United States-South Africa Leader Exchange Program

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In 1971 in addition to supporting the South African Institute of Race Relations the Ford Foundation noted: "Support was also given for a multiracial symposium of American and southern African leaders in Johannesburg to broaden communications on sensitive questions of racial policy. The symposium was sponsored by the United States-South Africa Leader Exchange Program, which the Foundation has supported for ten years." [1]

"The genesis of USSALEP goes back to May 1955 and an American Friends Service Committee meeting at Haverford College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. There, representatives of eleven religious, philanthropic, educational and cultural organisations met to discuss the importance of two-way exchanges between South Africa and the U.S. Recognising that many South Africans shared the same commitment to intergroup understanding and to the promotion of peaceful change, the conference organisers sent Dr. Frank Loescher to explore their recommendations. A co-operative undertaking both in spirit and in form was born, and USSALEP was founded in 1958...

"From an institution-building perspective, USSALEP contributed to the establishment of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa (AMCHAM), the National Black Consumers Union (NBCU), the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), and the Black Management Forum (BMF). Other programmes have included teacher training in writing, mathematics and the sciences, industrial relations, management internships, journalism, conflict resolution, the USAID-funded Transition to Democracy Project, and the development of higher education policy. Past programmes in the business sector include the Careers Development Programme, the annual Black Businessman of the Year Award in conjunction with NAFCOC, and the Entrepeneur Exchange Programme. At present, USSALEP runs the USAID-funded South African Black Economic Empowerment (SABEE) Programme. This includes the BROAD Project (Business Representation, Organisation and Development) for the purpose of building the capacity of business development organisations, and the BUILD Project (Business Integration and Leadership Development) which develops business leaders in the areas of financial market operations, macro-economics, corporate governance, business process re-engineering, and change management." [2]


South African Fellowships

"Nieman Curator Louis Lyons recalled that the Nieman Foundation’s acceptance of foreign journalists began at the end of World War II with a few South Americans “under some arrangement that Nelson Rockefeller talked us into.” Word of the opportunity spread and soon the dozen American fellows were joined by journalists from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and, in 1960, South Africa.

"The foreign journalists, originally called associate fellows, were supported by various foundations. For South Africans, the sponsor was the United States-South Africa Leader Exchange Program (USSALEP).

"The Nieman Foundation’s first brush with the harsh reality of apartheid came in the first year of the South African relationship. In 1960, USSALEP selected Aubrey Sussens, a white editor at The Rand Daily Mail, for the fellowship. At the same time Lewis Nkosi, a black South African, heard of the program and wrote for information. Lyons put him in touch with the Farfield Foundation, which sponsored U.S.-South African cultural exchanges. Farfield agreed to underwrite a fellowship for the 23-year-old Nkosi, a writer for Drum, a magazine for black South Africans.

"Nkosi’s problems then began. A forceful critic of his nation’s racial policies, he wrote in one article that South Africa was “terribly sick” and its citizens were “terrorized” by security police. He applied for a passport on July 1 and waited. He learned in November that his request had been denied. Angry and bitter, he applied for an exit visa. He obtained it and left — forbidden by law to return. The South African government banned his writings. After his Nieman year, he went to England and continued his career.

"White South Africans came to Harvard in subsequent years. However, the next black South African to apply suffered the same experience as Nkosi.

"Nathaniel Nakasa, editor of a Johannesburg literary magazine, applied in 1964 with support from the eminent writer Nadine Gordimer and Helen Suzman, a liberal member of his nation’s parliament. When the white journalist selected by USSALEP was unable to leave his newspaper, the organization agreed to sponsor Nakasa.

"Nakasa, too, had strongly criticized apartheid and was refused a passport. The South African Society of Journalists objected. The government would not relent. Because USSALEP funding was available only to recipients who would return to South Africa, Nakasa, too, secured support from Farfield and took an exit visa — a one-way pass.

"At Harvard, Nakasa retreated into drinking and melancholy. He explained some of his problems in a year-end report to the Nieman curator. “I may never fit comfortably into the world of scholars,” he wrote, because “the racial problem in the world is one that has emotional and personal rather than intellectual implications... Rather than be calm and objective, I was apt to respond with a scream to disagreeable views, a disastrous tendency in any scholarly pursuit...”

"Beset by emotional and financial problems, he visited the New York home of John Thompson, executive director of the Farfield Foundation. Thompson assured him that the foundation would provide financial help. But Nakasa was despondent over his exile. That evening, he leaped to his death from Thompson’s seventh-floor apartment. At his burial in Westchester County, N.Y., another South African exile, Miriam Makeba, sang a sad farewell song.

"Over time, Nieman alumni and others worked to remove the racial barrier. For years the fellowships have alternated between blacks and whites and the Nieman Society of South Africa has taken responsibility for vetting applicants. South Africa has sent 53 journalists to Harvard, the largest contingent of Nieman Fellows from a single country outside the United States." [3]

Directors (Undated) [4]



The South African office is headed by Lyn Soudien, director of operations, who reports to a national board of directors chaired by Sydney Maree. He succeeds Prof. Louise Tager and Ambassador Franklin Sonn. USSALEP's U.S. office, headed by executive director, Robin Hoen, reports to its own board of directors chaired by Wayne Fredericks, counsellor-in-residence at The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Text, Ford Foundation, accessed March 22, 2010.
  2. What is USSALEP, accessed April 3, 2010.
  3. South African Fellowships, nieman, accessed March 22, 2010.
  4. What is USSALEP, accessed April 3, 2010.