Political prisoners

gov23. Letter from Malcolm Rifkind to Des Starrs

Letter from Malcolm Rifkind, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, replying to a request from Des Starrs, Chair of Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS), for the British government to intervene on behalf of the Kassinga detainees. In 1978 South African armed forces killed around 600 Namibian refugees at Kassinga refugee camp in Angola and took hundreds more prisoner. Five years later some of them were still held in detention in Namibia. Malcolm Rifkind turned down the request for a meeting on the grounds that he had already met an AAM delegation to discuss repression in the Ciskei.

pic8407. Namibia torture protest

Namibia Support Committee protesters called for the recognition of SWAPO freedom fighters Sam Mundjindji and Veiko Nghitewa as prisoners of war. The protest marked the opening of their trial on 5 February 1984. The two men had been subject to months of torture and solitary confinement. They were eventually released in July 1989 in the run-up to Namibian independence.

pic8434. David Kitson released

David Kitson reunited with his wife Norma on his arrival in London after his release from Pretoria Central prison in June 1984. In 1964 Kitson was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. 

pic8432. David Kitson press conference

David Kitson speaking at a press conference arranged by the AAM after his release from prison in June 1984. In 1964 Kitson was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He served the full 20-year term. In Britain the draughtsmen’s union, AUEW-TASS, which Kitson joined when he was working in Britain in the 1950s, and Ruskin College, Oxford, where he studied on a union scholarship, both campaigned for his release. Left to right: David Kitson, AAM Chair Bob Hughes MP, AAM staff member Cate Clark.

wom16. Women in Apartheid’s Gaols

1984 was designated the Year of the Women by the African National Congress. This meeting in Hampstead Town Hall, organised by Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS), the AAM Women’s Committee and SWAPO Women’s Solidaity Campaign, was one of the events held to mark the year. It highlighted the harsh conditions suffered by South African and Namibian women political prisoners.

pic8427. Call for the release of UDF detainees

In August 1984 the South African government detained the leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF). The UDF organised a boycott of the segregated elections held under South Africa’s new constitution. After being temporarily freed, six of the detainees took refuge in the British consulate in Durban. Students in Britain picketed the South African embassy to demand safe passage for the detainees.

gov29. Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Robert Hughes

Six leaders of the United Democratic Front and the South African Indian Congress entered the British consulate in Durban to avoid detention by the South African authorities in 1984. Three of them were immediately detained on leaving the consulate. This letter from Prime Minister Thatcher to the AAM’s Chair Bob Hughes MP defended the British government’s decision to bar access to the lawyers of the remaining three men. Five of the six were charged with high treason.

pri27. Political Trials in South Africa

As resistance to apartheid grew in the 1980s more and more people were arrested and charged under South Africa’s draconian security laws. This pamphlet examined the apartheid legal system and showed how it was impossible for political prisoners to receive a fair trial.