Soweto anniversary demonstration
Demonstrators marched through central London on 18 June 1977 to mark the first anniversary of the Soweto uprising. The march was organised by the National Union of Students and National Union of School Students, with support from the AAM. Two days before, Nkosazana Dlamini and Canon Collins spoke at a commemoration service in the crypt of St Martin’s in the Fields. In Scotland AAM supporters held a vigil outside South Africa’s Glasgow consulate.  Copyright © John Sturrock/Report


Students were at the forefront of Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigns. They collected funds for the Southern African liberation movements, campaigned against investment in apartheid and took action in solidarity with students in South Africa. In 1969/70 students took the lead in direct action and mass demonstrations against the rugby and cricket Springbok tours.


In 1971 the National Union of Students and the AAM set up a network to co-ordinate student campaigns. Over the next decade students at nearly every university and college in Britain organised some form of anti-apartheid action. At more than half of all colleges students called on the university authorities to sell shareholdings in British companies with South African interests. They rejected the argument that institutions should use their shares to lobby for pay increases for African workers and pressed for total disinvestment from South Africa.


In the 1960s and 1970s students collected funds for the liberation movements across Southern Africa. They campaigned for the independence of Namibia and for support for guerrilla fighters in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola. They led the AAM’s mass marches to stop the British government granting independence to Rhodesia before black majority rule.


When student leaders of the black South African Student Organisation (SASO) and the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) were banned and imprisoned in the early 1970s, British students protested outside the South African Embassy. They raised funds for scholarships for black students from South Africa and Namibia to study at universities in Britain.


The National Union of Students was one of the founding organisations of Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS). In 1964 the University of London Union made Nelson Mandela its Honorary President. Later, in the 1980s, many student unions named buildings in honour of Mandela and initiated moves to grant him an honorary degree.

student protest'Surround the Embassy', student protest, 1985.