Mandela in Japan [part 2]

Editorial: Learning from Mandela’s Visit

By Brian Covert

If ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela’s recent five-day visit to Japan is to mean anything, each one of us in the anti-apartheid movement here must now reflect on that visit and apply what we have learned to both strengthen the South African freedom struggle and hasten the end of apartheid.

Just what have we learned from Mandela’s visit? Many things.

First, we learned that it takes a lot of time, energy and money to fight apartheid from Japan — just as it does within South Africa itself.

Some people in and out of Japan’s anti-apartheid movement were disenchanted that Mandela chose to focus on obtaining badly needed funds from the Japanese government and people, rather than on “uniting the masses” through the emotion-packed oratory for which Mandela has become a living legend.

This shows a certain naivete that somehow apartheid can be best fought by words and speeches. A popular sociopolitical movement — any movement — goes nowhere without the money to sustain it: This is an economic reality. Many people in Japan and other major countries found it easy to sympathize with the plight of Mandela and his people when he was still powerless in prison; now that Mandela is out and wields substantial power, many admirers find it hard to reconcile his moral leadership with his political fundraising.

This includes, much to their own shame, the highest-ranking officials of the Japanese government. It was Japanese leaders of this country — not Mandela — who failed us by not donating the 25 million yen requested by the ANC. (Mandela still came away with 43 million yen from the public.) Ms. J.R. Dash, president of the [Tokyo-based] Japan Afro-American Friendship Association, best sums up this shameful snub: “People in Japan paid former [U.S.] president Ronald Reagan handsomely to come to Japan. Nelson Mandela got only lip service.”

Through Mandela’s visit we have learned the true color of top-ranking Japanese business and government leaders: an off-white hue known as “Honorary White” — a sellout of Japan’s birthright as an Asian people.

We learned a few lessons about racism as well: that it is not just a Black-white problem limited to the United States and South Africa. It includes Japan, too. Each and every one of us in Japan, before we can begin to fight apartheid in South Africa, must fight the racism within ourselves.

Perhaps most importantly, Mandela’s visit taught us that we had better put our money where our mouths are if we are truly serious about helping to end apartheid. We need to KEEP THE PRESSURE ON!!