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, detained without charge in South Africa. Copyright © Morning Star


The Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned for political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia, seeking their release and letting them know they were not forgotten.

From the Rivonia trial in 1963–64, when Nelson Mandela and his comrades were sentenced to life imprisonment, to the trials of leaders of the mass democratic movement in the 1980s the AAM exposed the travesty of justice in South Africa’s political trials.


In 1973, with the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) and other organisations, the AAM set up Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS). SATIS publicised political trials, called for the release of those detained without trial and mobilised public opinion against the hanging of political prisoners.


South Africa’s Terrorism Act provided for the indefinite detention of anyone suspected of terrorism, defined so widely as to include almost any political activity. In the 1970s more than 40 detainees died after being tortured by the security police. SATIS exposed these killings, which culminated in the death of Steve Biko in 1977. It campaigned for the release of thousands of anti-apartheid activists, including many children, detained under the States of Emergency imposed in the mid-1980s.

It organised petitions, protests and marches, lobbied the British government and worked with the UN Special Committee against Apartheid to launch international campaigns.


SATIS worked on behalf of all political prisoners, including supporters of the black consciousness movement, SWAPO and ANC freedom fighters, United Democratic Front activists and trade unionists. Its campaigns complemented the work of IDAF, which funded the defence of people charged with political offences and smuggled millions of pounds into South Africa to support the families of political prisoners.

Supporters of Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS)Supporters of Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS) walked from London to Manchester in November 1974 to publicise the situation of political prisoners. In the photograph the marchers are leaving Banbury, where they were met by local councillors and held a meeting in the Town Hall. Copyright © Banbury Guardian