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.
SOUTHERN AFRICA THE IMPRISONED SOCIETY
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.
DEATHS IN DETENTION
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.
INTERNATIONAL DEFENCE AND AID FUND
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.