International Anti-Apartheid Movements

During the decades covering the 1950 — 1970s, the NP government reinforced its policy of Apartheid by passing many repressive laws. This resulted in many people leaving SA and continuing the protest action abroad. The most prominent places the Anti-Apartheid movement took place was Britain and Ireland, which also influenced International awareness to the Oppressive Apartheid Regime in South Africa. As a result, actions such as Boycotts, sanctions, disinvestment were imposed on SA with far reaching consequences.

The British anti-Apartheid movement founded in 1959, was initially just a boycott movement, and from 1960 focussed on putting pressure on the SA government to do away with Apartheid completely. This was sparked due to the Sharpeville Massacre. The movement urged the British Government to place full economic sanctions on SA. This resulted in Britain stopping to supply arms to SA in 1963. The British anti —Apartheid movement also worked closely with the United Nations in an attempt to isolate the Apartheid government from international affairs. The progress was slow due to opposition from Margaret Thatcher who believed that it would not be in the best interest of Britain. The AAM did however contribute to the unbanning of the ANC and PAC, release of people detained, cancellation of the 1970 Springbok cricket tour, withdrawal of Barclays Bank, boycott of SA imports as well as hosting the Release Mandela concert.

The Irish anti-Apartheid movement was at first an extension of the British movement, but under the leadership of Kader Asmal assumed a life of its own. The movement successfully campaigned by demonstrating against the 1970 Springbok rugby tour, promoting a ban on sporting contracts with SA, influencing trade unions, and convincing the Irish Government to boycott coal and food products from SA. They contributed in the economic isolation of SA, which helped push the Apartheid Government towards the negotiation table in the late 1980's.

These two movements got the attention of many other countries and organisations, that resulted in worldwide criticism of the Apartheid Government policies. This resulted in International anti-Apartheid movements to pressure The SA government through sports, academic, cultural and economic sanctions.

Anti-Apartheid activists believed that if South Africa was isolated from international sport, pressure might be put on the government to make political changes. These sporting boycotts had mixed results. Cricket, rugby, football and Olympic teams were effectively banned, but golfers and tennis players continued to compete. These anti-Apartheid campaigns resulted in SA being excluded from the Olympic games, helped bring about the Gleneagles Agreement that cut sporting ties with Commonwealth countries, and prevented SA from playing in the first two rugby world cups.

Cultural boycotts was another way of isolating South Africa. Anti-Apartheid groups in Europe and America persuaded playwrights and actors to embark on boycotts as it was immoral to "entertain Apartheid". English and Irish playwrights signed declarations in this regard. This campaign successfully stopped the sale of British Television material, and

stopped the distribution of American films in South Africa. As international sanctions became more effective SA found itself more and more isolated culturally.

Academic boycotts led by overseas universities and academic institutions got momentum in the 1970's. The thinking was that the pressure would encourage academics and their institutions to oppose Apartheid, especially in light of how these boycotts would harm SA in the field of science and medicine, by denying academics access to the latest research.

Perhaps not as far reaching as other boycotts it did however contribute to isolating SA.

The British anti-Apartheid movement was originally named the "The boycott movemen€' asking the public not to buy South African goods. Consumer boycotts were however not consistently supported by different governments at different times. These boycotts did however have a very important impact overall. It threatened the profits of companies doing business with SA and visa-versa. The impact of these boycotts resulted in the South African government loosing revenue, which resulted in a negative economic impact at the cost of maintaining Apartheid policies.

As early as 1962 the United Nations had attempted to impose far-reaching sanctions and economic isolation on SA. It however was not supported by countries such as Britain and the USA who had strong economic interest in the country. In accordance to the "Sullivan Principals" 1977 which stated that workers be treated equally, and promoted a racially integrated environment for workers, some companies followed the principal and disinvested from SA. The USA and British government were still hoping to persuade SA through diplomatic means. Only by 1986 did Congress pass harsher sanction bills, which forbade investment in SA. Those that continued were heavily taxed. American companies started to withdraw. By the 1980's sanctions and disinvestment policies became very successful. The economic effect coupled with the collapse of the USSR forced the government to negotiate with the ANC.

In October 1963 the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners. This gave rise to the "Free Mandela" campaign. The ANC was the driving force behind the campaign convincing various world governments, trade unions and churches to agitate for Mandela's release. Upon his release in February 1990 supporters all over the world rejoiced.

Some International trade unions were able to convince their own governments to take action and isolate the Apartheid government. They worked closely with AAM's to lobby for disinvestments, sanctions and boycotts on South African products. Their involvement also helped bring about more rights for workers.

Front line states had a limited effect on South Africa. They were economically dependent on South Africa and it was in their best interest to remain on good terms with SA. They were opposed to South Africa's racial policies, but feared the retribution that might follow should they take a hard line against the country. They tried to maintain sanction as best they could. They supported ANC guerrilla activities and constantly asked for international intervention.

By the 1980's the South African government felt the bite of international sanctions, disinvestment and boycotts coupled with internal resistance proved to have an adverse effect on the economy. By successfully isolating the South African economy coupled with the collapse of the USSR marked the beginning of the end for the Apartheid Regime.

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© 2020 by Joy Sephton