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.
On his return to Britain he immersed himself in the activities of the Angola Solidarity Committee, set up to campaign for British recognition of the MPLA government. He argued for the continuance of the committee, but loyally supported its successor organisation MAGIC in its work to alert people in Britain to the devastation caused by apartheid South Africa’s invasions of Angola and support for RENAMO in Mozambique.
In the 1980s Peter worked in the Mozambique Angola Committee (MAC), liaising with the Anti-Apartheid Movement as MAC’s delegate to the AAM National Committee and becoming MAC’s co-chair. When Angola was plunged back into civil war by UNITA’s intransigence in 1992, he was one of the initiators of the Angola Emergency Committee, building greater awareness in Britain of Angola’s crippling civil war and campaigning for British government support for UN peace-keeping initiatives.
When Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) was set up in 1994, Peter became a member of its first National Executive Council. He served on the NEC for the next 20 years, and in 2004 was elected as one of ACTSA’s two vice-chairs. He brought his expertise as a Labour local councillor in the London Borough of Camden to his work as the coordinator, and subsequently policy advisor, to Local Authority Action for Southern Africa.
As a professional economist, Peter worked for the TUC in the 1970s, for the Engineering Training Board, the Greater London Council (GLC), where he was an Assistant Director General, and the Greenwich Waterfront Development Partnership. He later became a senior lecturer in urban development and planning at the University of Westminster, and the Deputy Director of the Local Economy Policy Unit at South Bank University (where he undertook research and consultancy on getting local jobs for local people).
As well as his deep international commitment Peter always found time to make a contribution to his local community in Camden. He was a member of Curnock Estate Tenants and Residents Association and an elected local patient governor of University College Hospitals Foundation Trust in central London.
Peter carried forward a commitment forged in support for the struggle against racism and colonialism in Southern Africa into the new and difficult project of fostering sustainable development and more equal societies. The greatest tribute we can pay him is to use the recording and remembering of the past as a platform for building the future.
You can read more about Peter’s work and listen to clips from his interview here.