Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says he will head to South Africa this week to represent the anti-apartheid movement at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
Despite including Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples, who was involved in protests against apartheid, New Zealand's delegation has been panned by some.
The delegation includes Prime Minister John Key, Labour leader David Cunliffe, former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and former Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Don McKinnon.
Much of the focus has been on the exclusion of tour leader John Minto who said he was disappointed to be left off the list but said that a Parliamentary delegation should have included Green MP Kevin Hague and Harawira, who both played prominent roles.
Harawira said this morning "I'm going anyway," and that he said he could leave as early a 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 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 as 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."
Sharples, who was heavily involved in the tour protests and the wider anti-apartheid movement, said yesterday he would represent those people there, but he was not the right man, Harawira said.
"No way in hell does Pita Sharples represent the anti-apartheid movement. 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 he 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.''
He said his party wanted him to go but he would pay out of his own pocket if he had to.
Mandela was "one of the icons of our age'' and "one of the very special people of history", who rose above persecution and forgave his enemies.
"I can think of of only three other people about whom you can say that - that would be Mohamed, Jesus Christ and Buddha. So he's up there man, he is seriously up there.''
Green Party MP Kevin Hague, who was arrested five times during the protests, was disappointed no protest leaders were invited.
He pointed to Mandela organising a meeting in Auckland following an official visit in 1995 to meet members of the anti-apartheid movement.
"His thanks was not to the government of the day, it was to the anti-apartheid movement. To the extent that New Zealand has linkage with Nelson Mandela and his legacy it is chiefly through the country's anti-apartheid movement."
Sharples said he would have liked for protest leaders to be included but that he would represent those who opposed apartheid.
Key yesterday defended the delegation, saying it provided a good mix of current New Zealand representation and political leaders who had dealt with Mandela during the South African leader's presidency.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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