Leading anti-apartheid activists to accuse British police and security services of defending apartheid state
Veteran anti-apartheid activists will protest during the Inquiry into undercover officers that they were spied upon, misrepresented, lied about and mistreated by Police Undercover Officers during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, year after year until Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.
Lord Peter Hain, former Chair of the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign; Christabel Gurney OBE, former Executive Committee member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement; Professor Jonathan Rosenhead and Ernest Rodker, former leading Stop the Seventy Tour campaign activists, will each insist that the police were infiltrating the wrong people: the anti-apartheid campaigners rather than the apartheid agents’ illegal activity in Britain.
Among the questions the veteran campaigners will pose will be:
- ‘Why were the police not targeting the criminal actions of the apartheid state in Britain rather than anti-apartheid activists?’
- ‘Why were police not hunting down the apartheid agents responsible for an arson attack in July 1985 at the Mandela Street headquarters of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, a conventional and principled pressure group whose President was Archbishop Huddleston?’
- ‘Why did they take no effective and serious action after the bombing of the Penton Street London office of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in March 1982?
- ‘Or the 1970 murder in London of South African journalist Keith Wallace who had threatened to expose apartheid security service operations in the UK?’
- ‘Why did they show no interest whatsoever in discovering who in South Africa’s Bureau of State Security sent Peter Hain a letter bomb in June 1972 of the same kind that assassinated other anti-apartheid activists across the world? The bomb was so powerful it could have blown up him, his family and their South West London home were it not for a technical fault in the trigger mechanism. Scotland Yard’s bomb squad took it away and made it safe but did not investigate how it happened nor pursue those responsible.’
A memorandum was presented to the British government by representatives of the AAM at a meeting with the Home Secretary on 13 October 1982. It asked the Government to investigate the activities of staff at the South African Embassy in London. It alleged that South Africa used London as a centre for planning subversive activities against independent African states. The UK government at the time took no effective action despite being aware of the attacks on the movement.
‘Why were and are the police targeting anti-racist activists rather than the Nazi groups responsible for attacks on Black, Jewish and Muslim citizens of the United Kingdom?’ Lord Hain, a founder leader of the Anti-Nazi League will also ask.
Each of these witnesses before the inquiry link their evidence to contemporary hostile police treatment of Sarah Everard solidarity campaigners; Black Lives Matters protesters and Extinction Rebellion activists.
The group’s lawyer, Mike Schwarz, a partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “This should also be seen in the context of the current Government’s legislative programme – the authority the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 gives State agents to break the law; reforms of the right to protest within the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill; and the review of freedom of expression and assembly being conducted by Sir Peter Gross within his examination of the Human Rights Act. These further increase the State’s power to spy on activists and seek to reduce the right to campaign on any issue, including the authorities’ abuses of power here or elsewhere.”
The Undercover Policing Inquiry is investigating undercover police activities since 1968. It is chaired by Sir John Mitting. https://www.ucpi.org.uk/
Hodge Jones & Allen represents more than 100 of the 245 core participants in the Inquiry. Mike Schwarz, Cormac McDonough, Jocelyn Cockburn, and Guy Mitchell, are acting on behalf of campaigners connected with the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), anarchist groups, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and the father of Stephen Lawrence, Neville Lawrence.
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Media access to the Inquiry:
There are two ways to access the Inquiry remotely:
- Through a rolling transcript with a 10-minute delay on YouTube
- Through an audio stream with a 10-minute delay on Zoom
Further details, including links to the YouTube streams and information on registering for the Zoom webinar, can be found on the respective hearing pages.
- Tranche 1 phase 2 of the Inquiry started with the ‘opening statement’ of counsel to the Inquiry on Wednesday 21 April.
- An opening statement was delivered by barrister Matthew Ryder QC on Thursday 22 April.
- Ernest Rodker’s statement to the Inquiry will be read out by his son, Oli Rodker, on Wednesday 28 April at 2pm-5pm.
- Professor Jonathan Rosenhead will give evidence to the Inquiry on Thursday 29 April at 10.30am-1pm.
- Christabel Gurney OBE will give evidence to the Inquiry on Thursday 29 April at 2pm-5pm.
- Lord Peter Hain will give evidence to the Inquiry on Friday 30 April from 10am-5pm.
More information on the AAM memo to the government in 1982 can be found here:
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