He studied physics at Birmingham University, where he was elected president of the students' union. It was 1969, the year of on-field demonstrations against the touring rugby Springboks. Mike was getting in touch with southern Africa - the university recognised medical degrees of the University of Salisbury, Rhodesia, and had investments in companies operating in South Africa. On leaving, he became national secretary of the NUS (National Union of Students), responsible for international policy.
Two years at the research department of Canon John Collins's International Defence and Aid Fund led him, in 1975, to AA's cramped rooms above a Spanish food importer in the district of central London known as Fitzrovia. For several years it had been presided over by Ethel de Keyser, an emigre South African, as was most of the leadership at the time. During her tenure, the struggle had been in the doldrums, but she used her public relations skills to keep the cause alive with charity concerts, arresting posters and close contacts with the press. All changed nine months after Mike took over, with the Soweto student uprising of June 1976, followed by the murder of the Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko in September 1977. These events at last stirred the British public to thoughts of sanctions, the central theme of the AA story.
Mike, a self-effacing team man, and a tiny nucleus of assistants and advisers built up around 200 local AA groups across Britain, and they gave the sanctions campaign a cutting edge. But it cried out for a symbolic figure - one who at the time was languishing in prison on Robben Island. A United Nations civil servant, Enuga Reddy, discovered the date of Nelson Mandela's birth and pressed Mike into action.
On Mandela's 60th birthday, July 18 1978, a group of Labour MPs at the House of Commons cut a cake with 60 candles. It was the spark that made Mandela and the freedom struggle inseparable. AA moved to spacious premises in Camden Town, north London, in soon renamed Mandela Street.
"Popular music was a way of getting our message across," Mike later said. The first, modest, birthday concert, the 65th, featured Hugh Masekela on trumpet at Alexandra Palace. The 70th, at an overflowing Wembley Stadium, was broadcast by the BBC to 63 countries, with a possible audience of a billion.
Tall, sometimes stooping from a workload that others might have buckled under, Mike commanded enormous respect from the growing number of AA employees. "Sometimes we would be in the office until 5am and people slept there," he recalled. "If someone you were campaigning for on death row was hanged, you always thought: could I have done more?"
Recurring strains demanded supreme skills as a conciliator. The small but vocal Pan African Congress and, later, the Black Consciousness Movement were unhappy with AA's undoubted closeness to the African National Congress. There were demands to take up a more leftist stance, but Mike insisted that AA remain a single-issue organisation open to the largest possible cross-section of public opinion. Having the former bishop Trevor Huddleston as its president offered integrity and a touch of glamour.
When rebellion swept through South Africa's townships in 1985, Pretoria imposed a state of emergency. Support for sanctions mushroomed. Eventually, there were around 1,300 support groups in Britain, affiliated to trade union and Labour party branches, church groups, and women's and community organisations. The 1969 student rugby protesters had risen through the ranks of society, adding an influential voice to calls for isolation, and the very word "anti-apartheid" acquired universal acceptance.
In 1984, Thatcher invited PW Botha, South Africa's apartheid president, to visit, and AA mobilised 50,000 people on to the streets of London. "For the first time, we got covered for a long period," Mike recalled later. With the end of white rule nigh, one third of British people said they would not buy South African products.
In 1994, after the democratic elections that swept Mandela and the ANC to power, AA was disbanded. Mike made a clean break. In his late forties, he retrained as a teacher, going first to the all-girls Copthall school in Barnet, north London, then to Alexandra Park school in Muswell Hill as head of science, quickly turning it into a specialist science school. He brimmed with inventive ideas. Jean-François Clervoy, the French astronaut, came to talk, and Mike called in a physicist to explain the launch of the Hadron Collider. Many more students now do three separate science subjects for GCSE, enabling them to carry on to A-levels.
Mike organised an exchange with a school in Wattville, the South African township where the ANC leader Oliver Tambo is buried, raising money for some of its black schoolchildren to come to Britain - though he never mentioned the OBE that he received for his AA work.
He is survived by his partner, Monica Shama, Andrew, his son by an earlier relationship, and his mother, Elizabeth.
by Denis Herbstein, Monday 8 December 2008