Monday, August 13, 2012
Mike Butler: Anti-tour protest and destabilization
I happened to be out of New Zealand in 1981 so missed the turmoil that went on between July 19 and September 12, 1981. But in all the heat generated in the self-righteous protests about the apartheid policies that separated South Africa into racial communities, naive protesters seemed unaware that they were being used as pawns in a battle for the control of southern Africa.
Cartoonist-commentator Tom Scott, who co-wrote and produced the movie last year, the 30th anniversary, contends that the Springbok tour was the closest New Zealand has come to civil war. "There was very little middle ground," he said. "It was on the news every night, in every smoko, every common room, every staff room, every newsroom, every dinner table. You really had to have an opinion on it. To not, you'd have to be in a coma and have a doctor's certificate to say you were brain-dead and therefore exempt from having an opinion on the tour." (1)
Scott did have Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere have the final word on what it meant to black Africans intrigued to see whities out on the streets of New Zealand on their behalf.
It is over to the viewer to do some research to find out that Nyerere had a big “socialist” (ie communist) vision that led to a collapsing economy, systematic corruption, and unavailability of goods. Even before the 1981 tour, Nyerere ordered his security forces to forcibly transfer much of the population to collective farms and, because of opposition from villagers, often burned villages down. The campaign pushed the nation to the brink of starvation and made it dependent on foreign food aid.
With his undoubted talents and impressive resume, was Scott aware of that, and if so, in his opposition to apartheid is that the sort of vision he has for New Zealand?
Nyerere was a driving force in the anti-apartheid movement since it’s beginnings in London on June 26, 1959, as The Boycott Movement. After South African police shot dead 69 unarmed protesters at Sharpeville on March 21, 1960, the organisation was renamed the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
The anti-tour movement in New Zealand was part of this international campaign to isolate South Africa by using rejection of racism as the main attraction. During 1981, while New Zealanders were choosing between watching rugby or protesting against racial segregation, South Africa was under attack as shopping centres, police stations, railway lines, political party headquarters, and military bases were bombed. Meanwhile, the country’s defence force countered the Libya and Cuba-aligned South West Africa Peoples Organisation’s battle to liberate Namibia from South Africa.
While it quickly became un-cool to say that communists were fomenting the anti-tour movement, Scott’s film does show a protest leader expressing dismay that New Zealand workers failed to seize the moment to throw off the shackles of capitalist oppression, as should happen in all good communist revolutions.
Scott’s movie, which aside from this criticism I thought was well done, also shows the mixed bag of malcontents that populated the protest movement – Maori liberationists, feminists fighting male domination, weedy white intellectuals trying to impress, and a collection of crims who just wanted to have a crack at the cops.
The problem is that many of these people who faced battering by police to oppose racial segregation in South Africa in 1981 have moved, like Scott, into gatekeeper positions in schools, hospitals, the news media, and in the Wellington bureaucracy. Many now insist upon “Maori control of all things Maori” in a racially separate New Zealand.
How ironic! But then again, how consistent! We see that the tactic used to destabilise South Africa is now destabilising New Zealand.
1. The tour that divided a nation, http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/culture/television/5527417/The-tour-that-divided-a-nation
at 1:23 PM