At a mini-summit in London, 3–5 August 1986, Commonwealth leaders agreed on a package of sanctions against South Africa, in spite of opposition from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Earlier in the year a Commonwealth ‘Eminent Persons Group’ visited South Africa and concluded that the apartheid government was not prepared to negotiate an end to white minority rule. Left to right: Commonwealth leaders Brian Mulroney (Canada), Sir Lyndon Pindling (The Bahamas), Kenneth Kaunda (Zamibia), Rajiv Gandhi (India), Margaret Thatcher (UK), Bob Hawke (Australia) and Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe).

The AAM made this appeal to trade unionists in September 1986, soon after a countrywide state of emergency was introduced in South Africa. Its emphasis was on the general campaign for sanctions rather than, as in the 1970s, campaigns against individual companies or support for South African workers.

AAM supporters marched through the centre of Manchester to demand sanctions against South Africa on 8 November.

AAM supporters marked the centenary of mining company Consolidated Gold Fields on 9 February 1987 by demonstrating outside its headquarters with this birthday cake. The slices show that the company paid 34% of its turnover in taxes to the South African government and only 13% in wages to its black workers.

Anti-apartheid demonstrators marched through Birmingham on 21 March 1987 in support of the AAM’s March Month of People’s Sanctions. They were remembering the South Africans shot by the police at Sharpeville in 1960 and at Langa in the Eastern Cape in 1985.

Waltham Forest AA Group organised this meeting in north-east London to win local support for the AAM’s month of action for people’s sanctions in March 1987. 

The AAM’s National Convention for Sanctions, held on 27 June 1987, called for a mass movement of ‘people’s sanctions’. The AAM was responding to Prime Minister Thatcher’s refusal to implement any significant measures against the apartheid government. The Convention was attended by trade unionists, local councillors, students, church and women’s groups and representatives of political parties. It adopted a Programme of Action and pledged support for a mass demonstration on 24 October.

AAM supporters asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to impose ‘Sanctions Now’ at the entrance to Downing Street, 23 October 1987.