Britain proposes the sale of arms to South Africa


British FlagBritish Flag. Source: :

Thursday, 14 January 1971

At the Conference of Heads of State of the British Commonwealth of Nations held in Singapore, Britain proposed a sale of arms to South Africa. The proposal was discussed extensively as many Heads of State were opposed to it. Subsequently an eight-country study group was set up to consider the question in the context of the security of maritime trade routes in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Britain's proposal threatened to cause the collapse of the British Commonwealth. Shortly after the conference a coup occurred in Uganda, where President Milton Obote, a vocal opponent of Britain's arms sales to South Africa, was ousted. The Ugandan revolution had badly affected President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia who were also vocal opponents of the British proposal.

In February of the same year, without warning and completely disregarding the eight-country study group, Britain decided to supply seven Wasp helicopters to South Africa.

• O’Malley P. (1971),from Nelson Mandela Foundation, [online] available at[Accessed: 02 December 2011]
• Mofa, ‘Section 12. Situation in the Middle East and Africa’, [online] available at[Accessed: 02 December 2011]

Last updated : 11-Dec-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 13-Jan-2012

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