Who We Are

Oxfam South Africa

Our History

The first grants from Oxfam to South Africa came in 1956. These were to support anti-poverty projects run by the churches for children in townships affected by cutbacks imposed under the Bantu Education Act. Over the years, this support has varied from supporting poverty relief initiatives in rural South Africa, taking a stand against corporations who propped up and benefited from the racist Apartheid regime, advancing a structural understanding of South Africa’s “political poverty”, to supporting the liberation movements in Southern Africa and globally. In the post-Apartheid era, Oxfam has worked with partners across the country, contributing to deepening transformation towards the just South Africa envisaged by the country’s Constitution.

Oxfam South Africa – A history of advocating for justice in South Africa

As the liberation struggle gathered momentum, Oxfam came to accept that apartheid was the main cause of suffering in South Africa and felt a moral obligation to bear witness to the reality in an effort to help bring about change. Among other things Oxfam intensified aid to refugees and exiles in charge of the ANC and started openly engaging supporters on evidence concerning links between poverty and apartheid as well as exposing gross human rights violations which amounted to structural entrenchment of poverty. Oxfam stepped up the level of informational activity about state violence in townships, homeland misery and detentions culminating in a region-wide crisis in Southern Africa. In 1983, a new South African constitution was introduced which continued to exclude the country’s 24 million black people from political representation. This triggered a new phase in the struggle against apartheid within the Republic and the campaign for international solidarity intensified.  In response to the call by liberation movements for the world to retaliate against South Africa with economic disinvestment and boycotts – endorsed by the United Nations – Oxfam took the decision to change its bankers in 1985. Barclays Bank had been a strong Oxfam ally since the days of the Oxford Committee in the 1940s, but its involvement in the South African economy had become a strong focus of anti-apartheid campaigning in Britain. By this time, Barclays had lost accounts in Britain, worth an annual turnover of at least 6 billion Pounds a year – a few months later Barclays announced its own South African disengagement.

Captured in Black, Maggie. (1992) “A Cause for our Times Oxfam the first 50 years.” Oxfam and Oxford University Press

Our Vision

Oxfam South Africa’s vision is self-organised people actively creating a just, democratic and sustainable world where power and resources are shared, everyone lives in dignity, and poverty and inequality are no more.

Our Mission

Oxfam South Africa contributes to lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. We mobilise the power of people to claim their rights and participate fully in shaping decisions, policies and processes that affect their lives and hold power to account, challenging systems which perpetuate poverty and inequality.

Our core values and beliefs

  • We see poverty and its causes as structural. We understand our role as contributing to fundamental change and the search for lasting, systemic solutions to poverty, rather than dispensing charity.
  • We seek to embed a power analysis, including gendered power, in all our work, strategies and partnerships.
  • We are committed to high-impact, low cost and integrated/holistic approaches to achieving change.
  • We respect the agency, dignity and autonomy of people and communities with whom we work.
  • We are committed to innovative, deep, mutually accountable and lasting partnerships for change.
  • We actively promote tolerance of diversity and oppose all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation and other forms of marginalisation.
  • We stand for non-racialism, and oppose all variants of racism

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