Arms Embargo

This report detailed South Africa’s military build-up in the early 1970s and showed how NATO and the Western powers were integrating South Africa into their defence plans. It argued that because of its apartheid policies South Africa was a threat to world peace and should therefore be subject to a mandatory arms ban under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

This report argued that Marconi’s contract to supply troposcatter communications equipment to South Africa was a breach of the arms embargo imposed by the 1974 Labour government. The equipment was to be used to send information from the South African forces fighting SWAPO guerrillas in northern Namibia to the Defence Department’s computer centre in the Cape. The AAM argued that the arms ban should cover all equipment with ‘dual purpose’ military and civilian use and that no equipment should be sold to the South African defence forces.

In 1976 the AAM campaigned to stop the supply of GEC-Marconi communications equipment to the South African Defence Force on the grounds that it breached the Labour government’s arms embargo. It argued the system would be used against SWAPO guerrillas in Namibia. After the government decided that the equipment would require an export licence, the apartheid government announced that communications in Namibia would in future be the responsibility of the South African Post Office. In October 1976 the British government announced that it would grant an export licence. This AAM fact sheet called for a parliamentary enquiry to investigate loopholes in the British arms embargo.

The AAM carried out detailed research into the loopholes in the arms embargo imposed by the 1974–79 Labour government against South Africa. This memorandum showed how the South African Defence Force was obtaining a wide range of British military equipment in spite of the embargo.

One of a set of three posters publicising the AAM’s campaign to isolate South Africa in the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto student uprising.

In 1976 the AAM received evidence that the illegal white minority regime in Rhodesia was obtaining British military equipment from South Africa for use in its war against ZANU and ZAPU guerrilla fighters. This letter asked Prime Minister James Callaghan to tighten the British arms embargo against South Africa.

After the Soweto student uprising in June 1976, the AAM stepped up its campaign to stop Britain selling arms to South Africa. This poster uses the iconic photo of Hector Pieterson, the first student killed in the protests.

Over 3000 people marched through Glasgow on 5 March 1977 calling for a strict arms embargo against South Africa and a freeze on British investment there. Among the speakers at a rally were Duma Nokwe of the African National Congress, the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC James Milne and Rev. Geoff Shaw, Convenor of Strathclyde Regional Council. The event was organised by the AAM Scottish Committee to coincide with a demonstration in London the following day.