1995: Nelson Mandela
Letter published in Oxford Today, Trinity 1995.
I was interested to see the Michaelmas issue of Oxford Today (which has only just reached me) with its front-page picture of Nelson Mandela. It is worth recalling Oxford attitudes thirty years ago.
On 12 June 1964, the day on which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, the then South African Ambassador was invited to speak at the Oxford Union. A number of students, including myself, felt that the appropriate response was to mount a fairly vigorous demonstration against the representative of apartheid. As the Ambassador was leaving, I and others made physical contact with his car.
The response of the University proctors was to place concern for petty regulations before justice in South Africa. A number of students (including Tariq Ali) were victimized by suspension. One of the proctors was a Mr Bond, who was promptly labelled ‘licensed to kill’.)
These events led to the launching of a campaign for student rights, which was the first stage of a movement that was to reach culmination in 1967 and 1968. The facts are part of the history of the University, though not of the sanitized version which Oxford Today likes to propagate.