Anti-apartheid campaigner rejects SA award

A veteran New Zealand anti-apartheid campaigner has rejected a nomination for a prestigious South African award for foreigners, saying he is dismayed over conditions in the country, local media reported on Monday.

John Minto, nominated for a Companion of OR Tambo Award by a South African government official, asked for the nomination to be withdrawn, the Christchurch Press newspaper said.

“[South Africa] was the democratic country with so much hope and I think for so many people it’s been the deepest of disappointments, and certainly it has been for me,” Minto said.

“I’m just deeply dismayed at what’s happened,” he told the newspaper.

The Tambo award is the highest honour granted non-South Africans in recognition of friendship, cooperation and support.

Previous recipients include Mahatma Gandhi, Kofi Annan, Salvador Allende and Martin Luther King Jr.

A union organiser, Minto was the national coordinator of the Halt All Racist Tours movement during the controversial 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand—when an all-white rugby team representing South Africa was strongly opposed by many New Zealanders.

In an open letter to South African President Thabo Mbeki, Minto blasted the African National Congress government which, he said, had left black South Africans “worse off than they were under [white] minority rule”.

“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,” Minto wrote.

“We were fighting for a better South Africa for all its citizens. The faces at the top have changed from white to black but the substance of change is an illusion.” ‒ Sapa-AP

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