Ken Keable is today the District Secretary of the South West of England and Cornwall District of the Communist Party, but in the late sixties and early seventies was one of a group of young anti apartheid campaigners who were recruited to carry out clandestine missions in South Africa for the armed wing of the African National Congress.

In this video he is speaking in the Nelson Mandela Room at Ruskin House, where the Communist Party has its national head quarters, to launch his book London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid.




Writing for this website, Ken highlights connections with the South West:

My book has a Bristol connection, so some time this year I want to enlist the help of the labour movement in organizing a book launch in Bristol.

The connection is the role of the late ANC scientist, Dr Ron Press (who settled in Bristol as an exile, lecturing there for many years) in inventing and designing some of the special equipment that we London Recruits used in South Africa. These included the leaflet bomb and the street broadcasting device. Ron tested an early prototype leaflet bomb on some waste ground in Bristol and in the Somerset countryside (where he accidently set fire to a hedge). He is mentioned (albeit briefly) several times in the book because of his clandestine activities. As well as being in the South African Communist Party and the ANC, Ron served on the West of England District Committee of the old CPGB (as Gerry Sables remembers) and was made a life member of Bristol Trades Union Council. Many Bristol people will remember him and his role in many progressive campaigns, so I think they would appreciate a chance to celebrate his clandestine role in the anti-apartheid struggle and perhaps to share their memories of him.

In the book I give a link to where Ron published his autobiography To Change the World is Reason Enough online. Unfortunately, the link no longer works and I can’t find it elsewhere on the web, but luckily I copied it onto my computer. I will happily email it to anyone interested – email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

My book has some very moving episodes and some amusing ones. If you want to have a good laugh at my expense, read my chapter. For that, you have to buy the book. 

London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid

London Recruits: The Secret War Against ApartheidCompiled and edited by Ken Keable

With an introduction by Ronnie Kasrils and a foreword by Z. Pallo Jordan

The history of the Anti-Apartheid movement brings up images of boycotts and public campaigns in the UK. But another story went on behind the scenes, in secret, one that has been never told before.

This is the story of the foreign recruits and their activities in South Africa, how they acted in defiance of the Apartheid government and its police on the instructions of the African National Congress. It tells of:

- ANC Banners that unfurled

- ANC speeches that sounded through public places

- Buckets that exploded and showered ANC leaflets

- Transportation of weapons, communications, logistics

- Helping ANC fighters to enter South Africa

Many recruits were Young Communists, others were Trotskyists or independent socialists; from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the USA, and they all took amazing risks.

Some paid a heavy price for their support. This is their untold story.

Royalties from this book will go to The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

ISBN. 978-0-85036-655-6

364 pages, 216 x 138 mm., paperback

Published in February 2012