Globe, Movement, Politiks, Struggles, United Kingdom, Workers

The non-stop picket against Apartheid

During the 1980s, London was the most engaged city in the UK in the fight against racial discrimination. Regarding those events, a cultural event will take place on the 9th of August.


Nathan Raia


Apartheid was introduced in South Africa in 1948 by the National Party (NP) government in a bid to strengthen its already existing policies of segregation. The laws that came with it forced the black and white populations to live separately, a fact that brought inequity among the groups and tremendous social and economic harm to the black people.

Nelson Mandela, during his years at the University of Witwatersrand, met and joined other activists that were fighting racial discrimination. He became one of the most prominent combatants in the fight against apartheid: he started with non-violent protests and strikes and, when those completely failed, passed to armed resistance.

He was arrested in 1962 as a consequence of an illegal journey abroad that he had made earlier that year and was sentenced to five years in jail. But the following year the police found evidence that implicated him and other activists against apartheid in sabotage, treason and violent conspiracy. The sentence for all of them was life in prison.

At the same time, starting on April 1986 in London, supporters of the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group held, outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square, a tireless picket that involved people of all ages, but the younger generation played the most important role.

The picket ended only when Mandela was realised on February 11, 1990, by the newly elected president Frederik Willem de Klerk, after spending nearly three decades in jail. And, a few years later, in 1993, both of them were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thus, to remember and celebrate the years of protests in London, Helen Yaffe and Gavin Brown, with the support of the Revolutionary Communist Group, have organised a social and cultural evening, which starts outside the South African Embassy, where their book “Youth Activism and Solidarity: The non-stop picket against Apartheid” will also be launched. After extensive research into the archives, including over ninety interviews with former activists involved in the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy and the study of untouched documents, the authors have given an insight into the social movements that took place in London.

Date and place: Friday, 9 August 2019, from 7 pm. to 11 pm. At the Seven Dials Club and Covent Garden Community Centre, 42 Earlham St, London, WC2H 9LA. For further information, visit the Facebook event page.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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