Political prisoners

pic7503. ‘We Mourn Bram Fischer’

Bram Fischer was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1966 for conspiring to commit sabotage and membership of the South African Communist Party. In 1963–64 he led the defence team at the trial of Nelson Mandela and his co-accused. The following year he went underground to keep anti-apartheid resistance alive within South Africa. The South African government refused to release him until a few days before his death from cancer on 8 May 1975. More than 300 people people gathered to honour him outside South Africa House.

pic7511. Protest against detentions, 1975

Anti-apartheid supporters picketed South Africa House calling for the release of all those detained without trial in South Africa in August 1975. They were protesting at the resumption of the trial of members of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) and the Black People’s Convention (BPC), which opened in April 1975 and the detention of six more people, including Afrikaans poet Breyten Breytenbach. On the left is former political prisoner Ben Turok.




pic7504. ‘Free student leaders’

pic7504. ‘Free student leaders’

AAM demonstrators picketed South Africa House in August 1975 to protest against continuing detentions without trial in South Africa, including that of the Afrikaans poet Breyten Breytenbach. They also called for the release of the nine leaders of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and Black People’s Convention (BPC) leaders on trial under the Terrorism Act.


pri20. ‘The Voice of Freedom’

pri20. ‘The Voice of Freedom’

Programme for an evening of music and readings to mark Human Rights Day, 10 December 1975, and raise funds for campaigns for Southern African political prisoners. Among the performers were actor Ian McKellen and South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana.

pic7601. ‘Stop Deaths in Detention’

Former Robben Island prisoner Joseph Mdluli was killed by South African Security Police on 19 March 1976, the day after he was detained under the Terrorism Act. This picket was part of a three-day protest outside South Africa House, 7–9 April. Demonstrators carried placards with the names of the 23 other people known to have died in detention. In the mid-1970s there was a big increase in the number of South Africans detained without trial.

pri22. Protest at death of Joseph Mdluli

Joseph Mdluli was an anti-apartheid activist who died within 24 hours of his arrest by the South African Security Police. He was the 24th detainee known to have died in detention. This leaflet advertised a picket of the South African Embassy to protest against police torture and call for the release of all South African political prisoners.

Pic7608. Protest against the death of Joseph Mdluli

Former Robben Island prisoner Joseph Mdluli was killed by South African Security Police on 19 March 1976, the day after he was detained under the Terrorism Act. This picket by 300 ANC and AAM supporters on 9 April was the climax of a three-day protest against his death outside South Africa House. In the photograph are Bishops Richard Wood and Colin Winter.


pic7607. Actors protest

pic7607. Actors protest

British actors, including Sheila Hancock, Albert Finney, Robert Morley, Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Haigh, handed in a letter to South Africa House on 13 October 1976. They were calling for the release of South African actors John Kani and Winston Tshona. Other signatories were Dame Peggy Ashcroft and playwrights David Hare and Howard Brenton.