Monday, January 28, 2008

John Minto Refuses South African Award

News24 reports that John Minto, "a veteran New New Zealand anti-apartheid campaigner has rejected a nomination for a prestigious South African award for foreigners, saying he is dismayed over conditions in the country ..."

Minto, a union organizer, was instrumental in the Halt All Racist Tours (HART) movement that demonstrated against the 1981 all-white rugby tour of New Zealand by South Africa.

A South African government official nominated Minto for a Companion of OR Tambo Award but he has asked that the nomination not go forward.

Minto is disappointed in post-apartheid South Africa. To make his thinking public he wrote an open letter to President Mbeki.

In his letter he asserts that the African National Congress (ANC) government has not improved the lives of Black South Africans. He writes that:

(W)hile political rights have been won and celebrated, social and economic rights have been sidelined. It is now 14 years since the first African National Congress government was elected to power but for most the situation is no better, and frequently worse, than it was under white minority rule. ...

It seems the entire economic structure which underpinned apartheid is essentially unchanged. Oppression based on race has morphed seamlessly into oppression based on economic circumstance. The faces at the top have changed from white to black but the substance of change is an illusion."

I think the stance that Minto has taken is to be commended. He is raising an important critique of capital driven change.

I can't, however, agree that Blacks were better off under white rule. This is a seriously misguided and callous assertion.

Though it is true that the conditions for the masses have hardly improved, no-one should just dismiss the weight and brutality of apartheid.

It was a horrid system and we should not forget this fact. Black life was not better under apartheid.

I, like millions of other Black South Africans, know this because I lived it.

For this reason I take a more mediated view of what has been achieved under post-apartheid rule.

South Africa has moved beyond the violent whip of apartheid and its racism that pressed Black life into legalized containers of hell.

Apartheid was brutal and it forced the structural conditions that persist even while we dream of that other country.

But we are free nontheless, free from white rule and its inhumane excesses, and this is, undoubtedly, the greatest progresssive asset of the post-apartheid era with all its warts and all.


***Update(January 29)***
The Presidency denies that John Minto was nominated for any award.

So is Minto lying?


Dade said...

Mr. Minto would appear to be a man of integrity; such a rare find these days!

I'm saddened by South Africa's trials. Is this agony the birth pangs of something better? I sure hope so, Ridwan.

The situation in Zimbabwe, I hope, is not a precursor for what is to come in South Africa. As I understand it, (and I hope you'll correct me if I'm wrong), the white minority ceded power after long turmoil. But the government of Robert Mugabe has proven to be corrupt and despotic. And as Mr. Minto says of the South African government, the lines of oppression are no longer racial, but economic.

Please educate me.

As an aside, my mom, who is an avid world traveler, has said that Johannesburg was the most frightening city she had ever seen.

Thanks for your insights. They are truly invaluable to my continuing education about Africa.

Take care, my friend.


Ridwan said...

Hi there Dade. Thanks for your comment brother.

Your moms is right. Joburg is recognized to be one of the most violent cities in the world. Even more so than Mexico City it is said.

I have been thinking more about Minto and I am growing more uncomfortable with some of his comments.

He tends toward an Afro-pessimistic stance.

And he does so without ever having set a foot in South Africa.

His quick-draw opinion on Zimbabwe is misguided at best.

South Africa is very different that Zimbabwe. We do not have a Mugabe in office.

The ANC government may not be what many of us would like to see in office, but brutal dictators they are not.

The rule of law here is not under threat.

Minto's arrogance on this matter has started to gnaw at my political sense.

I am not sure why he has chosen the present political moment to wank on South Africa and Zimbabwe.

His involvement with the anti-apartheid struggle is not really monumental in relative terms.

In this sense, he does not speak from authority. In fact, as a white man he seems to be treading quite heavily with an arrogance that bespeaks a vindictive Afro-pessimism.

It is also important to note that he was not nominated for the award as he claims.

Still, I commend his argument that neo-liberal markets are not a panacea for development.

There is also merit in his observation that a elite group of
Blacks have been richly rewarded in the post-apartheid era.

But when he makes the claim that Black life is "frequently" worse now than under white rule he is sorely mistaken.

And I feel now after some thought
that his Afro-pessimism is drawn from the usual nonsense that seeks want to paint the Black government as illegitimate.

Also, it is not hard to see that he has no standing to draw parallels between Zimbabwe and the fate of whites there, and whites in South Africa.

These are two very different countries and must be dealt with as different.

To blend the two countries is nothing short of racism.

Thanks again for your engagement brother. I hope that there is some value in my opinion here.


Dade said...

Hi, Ridwan.

Thanks for the information. I should say that the stuff about Zimbabwe was didn't come from Minto. I was relating what I understood (as you've pointed out, incorrectly).

Like I said, reading your blog is definitely providing me with a much clearer picture of Africa as a whole, and most specifically South Africa.

You're providing a valuable service. Keep it up!


Ridwan said...

Hey Dade thanks for looking in brother and thank you for your consideration.

Minto has drawn parallels between SA and Zim.

I read some of his comments in a local NZ paper where it was reported that he feared South Africa may be going the way of Zim.

In his open letter to Pres. Mbeki he does not mention Zimbabwe.

But it is well known that he advocates a sports boycott of Zimbabwe.

In my thinking above I was reacting to him and not you brother.

Your question was well meaning and I took it that way.

Peace and struggle,

Ridwan said...

Hello again Dade:

I found one of the articles I am referring to above.

Please see:,,2-7-1442_2260905,00.html

The article states that:

"He said the South African government was making the same mistake as Zimbabwe did 20 years ago when they adopted a free-market economy.

And, when it did not work in Zimbabwe and the poor started to show their frustration, President Mugabe played the race card, and blamed the whites for the country's problems, with tragic consequences.

Minto said the ANC would do the same."

Minto is reckless in his opinion that the ANC will seek to victimize whites when their policies fail.

I wonder what he thinks the ANC will do with all the whites who are party members.

His is a simplistic analysis in my opinion.

Best wishes brother. Holla and tell me about Edwards when you can.