I was seventeen at the time

Image credit: Rafaela Ricardo.

Isaura’s story

The following words are from an original interview and have been transcribed and translated.

I was seventeen at the time. When we got to the border, I ended up staying in the United Nations’ refugee camps in Namibia for a year. They gave us tents and bread, fresh milk and bundles of cloth. They started teaching there and I actually started training to be a nurse in the camps.

 Because of the Apartheid system and because we [Angola] were at war with SUAPO, the United Nations did not approve us staying in Namibia too long. We had to leave for a different country. There, they first asked Portugal if they would accept us, them being our colonisers. Portugal responded that they would accept white refugees but only black refugees who had completed [A-levels]. I hadn’t.

All the white people there with us were taken through to South Africa and on to Portugal. Only two blacks were allowed. One was a health minister. The other was a young girl whose white boyfriend put up a real fight for. He refused to leave without her so eventually they let her go too.

Those of us who remained still had to leave, so the UN drove us in cars to the point where Angola borders Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. They left us there, with canned food from South Africa. Corned beef, condensed milk, things like that. I didn’t take any food myself: my friends would ask, ‘So, what will you eat?’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know, but I’m not leaving my clothes behind!’ 

We had no options other than getting somewhere…

There was already talk of Zambia so we went ahead without really knowing where we’d end up. We knew at the end of the tunnel there was a country. We were walking through the bush one day without realising we were already there and we were ambushed by the Zambian army who were preparing to attack SUAPO operating in the area. They took us to a primary school where we stayed for three months and when we arrived, all the products with the South Africa label were confiscated, which was all the food we had.

And my clothes? Life is funny that way—I was able to trade them for food later on in the quimbo. We would go out there and the women would trade chicken, fuba de milho, and lots of greens for them and so, my clothes also helped to feed the group.

I ended up staying for ten years. 


quimbo – set of houses in the bush
fuba de milho – corn flour

*words translated from Kimbundu, a Bantu language from southern Angola

Editor’s note: ‘Don’t Buy South African Goods’

The Boycott Movement was set up in the summer of June, 1959.

The meeting, held in London, was attended mainly by exiled South Africans and their supporters, including Vella Pillay and (the then, future Tanzanian president) Julius Nyerere.

Its aim was to internationalise the consumer boycotts of South African products, that had for

decades been at the heart of civil-resistance movements in South Africa. These campaigned primarily to end apartheid, and for the full voting rights of black and mixed-raced South Africans.

In 1962, the United Nations General Assembly called on all Commonwealth members to join the movement and impose trade boycotts against South Africa, of which The Republic of Zambia became a member of in 1964.

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