Leading Article: The battle is won, but the struggle continues

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The Independent Online
PRESSURE groups often toil for years in obscurity without success. Yet the Anti-Apartheid Movement can claim the rare distinction of achieving victory 35 years after setting out to rid South Africa of institutionalised racism.

The movement influenced the course of history by pushing reluctant governments into sanctions, and persuading shoppers to discriminate when buying groceries. Thus was South Africa turned into an international pariah.

Now those who for years kept a round-the-clock vigil outside South Africa House in London can walk proudly through its portals. Universal suffrage has destroyed the legal basis of apartheid.

Many might be tempted to congratulate themselves, wind up the organisation and seek other battles. The same thought must have occurred to members of a kindred body, the Anti-Slavery Society, founded in Britain in 1839.

When the United Nations called 109 years later for slavery to be abolished worldwide, triumph made the society's cause seem redundant. Yet there was still work to be done. Today, the world's oldest human rights organisation busily pursues its principles by campaigns against the debt-bondage system in the Third World and the exploitation of child labour.

Likewise, although apartheid has been legislated away, there is plenty to be achieved by those abroad who keep a place in their hearts for the people of southern Africa. As Julius Nyerere once said: 'The evil that men do lives after them - the effects of apartheid are not wiped out by its death.' Widespread poverty and unofficial discrimination are enduring legacies of white minority rule.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement plans to change its name to reflect its new emphasis on promoting solidarity between South Africans and overseas sympathisers. But its main aim should remain that of encouraging a fair society. The new movement must be independent-minded and be prepared to use its considerable authority to criticise President Nelson Mandela, if necessary, as well as support him. That is the difference between a principled political organisation and a fan club.