The AAM mobilised widespread public protests in Britain in response to the banning of the UDF and 16 other anti-apartheid organisations in 1988. It called a press conference in London, addressed by Thabo Mbeki. The AAM’s President Trevor Huddleston and the General Secretary of the TUC, Norman Willis, met the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe. This poster advertised a day of protest on 21 March, when the AAM distributed half a million stickers with the slogan ‘Ban Apartheid: Sanctions Now!’.

AAM activists, miners from Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and Women against Pit Closures protested against a visit by a delegation from the South African coal industry on 21 April 1988. The delegation had come to London to lobby against coal sanctions against South Africa.

From the early 1970s the AAM published comprehensive lists of British companies with subsidiaries in South Africa and Namibia. It asked organisations like trade unions, church groups, local authorities and universities to disinvest from companies that had a significant stake in the apartheid economy. 

Supporters of End Loans to Southern Africa (ELTSA) leafleted shareholders outside the annual general meeting of NatWest Bank in April 1989. They were asking the bank not to take part in an agreement to reschedule South Africa’s foreign debt. In 1985 South Africa was forced to announce a moratorium on its debt repayments, a crunch moment in the decline of the apartheid economy which led to the opening of negotiations in the early 1990s.

The World Gold Commission was launched in 1988 on the initiative of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, End Loans to Southern Africa (ELTSA), the African National Congress (ANC) and South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO). It exposed the central role gold mining played in the apartheid economy and campaigned for a worldwide ban on South African gold. This report set out a three-part strategy: gold sanctions against South Africa; the release equivalent quantities of gold from other countries’ reserves; and a training programme for South African exile students to learn gold mining and marketing skills. 

The Southern Africa Coalition was launched on 1 September 1989 to press the British government to impose targeted sanctions against South Africa. These included a ban on imports of coal and agricultural products and on loans to South Africa. The Coalition brought together a wide range of organisations, including trade unions, churches, overseas aid agencies and the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Poster produced for the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s campaign for sanctions against South Africa.

By the 1980s South Africa was heavily dependent on loans from US and British banks. After the apartheid government declared a moratorium on the repayment of its foreign loans in 1985, the AAM and End Loans to Southern Africa (ELTSA) stepped up their campaign to stop the banks rescheduling South Africa’s debt.