Demonstrators run away from a police charge during racial riots, in Cape town, in October 1976. After violent clashes in Soweto on June 1976, new incidents bursted out in October 1976 between black demonstrators and police in Cape Town. In June 1976 UN Security Council condemned South African government because of its apartheid policy and the repression of the Black protests in Soweto that caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured people. Inset: Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises clenched fist, arriving to address mass rally, a few days after his release from jail, 25 February 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed 75 years ago
Demonstrators run away from a police charge during racial riots, in Cape town, in October 1976. After violent clashes in Soweto on June 1976, new incidents bursted out in October 1976 between black demonstrators and police in Cape Town. In June 1976 UN Security Council condemned South African government because of its apartheid policy and the repression of the Black protests in Soweto that caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured people. Inset: Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises clenched fist, arriving to address mass rally, a few days after his release from jail, 25 February 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed 75 years ago

Former anti-apartheid campaigner Ron Lightbourne has told how he invaded a tennis court at Wimbledon because a white South African player was competing.

The protest was staged in 1971 when Mr Lightbourne was a student at the College of St Mark and St John in London and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa still ruled the country with a rod of iron.

And he said that Nelson Mandela, who spent more than a quarter of a century in jail for his opposition to apartheid, was an inspiration, not just for people of colour, but for all peoples.

Mr Lightbourne said: “He was pivotal, although he was not the only person in jail. Not only was he important to us, he was important to the South African government who banned even his image. People couldn’t even see his face.

“He was a banned person — that meant you couldn’t report anything they said or show their image.”

He added: “He will be remembered as a man who changed the world from his prison cell. His stoicism and his courage inspired people and he will be remembered for his generosity of spirit and ability to forgive.

“There could have been a bloodbath if he had come out of prison with feelings of rancour and a desire for revenge — but he didn’t.

“He set a path of reconciliation and unity for his country.”

Mr Lightbourne added: “For a black man growing up in the 20th century, Mandela was an indescribably wonderful hero and role model.

“His triumph was the rescue of the dignity of black peoples and all good people, right-thinking people of good will. His actions really liberated people to begin to think about the possibility of reconciliation.

“He backed his words with his actions. Mandela is a virtually spotless hero, but I don’t want to say he is a hero for black people only, but especially black people who have suffered marginalization and racism.

“That would be against everything he stood for. To me, that’s the greatness of Mandela, that he could transcend the narrow prison, both physically and metaphysically, and emerge so superbly triumphant.”

Mr Lightbourne, a writer, poet and musician who has been described as Bermuda’s “renaissance man”, said he was inspired to join the battle against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa after anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain, who went on to become a Labour MP and government minister, visited his London college.

Mr Lightbourne said: “He told us about the horrors that were going on in South Africa — I decided right there and then I wanted to do something.”

Mr Lightbourne was involved in a series of protests aimed at galvanizing public opinion against the Afrikaner-dominated apartheid system.

He was part of a “raiding party” that targeted the English public school Harrow in 1971 after it emerged a rugby team from the school was to visit South Africa.

And he took part in supermarket actions, where campaigners filled trolleys with South African-produced goods, passed through the checkout and then said they did not want them.

After he returned to Bermuda in 1972, he was contacted by Glenn Fubler, the founder of the Bermuda anti-apartheid campaign, and continued to highlight the injustice and terror tactics of South Africa.

Mr Lightbourne added: “We started with just four people, but we never gave up and kept pursuing it.”

Among the Bermuda campaigns was an appeal for drivers and riders to show their support for the anti-apartheid campaign and sanctions against South Africa by driving into Hamilton with their lights on, backed by broadcast adverts.

Mr Lightbourne said: “Another thing about Mandela is he inspired protest among intellectuals and artists like no other person I can remember.”

He said a book written in support of Mandela was “a literary who’s who.”

He added: “It was a collection of the brightest and best minds of the world, Europe, Asia and Africa, to commit their pens to speak in defence of Mandela.

“I also remember it as a time of great solidarity among progressive peoples. The anti-apartheid movement united a fractured political left.”


Tribute to Mandela: 

• Bermuda and the world will be in mourning as Nelson Mandela dies
• Bermudian recalls magical encounters with Mandela
• Mandela was honorary member of Manchester United
• Freedom fighter Mandela inspired young Bermudians
• Anglican Church mourns the death of Nelson Mandela
• Premier pays tribute to ‘a just and righteous man’