Activist snubs mbeki

KEEP IT: John Minto. © Unknown.
KEEP IT: John Minto. © Unknown.

An anti-apartheid activist who organised protests in New Zealand during a tour by South Africa's rugby team has rejected nomination for an award from President Thabo Mbeki's government.

An anti-apartheid activist who organised protests in New Zealand during a tour by South Africa's rugby team has rejected nomination for an award from President Thabo Mbeki's government.

John Minto, organiser of the Halt All Racist Tours (Hart) campaign in 1981, declined the Companion of OR Tambo Award. He said the changes in South Africa since the end of apartheid had benefited only a small black elite.

In a letter to Mbeki, the union organiser and newspaper columnist asked that his nomination for the award be withdrawn.

Previous recipients include Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Thousands of New Zealanders, known for their devotion to their national sport, responded to Minto's campaign by taking to the streets during the 1981 tour by the Springboks rugby team.

The protests, some of which turned violent when police confronted the crowds, shocked white South Africans, who had viewed New Zealand as a friendly nation.

"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 citizens," Minto wrote in his letter to Mbeki.

Mbeki has implemented centrist, pro-business policies that his supporters say have ushered in years of economic growth and the development of a black middle class. Critics accuse the government of neglecting the poor, mostly black South Africans, 14 years after the end of white minority rule. - Reuters

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