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Global Anti-Apartheid Movement, Extract From Speech

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Extract from a speech by E. S. Reddy at Rutgers University on October 8, 2014 on the significance of the global anti-apartheid movement
    GLOBAL ANTI-APARTHEID MOVEMENT Extract from a speech at Rutgers University, October 8, 2014 by E .S. Reddy Former Director, United Nations Centre against Apartheid At the end of the Second World War, when the colonial revolution began in Asia and parts of Africa, mass passive resistance was launched by the Indian community in South Africa against a law which they denounced as the “Ghetto Act.” Some Africans, Coloured people and whites  joined in solidarity and went to prison. This led within a few years to the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws  –   a united mass movement for freedom. Acting on a complaint by the Government of India about the treatment of Indians in South Africa, the United Nations General Assembly rejected South Africa’s contention that racial discrimination was within its domestic jurisdiction, thereby internationalizing South Africa’s racial problem. Committees began to be formed in several countries to support the freedom movement and in the course of time they developed into a global movement. I would like to begin by referring to some features of this most significant international movement of the twentieth century. The Anti- Apartheid Movement was the “most global” movement of the twentieth century. (The movement against the war in Vietnam was equally important but was limited largely to Western countries). It spread to every corner of the world because not only anti-apartheid and solidarity movements, but trade unions, churches, organizations of students, youth and women and many others joined the struggle. The United Nations used its resources and offices to spread information all over the world and encouraged those organizations and their activities. The Anti-Apartheid Movement was one in which participants did not have a personal interest. They were marching, boycotting and going to jail because they were against a   gross injustice to people in another country. Several musicians and sportsmen rejected offers of millions of dollars to perform in South Africa, because of their opposition to apartheid. This movement was one in which activists acted as allies of many governments  –   especially African governments and India. The United Nations and the Organization of African Unity recognized that public opinion and public action were crucial to exert  pressure on the few Western Governments which continued to sustain the apartheid system. The ANC gave up strict non-violence in 1961 and decided to resort to armed struggle. It was an unusual armed struggle which resulted in only a few hundred deaths, compared to tens of thousands in the small countries of Central America and millions in Vietnam and Algeria. Pacifist leaders of the world showed understanding and were among the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. This movement lasted some five decades. I cannot think of any similar movement which lasted so long. It was perhaps the only movement in which sports boycott played a crucial role in mobilizing millions of people against racism. Musicians and artists made a significant contribution. It was one of the movements in which the activities of students (and members of faculties) were very significant. They were in the vanguard at various stages. I was impressed with their imagination and their use of latest technology. I need not tell you that students at Rutgers, Princeton and other institutions in New Jersey made an important contribution from the late 1970s.   This movement was, in a sense, an international passive resistance movement in support of a mass movement in South Africa. Two thousand people went to prison in  New Zealand and five hundred in Australia during boycotts of apartheid sports teams. Hundreds of people went to prison in Britain and many were injured. In the United States of America, perhaps five thousand  people courted imprisonment in the “Free South Africa movement” –   many of them students. It was a movement in which one individual in prison, who became a symbol of the struggle, Nelson Mandela, inspired millions of people around the world and received numerous awards and honors. I believe this movement not only helped the South Africans in their struggle, but had a wider influence. It helped in promoting a greater sensitivity to the problem of race and color  –   and race and gender  –   and a greater recognition of the responsibility of corporations for the repercussions of their activities. Freedom of South Africa marked the end of colonial and racist rule in the whole of Africa. It also marked the end of a shameful era in world history when the people of Africa were humiliated, exploited and tortured under slavery and colonialism.


Jul 23, 2017


Jul 23, 2017
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