Peter Brayshaw (right) with Suresh Kamath at Gerard Omasta-Milsom at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of freedom in South Africa, at BAFTA in London in 2014.
I first met Peter Brayshaw in 1968 at the London School of Economics. It was at the Freshers’ Fair. Peter was staffing the stall of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and I was making an application for membership of the student group. In those days, Peter’s commitment to internationalism concentrated on two causes – the liberation of Southern Africa and the liberation of Ireland. He was often seen at demonstrations carrying the Starry Plough banner of James Connolly and the Irish Volunteers, and he had no embarrassment about telling policemen of the significance of this banner, which probably got him a Special Branch file.
After college, Peter ended up in Angola in the mid-1970s, where he worked with Michael Wolfers and Jane Wilford (then Bergerol), and where he met his lifelong partner, Tracy Warnes. On returning to the UK, he became involved in the Angola Solidarity Committee and then the Mozambique Angola Committee. I was involved with both these organisations. Peter played a crucial role in helping people in the Anti-Apartheid Movement to understand the important role of Angola in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. When the apartheid army invaded Angola in 1975, and in the subsequent years of devastation that they caused through their surrogate, UNITA, Peter and Tracy were tireless in their campaigning on this issue. The Mozambique Angola Committee and the London Anti-Apartheid Committee, of which I was the chair, worked closely with each other to ensure that the issues raised by the apartheid army’s invasion of Angola were not allowed to drop off the political agenda in the UK.
Peter had also become actively involved in the Labour Party, becoming a councillor in Camden, where he worked with Tony Dykes and Nirmal Roy, ensuring a home for the Anti-Apartheid Movement in what became Mandela Street in Camden, and in giving support to both the African National Congress and to SWAPO of Namibia. Peter became involved in Local Authorities Against Apartheid, working with Councillor Mike Pye (Sheffield), Provost Michael Kelly (Glasgow) and many others to secure an alliance of local authorities in the UK prepared to take action against apartheid, which played an important role in international solidarity.
When the end of apartheid came, it was because people like Peter, thousands upon thousands of them, had committed themselves to the struggle for international solidarity. Peter was one of those who played a crucial role in organising such international support.
Peter then became involved in Action for Southern Africa, serving as a member of the executive and then as vice-chair. In 2004, he helped the South African High Commission to organise the tenth anniversary of freedom celebrations in London, which included a huge conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, attended by thousands of delegates from across the EU, and where the evening concert included performances by Jonas Gwangwa, Julian Bahula and Hugh Masekela.
In his role as Vice-Chair of ACTSA, Peter provided an experienced, calm and sensible voice in all our deliberations, ensuring that we kept “our eyes on the prize”. Peter has made a huge contribution over the 45 years that I have known him to the liberation of Southern Africa.
Go well, Peter, a hero of our heroes. Hamba Kahle, Peter. Iqawe e iqawe, hamba kahle.