At first blush, it looked like a delegation without tour protesters.
The impression was magnified by anti-apartheid activist John Minto when he bleated about wanting to go to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa – but only if he went with the official delegation.
We all remember Minto, of course, as a protest leader against the South African rugby tour in the 1981 and – since then – as a protester against anything that calls for someone to bellow into a bullhorn.
He is reported to have said John Key’s delegation should include him or an anti-apartheid activist MP like Mana’s Hone Harawira or Green Party’s Kevin Hague.
“I’d really love to go, but I’d only go if it was part of an official invitation,” Mr Minto, the Mana Party co-vice president, told NZ Newswire.
“I don’t want to let John Key off the hook by saying `I’ll go in a private capacity’.”
He also said New Zealand’s anti-apartheid activists weren’t properly represented by the current delegation.
He said a strong, inclusive government would want activists who had offered their support to Mr Mandela, he said.
“But I’m not going to go cap-in-hand asking for an invite,” Mr Minto said.
He mightn’t want to let John Key off the hook by going in a private capacity. Let the record show Mana Party leader Hone Harawira isn’t so bloody precious.
He said he would go to South Africa this week to represent the anti-apartheid movement.
Harawira said this morning “I’m going anyway” and that he could leave as early as today.
“I think the people owe it to Mandela to have somebody a little bit more ordinary attend his tangi than those selected by the National Party so I’m going,” he said.
Harawira said New Zealand’s relationship with Mandela related to the anti-apartheid movement which was not represented by anyone in the official party.
He would not be involved in any of the official proceedings but said this would allow him to do and say what he pleased.
“Honestly I’m just going to pay my respects on behalf of the anti-tour movement of 1981 in particular, and all those others who marched against apartheid over the years and have supported Nelson Mandela in his drive for freedom,” he said.
It now seems the tour protesters have plenty of representation, because Pita Sharples, a member of the official party, reminds us he was heavily involved in the tour protests and the wider anti-apartheid movement.
But while he is saying he will represent the protesters, Harawira reckons Sharples is not the right man.
“No way in hell does Pita Sharples represent the anti-apartheid movement,” he said.
“He’s been chosen by John Key to attend as a member of the government delegation and that’s what he will be.
“The answer to that question is would have have gone if he hadn’t been picked by John Key? The answer is no so at the end of the day I make my choice, not because John Key says I can or can’t but because somebody needs to go to carry the love and the respect of the anti-apartheid movement.”
Alf has to say he has a sneaking inclination to side with Hone on this one.
Sharples left for South Africa yesterday with Key and the rest of the official team, Opposition leader David Cunliffe, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and former Foreign Minister Sir Don McKinnon.
He has said he would have liked John Minto to be in the delegation.
“But it’s not my list, and I will represent him and others who protested in those different decades.”
Indeed, it’s not his list.
But Pita can be a pushy bugger and has said he asked to be part of the delegation.
Unlike Minto, in other words, he did go cap-in-hand asking for an invite.
But just how well he will represent white anti-tour protesters is open to a wee bit of question, because he also said:
“For me I’m going over there . . . representing Maori who took leading roles in the demonstrations from 1960s, the ’70s and the ’81 ones as well, and I want to be there for them and I also want to be there because of Mandela and the man that he was, what he stood for. What a man,” he s
There is a strong hint here that if Minto, Hague or one of the other non-Maori anti-tour protesters had gone, then Maori anti-tour protesters would not have been represented. Not effectively, anyway.
By the same logic, white anti-tour protesters can argue they are not well represented by Maori politicians.
Chances are they would not be so silly. They are colour-blind when it comes to this sort of thing – they were protesting against apartheid, after all.
Not so Pita, who can’t resist bringing ethnic divisions into his considerations, which is somewhat paradoxical when you are headed to pay tribute to a bloke like Mandela, whose fundamental mission after the ending of apartheid was racial unity and reconciliation.