Where were today’s leaders during the time of Apartheid ?

Yesterday I witnessed a stadium full of attendees gathering to pay homage to Nelson Mandela. Over 90 leaders from their respective countries also assembled and were housed or should I say in-cased in a glass bullet proof cube.

Poduim’s were occupied by speeches, flirting with the idea of freedom and equal rights. Cynically I asked, where were some of these politicians during the years of apartheid ? Some were active campaigners for human rights and freedom. However, some were sadly hiding in the shadow of their leaders of the time.

Personally, a ran the streets in a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Sanctions Yes, Apartheid No’ and attended some anti-apartheid rallies, not enough. The people who could deliver real change just watched from the sidelines.

From Yasmine Ryan’s piece: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/yasmine-ryan/apartheid-new-zealand_b_4411734.html

As a 23-year-old, while Mandela languished in prison, David Cameron, now British Prime Minister, accepted an all-expenses paid trip from a company lobbying against economic sanctions on the apartheid government.

It took Cameron until 2006, but he finally distanced himself from the Conservative Party’s support for the apartheid regime, criticising Margaret Thatcher for having labelled Mandela a “terrorist”.

Former US President Bill Clinton calls Mandela a “true friend,” and undoubtedly shared a bond with the South African icon. But he still failed to have Mandela and the African National Congress Party removed from the US terrorism list on which Ronald Regan had placed them.

Mandela, unsurprisingly, differed with the Bush administration over the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq. Vice president Dick Cheney had been the senator who had presented the terrorist motion in 1987. It was, nonetheless, George W Bush who finally removed the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from the terrorist list.

That wasn’t until in 2008, at the tail end of his presidency.

Hypocritical and revisionist, perhaps. In an entirely different category, however, is the apparent indifference demonstrated by the New Zealand prime minister, who refuses to even discuss with the media his stance on apartheid at the time of Mandela’s imprisonment.

Politics today is as dynamic as ever, with rules changed to suit an end goal. Rules on business tend to drive the agenda. Just look at the West’s obsession with chasing business from China, even though China needs to answer questions on human rights, forced abortions and Tiananmen Square. Ironically, China is a big investor in Wall Street.

We need to ask of our political leaders harder questions and insist on greater accountability around how they are loyal to aims of freedom, rather than just showing up, talking and then carrying on like normal.

As the sun sets over Nelson Mandela’s funeral, shadows are casts over the guilty who remain behind. We are simply left with the darkness of reality, as those who have the power to change will only change their masks not what they really feel inside.

Categories: 2013, Anti-Fascism, anti-racism, Anti-Slavery, Media Watch, Trust

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