New Zealand activist heading to Mandela service
A New Zealand lawmaker and indigenous Maori activist involved in bitter fights against South Africa's apartheid-era rugby tours plans to try to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral following criticism the country's official delegation doesn't include protest leaders.
Speaking to The Associated Press on Tuesday from the Auckland Airport, Hone Harawira said he's traveling by himself to try to attend the South Africa funeral to represent New Zealanders who fought against apartheid during the 1981 rugby tour by the South African national team.
That tour violently pitted New Zealanders against one another and became a defining moment in the nation's history. Protesters invaded a field in Hamilton, forcing organizers to abandon that match.
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key chose four others to accompany him in the official delegation, including Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, who protested the tour at the time but was not a protest leader. Before he left for South Africa this week, Sharples told reporters that he would represent those who opposed the tour.
But Harawira said Sharples doesn't represent New Zealand's anti-apartheid movement.
"I represent those who fought," Harawira said.
Harawira was a leader of the anti-tour Patu Squad. He said he traveled to most of the games in 1981 to protest and was one of the people who invaded the field in Hamilton.
"I'm proud of what New Zealand did. It was a watershed moment," Harawira said. "Nelson Mandela himself said, when he heard they'd called the game off in Hamilton, that it was like the sun had come out."
"He was a great man, one of the greatest men," Harawira said.
As he is not part of an official delegation, Harawira does not know what to expect once he arrives at the Johannesburg funeral, which is expected to be attended by nearly 100,000 people including many world leaders.
"I might just line up and try to get a ticket like everybody else," Harawira said.