[DEBATE] : FW: John Minto article
greenleaf at pl.net
Mon Jan 28 10:58:44 GMT 2008
This is getting great coverage in here in New Zealand. Newspapers and
nation-wide TV3 news etc.
John is at: <jbminto at xtra.co.nz>
Open letter to the President of South Africa
Tena koe Thabo Mbeki,
I understand a nomination has been put forward for me to receive a South
African honour later this year, the Companions of O R Tambo Award, on behalf
of HART and the anti-apartheid movement of New Zealand for our work
campaigning to end apartheid in South Africa.
I note the particular honour is conferred by the President of South Africa
and awarded to ³foreign citizens who have promoted South African interests
and aspirations through co-operation, solidarity and support².
We are proud of the role played by the movement here to assist the struggle
against apartheid and I appreciate the sentiment behind the nomination.
However after the most careful consideration I respectfully request the
nomination proceed no further. Were an award to be made I would decline to
accept it either personally or on behalf of the movement.
New Zealanders who campaigned against apartheid did so to bring real and
meaningful change in the lives of South Africa¹s impoverished and
disenfranchised black communities. We were appalled and angered at the
callous brutality of a system based on racism and exploitation of black
South Africans for the benefit of South African corporations.
However while political rights have been won and celebrated, social and
economic rights have been sidelined. It is now 14 years since the first
African National Congress government was elected to power but for most the
situation is no better, and frequently worse, than it was under white
The number of South Africans living on less than $1 a day more than doubled
to 2.4 million in the first 10 years of ANC government. Despite strong
economic growth overall poverty levels have not improved and the gap between
rich and poor has increased with many black families being driven more
deeply into poverty. Unemployment remains high at around 26%.
It seems the entire economic structure which underpinned apartheid is
essentially unchanged. Oppression based on race has morphed seamlessly into
oppression based on economic circumstance. The faces at the top have changed
from white to black but the substance of change is an illusion.
None of us expected things to change overnight but we did expect the hope
for change to always burn brightly as people looked ahead for their children
and grandchildren. This is now a pale gleam, dimmed by the destructive power
of free-market economics.
My own country New Zealand preceded the ANC in adopting free-market economic
reforms. Since 1984 we have experienced a particularly virulent dose of
these vicious policies which have brought wealth to the few at the expense
of the many.
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealand families have been driven out of decent
employment into poverty where they struggle to raise families on part-time,
poorly paid work. They are worse off now than they were 20 years ago. The
same policies have brought the same outcomes to South Africa. For the
majority life is tougher now than at any time since the ANC came to power.
The promises made by those who drove through the reforms in New Zealand were
a lie just as they are in South Africa. Wherever these policies have been
put in place anywhere in the world they have resulted in a reverse Robin
Hood a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.
When we protested and marched into police batons and barbed wire here in the
struggle against apartheid we were not fighting for a small black elite to
become millionaires. We were fighting for a better South Africa for all its
I take heart from the many community groups in South Africa fighting against
privatisation of community assets; supporting settlements against forced
removals; opposing police harassment and brutality; struggling for decent
healthcare, water supplies and education; campaigning for decent pay,
reasonable working conditions and affordable houses. These people, such as
the Durban Shackdwellers, are looking for respect and dignity as human
beings. Many carry the ideals of the Freedom Charter, once the bedrock
document for ANC policy, close to their hearts.
Apartheid was accurately described as a ³crime against humanity² 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
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.
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