Civic reception celebrates Nelson Mandela International Day

This year’s Nelson Mandela International Day, 18 July 2023, saw a gathering in the Merchants House, Glasgow. With thanks to Kevin Buchanan for the video of the event.

Brian Filling, Honorary Consul for South Africa, spoke about the current Undercover Policing (“Spycops”) Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir John Mitting and how it had revealed the surveillance and penetration of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and other organisations in the 1970s and 1980s.  (

The report of the first stage of the Inquiry, covering the years 1968-1982, concluded that the use of undercover policing tactics from the 1960s onwards was not justified and the unit should have been disbanded early on.

The report details tactics such as forming sexual relationships and using the names of dead children for cover. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was tasked with infiltrating left-wing political and activist groups.

Sir John Mitting described the impact of SDS officers’ actions on hundreds of people’s lives. In some cases officers had sexual relationships while undercover and used dead children’s names to create their false identities.

Brian, Chair of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation, was replying to the welcome given by Bailie Patricia Ferguson, deputising for the Lord Provost of Glasgow, at the annual reception celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day.

Bailie Ferguson spoke of Glasgow’s long anti-apartheid connection and relationship to Nelson Mandela and Brian Filling in his speech noted that this year was the 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s visit to Glasgow to receive the Freedoms of nine UK cities. He went on to outline the aims of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation including its educational work and the creation of a statue in Nelson Mandela Place.

Arthur Johnstone, who sang at the rally in George Square thirty years ago, sang Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye and he was followed by Suzanne Bonnar, who sang the Swahili song, Malaika, made famous by the South African singer, Miriam Makeba. Suzanne concluded the event with a wonderful rendition of Nkosa Sikel’ iAfrika.

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