Political prisoners

pic7003. March for David Kitson, May 1970

In the early 1970s the Ruskin College Kitson Committee organised an annual march from Oxford to London over the Whitsun holiday. The group campaigned for the release of political prisoner and former trade unionist David Kitson, serving a 20-year sentence in South Africa. The 1970 march ended in a rally in Trafalgar Square at which trade union leaders asked workers to refuse to work on arms for South Africa. The photo shows the marchers setting off from High Street, Oxford. 

pic7004. South Africa House occupation, August 1970

On 25 August 1970 anti-apartheid activists infiltrated the South African Embassy in London and sat in its entrance hall until they were ejected by embassy officials. They were protesting at the trial in Pretoria of 20 South Africans on charges of belonging to the ANC. The 20 included Winnie Mandela and Benjamin Ramotse, who was later sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

po014. ‘Apartheid is enough to turn any civilized human being into a political prisoner’

In February 1971 the AAM set up a special committee to campaign for political prisoners and detainees. It called on the South African government to include political prisoners in the amnesty announced to mark the tenth anniversary of the republic. This poster was produced for the campaign. The prisoners shown include Nelson Mandela, Bram Fischer and Dorothy Nyembe.

apd25. South Africa: The Terrorism of Torture

Pamphlet documenting the use of torture in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. The pamphlet shows how the apartheid legal system was used as window-dressing for a totalitarian regime and covers key trials in the early 1970s, including that of Winnie Mandela. It was published by the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) and distributed by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

pri16. Vigil for political prisoners

Leaflet publicising a 24-hour vigil to protest against the trials of Rev Gonville ffrench-Beytagh, Anglican Dean of Johannesburg and of 14 members of the South African Unity Movement in 1971. All the accused told the court they had been tortured. Thirteen were found guilty of offences under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to prison terms on Robben Island. At the same time the Dean of Johannesburg was charged with helping the families of political prisoners. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment, but released on appeal.

pic7107. Protest at the death of Ahmed Timol

This protester was one of a group of around 30 people who infiltrated the South African Embassy in London to protest against the death of Ahmed Timol. Timol was killed in detention by South African security police on 27 October 1971. His death provoked widespread protests in Britain. He was a former teacher and British teaching unions joined the protests. Ahmed Timol was the 20th political detainee known to have died in police custody.

stu19. Hull students support Toivo ja Toivo

Hull University Students Union appointed South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) leader Hermann Toivo ja Toivo as its Honorary Vice-President in the early 1970s. Toivo was serving a 20-year prison sentence on Robben Island.

pic7313. ‘No Justice’ public meeting, 1973

South African lawyer Joel Carlson exposed the sham of South Africa’s legal system at a meeting at University College, London on 31 May 1973. Also on the platform were Labour MP Michael Foot (left), who said the Labour Party was considering calling for an end to new British investment in South Africa, and the Chair and Hon. Secretary of the AAM, John Ennals and Abdul Minty.