Editorial: Best team not picked

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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OPINION: It has become a bit like picking a sports team. Everyone has a view on who should and who shouldn't be in the New Zealand line-up attending Nelson Mandela's funeral.

Prime Minister John Key? No-brainer. The PM should lead the delegation. It would be a snub if he didn't.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe? Yes, because of his anti-tour stance in 1981, and it is the anti-tour stuff that most links us with Mr Mandela.

Also, John Key selected him because "we're celebrating the life of someone that believed in unity, and all I was simply trying to do was unify the New Zealand Parliament", which is semi-plausible.

As it turns out, it looks like just these two will get to the official service itself.

But also selected for South Africa, Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples. On the fringes but not a total surprise. At least he was involved in frontline Springbok tour protests. He'll say the right things over there too.

Sir Don McKinnon? Well, okay, he was Commonwealth secretary-general once, but really? When places are so limited? Haven't we got a long-standing ambassador to South Africa more worthy?

Inappropriate surely that in 1981 he was in the Muldoon government which viewed the ANC as a terrorist organisation.

Former prime minister Jim Bolger? Sorry, why? This is starting to read like a National Party New Year's honours list.

Nelson Mandela took great heart from his Robben Island cell when he learnt ordinary New Zealanders were protesting against apartheid, yet there is no one from HART (Halt All Racist Tours) selected.

Might not the Mandela family and South African officials wonder about that? It doesn't have to be John Minto, but what about Trevor Richards?

Without too much thought there will be a host of others more appropriate than those chosen.

Like Bishop John Osmers, a New Zealand anti-apartheid activist living in Zambia who is a chaplain to the ANC and who in 1979 was seriously injured by a South African parcel bomb.

That there are no women isn't necessarily an issue. There are no South African-New Zealanders either. There are no children representing the future, which you'd think Mr Mandela would see as appropriate.

But maybe we're all getting a little carried away here. Will the family, will South Africa, really care who represents little old New Zealand?

Actually, hopefully they do, because of 1981. So yes, as a country we've been let down by this team selection.

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- The Timaru Herald

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