Rear Window: Boycotting Apartheid: The moral gestures that finally bore fruit

Share
Related Topics
WHEN Equity, the actors' union, lifted its ban on the sale of British television programmes to South Africa last week, an era ended.

For more than 30 years, while governments resisted the pressure for official sanctions, private citizens, trade unions, churches and other bodies have been taking the matter into their own hands by boycotting the apartheid state, its supporters and its produce. Over the past three years of dramatic change there, these campaigns have been abandoned one by one. Equity's was probably the last.

Many people in Britain, particularly but not exclusively on the left, can now literally taste the fruits of South Africa's changes by allowing themselves to buy Outspan oranges and Cape grapes. Some who would not have done so before are taking holidays in South Africa. And, of course, the Springboks have toured.

The spark for the consumer sanctions campaign was struck by the African National Congress in 1959. Albert Luthuli, the ANC president, saw economic ostracism of South Africa as 'our only chance of a relatively peaceful transition to a system of government which gives us all our rightful voice'.

In Britain, so the story goes, a priest called Trevor Huddleston refused to buy some South African pilchards and before long a campaign was born. At first it was called the Boycott Movement but after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 it became the Anti-Apartheid Movement; Huddleston eventually became its president.

Vivid, often shocking, posters carried the message. In time, the campaign widened from fruit. There were protests against rugby and cricket tours; Equity wrote a clause into its agreements with the television companies forbidding the sale of programmes to South Africa; we were urged to boycott Barclays and Shell because of their interests in South Africa.

Did it have any effect? Research by James Richardson for the Anti- Apartheid Movement shows that in 1985-89, when the campaigns reached their height, South Africa's share of the British imported fruit market fell from 11 to 8 per cent, and he could find no other cause than the boycott. Since 1989 the market share has risen again to 10 per cent. Outspan says that it was always able to find outlets for its citrus fruit, but a spokesman noted with satisfaction that consumer attitudes had changed recently and said the company was looking forward to a big expansion of sales.

The British supermarkets have also noticed the change. A Tesco spokesman said South African produce had achieved 'an increased acceptability'. CRS, which groups many Co-operative stores, has lifted a ban on South African produce.

Unofficial sanctions did not bring apartheid to its knees, but then nobody imagined they would. They were a form of protest. As Mike Terry, Anti-Apartheid's executive secretary, says: 'It was a moral gesture, a way in which people could say, 'Look, I'm against apartheid'.'

(Photographs omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker