From terrorist to best friend
I have been fuming about the hypocrisy across the political spectrum, exposing the cancer of egotism and self-importance, whether from the Tory leadership or the so-called Left.
I am especially galled by the bleats from John Minto, who condemned the ANC, Nelson Mandela and the South African trade unions as sellouts and traitors. His support for the Black Consciousness Movement was a violation of the principles the struggle against apartheid was based on.
Our media has not been much better. Nothing I have read has dealt with New Zealand’s role in a historical context.
Opposition to rugby tours in New Zealand started at the time of the 1937 Springboks tour to New Zealand.
The 1949 All Black tour to South Africa was strongly opposed by many trade unions in New Zealand, particularly the watersiders – not just because Vince Bevan, a Wellington wharfie, was excluded from the All Black team because he was a Maori, but also because of the union’s support for workers of other countries fighting for their basic rights and freedoms.
From those earlier protests, the 1960 ‘‘No Maoris No Tour’’ protests became the most widely based opposition movement in our history. Every major religion and political party – except the National Party – opposed the Rugby Union’s decision to exclude Maori from the All Black team.
Those protest movements gave rise to the infamous 1981 ‘‘Stop the Tour’’ campaign.
By then, international agencies such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation had established committees to expose the vicious repressions of the Afrikaner regime and demanded the isolation of South Africa to help bring about an end to apartheid.
The trivialising of Mandela’s death by petty squabbles as to who should represent New Zealand at the memorial service exposed much of what’s wrong in our country and our politics.
If it came down to anyone having a right to be represented, then the present leadership of the New Zealand Combined Trade Unions, as the heirs of the trade unions from the 1930s and 1940s, had a more credible claim.
I must acknowledge and credit Jim Bolger for owning up and apologising to Mandela for ‘‘being wrong’’. That was significantly better than our current Prime Minister’s ‘‘I can’t remember; I was busy doing other things’’.
Still, the potpourri of individuals clamouring to be at Mandela’s memorial service showed something of the real standing of this very special leader and of his contribution.