Fifty years ago the Anti-Apartheid Movement won its first big victory with the cancellation of the Springbok cricket tour scheduled for June 1970. A new pamphlet ‘Apartheid is Not a Game’ by Geoff Brown and Christian Hogsbjerg tells how direct action against the Springbok rugby tour in 1969-70 organised by the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign led to the ban on South Africa’s all-white cricket team. The pamphlet is available from Bookmarks, https://bookmarksbookshop.co.uk. Price: £4
Parliamentarians and ACTSA supporters came together on 12 January for a special showing of the ‘Forward to Freedom’ exhibition in the House of Commons.
Former Cabinet minister and anti-apartheid activist Peter Hain MP paid tribute to all those who had taken part in the struggle for freedom in Southern Africa. Frank Dobson MP, who served as Health Minister in the 1997–2001 Labour government, recalled that the Boycott Movement held its first meeting in Holborn Hall in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency. Frank served on the AAM’s Executive Committee in the 1980s. The event was hosted by ex-AAM Chair Lord Hughes of Woodside and Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, long-serving former secretary of Sheffield Anti-Apartheid, one of the most active of the AAM’s local groups.
Scotland’s role in the international anti-apartheid movement will be the focus of an extended version of the ‘Forward to Freedom’ exhibition at the Scottish Parliament, 1–5 February. Four Scottish local authorities gave Nelson Mandela the freedom of their cities and the Scottish AA Committee brought together trade union, church and student support for anti-apartheid campaigns.
The exhibition features Mandela’s visit to Glasgow in 1993 and Scotland’s role in the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. It will be at Midlothian Libraries, 8–26 February; Aberdeen City Libraries, 29 February–2 April; and Glasgow Caledonian University, 4–29 April.
‘Mandela 100’ is a new education pack showing how Nelson Mandela’s values are relevant to school students’ everyday lives. It is suitable for pupils aged 8–14 and has ideas for involving students through dance, drama and poetry, as well as classroom discussion.
An exciting new project plans to convert the former London office of the African National Congress in Penton Street, Islngton into a Centre of Memory and Learning about the anti-apartheid solidarity movement. The project has been launched by the Liliesleaf Trust UK, working with the AAM Archives Committee and other groups. It has won support from the GLA’s Good Growth Fund and now needs to raise matched funding to convert the building into an exhibition and educational centre. Plans are currently on hold because of the Coronovirus crisis.
In March 1970 Liverpool students occupied the university’s Senate House to press demands that included disinvestment from South Africa and the resignation of the University’s Chancellor, the Marquess of Salisbury.
Nine students, including Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, were suspended and one, Pete Cresswell, was expelled. Pete never did get the degree he had spent three years working for. Last December, 46 years later, Liverpool University gave him an honorary degree. In this video Jon Snow remembers the sit-in and pays tribute to Pete: https://twitter.com/livuninews/status/806863029388398592
‘London Recruits: the movie’ will tell how young Londoners undertook secret missions against South Africa’s apartheid regime in the early 1970s.
Some of them kept silent for over 40 years. Now Cardiff-based film-makers, Barefoot Rascals, are planning a feature film that will tell their story. The film will feature interviews, dramatised reconstructions and original documentary footage. The makers have already raised their crowd-funding target of £40,000. You can read about the project here.
The newly formed Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation (NMSMF) is planning to erect a statue of Nelson Mandela in Glasgow to celebrate his centenary in 1918.
The Foundation was launched in October at an event at Glasgow City Chambers. Trustees include Sir Alex Ferguson and the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Glasgow already has a square named after Mandela – the former site of the apartheid regime’s Glasgow consulate. For more news of the Foundation’s plans go to https://mandelascottishmemorial.org
Read this handwritten letter from Nelson Mandela to the British public expressing thanks for their ‘overwhelming generosity’.
The letter was written on the day Mandela attended the 16 April 1990 Wembley concert held to celebrate his release from prison on 11 February.
‘Map your Bristol’ is an innovative project illustrating Bristol’s rich history of community action. You can pinpoint sites of anti-apartheid action and read about the campaigns.
See where activists threw nails on the pitch to stop the rugby game between Western Counties and the all-white South African Springboks in 1969. View the many shops picketed by anti-apartheid campaigners asking shoppers to boycott South African goods. See the Shell Petrol Station where Bristol AA Group organised a 24-hour picket in protest against Shell’s involvement in South Africa. Visit ‘Map your Bristol’ here
A new GCSE syllabus ‘South Africa 1960–1994: The People and the State’ is under preparation by the OCR examination board.
The syllabus includes a module on the ANC in exile and the international anti-apartheid movement. An OCR ‘A’ level syllabus ‘Apartheid and Reconciliation: South African Politics 1948-1999’ also covers apartheid and the internal and external anti-apartheid struggle.
Take a look at our new Memories Section. We've contributions from former MP and Anti-Apartheid Movement Chair Bob Hughes and PCS Vice-President and community and human rights activist Zita Holbourne.
You can find it here. Bob Hughes describes the hard work of campaigning in a pre-digital age without the internet, email or social media, and Zita describes her introduction to anti-apartheid campaigning and her experiences of racism when she first visited South Africa and how this has motivated her.
For three decades the apartheid government organised illegal and undercover activities within the UK against the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the liberation movements.
It launched a bomb attack on the ANC’s London headquarters, and sponsored arson attempts and burglaries at the AAM, ANC and SWAPO offices. It tried to infiltrate anti-apartheid organisations and spread misinformation about their campaigns. Officials at South Africa’s London embassy were implicated in illegal arms deals. In 1997 these activities were documented in evidence given to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the AAM Archives Committee. You can read the submission here.
Leeds Women Against Apartheid was formed in 1986 to bring together women in support of their sisters in South Africa and Namibia. The group reached out to women’s organisations in West Yorkshire, raising funds for women in Southern Africa, boycotting apartheid goods and holding day schools publicising the situation of women under apartheid.
It was linked to a women’s group in Soshunguve township, near Pretoria. These leaflets and posters are from the collection of LWAA publicity material held by the Feminist Archive North (FAN)
The March month of boycott action in 1960 saw the highest levels of anti-apartheid activity in Britain until the sanctions campaign of the mid-1980s. The Boycott Movement published three issues of BOYCOTT NEWS, charting the progress of the campaign.
Issue 1 printed the seminal appeal by South African leaders Chief Albert Luthuli, GM Naicker and Peter Brown for an international boycott of apartheid goods. Issue 2 featured statements of support from Labour and Liberal Party leaders Hugh Gaitskell and Jo Grimond. Issue 3 recorded the ANC’s momentous decision after the Sharpeville massacre to move from asking individuals to boycott South African goods to calling for UN international sanctions against South Africa. Altogether BOYCOTT NEWS sold over 250,000 copies. You can read them here.
The centenary of Oliver Tambo’s birth on 27 October 1917 will be celebrated in South Africa and Britain. Tambo led the ANC during the long years when Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were imprisoned on Robben Island.
His dedication, incorruptibility and vision meant that the ANC survived to take part in the negotiations which led to South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. In Britain the OR Tambo Centenary Committee is organising a lecture at South Africa House by Judge Albie Sachs on 26 October 2017. There will also be a competition for a piece of artwork celebrating Tambo’s vision for school students in the London Borough of Haringey, where Tambo’s family lived during their exile from South Africa.
Oliver Tambo was President of the African National Congress, 1967–1991. More than anyone else, he held the organisation together during the long years when Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were imprisoned on Robben Island.
Oliver Tambo: Have You Heard From Johannesburg’ is a new film that tells his story. It is the latest in the Clarity Films series about the international struggle against apartheid. Director and producer: Connie Field. Executive producer: Albie Sachs. Available online at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/olivertambo
Peter Brayshaw’s sudden death on 18 December has shocked and saddened the friends and comrades who worked with him over many years for freedom and equality in Southern Africa.
Peter’s first political activity was as an LSE student in 1967 when he protested at the appointment of the University College of Rhodesia’s former Principal as Director of the LSE. In an interview for this website recorded last year, he recalled how he narrowly escaped a prison sentence after being arrested during a student demonstration on Rhodesia in 1969.
In 1975, Peter travelled to Angola with his partner Tracy Warne, around the time that MPLA declared independence. They were caught up in fighting between MPLA and FNLA in what he later described as ‘a life-changing as well as life-endangering experience’. From then on Peter’s deepest political commitment was to the struggle for liberation in Southern Africa, and especially in Angola and Mozambique.
Don’t miss – ‘Beneath the Surface: South Africa in the Seventies’, an exhibition of photographs by Steve Bloom at The Beaney, Canterbury, 19 October–19 January 2020. The exhibition covers 1976, a pivotal year in South Africa’s history, when school students protests marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. It also includes anti-apartheid posters, badges and artefacts. https://canterburymuseums.co.uk/events/steve-bloom-beneath-the-surface-south-africa-in-the-seventies/
Apologies - this evening has been postponed, and will hopefully take place later this year.
Forward to Freedom - an oral history project
As well as presenting the history of the movement, the evening will focus on the oral history part of the project, the selection process, training, and the practicalities. We will have input from interviewers, interviewees, the Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee and the project manager.
Ruth Mompati, who died in Cape Town on 12 May, served as the ANC’s representative in Britain in the early 1980s. She earned wide respect at a time when apartheid was not such a big issue as it later became. She travelled the length and breadth of Britain winning support for the anti-apartheid cause among students, councillors and local communities.
Ruth was born in Vryburg, North West Province, in 1925 and as a young woman moved to Johannesburg, where she worked in Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo’s law practice. She helped found the Federation of South African Women in 1954 and was one of the leaders of the 1956 women’s march on Pretoria. She was forced to leave South Africa in 1962, received military training and was elected to the ANC National Executive. Her many important posts during the long years of exile included Head of the ANC Women’s Section and of its Board of Religious Affairs.
Scotland was in the forefront of the international campaign against apartheid. The country had a strong missionary tradition in Southern Africa; this was one of the sources of the more radical internationalism demonstrated in its support for the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
In 1981 Glasgow became the first city to make Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen and Scotland is still twinned with the Eastern Cape in South Africa. A new film, ‘South Africa, Scotland and Apartheid’ tells this story.
British Museum, 27 October–28 February 2017
This major exhibition tells South Africa’s history through its art, from the rock art made by the country’s earliest peoples to 20th century works combating apartheid and pieces that illustrate the post-apartheid transformation.
The exhibition includes badges and other rmaterial from the Anti-Apartheid Movement. http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/south_africa.aspx
16 June 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the uprising by Soweto school students which marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. Thousands of young people defied police bullets and hundreds were killed and injured. Over the next year many were detained and tortured, and others went into exile.
In London former student activists, historians and journalists will discuss the legacy of Soweto at a symposium at the Institute of Education, Bedford Way, WC1 on 16 June, 5–8pm. ‘Remember Soweto’
‘Try Revolution’ tells the story of the Springbok rugby tour in 1981. The film has live footage of the anti-apartheid demonstrations that tried to stop the tour.
The protests rocked New Zealand and were beamed to South Africa, where white rugby fans watched in horror and the majority looked on with hope. In this one hour documentary South Africans from Archbishop Desmond Tutu through to ordinary rugby fans talk about how these events affected them personally and helped to end the apartheid system. You can watch a trailer for the film here
Fifty years ago the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Stop the Seventy Tour launched the campaign that led to the AAM’s first big victory – the cancellation of the all-white Springbok cricket series in June 1970. Thousands of people took part in demonstrations and pitch invasions of the Springbok rugby tour that began in November 1969, and forced the cancellation of the cricket tour planned for the following summer. Were you there? If so, please send your memories for a new pamphlet about the campaign. Contact Geoff Brown at or Christian Hogsbjerg at
For nearly three years in the mid-1980s shopworkers at Dunnes Stores in Dublin went on strike rather than sell South African goods. Now Ardent Theatre Company are looking for a London venue for Strike!, a play about the protest that received rave reviews in Dublin. To support the project go to Ardent’s project page www.ardenttheatre.co.uk/strike
The strike began in July 1984 when Mary Manning refused to sell Outspan oranges to a customer and was suspended by management. Eleven colleagues followed her out on strike. They thought it would last a couple of weeks. The strike went on for nearly three years and became a cause célèbre. When Nelson Mandela met the strikers in 1990 he said news of the protest reached him in prison. Two of the strikers travelled all over Britain inspiring others to take up the boycott. Mary Manning was the keynote speaker at the AAM’s 1985 National Boycott Conference and strikers representatives met GLC Leader Ken Livingstone at County Hall in London.
In 1984 shopworkers at Dunnes Stores in Dublin went on strike to demand the reinstatement of a colleague sacked for refusing to handle Outspan oranges from South Africa. The Irish trade union Mandate is celebrating their action with a festival of diverse culture and lively discussion which brings the energy of the 1984 anti-apartheid strike to the struggles and challenges we face today. The event will include a reading of Strike!, a play by Tracy Ryan based on the events of 1984. Saturday 2 November, 6–10.30pm, Liberty Hall, Dublin and Sunday 3 November, 10.30am-4.30pm, Connolly Hall, Dublin. https://mandate.ie
The peaceful demonstration against the rugby Springboks game against Swansea on 15 November 1969 erupted into violence when vigilantes attacked student protesters. Police stood by while so-called rugby supporters inflicted horrific injuries on demonstrators trying to stop the game. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-50422755 for contemporary film and photos of the demo, including fascinating new interviews with the Swansea skipper and Springbok Vice-Captain looking back on the tour.
Bristol Action for Southern Africa activists held their annual sponsored walk on Sunday 14 June. This was the 35th walk since AAM activists first raised funds for the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in 1980. This year’s walk supported the Amai Mussanhane Women’s Project in Beira, Mozambique; Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa; Swazi UDF; and ACTSA’s Dignity.Period appeal.