A Radio 4 documentary yesterday presented a fascinating analysis of a now little-remembered incident. The blurb says:
"In 1982 South African undercover police bombed the London offices of the African National Congress. The attack was just one in a string of operations mounted by the apartheid regime against its enemies on the streets of the capital. Jolyon Jenkins speaks to both sides - the bombers and the bombed"
Mrs Thatcher's government was not inclined to play up a bomb attack on British soil by the agents of a foreign power. At that time, Nelson Mandela was still no more than a dangerous terrorist in their eyes. Clearly a blind eye was turned to the activities of South Africa's Bureau of State Security in Britain.
However, Scotland Yard was not as systemically fascist as some incidents would lead us to believe. One of the heartening anecdotes was that of an ANC staffer who found that BOSS had started a hate campaign amongst her neighbours, accusing her via anonymous letters of being a terrorist who prepared bombs at home. She drew the inference that preparations were being made for an explosion at her house while she was inside it. Hearteningly, the Met. Police was very helpful in putting an end to the threat.
One other striking aspect of the programme for me was the utterly respectable jobs now occupied by the then activists whose reminiscences we heard.