Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

UK anti-apartheid campaigner dies

By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Mike Terry (Photo by Cameron Brisbane, 1984)
Mike Terry dedicated most of his adult life to ridding southern Africa of racism

The man who led the anti-apartheid movement in the UK for nearly 20 years, Mike Terry, has died of a heart attack at the age of 61.

He played a key role in transforming public opinion, turning the South African apartheid government into an international pariah.

A tireless campaigner, he organised two huge concerts in support of the campaign to free Nelson Mandela.

After the fall of apartheid in 1994, he returned to teaching.

'Kith and kin'

Mr Terry was a quiet, but towering presence in the international campaign to end apartheid. A British student leader, he went to work in Zimbabwe when it was still under white rule.

The experience transformed him and he went on to dedicate most of his adult life to ridding southern Africa of racism.

Nelson Mandela looking out of his old cell at Robben Island
Mr Mandela spent 27 years behind bars

In 1975 Mr Terry became the executive secretary of the anti-apartheid movement, a position he held for nearly 20 years.

In that time he worked all hours to mobilise public opinion and with every sector of British society: from local church groups to members of parliament.

Many people in the UK had strong ties with family members in South Africa and in the early years, they saw a need to support their white "kith and kin".

But by using all the levers of persuasion - from letters to newspapers to mass demonstrations - the anti-apartheid movement transformed British policy towards the South African government.

Mr Terry was a key member of the team that brought about that change.

His work culminated in the huge concerts for Mr Mandela at Wembley Stadium, which were televised around the world, and played a considerable part in securing Mr Mandela's release after 27 years in prison.

"Terry devoted every ounce of his energy and every moment of his life to the cause of African liberation," said ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte in a statement.

"The ANC will forever treasure the contribution he made in the struggle for liberation and the building of our democracy... condolences to his family, friends and relatives."

After Mr Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994, Mr Terry returned to the career he had always wished to follow, teaching science to pupils in a London school.

Country profile: South Africa
18 Oct 08 |  Country profiles
Mandela's life and times
16 Jul 08 |  Africa


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