"Hang Mandela" poster produced by the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980sAs soon as the sad passing of South African civil rights icon Nelson Mandela was announced, and prime Minister David Cameron described him as “a hero of our time”, images have surfaced on social media of the “hang Mandela” posters created by the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) in the 1980s.

The Tory Thatcher government of the 1980s did describe Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) he represented as terrorists. Moreover, along with the Reagan administration in the US, they supported a policy of “constructive engagement” with the apartheid government in Pretoria rather than sanctions in order to push for reforms as they saw South Africa as an ally against the threat of communism in Africa.

A 23-year-old David Cameron also enjoyed a trip to apartheid South Africa in 1989, whilst Mandela was still in prison, as a “fact-finding mission” funded by Strategy Network International (SNI). SNI was formed in 1985 specifically as a lobby group against the imposition of sanctions on apartheid South Africa and was reported to have good relations with then South African president PW Botha.

However, with regard to the “Hang Mandela” posters created by the FCS, Cameron appears to have had little or no role. Some of his Conservative peers at Oxford were widely reported to have had the image printed on badges and t-shirts, but from all accounts Cameron appears to have had little interest in politics whilst he was a student unlike Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. He was reportedly more interested in having a good time and the Bullingdon Club.

Since entering politics Cameron has made it clear that he disagrees with the stance of the Thatcher government on apartheid and even described Mandela as a personal hero for what he achieved in reconciling South Africans. Whilst this stance may have the benefit of hindsight, when he visited Mandela in 2006, he does appear to have wanted to meet a genuine leader and icon of our time.

We should condemn the Tory party of the 1980s for not pushing against apartheid and those young Conservative students that tried to provoke outrage with the posters, t-shirts and badges, but on this occasion it does not appear that the Prime Minister was in the same camp.

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21 Comments

  1. So we can say of him that he was happy to associate with racists and supporters of apartheid?

    My experience of the right-wing is that they tolerate racism very easily, and honestly, I see no distinction between refusing to challenge it and supporting it.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s hard to imagine that Mandela would have prevailed if he’d been as comfortable tolerating racism as Cameron.

    • ‘I see no distinction between refusing to challenge it and supporting it’ smacks a bit too much of either with us or against us. I’m no fan of Cameron’s but it is a leap to suggest that not being against something makes you a supporter of it.

      • Maybe. But I’m not sure that the idea that Cameron is absolved because he only hung around with racists and apartheid supporters for the booze and the mindless rich-boy thuggery is particularly better.

        Plus, you know, anti-racism kind of is, necessarily, a with us or against us thing. I am told that many people who run with the EDL or the BNP are just disillusioned, and that they aren’t racist. But in my experience, people who aren’t racist aren’t happy to be thought of as such. I’m pretty disillusioned, but so far I have never wanted to express that disillusionment by hanging out with a lot of people who believe in eugenics, apartheid, violence and exile for non-whites and so on.

        Now, it’s possible that I’m just an absolute saint, a paragon of humanity, and that for normal mortal men, racism is just as easy to put up with as to be disgusted by. But I don’t really believe that that is the case.

        So I don’t know. In theory, entirely rationally and philosophically and morally I agree with you that someone could have lots and lots of racist friends while still being as appalled by racism as the average human knows they should be. In practice, I haven’t seen it, ever.

        • Those are all fair points I just think that to attempt to vilify him for this, when it is not entirely clear as to his involvement specifically beyond being a supporter of a party that supported apartheid detracts from all the other things that we know he is definitely responsible for. As for putting up with racism I have several older family members who in the comfort of their homes are unfortunately full on their repugnant views. Whatever else they are they are my family so what can I do? But as I say I do take your point.

          • @AgeUke
            “When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie” Yevgeny Yevtushenko

      • If I was part of a club that produced ‘Hang ‘ posters, I’d leave that club. Just my 2¢.

  2. “Since entering politics Cameron has made it clear that he disagrees with the anti-apartheid stance of the Thatcher government” You mean he disagreed with the apartheid stance of the Thatcher government.

  3. Peoplesassembly Ofdemocracyvil on

    Surely when it came to light that this poster was being created, anyone with an ounce of decency would have, at the very least, distanced themselves from any such message. Ideally, one would have thought that they would have left the FCS immediately.

  4. Cameron is such a slippery so and so, who is constantly reinventing himself, so one can’t really trust what he says, or what his supporters and spin whizz guys say about him. His trip to Apartheid South Africa was very dubious, and to claim that he had no interest in politics as a student is simply rubbish! Or did he suddenly become politicised on graduating and put those childish Bullingdon days behind him? The man is a dyed-in-the wool Thatcherite. Some mothers do ‘av ’em!

  5. So when you write: “However, with regard to the “Hang Mandela” posters created by the FCS, Cameron appears to have had little or no role”. Do you in fact mean “no role”? “Little or no role” is a pretty weaselly formulation which pretends to greater knowledge than the writer possesses, and leaves the door open to misunderstanding.

    • We are trying to say, that whilst Cameron would have known some of the makers of the posters as peers, we can find no evidence whatsoever of his involvement. It is just impossible to prove a negative.

  6. Does no-one remember the ties that looked like a noose with a picture of Mandela on worn FCS members in 83. Scum. X

  7. The Left cling to their victory in getting Nelson Mandela right and the Right getting him wrong. It’s not surprising considering on almost all other issues the Left lost in the 1980s. However, the fact is, being against sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s did not make you a racist. And to say so is ludicrous. The ANC were sympathetic to communism and Nelson Mandela was no Gandhi, he had supported violent resistance within South Africa.

    Yes, the Left got it right on this issue. Mandela turned out not to be a Mugabe, like many on the right feared he would. But he could have been a Mugabe and what would the left looked like then, supporting someone who later become just another Africa tyrant. The Left got this call right, but that doesn’t mean those who were skeptical of the ANC and Mandela were Apartheid supporting racists. Thatcher never supported Apartheid and she spoke out against it. To say she supported Apartheid is just part of the looney left wing conspiracy that Thatcher was evil who supported the privileged and the powerful at all turns. If you believe that then it is no wonder you think Thatcher supported Apartheid.

  8. Ian Greenhalgh on

    “You don’t need to tread in dog **** to know it stinks.”

    Heaton was right and apparently the sanctions still stand.
    We send the Pig Spunk King, Bliar the war mongerer and some bloke who shagged Edwina Curry to this mans funeral. Can it get any worse ?

  9. So you are seriously trying to tell us that someone who became a member of the Federation of Conservative Students had no interest in politics?

  10. Terence Hale on

    Hi,
    “Hang Mandela” poster produced by the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s. Was Cameron involved in the “Hang Mandela” posters in the 1980s? Only he and a few others know. The problem is the few others.

  11. John Evans on

    A 23-year-old David Cameron also enjoyed a trip to apartheid South Africa in 1989, whilst Mandela was still in prison, as a “fact-finding mission” funded by Strategy Network International (SNI). SNI was formed in 1985 specifically as a lobby group against the imposition of sanctions on apartheid South Africa and was reported to have good relations with then South African president PW Botha.

    Gosh!

    Was that the same PW Botha of whom Mandela said; “While to many Mr Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country.”

  12. Cameron Vale on

    mandela was a proven terrorist, responsible for the most horrendous of crimes. the posters showed what the vast majority of south Africans wanted. He ruined SA’s minority rule and ultimately the place is more violent now than in all it’s history.