Racism and Apartheid.

In 1978 the Municipality of Reggio Emilia published Sechaba, the official newsletter of the ANC, in Italian, and also published the first Italian edition of The Struggle is My Life, a collection of Nelson Mandela’s speeches and political writings in 1982. On the occasion of the second national consultative conference of the ANC, held in Zambia in 1985, the city of Reggio Emilia was declared “a constituted strength against the regime of apartheid”, the only European city mentioned.

From 1985 to 1991, Oliver Tambo corresponded with various Reggio Emilia officials, particularly with Giuseppe Soncini regarding the granting of honorary citizenship of the city in 1987 to Albertina Sisulu and Albert Luthuli. In acknowledging the great contribution that Reggio Emilia had made towards the struggle against apartheid, Tambo wrote: “We always carry Reggio Emilia in our hearts; when we speak of Italy we cannot but think of Reggio Emilia. We are linked with profound attachment and immense gratitude that is hard to put into words.”

In 2004, a twinning agreement between Reggio Emilia and Polokwane was signed. South African government officials have also visited Reggio Emilia and have had the opportunity to visit Reggio Children.

If you’re interested in learning more about Reggio’s relationship with liberation movements in Southern Africa (and if you have a working understanding of Italian), visit www.comune.re.it/reggioafrica. Or you can access photos documenting the relationship here.