Funding the Fight Against Apartheid

We’ve written previously about the important role that the international community played in the fight against apartheid, ultimately bringing about the economic boycott that brought the apartheid government to its knees. But in addition to raising awareness, some organisations went a step further by raising funds to fight the South African apartheid government. With countless laws legislating what non-whites could and couldn’t do, it was very easy to arrest people, in particular the leaders of the opposition, who nearly always ran foul of the laws that attempted to control non-white society. Once arrested, people needed representation and, while there were a number of lawyers on the side of the anti-apartheid movement, there were still costs involved in going to court, especially when you had 156 defendants, as in the case of the famous Treason Trial.

The International Defence & Aid Fund for Southern Africa was formed in 1956 when Lewis John Collins, an Anglican priest residing in the UK, became aware of the court case involving 156 Congress leaders, including the majority of the ANC executive committee. Lewis recognised the need for the defendants to have proper representation, which would require serious money. Initially called the British Defence and Aid Fund, it was linked to the organisation, Christian Action. Collins understood the need for an independent organisation with international clout and so, in June 1964 the International Defence & Aid Fund for Southern Africa (IDAF) was officially founded. Over the course of  the next three decades IDAF would smuggle close to £100 million into South Africa. The funds were used for the defense of thousands of political activists, as well as to provide aid for their families while they were in prison.

The following collection of posters was published by IDAF in 1988, to honour Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. At the time Mandela had already spent 25 years in prison. In addition, to highlighting the plight of Mandela, and the majority of South African society who were still subjected to the inhumanity of apartheid, the posters served to raise funds for the organisation.

Note: There appears to be no other record of these posters online. The images are photographs of the original publication which we’ve recently acquired. Please click on each image to see a larger version of the photograph

Cover photograph of demonstrators protesting the banning of Helen Joseph in Johannesburg in 1961, taken by an unknown photographer for the International Defence and Aid Fund. Image courtesy of

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