Minto too dismayed to accept SA award

Veteran anti-apartheid campaigner John Minto has rejected a nomination for a South African award for foreigners because he is dismayed about conditions in the country.

Mr Minto was nominated for a Companion of O.R. Tambo Award by a South African Government official, but asked for the nomination to be withdrawn.

"[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," Mr Minto told the Press in Christchurch.

"I'm just deeply dismayed at what's happened."

The union organiser and columnist was the national organiser of the Halt All Racist Tours movement during the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand.

He later became national chairman of the anti-apartheid group.

The Tambo award is the highest honour given to non-South Africans in recognition of friendship, co-operation and support. Previous recipients include Mahatma Gandhi, Kofi Annan, Salvador Allende and Martin Luther King jnr.

In an open letter to South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mr Minto blasted the African National Congress Government, which he said had "sidelined" social and economic rights.

"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," Mr 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."

Unemployment in South Africa sits at around 26 per cent, he said, and the number of people living on $1 a day has doubled to 2.4 million in 10 years.

- NZPA

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