It was with no little anger that I read New Zealander John Minto’s open letter to President Thabo Mbeki.
In it, he outlines his reasons for refusing to accept the OR Tambo Award on behalf of Halt All Racist Tours and the anti-apartheid movement of New Zealand — an honour given to non-South Africans in recognition of their friendship and support, and which was previously bestowed on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
The basis for his refusal, if I may be so bold, seems to be his belief that it would be hypocritical to accept the award while blacks are suffering worse social and economic conditions now than they were under white rule.
Whatever this genius is smoking, make it the single product we import from New Zealand and put me down for a year’s supply — please send the account to Mr Riaan Wolmarans, PO Box 656, Louis Trichardt, 6123.
This genius then goes on to say that he campaigned for all South Africans, not just a small, elite group of black millionaires!
Did one of those flour bombs they were dropping from planes on to the Springboks during the 1981 tour hit this wenner on the head?
My best is his conclusion: “Apartheid was accurately described as a ‘crime against humanity’ by the United Nations and the ANC. I could not in all conscience attend a ceremony to receive an award conferred by your office while a similar crime is in progress.
“Receiving an award would inevitably associate myself and the movement here with ANC government policies. At one time this may have been a source of pride but it would now be a source of personal embarrassment which I am not prepared to endure.”
Talk about your Afro-pessimist!
I once read an introduction to Graham Greene’s The Quiet American that described the book as “a terrifying portrait of innocence at large” (which reminds me of that other great Kiwi who vetoed South Africa’s bid and gave the previous Soccer World Cup to Germany, despite specific instructions from his federation to vote for us).
Very apt in this case.
The letter he wrote is, at best, a superficial reading of the current situation in South Africa and mirrors the views of many of the worst racists in this country — racists who believe that blacks were better off under white rule and are incapable of caring for their fellow blacks.
Does Minto factor in that under white rule, different races could not:
The list is endless.
Is he of the mistaken view that South Africa’s economy was in mint condition when the ANC took over?
Has he overlooked the millions of South Africans who are now being employed in worthwhile jobs, who have ambitions and a say in their future that would never have happened under white rule?
Has he even considered the indignity and humiliation that discrimination based on race brings?
Black South Africans are a million miles from where they were, Mr Minto, and even to suggest otherwise is not only an insult and, in my opinion, downright racist, but also shows a lack of any grasp or understanding of the situation here right now.
If you think that there is poverty and too little effort in this regard, so does the ANC you so flippantly describe as being an embarrassment. If you followed our affairs, you’d be aware of the impact it had at Polokwane.
Millionaires — this is peculiar to South Africa because? The fact that we now have black millionaires and billionaires, long overdue, I might add, is neither the problem nor the solution to poverty; that lies in macro-economics not berating the achievers.
Electricity, Zimbabwe, Aids and all the other problems that our country is experiencing are being dealt with in a transparent (if sometimes misguided) manner. The result is a growth in accountability and the potential of finding better decision-makers.
It also means debate and ideas on how best to proceed with our problems. Under white rule you went along or you went; sometimes inside.
Minto’s letter is a disgrace — perhaps he can advise us of the crime against humanity that he suggests the ANC is committing that is similar to apartheid.
The only crime is that this “do-gooder” who loves telling everyone about his exploits against the police while protesting against the 1981 Springbok tour forgot to find out what the cause he was fighting for was really all about.
Now he wants to thumb his nose at authority again; this time at our expense — build the Minto legend. All he has achieved is to show South Africans that we were misguided in trying to give him the award in the first place — what he actually represents is exactly what we were trying to get away from. Ironically he, despite his views, played a part in that.