South Africa trying to 'fudge' award offer - Minto

Last updated 09:50 30/01/2008
JOHN SELKIRK/The Dominion Post
NO AWARD: South Africa has responded to New Zealand anti-apartheid activist John Minto's rejection of a national award nomination by saying he had never had been considered for it in the first place. But Minto is adamant he was.

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Veteran anti-apartheid campaigner John Minto has accused the South African government of misleading statements over a national award he says he has rejected.

Mr Minto yesterday said he had turned down the nomination for the Companion of O R Tambo award for foreigners as he was unhappy changes in South Africa had benefited only a small elite since white rule ended.

The South African government then denied he had been nominated for the award.

That was wrong, Mr Minto said as South African sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi (Arnold) Stofile told him at his home last year he had been nominated for the award.

Mr Stofile was attending the world netball championships in Auckland.

"I have a huge personal respect for the guy," Mr Minto said.

"He said a nomination had gone through and he asked my what my reaction was.

"I said I was really uncomfortable about it. I said I had been very critical of the African National Congress (ANC) but because it was on behalf of the wider movement, I would think about it."

He said he made his decision to reject the nomination a few days ago.

He said today the nomination was made formally by cabinet minister Mr Stofile, who told him it had gone to a committee of three ministers.

"They are trying to fudge the issue. Governments always check out whether people are going to accept an award before they make a public announcement."

He said President Thabo Mbeki's office was embarrassed his rejection of the award had received wide publicity in South Africa.

"I have declined the nomination that was made to me in this house and I stand by everything I said (about the changes benefiting only a small elite of the black population).

"The number of people living on less than a dollar a day in South Africa has doubled in the past 10 years. The people who suffered the most under the old regime are the people suffering even more under the current ANC policy."

Mr Minto was a key figure behind protests to the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand which divided the country and divided families.

The Tambo award is the highest honour given to non-South Africans in recognition of friendship, co-operation and support.

Previous recipients include Mahatma Gandhi, Kofi Annan, Salvador Allende and Martin Luther King Jr.

- NZPA

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