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The current public narrative of the African National Congress is that they were the organisation that liberated South Africans from apartheid, with support from their allies in the unions and the communist party. This seminar will point to the wider role of South Africans in the ending of apartheid, from civic organisation, the UDF, to the Progressive Party. The discussion will also concentrate on the assistance of individual countries, outside actors, such as the Commonwealth and the United Nations and the global anti-apartheid movement, while acknowledging the role of the Soviet Union and its allies.  Speakers will also discuss the processes of transition to black majority rule, particularly in the fraught times of 1990-1994, which left complex legacies for South African institutions in the new dispensation of the 'rainbow nation'. 


  • Dr Stuart Mole (Senior Research Fellow, ICWS)
  • Pieter Du Toit (Assistant Editor, News24)
  • Professor Emily Bridger (University of Exeter)
  • Professor Thula Simpson (University of Pretoria) 


Dr Stuart Mole is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. He obtained his PhD in History from the University of Exeter in 2020. His PhD thesis, “The Commonwealth, South Africa and apartheid” forms the basis of a book due to be published by Routledge in 2023.

Stuart is a former Director-General of the Royal Commonwealth Society and a former Director of the Secretary-General's Office in the Commonwealth Secretariat, having served three Commonwealth Secretaries-General between 1984 and 2000. During that time, he was much involved in the Commonwealth’s campaign against apartheid and the transition to a new South Africa after 1994. 

He is an Editorial Board member (and past Chair) of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.

Pieter du Toit is a journalist with News24, where he is assistant editor for investigations. He is the author of The ANC Billionaires (2022), The Stellenbosch Mafia (2019) and co-author of Enemy of the People (2017), about state capture in South Africa.  After attending school and university in Stellenbosch, he went on to work for various titles at Media24, including as a crime reporter in Pretoria, parliamentary correspondent in Cape Town and news editor in Johannesburg.

Professor Emily Bridger is a historian of gender, violence, and memory. Much of her research focuses on these themes in South Africa over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. Her first book, Young Women against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa's Liberation Struggle was published by James Currey in 2021. Her current project, 'South Africa's Hidden War', explores how sexual violence was understood, experienced, and responded to over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. This project is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. 

Professor Bridger’s research predominantly uses oral history interviews to access voices excluded from archives, and to understand the relationship between the past and the present, and the personal and collective. Her previous research has appeared in Gender & HistoryJournal of World History and the Journal of Southern African Studies.

Professor Simpson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Pretoria. A British scholar, he obtained his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of the acclaimed Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, and A History of South Africa 1902 to the Present (Hurst Publishers).

This session will be chaired by Dr Sue Onslow, Director of Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

This event has been organised in collaborations with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

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