Nelson Mandela and the apartheid movement and the part he played in Brent
PUBLISHED: 14:59 15 January 2019
A statue of Nelson Mandela may stand in Westminster – but it was in Wembley that the man who has become synonymous with peace addressed the world.
Mandela’s life, the anti-apartheid movement, and his place in the historical archives of Brent are among the subjects of a talk hosted by the Wembley History Society taking place tomorrow (Fri) at 7.30pm at the English Martyrs’ Hall in Chalkhill Road.
Suresh Kamath will share all he knows regarding “Brent, London and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle” as he was in the centre of it in the 1970s and ’80s.
The evening will include references to Mandela and the concerts at Wembley Stadium in 1988 and 1990 that played a role in bringing about his release after 27 years in prison, the eventual end of apartheid, and the achievement of full democracy in South Africa.
The 66-year-old former Brent Council officer has lived in Wembley for 30 years.
Still a committed activist for the organisation Action for South Africa, a successor for the Anti-Apartheid movement, he said: “I was very much involved with the anti-apartheid movement and by the mid-80s I was one of the vice chairs of the movement. I was chair of the committee that put on those two concerts.
“The centre of the British anti apartheid movement is London but particularly Brent has a number of connections because of Wembley Stadium.
“The concert in 1988 was a demand for Mandela to be released before his 70th birthday and was broadcast around the world. The BBC took the broadcast despite the opposition of the Thatcher government who wanted it stopped.”
In April 1990, just a couple of months after his release in February, he came to Wembley again for another concert, with artists including Simple Minds and Sting returning to perform.
As Mandela shook hands with Brent’s dignitaries, the council was planning to mark the occasion by making him a Freeman of the Borough. Party leaders agreed it should hold a free vote but the Tories opposed it, and the resolution did not gain the necessary two-thirds majority. It was not until June 2013, a few months before his death at 95, that the council resolved to award him the honour.
Philip Grant of the Wembley History Society said: “Even though his time in our area was only a brief one, Brent’s links with his name and the anti-apartheid struggle, and the lessons to our community from all that he stood for, are strong.”