Taxpayers pay for Harawira's trip to Mandela service

By Imran Ali -
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Mana Party Leader, Te Tai Tokerau MP and anti-apartheid protester Hone Harawira left yesterday to attend Mandela's funeral.
Mana Party Leader, Te Tai Tokerau MP and anti-apartheid protester Hone Harawira left yesterday to attend Mandela's funeral.

Taxpayers are footing the bill for Hone Harawira's trip to attend Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa.

The Mana Party leader left the country at 2pm yesterday for Perth from where he was scheduled to fly across the Indian Ocean to South Africa last night.

His office yesterday confirmed that funds for the eight-day trip would come out of the Mana Party leader's budget. Mr Harawira travelled alone and will return on Wednesday next week.

He said he was going to pay his respects on behalf of the anti-Springboks tour movement of 1981 in particular, and all those others who marched against apartheid over the years and have supported Mandela in his drive for freedom.

A government delegation led by Prime Minister John Key and including Opposition Leader David Cunliffe, Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and former Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Don McKinnon will also attend the funeral.

Although he won't be involved in any of the official proceedings, Mr Harawira insisted that New Zealand's representation at Mandela's tangi required individuals who were more reflective of what the Nobel Peace Prize laureate stood for.

"He was an icon of our age, a leader whose relentless struggle against oppression will never be forgotten. He rose above persecution to lead his nation. It shouldn't be a surprise that those involved in his struggle want to attend his tangi," Mr Harawira said.

He was disappointed not to be approached by the Government to go to the funeral because he felt that the five-person New Zealand delegation excluded anyone who took part in protests against the Springboks rugby tour in 1981.

"As a leader of the Patu Squad, and as one of the key leaders of the anti-apartheid movement of 1981, I'm going to carry their best wishes and their verses to the tangi of Nelson Mandela," Mr Harawira said. "I think it's important that somebody goes who's not representative of this National Government, which has never been supportive of the aspirations of the black people of South Africa and was staunchly supportive of apartheid at the time."

Dr Sharples said yesterday that he would represent protesters at the official memorial service for Mandela, but Mr Harawira did not believe Dr Sharples was the right person for the job.

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