Peter Gerald Hain
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of Peter Gerald Hain
Peter Gerald Hain was born on 16 February 1950 of South African-born parents, Adelaine and Walter, and up in Pretoria and educated at Pretoria Boys High School. He is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Neath since 1991, and has served in the Cabinets of both Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
After his parents were jailed in 1961 for their anti-apartheid activism and then issued with banning orders in 1963 and 1964, the family was finally forced into exile in 1966 when the apartheid government prevented his father, an architect by profession, from working. On 1 April 1965 aged 15, and because his banned parents were refused permission to do so, he read the address at the funeral of John Harris, the only white to be hanged in the struggle for freedom.
He came to the UK from South Africa aged 16 and later became a noted anti-apartheid campaigner, pioneering the use of militant protests against all-white South African sports tours, beginning with disrupting a Davis Cup tennis match between Britain and South Africa in July 1969. In September 1969, Hain became Chairperson of the Stop The Seventy Tour campaign, which heavily disrupted the 25-match Springbok rugby tour from October 1969 to January 1970.
Building on that success, he led a massive and militant campaign to stop the planned white South African cricket tour to Britain, finally forcing its cancellation in May 1970; there would be no further South African rugby, cricket or sports tours to Britain until after the transformation in 1994. In 1971 he flew to Australia to help lead a similar campaign against the Springbok rugby tour, which was also disrupted, leading to the cancellation of the subsequent cricket tour. Again there would be no South African rugby or cricket tours to Australia until after the 1994 transformation.
However, for his leadership of those militant protests, in 1972 Hain was prosecuted for criminal conspiracy in a month-long trial at the Old Bailey. The prosecution was partially financed by white South Africans but, after defending himself, he was acquitted of the main charges that would have led to his imprisonment and instead fined £200 for the tennis protest.
In 1972 apartheid security forces sent him a letter bomb, which failed to explode because of faulty wiring. In 1975 he was a victim of mistaken identity, facing a further trial at the Old Bailey for a bank theft of which he was innocent. It was subsequently established that the theft accusation was a set up by South African security agents.
He was British Minister for Africa from 1991 to 2001, Secretary of State for Wales from 2002 to 2010, Leader of the House of Commons from 2003 to 2005, and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007 when he negotiated an end to the conflict and a peace settlement. He also served as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2007 to 2008.
He later became Shadow Welsh Secretary in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet from 2010 to 2012. He is the author of 20 books, starting with Don’t Play with Apartheid in 1971 and including a biography Mandela (2010), memoirs Outside In (2012) and the story of his parents’ activism in Pretoria: Ad & Wal: Values, Duty, Sacrifice in Apartheid South Africa (2014).
Hain has degrees from London and Sussex universities and is married, with two children and six grandchildren. In April 2014 he organised and chaired a London conference to commemorate the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa. He is Chairperson of the Donald Woods Foundation, a charity which worked in the then Transkei (now called the Eastern Cape).