Trevor Richards (1946 - )
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of Trevor Richards
Trevor Richards was born in 1946 in New Zealand. As a young student leader at Auckland University, Richards was deeply disturbed by the oppression and exploitation of black people in South Africa and joined the ranks of the Anti-Apartheid movement.
Incensed by the apartheid regime’s use of sporting exchanges and international sport to attempt to give what was in reality a tyrannical society a veneer of normality, Richards, together with Ton Newnham, John Minto, David Nickham and others formed the organization called Halt All Racist Tours (HART) in 1969, initially to co-ordinate opposition to the 1970 All Black tour to South Africa.
Over the next twenty years, HART – of which Richards was national chairperson for ten years – actively contributed to the international campaigns to stop all sports tours to and from South Africa, establishing close working relationships with the South African Non-racial Olympic Committee (SANROC), the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity and the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa. In 1973, when the New Zealand Government insisted that South Africa compete in the Softball World Championships in New Zealand despite HART’s campaign, it caused world outrage. HART’s campaign to prevent the New Zealand rugby tour to South Africa resulted in 17 African countries and Guyana and Iraq withdrawing from the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal in protest against the New Zealand Government’s intransigence. In 1981 HART organised country-wide protests against the South African rugby tour to New Zealand, resulting in a national outcry when demonstrations of thousands of New Zealand marchers were met with a violent response from the police, leaving hundreds of protestors injured.
Eventually the moral strength of the argument of the small lobby group of Anti-Apartheid campaigners developed into an unstoppable worldwide movement to ban apartheid sport. In 1977 the United Nations Declaration against Apartheid in Sport – which Richards helped to draft - was endorsed by the majority of member countries. In 1988 Richards became the first Africa Programme manager for New Zealand’s Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA). In 1992 he finally visited South Africa for the first time and the following year he established the VSA programme in South Africa in which New Zealand volunteers assisted in voter education to prepare for South Africa’s first democratic elections.
Trevor Richards was one of the early campaigners against apartheid in New Zealand. His unflinching resolve and indefatigable efforts to undermine the abhorrent apartheid system by campaigning relentlessly for a sports boycott, has made him an icon of the Anti-Apartheid campaign in New Zealand and South Africa, and a world symbol of selflessness in defence of equality, justice and the inalienable rights of all humanity.
South Africans stand in awe of this man who fought so gallantly on behalf of a people so far away.
The role that Trevor Richards played in the Anti-Apartheid movement has earned him wide acclaim and many awards, both in New Zealand and internationally. He served as the Chair of the Africa Centre (1996 – 2003) and currently serves as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Trust. From 1988 to 1990 he served as a member of the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Advisory Committee on South Africa and in 2002 he was appointed to the New Zealand Government’s Pacific Development and Conservation Trust. His account of the history of New Zealand’s contribution to the fight against apartheid was published as Dancing on our Bones: New Zealand, South Africa, Rugby and Racism, in 1999.