THE HISTORY OF SCAT:

Written by Di Oliver Founder Trustee

The Privilege of being a Scattie!
In 1984 Barry Streek rand the front door bell of my home exactly at the time of his requested appointment. True to the Barry I came to know through SCAT, he convincingly invited me to accept his and Gordon Young`s idea to involve me as a trustee of proposed Norwegian-funded South African Trust. Both Barry and Gordon had been activists in NUSAS (national Union of South African Students) and felt having the sitting PFP Member of the Provincial Council for the Cape Town/Gardens consistency who had a track record of Black Sash advice office work contributed “respectability” to the profile of trustees. Barry`s charm, was irresistible, but I had no idea of what treasure was in store for me.

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We met initially around Barry` round table in his quaint Garden`s home that also housed “SA Press Clips”, upstairs. On the other side of the round table where SCAT met was a kitchen leading into a yard where there was an open shower. Everyone knew the shower was there because one could hear Barry still showering when we arrived for meetings. He then came past with wet hair and dripping upper body with a towel around his waist to greet us on his way to getting dressed. Early morning meetings were not the best time for a journalist who worked into the wee hours, but they enabled Barry to squeeze his voluntary work into the start of his working day. Into the ever tightening squeeze for space at the round table was Barry`s huge canine friend, Benson – Boerbul, I think – that badly needed a morning walk to enable a polite if clumsy presence, rather than being unable to avoid polluting the air of SCAT deliberations.

The founding meeting of the Social Change Assistance Committee (SCAC as it was initially known) took place at the more spacious Norwegian consulate where candles were lit for our celebratory lunch after signing the Trust Deed carefully prepared by Barry`s trusted attorney and friend, Norman Osburn. Our host was Norwegian Consul-General, Bjarne Lindstrom who, together with Trond Bakkevig, Secretary- General of Norwegian Church Aid from 1984 till 1993 provided wonderful support for the development of the Social Change Assistance Trust over many years.

SCAT`s formula soon found us two parallel roles – those of fundraiser and grant-maker. Our funding partners wanted to support anti-apartheid work while our grant-recipients became our partner organisations through demonstrating what they were capable of it were trusted, guided and encouraged to exercise their agency in the quest for dignity, equality, freedom and development.

We grew the Trust to include a small, diverse group of trustees, employed staff of all language groups and as South Africans on the ground, we were entrusted by our back funders with deciding how the funds should be spent. We built a model of financial management, held regular strategic sessions inclusive of the entire staff and learnt good deal from those who we funded. Most of the funds went into meeting the core costs of community based advice offices whose work enabled some remarkable initiatives and the emergence of some very fine leaders, despite the unrelenting surveillance and harassment of the security police. Through mentoring and training programmes for recipients of our funding, we introduced the notions of democratic organisation, accountability to communities, financial stewardship and, in many instances, the previously unheard of need for annual audited accounts.

The SA Press-clips staff became the first SCAT fieldworkers; who were women and men of great commitment and fortitude. Particularly after SCAT took the decision to fund work only in rural South Africa, the greatest demand for achieving the aims of the organisation were on the shoulders of our fieldworkers. Apart from needing advanced driving skills, they needed to hone their range of required skills in facilitation, discernment, monitoring, evaluating, understanding the environment, enabling, encouraging and supporting the efforts of some of the deepest rural initiatives and the development of individual participants in those organisations which were away from the resources so often take for granted by those in the cities.

With the hindsight of being a trustee for 25 years, there is no doubt in my mind that being part of SCAT moulded me and my understanding as a social worker. Working intensively as a trustee with Barry, Gordon, Mazwi, Mzwayi and Mpho in the early days, and Deena a bit later, was a tremendous privilege. Being surrounded by the love and support of the SCAT family, including our Norwegian friends, in my personal bereavement in 1985 was uplifting, touching and deeply encouraging. Helping to draw in the expertise of ideal colleagues Annemarie Hendrikz, Nomfundo Walaza, Nyameka Goniwe and Joanne Harding was a joy. Working alongside all our SCAT staff, those in leadership, in the finance division, in the office and those in the field, enabled rich personal experiences of mutual sharing and exposure to new knowledge and understanding.

I am indebted to my friend, Pete Smith, for accepting trusteeship of SCAT when I stood down as a member of the Board and for continued commitment and dedication to the organisation. The greatest privilege all is to feel that one is a small part of what our rural partner organisations have achieved for their communities and in their personal development, despite what often seemed like insurmountable odds.

I owe a deep sense of gratitude to Barry and Gordon for their faith in me to help them achieve their vision of a more equitable, just and fair dispensation within our country.

Enkosi kakhulu.
Di Oliver

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