The Anti-Apartheid Movement - what kind of history?

This is a moving occasion and also a historic one, because it takes place on the same day as the opening of our Parliament. Our former Minister Alfred Nzo, our new Minister Nkosazana Zuma and Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, who all joined us in many demonstrations here, have asked me to bring their warm greetings to you.

Today is not just the fortieth anniversary of the Anti-Apartheid Movement; it is the day we call Freedom Day on which the Congress of the People took place in 1955. It was a very deliberate decision to found the Anti-Apartheid Movement on June 26, South Africa Freedom Day, a day so significant for the freedom of the people of South Africa.

I have much to say and not enough time; so some of you who have been active much more than I have will perhaps say at the end of my speech 'Well, we didn't hear anything new'. This is one of the few times I have been in London without Trevor Huddleston. Trevor was a tough task-master. He would have wanted me to talk about South Africa today and mobilise people for South Africa and not to go into luxuries of history. It is unusual for me to be here without him and he is probably listening or watching somewhere, so I have to behave myself. I use that as an apology if I don't satisfy your expectations.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was, in a way, a stand-alone organisation in Britain, a British anti-apartheid movement that managed to do other things. But if you look at its origins and its role, it was not a stand-alone organisation in the sense that it was inspired and formed as a result of a solemn appeal made on behalf of millions of oppressed people in South Africa by Chief Albert Lutuli, then President-General of the ANC, and other leaders. So it has this umbilical cord relationship with the struggle. The Movement was directly linked to the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and operated both in its proactive and its reactive role as an instrument of solidarity with the people of South Africa. But it was not just a British movement and so we did not have the word 'British' in its title. It was the Anti-Apartheid Movement and it acted as an agent of change which sought to influence policy at the OAU, the Commonwealth, the United Nations, as well as the International Olympic Committee and the then Imperial Cricket Conference.

The idea on which the Movement was based was very simple - the boycott call was essentially an appeal from the people of South Africa not to collaborate with apartheid. As Julius Nyerere said in 1959 'We are not asking you, the British people, for anything special. We are just asking you to withdraw your support from apartheid by not buying South African goods'. Father Huddleston, of course, was far more passionate at that founding meeting in demanding an end to collaboration with an evil ideology that amounted to a blasphemy against God. And there were others who used different bases for trying to mobilise people to support the boycott.

There were very many who opposed the call, on various grounds, including the claim that boycotts never work and that it would hurt most those whom it was intended to help. Overnight the apartheid regime and international business and other interests tried to transform themselves into those who cared most for the victims of apartheid. That was a certain reminder to us that we were doing a good job. The Boycott Movement obviously threatened very powerful vested interests and no analysis or history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement is complete without examining those forces that united to try to undermine and destroy it.

I recall how very soon after the announcement of the formation of the Boycott Movement the South Africa Foundation was set up with a capital of £260,000, a coalition of South African business who said that lies were being perpetrated about South Africa and that they would tell the truth. We had no budget, not even of five or ten shillings. The Movement's policy was to campaign for a sports, cultural, academic and economic boycott of apartheid South Africa. Though we were often described as a negative movement, we put a high priority on not only exposing the system of colonial and racial domination in South Africa, but on supporting the liberation struggle through humanitarian support programmes, including scholarships and the provision of legal defence and aid for political leaders and their families. Therefore the role of Canon Collins and the Defence and Aid Fund cannot be divorced from that of the Anti-Apartheid Movement simply because it functioned as a separate organisation. From the beginning to the end, we worked as close allies in the wider struggle.

Of course in the early days of the Movement the supporting role of Fenner Brockway's Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Committee of African Organisations was crucial for our work, as was the support we received later from the Labour movement, the Liberal Party, and prominent personalities such as Bertrand Russell and others. Another crucial factor was that the Movement developed from its inception a clear and effective strategy for its operational work and this became even more important when one takes into account the enormous international responsibility it undertook at the very outset with very meagre resources. If you now look at those documents and speeches you might think that this was an irresponsible and daring group of people who had no prospect whatsoever of achieving their objectives. Yes, we were idealistic and what we did not get in terms of support initially, we made up for in terms of sheer determination.

One must not forget that at that time Britain was the largest investor in South Africa, was its major trading partner and was the source of all its military equipment. There was the Simonstown Naval Agreement, together with sports, cultural and academic relations. This reflected an alliance between London and Pretoria. So we were not taking on any light task, as people did in countries which did not have as many links with South Africa. There was also the perennial kith and kin factor, which continually operated in our work. It is in this context that one has to understand the early victories of the Movement, spearheaded by its President, Barbara Castle, who together with Trevor Huddleston, provided outstanding leadership for the new movement. Of course, the strategy and operational priorities for the Movement evolved out of its close relationship with the liberation movement.

As is well known the Boycott Movement became the Anti-Apartheid Movement after the Sharpeville massacre of 21 March 1960. We realised that we needed a permanent organisation to work for the eradication of apartheid. The first major victory in the early 1960s was South Africa's exclusion from the Commonwealth, brought about by the joint action of Afro-Asian and Caribbean governments and British public opinion. At that time Barbara organised a 72-hour vigil of prominent personalities outside the Commonwealth Conference; people tried to suggest that we would not get prominent personalities for a 72-hour vigil, but we succeeded.

In 1962 I was sent to the Olympic Conference in Baden Baden to represent both the South African Sports Association and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. We succeeded in securing the exclusion of South Africa from Olympic sport. There were massive protests subsequently at sports matches in Britain and through public action we put an end to all major rugby, cricket and other tours. The Gleneagles Agreement came once this had all been achieved through public action. The major instrument of mobilisation was of course the consumer boycott, whereby individuals made a daily choice not to buy fruit and other products from South Africa.

Meanwhile the apartheid regime was building a firm alliance with Portugal and Rhodesia, resulting in the Anti-Apartheid Movement reorienting its strategy to counter the evolving unholy alliance against African freedom in Southern Africa. The Movement thereafter worked for an end to Portuguese colonialism in Africa, the end of UDI in Rhodesia as well as for the independence of Namibia. By 1963 Pretoria was well on the way in its march from a police to a garrison state and the Movement stepped up its campaign for an arms embargo, resulting in the adoption of the first resolutions on the subject by the United Nations Security Council in 1963-64. We had already suggested to the UN that it should set up a special General Assembly committee against apartheid, and with the formation of the OAU in 1963 the alliance between the Anti-Apartheid Movement and independent African states took on a special significance. The Movement had a unique advantage in that personal friendships were built with African leaders from British colonies who came to London for constitutional talks. The fact that Commonwealth summits took place in London until 1966, when they started circulating to other countries, also meant that we interacted closely with Commonwealth leaders and usually briefed them prior to the summit meetings. This allowed us to form close bonds with most Commonwealth leaders, as well as with the OAU and the United Nations.

Our relationship of trust and confidence was not simply built on the numbers of people that we could put out on the streets. It was built on the quality and reliability of our research and information, as well as the relevance of our political demands. And so we did not have to bridge a gap between the demands that the Anti-Apartheid Movement was putting forward, because they were the same as those of the African, Asian and Caribbean countries in the Commonwealth. Governments could rely on information provided by the Anti-Apartheid Movement and this gave us added authority and influence. Once again, we had to counter very powerful vested interests, but the combination of reliable information, appropriate policy and mass mobilisation of the public created a formidable force.

Despite set backs and difficulties we remained steadfast. Our major strength was, of course, that we were a grassroots movement that combined popular mobilisation with relevant policies and a high degree of legitimacy based on the fact that our inspiration and guidance came from the liberation movements. This is perhaps the central reason for our success, that our boycott and other campaigns were directly linked to the liberation struggle. It is in this sense that we were not a stand-alone organisation in Britain but operated in the context of the requirements and needs of the national liberation struggle. There were many crises and challenges and even this link often meant that we were threatened by people in Britain who would not support us, for example, if we continued to support the armed struggle. One of the biggest challenges we faced after Rhodesia's UDI in 1965 was to prevent a British sell-out to Ian Smith. The concentration on Rhodesia sometimes produced criticism within our ranks that we were neglecting both South Africa and Namibia.

The independence of the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola in 1975 transformed the geopolitical situation, resulting in Pretoria becoming even more aggressive, intervening in Angola and beginning its nuclear weapons programme. Thus at the historic 1977 UN-OAU Lagos conference, which was preceded by the first UN-OAU conference in Oslo in 1973, the United Nations suggested that the AAM should establish a World Campaign against Nuclear and Military Collaboration with South Africa, which resulted in an office being established in 1979 and in my move to Oslo.

This was the second World Campaign established by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The first was in 1963 in response to the Rivonia trial, to demand the release of all political prisoners in South Africa. At that time we feared that Nelson Mandela and his colleagues faced the death penalty. The Anti-Apartheid Movement faced perhaps the greatest challenge of its whole existence because it had to mobilise the world to stop that. I have vivid memories of Oliver Tambo and Robert Resha calling us at all hours, at 4o'clock in the morning, for a meeting at 5 o'clock, in order to mobilise action, or because Oliver Tambo had arrived in London and had only a few hours to give us our marching orders as to what we needed to do. That was a time when the World Campaign managed to send delegations to President de Gaulle, the Pope and other world leaders who were not reached by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Researchers will perhaps study to what extend those campaigns helped to save the lives of our leaders. Strange as it may seem, when they were sentenced to life imprisonment, we rejoiced because we felt that we had saved their lives.

You will notice that I speak of 'our leaders', when I was in fact the Honorary Secretary of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, living in Britain and elected to that post by British people. Here I should point out another unique feature of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, namely the tolerance and generosity of the British people in allowing South African exiles to play a leading role in various organisations to help free their country. Acting in partnership with the British people we were able to build this powerful movement. Of course, South Africans may have provided a special dimension to the work of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. But there were also those activists in Britain who resented the leadership role of South Africans in what they considered to be an essentially British movement.

There is one area that is likely to be very difficult to analyse and assess for researchers, and that is the relationship between the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the racial situation in Britain. Was it right to remain a single issue movement, or should we have campaigned against racial discrimination in Britain? We had tense and difficult discussions that could have ripped the Movement apart. However, we contained and managed that. Questions will arise about the paradox that with an ever-growing Anti-Apartheid Movement there was simultaneously in this country an increase in racial polarisation. There is also the more sensitive and difficult question about whether there was ever a degree of racism experienced within the broad anti-apartheid movement by persons with dark skins. It is perhaps still too early to make some of these assessments. However, I can say through personal experience that during the height of Powellism in Britain, many victims of racism in Britain coming from all corners of the Commonwealth, drew courage and inspiration from the major anti-apartheid protests, including the massive sports and other demonstrations, because they saw British people taking a stand against racism. It was very difficult to mobilise mass demonstrations like that on the question of racism itself. Historians will therefore have to assess the nature and extent of the Anti-Apartheid Movement's impact on the domestic racial situation in Britain.

Unlike many other organisations, the Movement never sought or received major financial contributions from governments for its normal work. I remember with Bob Hughes, Mike Terry and others the arguments we had when we were in financial crisis and how we considered whether we should appeal to one government or another to give us a major amount. But we never asked for that. This meant, as Vella Pillay used to say, that the Movement had always to be relevant in its work, because we went to ordinary people to ask them for their one, two or five pounds. If we had not been doing work that was relevant, they would not have given us that money. This saved the Movement from the inevitable pressures and influence that usually emanate from donors and probably enabled us to develop a special type of integrity.

No doubt researchers will discuss the influence and importance of the Anti-Apartheid Movement for the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. There will be some conventional narrow researchers who will be centred on the traditional Northern type of research who will not see the direct impact of the Movement and will not understand the complex relationship that developed between the two struggles in terms of international policy in relation to Southern Africa. They may perhaps judge that we were simply mobilising thousands of noisy people who made a noise now and then, but really made no impact.

I am certain that there will be research of that kind from those who are cloistered in academic centres. Others, including activists like us, may exaggerate the Movement's influence and importance. There will also be those who will romanticise the Movement so that none of its problems and difficulties are considered. I have even seen accounts of movements in other countries recently which, through careful selection of material, exclude vital information so as to make the final product one of self adulation. I hope that the British Anti-Apartheid Movement will not do this.

And here I have to say something that is extremely painful. This relates to the recent biographical work on Trevor Huddleston, where the author seems to have been in such a great hurry that it is full of errors and untruths, so as actually to destroy much of the work of the Movement and of Trevor Huddleston. So what I would plead for is that whoever does research is not hurried to go for a particular publication date, but that extreme care should be taken to do correct research. It is important that truth does not become an early and easy casualty in the process of building the records of the Anti-Apartheid Movement's history. In a sense we are too close to our history to make mature analyses and judgements.

On the other hand, we need to preserve the archival material whilst we can still collect the documentation and record the oral history from the actors who are still alive. There are many events, some of profound significance, that are not recorded in any word on paper or tape. These events do not appear in written or other reports. They are in the memories of people and these need to be recorded.

It is of course important for Britain that the history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement should be archived, but it is probably even more important for the people of Southern Africa and the developing world to have access to those archives and to understand their history. For us in South Africa, people sometimes forget that this history is part of our national heritage. For a people who for generations have been denied their own history, as well as the history of solidarity with their struggle, the history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement takes on a profound importance. This is why one needs to exercise additional care in compiling it.

Virtually all our visitors to South Africa today from all parts of the globe say that they all equally and strongly supported the anti-apartheid struggle. Sometimes I wonder why it took us so long to become free when the whole world seemed to have been with us all the time. Imagine then the confusion of the millions of our people who have never been out of the country, and who have had to live through the censorship and banning of publications. It is therefore important that the history is recorded truthfully and archival material is available not only to the people of Southern Africa, but to the people of Africa.

There is no doubt that the world-wide movement was effective because it was a coalition of committed governments and people's movements in the West which managed to influence policy at national level, as well as at institutions like the UN. We used to say that the degree of unarmed pressure mobilised against apartheid would determine the degree of armed pressure that would be necessary to end it. How then do we analyse that era? In the end it was a success primarily of the liberation struggle reinforced by the world-wide anti-apartheid movement that led to the dismantling of the apartheid system without a major racial conflagration. Was this a major achievement? Who takes the credit? How do we balance that credit? How can we assess the role of the Anti-Apartheid Movement? How are we to assess the role of its Presidents Barbara Castle, David Steel, Bishop Reeves, Trevor Huddleston? How are we to assess the roles of those in leadership like David Ennals, Vella Pillay, Bob Hughes and also the devoted work of people like Ros Ainslie, Dorothy Robinson, Ethel de Keyser, Mike Terry and so many others that I have not mentioned? Will the researchers recognise the central role of Ronald Segal and Ruth First in organising the 1964 sanctions conference in London and the subsequent international conference on Namibia in Oxford, chaired by Olaf Palme, which called for the termination of South Africa's mandate by the UN? Will people also see the tremendous impact on the liberation struggle of the murder of Ruth First who, though living in Africa, was in touch with us in Europe, and followed in a global context the kind of strategy that we needed to devise to counteract the menace of apartheid. There were these coalitions across continents and seas that interacted by telephone and at conferences where we spoke late at night in order to work out what we had to do.

Will those who record history recognise the central and quite unique role of Enuga Reddy who, with such genius, utilised the bureaucracy of the United Nations to ensure that it became a true servant of its Charter in upholding human rights and working to prevent a threat to world peace? If it had not been for his personal dedication, even if you had put 20 or 50 people at desks at the United Nations, it would not have triggered the resources and the direction of the UN machinery.

Above all, will the researchers understand the Movement's unique working relationship with the ANC, and especially the leadership and the inspirational role of Oliver Tambo who came to Europe in 1960 and who helped to nurture and defend the Anti-Apartheid Movement? How will historians capture the development of the Movement from 40 years ago, when small pickets outside South Africa House stood in tens and twenties, developing into major demonstrations, culminating in the Mandela marches involving hundreds of thousands of people, and the two Wembley concerts? How will they capture the dynamism of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as it grew to be the largest protest movement in Britain?

High Commissioner, we are now in your South Africa House. Forty years ago Vella and others inflicted an evil punishment on me. On the eve of the launch of the boycott they decided with great firmness and overwhelming intellectual argument that we had to have a 24-hour vigil outside South Africa House. I was not a very important person then, simply Membership Secretary, and I said 'Maybe not 24 hours'. But others insisted. South Africa House happens to be within one mile of Parliament. You were not allowed to demonstrate within one mile of Parliament, so we had to keep walking. And since, at that time, the British police allowed the Empire Loyalists to have pride of place, we had to walk in the gutter. So 20 or 30 of us assembled to march in the gutter around South Africa House. It went very well, the press came, one or two photographs were taken. We marched around until 11 o'clock and eventually, without looking at my watch, I found I was the only one left. What should I do? The hours passed. There were many people walking around London throughout the night, which surprised me. At around 7.30 in the morning Joan Hymans arrived with a flask of coffee. She was going to work at the BBC. I said 'Please call some people, I just cannot walk any more.' By 8.30 two or three people arrived.

I went down to Clapham, changed and came back in two hours. At that point a very large gentleman - white and angry - came out of South Africa House. He came towards me and said 'Why don't you go back to India where you all die like fleas?' We walked around until I picked a strategic point, just outside the entrance. Then I told this gentleman in Afrikaans 'I come from South Africa'. He tried to seize me across the barrier. A bus came by so he had to move back and the police realised what was happening. Two ladies from across the street ran over and said 'We are very sorry. There are very few of us like that in Britain.' We had many incidents like that.

Later, during the Rivonia trial, we managed to find two sympathetic diplomatic missions on the other side of Trafalgar Square. Technology had progressed to the point where you could project pictures with light. So, after dark, we projected a photograph of Nelson Mandela onto the wall of South Africa House. This, High Commissioner, resulted in the lovely lights you have that still beam on the walls of South Africa House. Maybe, with the budget cuts we now have in Pretoria, we will send you instructions to switch those lights off. There was also a man at my college, a mountaineer, who came to Trafalgar Square and decided to throw his mountaineering gear right up to Nelson's Column and climb to the top and unfurl a message from one Nelson to another. There are many such stories which will not be recorded in the written material.

I want to conclude by saying that all the terrorists are now within South Africa and inside South Africa House. We have Nelson Mandela, terrorist number one, now acclaimed as one of the world's greatest diplomats and statesmen. People like Cheryl, once hated in South Africa and elsewhere for her role in the ANC, whom we now have to call High Commissioner.

In 1961 Chief Lutuli won the Nobel Prize for Peace. In writing a history of this struggle we need to ask other questions. If the world had acted on his appeal for a boycott of South Africa, even by 20 per cent, in 1961, what kind of South Africa, and indeed Africa, would we be seeing now? There followed decades of waste, the sheer waste of people like Nelson Mandela and others in prison, when they could have been doing so much. And so another difficult question that we will have to ask is: how was it possible that some of the greatest Western democracies found it easy to collaborate with one of the greatest racial tyrannies since Nazi Germany? The responsibility of the researchers and others is very great; if they undertake it as a solemn responsibility they will be able to do justice to those who gave up their lives in the struggle against apartheid and fulfil their responsibility to the next generation who have so much to learn from it. Vella Pillay

As indicated by Bob Hughes yesterday evening this Symposium and Exhibition seek to provide a broad 40-year perspective on the work of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Such a perspective is obviously necessary. It serves to give recognition to the uniqueness of the Movement in view of its sustained campaigns of international solidarity and support for the cause of anti-colonialism and the liberation of the Southern African peoples from racial and national oppression.

Its impact on international relations and the policies of the great powers was reflected in the emergence of anti-apartheid campaigning organisations in Europe, North America and almost all the countries of the Commonwealth, and secondly, and more critically, in the fashioning of a comprehensive structure of sanctions and the boycott of apartheid South Africa. Already, early in the 1960s, the Movement participated in parallel campaigns of support for the anti-colonial movements of what today are the independent nations of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Angola. This was manifest in the work of the Movement to expose what we termed at the time as the 'unholy alliance' of Portugal, South Africa and the Rhodesian Federation.

By the time the 1963 session of the UN General Assembly convened, some 46 countries had formally severed all trade, political and other relations with South Africa and had closed their airports, airspace and sea ports to South African aircraft and vessels. Another 21 countries had publicly declared that they either had not maintained or had ended their trade and other relations with South Africa. So over half the countries of the world had moved in the direction of sanctions of various forms against the apartheid regime. The central dynamic behind this achievement was the various formations of the anti-apartheid movement at the international level and the gathering crisis within South Africa as a result of the popular struggle. The international sanctions conference convened by Ronald Segal in 1964 was a milestone in the evolution of the sanctions-based strategy which was to play such a decisive role in the formation of international policy towards South Africa.

The campaign for the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth was central to our attempt to bring about a decisive shift in British policy. That task proved much the most difficult and complex of our aims, despite our successes in areas such as the sports boycott, the ending of cultural and educational exchanges and other similar links with South Africa. Successive British governments, and this includes the Labour governments, proved to be by far the most determined defenders of the apartheid regime, thwarting every initiative from us and the Commonwealth countries and the United Nations. As Patrick Dean, the British representative at the UN, put it at the time: 'We have long historical connections, ties of kith and kin and a deep concern for the alignment of South Africa'. This racist position reached its highest manifestation in the years of the Thatcher government.

The late 1970s were marked by an accelerating crisis in South Africa leading to the recommendations of the Wiehahn and Riekert Commissions which aimed at creating a stable black labour force in the urban areas and the consignment of the rest of the black population to the derelict homelands. This opened a period of labour strikes, States of Emergency and the beginnings of the domestic struggle to render the country ungovernable.

Donald Anderson, Labour's front-bench spokesman, now pledged the Party to 'work to isolate South Africa internationally and promote effective action to hasten fundamental political change'. At the Labour Party Conference a motion calling for sanctions was carried unanimously. Significant as the shifts in Labour policy were, it was evident that these were the result of pressures mounted by the Anti-Apartheid Movement, with its extensive support base in the Labour and trade union movement, the churches and the student unions. The South African question had become a significant, if not a major, issue in Britain's domestic politics, as it had become in Commonwealth relations, at the UN and more generally in international relations. South Africa was now widely seen as a threat to international peace - a matter which the UN Special Committee on Apartheid had examined in a number of major reports and on which it had played a distinctive role in mobilising international opinion within the UNsystem. We are particularly happy that my friend Enuga Reddy, the Secretary of the UN Special Committee and former Assistant UNSecretary General, is with us today.

This is the context of the gyrations in the policies of Britain's Conservative governments in the 1980s. Mrs Thatcher remained as hard as ever she could be - no sanctions even at the cost of a break-up of the Commonwealth. In 1964 she invited the South African, Prime Minister, PW Botha, to Chequers. The meeting could not be held in London - all the roads to Downing Street were blocked by the biggest demonstration in London for many years. There followed Mrs Thatcher's efforts at consorting with Chief Buthelezi and Helen Suzman in a forlorn hope of defusing the pressures for sanctions. At the Nassau meeting of Commonwealth leaders in October 1985 a wider set of sanctions measures were formally agreed, including an end to loans to the South African government, the ending of government funding of trade missions to South Africa and a ban on the import of Krugerrands. However, the British government delayed the introduction of the measures and then implemented them only very partially. Wherever Britain's writ ran large, as in Bermuda, the British government proved efficient in stopping the adoption of anti-apartheid policies. In the meantime, the South African police and armed forces continued to receive British computer equipment and substantial military and in particular naval intelligence. The international ban on the sale of nuclear technology and materials was flouted, as was the ban on the supply of oil.

It is my judgement that what broke the back of the apartheid regime, within the context of the ungovernability campaigns of the youth in the townships, was the refusal of the international banks to renew South Africa's bank loans so that it could no longer raise funds abroad. This was an area in which I was, on behalf of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, closely involved. My frequent visits to the United States in 1985, my meetings with the international banks in New York and the IMF in Washington, and more importantly with black American pressure groups - all this, I believe, played a role in the refusal of the UN commercial banks to renew expiring loans to South Africa.

The State of Emergency which was declared in mid-1985 in South Africa was a further catalyst in this regard. Led by Chase Manhattan, the New York banking community refused to roll over the expiring loans to South Africa. With the de facto freeze of real investments from abroad, this development proved decisive in the sense that it led to a collapsing domestic economy, accompanied by sharp falls on the South African Stock Exchange and the heavy depreciation of the Rand. South Africa was forced to renege on repayments of its expiring loans and sought a three-year period of grace for repaying its outstanding international debts. The three-year moratorium was provided at a heavy cost, leading to a further deterioration in domestic economic stability. With the falling gold price, the financial crisis became overwhelming, leading the then President P W Botha to fly to Zurich to plead for fresh loans and later to visit London for a similar purpose. The failure of those visits proved to be a critical aspect of the process which led to the resignation of Botha and the opening of contacts with the ANC.

In my judgement that was a central factor in what I believe to have been a critical force in support of the South African people in their struggle for liberation.

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