three-day vigil opposite South Africa House
After Nelson Mandela and seven of his co-accused were convicted on 11 June 1964, there was a real danger that the trial judge would impose the death sentence. Supporters in London kept up a three-day vigil opposite South Africa House, culminating in a rally in Trafalgar Square on 14 June. When the sentence of life imprisonment was announced, it was seen as a victory for the international campaign to save the lives of the eight men. Copyright © Associated Press


The 1960s were a dramatic decade for the Anti-Apartheid Movement. It had high hopes after the success of the boycott month in March 1960, when hundreds of thousands of people refused to buy South African goods. But the AAM’s new campaign for wider economic sanctions against South Africa was blocked by governments convinced that trade and investment in South Africa were vital to the British economy.

The AAM’s campaign for an arms embargo had wide support, but the 1964–70 Labour government implemented only a partial ban. The Movement extended its campaign for the isolation of South Africa to sport, the arts and academia.


The high point of the decade was the saving of the lives of Nelson Mandela and his fellow Rivonia trialists. As the world waited for the judge to pass sentence in June 1964, there was a real chance the ANC leaders would be hanged. In response to a worldwide campaign they were sentenced instead to life imprisonment.


In 1965 the white minority government in Southern Rhodesia made a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). The AAM took up the cause of millions of disenfranchised black Zimbabweans. For the rest of the decade it spent as much energy opposing Labour proposals for a sell-out to the illegal regime as it did campaigning against apartheid.

As a wave of student rebellion swept Europe in 1968, the AAM attracted new support from young people fired by the growing success of guerrilla fighters in Mozambique and Angola and by the attempt by the African National Congress (ANC) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) to infiltrate Zimbabwe in the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns.


The decade ended on a high note with demonstrations against the 1969–70 Springbok rugby tour. Thousands of protesters disrupted play and joined mass marches at games all over Britain. As the rugby tour ended, the campaign to stop a visit by an all-white South African cricket tour took off. In June 1970 the AAM won its biggest victory so far with the cancellation of the Springbok tour.

Stewards dragging a protester off the pitch at the Springboks v Swansea rugby matchStewards dragging a protester off the pitch at the Springboks v Swansea rugby match at St Helen’s ground on 15 November 1969. Police turned a blind eye while stewards assaulted demonstrators, many of whom were badly injured. There were demonstrations at all 24 games in the 1969/70 rugby tour of Britain and Ireland.Copyright: Media Wales Ltd