Hone Harawira: I cried, I danced, I said goodbye - how about you, John?

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I wanted to farewell a man I've always looked up to, who suffered under a deeply racist regime and came out of jail after 27 years with a smile on his face and love in his heart. Photo / NZ Herald
I wanted to farewell a man I've always looked up to, who suffered under a deeply racist regime and came out of jail after 27 years with a smile on his face and love in his heart. Photo / NZ Herald

Dear John,

Why are you being so nasty about my going to South Africa to farewell Nelson Mandela?

Were you upset by the world media calling you the "unidentified guest" while I was on national television dancing with Madiba's people in Soweto? I'm sorry about that John, but was that my fault?

And yeah ... I know I said your delegation didn't truly represent those who loved Mandela but I wasn't the only one. Heaps of people said so - even the media. I mean look at it. You went (and you didn't even know what your position was on apartheid!), and you took two members of the National Government that supported the apartheid-backed Springbok Tour of 1981.

I mean really ... is that the best you can do to represent us at the memorial services for one of the greatest men of our time?

And I heard your comments about there being "people with a greater claim to going than me". Yeah - like John Minto and Sue Bradford. But you didn't take them. You didn't even ask them, did you John? So why are you being so bitchy about me going when you didn't take them anyway?

And yes, I know you chose Pita Sharples to be the "Maori" on your delegation, but when it came to who got into the stadium you didn't pick him, did you John? You left him standing out in the rain and it was only through the good graces of David Cunliffe stepping aside that Pita actually got in. Is that why you're picking on me - because my visibility embarrassed your clumsy treatment of Dr Sharples?

And as for my using taxpayers' money on a "jolly", isn't that just a little churlish and mean-spirited? I went to memorial services just like you. I went to a private service at Mandela's family home (not sure whether you got to do that, John). And I went to view his body just like you (except my wife did a karanga mate as we Maori do, and I followed that up with a haka).

So if I did what you did, except better, how come I have to pay the money back but you don't have to?

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Or are you just attacking me to try to take people's attention off the bigger issues of the day, like all those reports highlighting how deep child poverty is in Aotearoa, or how the referendum showed that New Zealanders don't support your selling our assets, or the public anger about you selling off our sovereignty under the TPPA, or how pissed off people are that you've done a deep sea oil deal with a company that's facing a $16 billion lawsuit over claims and compensation for contaminated sites in the US? Is that what this is all about?

Your attack on me is just mean, John. So maybe if I tell you why I went, you'll forgive and forget.

You see, as soon as I heard Mandela had died I cried. And then I decided I was going to go to South Africa.

I wanted to farewell a man I have always looked up to, a man who was a hero to people of colour all across the world, who suffered under one of the most deeply racist regimes of our time, and walked out of jail after 27 years with a smile on his face and love in his heart.

I went to farewell a man who cast aside forever the ugliness of apartheid, and gave us the phrase "in my country we go to prison first and then become President".

I went to farewell the man who said that when we stopped the game in Hamilton during the 1981 tour, "it was like the sun came out". Yes John, I can remember being there and I was proud of being there.

I went to farewell a wonderful, warm and caring man who I was privileged to meet when he came to thank the protesters in 1995.

You see, John, I went to farewell a man that I loved.

And if you want to condemn me for that then you go right ahead.


Hone Harawira is MP for Tai Tokerau.

Debate on this article is now closed. Readers are reminded to keep their comments to a publishable standard.

- NZ Herald

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