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The Churches and the Anti-Apartheid Movement

This is the transcript of a witness seminar held at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in December 2000. Participants included academics Rob Skinner and Kevin Ward; the former Director of the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism, Baldwin Sjollema; Pauline Webb, former Head of Religious Programmes, BBC World Service, who took part in the meetings that set up the PCR; Paul Oestreicher, former Director of the British Council of Churches Division of International Affairs; JimWilkie, former Africa Secretary of the BCC; Brian Brown, former Deputy Director of the Christian Institute of South Africa and Africa Secretary of the BCC; David Haslam, founder of End Loans to Southern Africa (ELSTA) and David Craine, ELTSA staff member. The seminar was convened and chaired by Professor Shula Marks.

wom15. Women’s Month of Action

In March 1989 the AAM held a month of anti-apartheid action on women. Women all over Britain held meetings, exhibitions and demonstrations outside supermarkets selling South African and Namibian products. The month had three themes: the collection of material aid for South African and Namibian women, freedom for women prisoners and the boycott of South African and Namibian products.

pic5003. Black Sash demo at South Africa House

Supporters of the Movement for Colonial Freedom opposite South Africa House, Trafalgar Square in June 1956. They were collecting signatures for an anti-apartheid petition to South African Prime Minister J G Strydom.

pic6006. Sharpeville massacre protest, 27 March 1960

Twenty thousand people gathered in Trafalgar Square to protest against the massacre of 69 unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville on 21 March. The rally was organised by the Labour Party. Speakers included African National Congress leader, Tennyson Makiwane, Labour’s Colonial Affairs spokesperson James Callaghan and Robert Willis from the TUC General Council. In the days following the massacre crowds gathered spontaneously outside South Africa House.

pic6504. Protest against the South African cricket tour, 1965

This young anti-apartheid supporter was asking cricket fans to support an arms embargo against South Africa outside the St Helen’s cricket ground in Swansea in August 1965. Inside the ground the all-white South African cricket team was playing Glamorgan.

pic7403. Southern Africa Freedom Convention

The AAM celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a ‘Freedom Convention’ at Camden Lock, London on 30 June 1974. Stalls displayed information about South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Portugal’s African colonies. A petition for the release of South African prisoners with 30,000 signatures was presented to Nigeria’s UN Ambassador Edwin Ogbu, Chair of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid.

pic6301. ‘No British Arms for South Africa’ march

Thousands of people marched through central London to protest against British arms sales to South Africa on 17 March 1963. The main speaker at a rally in Trafalgar Square was the Labour Party’s new leader Harold Wilson. He told the Conservative government ‘Act now and stop this bloody traffic in the weapons of oppression’. When Labour came to power in October 1964 it announced a limited embargo, but fulfilled a contract for 18 Buccaneer bomber aircraft and continued to sell spare parts to the South African Defence Force.

pic7903. Barnet AA Group Soweto walk

From 1978 anti-apartheid local groups held sponsored walks on the anniversary of the Soweto uprising to raise funds for the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom School in Tanzania. This photograph shows AAM members in Barnet, north London, getting ready for their walk in May 1979.

pic7910. Picket of Barclays Bank, Southampton

Southampton AA Group supporters delivered a giant Barclays cheque to the local Barclays branch on 4 April 1979. The cheque was made payable ‘for bribery and corruption by the South African Government’ and signed ‘Connie Muldergate’. South African Information Minister Connie Mulder was forced to resign because he established a government slush fund to promote South Africa’s image overseas.

pic8109. Armando Guebuza in London

FRELIMO Central Committee member and future Mozambique President Armando Guebuza at a meeting with representatives of London’s black community, 24 June 1981.

pic8202. ‘Southern Africa: The Time to Choose’ rally

The AAM’s ‘Southern Africa: the Time to Choose’ conference culminated in a 15,000-strong march and rally on 14 March. The rally was the biggest anti-apartheid demonstration since Sharpeville in 1960. Speakers included ANC Secretary General Alfred Nzo, representatives of the Labour and Liberal Parties and the TUC, asylum seekers campaigner Anwar Ditta and the only black member of the British Sports Council, Paul Stephenson. On the morning of the demonstration a bomb blast destroyed part of the ANC’s London office.

tu27. Trade union conference, 1986

Programme for the AAM conference for trade unionists held on 1 March 1986. The conference focused on disinvestment and trade sanctions. It was attended by around 450 delegates representing 37 trade unions and 29 trades councils.

tu36. ‘Save the SARHWU Four!’

This leaflet tells the story of four railway workers who were sentenced to hang after a strike by employees of the South African Transport Service in 1987. They were alleged to have taken part in the killing of four non-strikers. The leaflet was produced by the Joint Campaign against the Repression of Trade Unionists with support from leading British trade unions.

pic8415. Demonstration against PW Botha

At least 50,000 people marched through London on 2 June 1984 to tell South African President P W Botha he was not welcome in Britain. The demonstration was the beginning of an upsurge of anti-apartheid action which gathered pace for the rest of the decade.  Botha met Prime Minister Thatcher at her country house Chequers, instead of Downing Street, because of the scale of the protest.

pic8501. Churchmen protest outside South Africa House

Members of the AAM’s Multi-Faith Committee held daily silent lunch hour vigils outside the South African Embassy in the week before Easter. The committee was formed in 1985 to bring together people of different faiths in opposition to apartheid.

ar02. Annual Report, July 1962 to September 1963

Report of the AAM’s activities covering the period July 1962 to September 1983.

pic9005. Rally in Trafalgar Square

Over 20,000 demonstrators packed Trafalgar Square on 25 March 1990 in the first big anti-apartheid demonstration in Britain after the release of Nelson Mandela. Former Robben Island prisoner Andrew Mlangeni told the crowd ‘We were never alone. You continued to inspire us from outside our prison walls’.

apd03. Apartheid Quiz

Pamphlet explaining basic facts about apartheid.

tsh03. Nelson Mandela Freedom at 70
bdg03. SWAPO
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