US lawmakers debate Bill to remove stigma of ANC

Lawmakers on Tuesday debated legislation to remove former South African president Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) from an apartheid-era United States terrorist blacklist.

Several members of the House of Representatives immediately expressed support for a Bill aimed at removing from any US databases ”any notation that would characterise the ANC and its leaders as terrorists”.

The House Bbill is sponsored by Howard Berman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, with strong support from the US State Department.

Barbara Lee, another California Democrat who co-sponsored the Bill, said she is ”especially pleased we are taking this important step to finally right this inexcusable wrong”.

Lee and others said the legislation introduced during the 1980s while Ronald Reagan was president is anachronistic and wrongfully labels as terrorists men and women who are heroes and freedom fighters.

Lee recalled that ANC members could travel to United Nations headquarters in New York but not to Washington DC or other parts of the United States.

”It’s been 18 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 14 years since he was elected president of South Africa, and this year, he will turn 90 years old,” Lee said.

Yet, even though he is ”a hero” of the anti-apartheid movement who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and who served as his country’s

president, Mandela must still apply for a visa waiver just to visit the United States, she said.

”This is just plain wrong,” Lee added.

Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Texas Democrat, rose to support the legislation, ”because it is an important step forward”.

She said it will ”remove the stigma, if you will, of the name of terrorist because they were freedom fighters to save and preserve and

to free South Africans so they, too, might live in a democracy.”

”Let us likewise be assured that we recognise that there are other groups that are similarly situated that we should take a look at,” Jackson-Lee said without naming the groups.

Mirroring the legislation sponsored by Congressman Berman, Senator John Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, introduced similar legislation in the Senate, his office said.

”The idea that he’d be on our government’s terror watch list is deplorable. No bureaucratic snafu can excuse this international embarrassment, and we need to fix this policy now,” Kerry was quoted by his office as saying.

Last month US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged a Senate committee to remove the restrictions on the ANC. She said ”it is really a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela.” – Sapa

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