Stuart Mole was for sixteen years a senior officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat as the organisation’s campaign reached its climax. He was the Special Assistant to Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal (the second Commonwealth Secretary-General) and Director and Head of the Office of Chief Emeka Anyaoku (the third Secretary-General). He visited South Africa and the neighbouring states many times as part of the Commonwealth’s campaign. He has just completed seven years of doctoral research into the subject area, culminating in the award, in December 2020, of a History PhD from the University of Exeter. His research, which in some respects has changed his own perceptions, has involved consulting hitherto unseen or neglected archives in the UK and South Africa.
His new book, The Commonwealth, South Africa & Apartheid: Race, Conflict and Reconciliation, book explores the role of the modern Commonwealth in the international campaign against apartheid in South Africa. Spanning the period of South Africa’s apartheid state, from its foundation in 1948 until its ending in April 1994, the author demonstrates that, after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and South Africa’s subsequent exclusion from the Commonwealth, the organisation was able to become both “pathfinder and interlocutor” on the road to South Africa’s freedom. As well as South Africa’s ejection from the Commonwealth, apartheid’s increasing isolation was sustained by the Commonwealth’s pioneering work in boycotting apartheid sport, as well as campaigning to stop arms sales.
It also played an important role in internationalising economic and financial sanctions, credited by some as the final nail in apartheid’s coffin, and was able to make an important and distinctive contribution to the transition to democracy. At the same time, critical debates within the Commonwealth about racial and political equality transformed the association from a docile, post-imperial organisation, led by the UK and in its own interests, to a modern, multiracial ‘North-South’ forum for reconciling global difference and overcoming the legacies of colonialism.
This comprehensive and authoritative account of the Commonwealth’s engagement with apartheid South Africa is intended for all those who study and research the modern Commonwealth, its structure and influence, and for those with a general interest in contemporary post-war history.
Arif meets Stuart Mole, former senior officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat and author of ‘The Commonwealth, South Africa & Apartheid: Race, Conflict and Reconciliation’.