African Press International (API)

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US legislature adopts bill to take Mandela, ANC off terror list

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2008

Publisher: Korir, source.apa

The United States House of Representatives on Thursday adopted a bill aimed at taking South African former president Nelson Mandela and his party, the African National Congress, off a US terror blacklist.

The House said it was correcting a long-standing injustice as it voted to drop Apartheid-era travel restrictions and terrorist designations on Mr. Mandela and other members of the ANC who fought white minority rule.

Despite recognizing two decades ago that Americas place was on the side of those oppressed by apartheid, Congress has never resolved the inconsistency in our immigration code that treats many of those who actively opposed apartheid in South Africa as terrorists and criminals,” said Representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House approved by voice vote legislation to give the State Department and Homeland Security Department wide latitude to disregard the ANCs anti-apartheid activities when determining whether to allow members and former members into the United States.

“Despite his legacy as a hero of the anti-apartheid movement, despite the fact that he is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, despite his election as president, we still require Nelson Mandela to apply for a visa waiver to enter into the United States just for a visit. This is just plain wrong,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat-California who co-sponsored the bill.

Ms. Lee and others said the legislation introduced during the 1980s while Ronald Reagan was president is anachronistic and wrongfully labels as terrorists men and women who are heroes and freedom fighters. She recalled that while the ANC could travel to United Nations headquarters in New York but not to Washington DC, or other parts of the United States.

“Its been 18 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 14 years since he was elected president of South Africa, and this year, he will turn 90 years old,” Lee said.

Yet even though he is “a hero” of the anti-apartheid movement who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and who served as his countrys president, Mandela must still apply for a visa waiver just to visit the United States, she said.”This is just plain wrong,” Representative Barbara Lee concluded.

The idea that Mandela would “be on our governments terror watch list is deplorable,” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat-Massachusetts. “No bureaucratic snafu can excuse this international embarrassment, and we need to fix this policy now.”

The African National Congress is the ruling party in the democratic, post-apartheid South Africa, but was considered a terrorist organization by the pre-apartheid white minority government.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress last month to pass the legislation, saying that it is “embarrassing” that she still has to waive travel restrictions when Mandela and other ANC leaders visit the United States.

Other ANC members have been refused entry into the United States. For example, Ms. Barbara Masekela, the former South African ambassador to the United States, was denied a visa to visit a dying cousin in the United States in 2007, lawmakers said.

A similar bill is moving through the US Senate.



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