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arm13. Hyde Park rally against arms sales to South Africa

The AAM marked the eleventh anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in 1971 with a rally in Hyde Park against arms sales to South Africa. A dramatised expose of Labour and Conservative governments record on arms sales was presented by artists including Monty Python star Graham Chapman. Because of widespread opposition from the British public the only weapons sold to South Africa by  the 1970–74 Conservative government were seven Wasp helicopters.

arm17. Marconi Arms Apartheid

This report argued that Marconi’s contract to supply troposcatter communications equipment to South Africa was a breach of the arms embargo imposed by the 1974 Labour government. The equipment was to be used to send information from the South African forces fighting SWAPO guerrillas in northern Namibia to the Defence Department’s computer centre in the Cape. The AAM argued that the arms ban should cover all equipment with ‘dual purpose’ military and civilian use and that no equipment should be sold to the South African defence forces.

pic8424. South African war resisters

The Committee on South African War Resistance (COSAWR) handed over sports equipment for the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom School for South African refugee children to ANC representative Solly Smith and Adelaide Tambo in 1984. From the early 1980s young white South Africans who refused to do compulsory military service came to Britain and played an important part in anti-apartheid campaigns.

bom11. March Month of Boycott

Leaflet asking shoppers to boycott South African produce during the March Month of Boycott Action. 200,000 of these leaflets were distributed during the month, together with a further 350,000 copies of a special Labour Party version.

pic9206. ‘Women Salute Women of South Africa’

These women were part of the Europe-wide demonstration outside a meeting of European Community Foreign Ministers held at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire on 2 September 1992. They asked the EC to press de Klerk to take measures to end the violence in South Africa, so that negotiations for a democratic constitution could go ahead.

zim09. Petition against the Rhodesia settlement proposals

This petition calling for no independence for Rhodesia before majority rule was launched at an AAM meeting addressed by Judy Todd at the Labour Party conference in October 1971. It was part of the AAM’s campaign for the rejection of the Conservative government’s 1971 proposals for a settlement with the illegal Smith regime. The petition was widely circulated and reprinted in the Guardian newspaper. It was signed by 80,000 people and presented to the British Prime Minister on 21 March.

arm14. ‘British arms will make a great contribution to South Africa’s way of life’

One of the first decisions of the Conservative government elected in June 1970 was to resume arms sales to South Africa. This leaflet described life under apartheid and set out the moral case for an arms ban.

pic8407. Namibia torture protest

Namibia Support Committee protesters called for the recognition of SWAPO freedom fighters Sam Mundjindji and Veiko Nghitewa as prisoners of war. The protest marked the opening of their trial on 5 February 1984. The two men had been subject to months of torture and solitary confinement. They were eventually released in July 1989 in the run-up to Namibian independence.

pic8431. March against apartheid constitution

Anti-apartheid supporters marched through central London to protest against the inauguration of P W Botha as President on 14 September 1984. The inauguration followed segregated elections, boycotted by South Africa’s Indian and Cape Coloured communities. Africans had no vote. United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders were detained before the elections. The elections coincided with a wave of protest that swept through South Africa’s black townships, starting in Sharpeville in the southern Transvaal.

bom12. ‘Boycott South African Goods’

Leaflet for window display in the March Month of Boycott Action.

pic9207. Trades union congress, 1992

TUC General Secretary Norman Willis with shopworkers leader Garfield Davies and Rodney Bickerstaffe, General Secretary of the public sector workers union NUPE, at the AAM’s stall at the 1992 TUC annual congress.

zim10. The Proposals for a Settlement in Rhodesia

Leaflet produced by the Rhodesia Emergency Campaign Committee (RECC) analysing the settlement proposals agreed by Conservative Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home and Ian Smith and published as a White Paper on 25 November 1971. RECC was a broad coalition of 45 organisations, set up at a meeting convened by the AAM in December 1971 and chaired by Methodist minister Colin Morris and New Left academic Stuart Hall. The AAM estimated that over half a million campaign leaflets, stickers, posters and badges were distributed over the next few months. 

arm02. ‘No British Arms for South Africa’

Leaflet publicising a rally against British arms sales to South Africa on 17 March 1963. The main speaker 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.

arm15. ‘Stop All Military Collaboration with South Africa’

In 1974 the newly elected Labour government authorised joint naval exercises with the South African navy. The AAM accused it of failing to honour its election manifesto commitments and campaigned for pressure from Labour supporters against all military and economic links with South Africa.

pic8426. Namibian uranium protest

Women demonstrators picketed British Nuclear Fuels plant near Preston in north-west England on 2 November 1984. Earlier in the year a group of women peace activists were gaoled after they gained entry to the BNFL’s plant at Capenhurst, Cheshire. The November picket was one of four protests at BNFL installations in Scotland and northern England. The coordinated demonstrations were part of a national week of action on Namibia organised by the AAM and Namibia Support Committee, 27 October–2 November 1984. In the 1970s and 1980s Britain imported Namibian uranium in contravention of UN resolutions declaring that South Africa’s occupation of Namibia was illegal.

pic8506. AAM demonstration for sanctions

25,000 anti-apartheid supporters marched up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square on 16 June 1985 to demand sanctions against South Africa. They carried coffins symbolising the victims of South African security force massacres in Namibia and South Africa.

pic9301. Vigil for Chris Hani

After Chris Hani’s murder on 10 April 1993, the AAM held a vigil outside South Africa House. At a march and rally on 19 April supporters pledged to support the ANC in its efforts to stop the killing from derailing the negotiations for a new constitution in South Africa.

bom13. Africa Year 1960

The Labour Party supported the March Month of Boycott Action as part of its 1960 Africa Year initiative. The Boycott Movement was initially wary about the boycott being taken over by the Labour Party, but its involvement made a big difference to the scale of the campaign. Twenty-one Labour local councils banned South African goods from their schools and town halls. The Party organised 27 local conferences all over Britain. The boycott was the main theme of a party political broadcast by Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell on 9 March.

zim11. ‘Fight the Sell Out in Rhodesia’ demonstration

Leaflet publicising a demonstration on 13 February 1972 against the Conservative government’s proposals for a settlement with Ian Smith. The demonstration was organised by the Rhodesia Emergency Campaign Committee (RECC), an umbrella group set up to mobilise opposition to the proposals in Britain. The AAM estimated that over half a million campaign leaflets, stickers, posters and badges were distributed over the next few months.

arm03. No British Arms for South Africa

In the early 1960s Britain was South Africa’s main arms supplier. The call for it to stop supplying arms for apartheid was one of the AAM’s main campaigning issues.

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