Canon Collins and the Secret War Against Apartheid
Denis Herbstein
210mm X 148mm
October 2004
In print
Forthcoming editon
To download the electronic version of this book, click here.


Behind the clerical dog collar he wore as Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, John Collins ran a single-minded, constantly creative, campaign over several decades to provide material support to those waging the struggle against apartheid - assisting leaders like Nelson Mandela, thousands of township and rural activists, as well as families who suffered because their loved ones were in prison, in exile or killed.

The success of the organisations he founded, the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) and Christian Action, depended on a network of volunteers across the world and a small group of South African exiles and British workers in London. South African intelligence agents often tried to penetrate these networks but to no avail.

Through this book, Herbstein has preserved an important piece of contemporary history. During the era of apartheid, and amongst the oppositional movements internationally, IDAF could not be seen on posters or sign appeals like Oxfam or Amnesty but had to work "in the shadows". Often, it was underestimated and sometimes overlooked, but perhaps to its greatest advantage. Whatever its profile amongst the international anti-apartheid movements, IDAF's significance was immense and the actions of John Collins, in the framework of his fund, remind us that change is indeed possible, and that the overcoming of apartheid was indeed a triumph of civil society.

This story, of a remarkable man and a remarkable human-rights organisation, is told here for the first time.

Table of contents:
Foreword by Per Wästberg
Preface: Two men came to lunch
1 John Collins: Churchill's `dupe'
2 Acts of defiance
3 Collins in South Africa: `The most pleasant madhouse in the world'
4 High treason
5 Sharpeville
6 Fire the Canon!
7 The `odd bodies' of Amen Court
8 Armed struggle and Rivonia
9 Round one to Pretoria: the ANC and the Eastern Cape
10 Enuga Reddy and the UN Trust Fund
11 The Swedes
12 Rock bottom: The banning of Defence and Aid
13 Cut-outs and noble Lords: the genius of Neville Rubin
14 The `white lie' and sports boycotts
15 The Imam and the Dean
16 Welfare Le Carré style
17 Stephanus and Eileen
18 An old man in a hurry
19 A failed coup: Craig Williamson and the IUEF
20 Around the world
21 Letters from elsewhere
22 Kith and kin
23 Death of the Canon
24 Passionist postbag
25 Total onslaught
26 Close down
27 Where are they now?
References and other sources
List of letter writers

Denis Herbstein was born in Cape Town, where he studied law and began his career as a journalist on the Cape Times. He has since worked for several British newspapers. In 1976, while in South Africa reporting for the London Sunday Times and Guardian newspapers, he was deprived of his South African citizenship and expelled by the apartheid government.He now works for the Financial Times in London and is married with two children.