Mandela in Japan [part 1]

Viva Mandela!

By Brian Covert

OSAKA — “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Nelson Mandela!...”

With that announcement, the 20,000-plus people who packed Ogimachi Park’s Osaka Pool stadium to capacity broke into a thunderous applause, amid shouts of “Man-de-la, Man-de-la!”

Baba Nelson Mandela, father of the worldwide anti-apartheid movement and deputy president of the African National Congress, had finally arrived in Japan.

The day was Sunday, Oct. 28, 1990, and an occasion not to be forgotten by the thousands of international and Japanese residents who came from all over the country — from Toyama to Kyushu — to join the historical “Nelson Mandela Welcoming Rally of Western Japan.”

Mandela openly acknowledged the mass of supporters during his brief 30-minute speech, saying the visit would allow the ANC “to thank those many non-governmental organizations which help us in our struggle.”

The gist of Mandela’s speech was on the financial reality of apartheid and the need now to prepare a solid economic foundation for the new South Africa — which, he reminded the audience, was far from established. His speech also served as an update on the success of the ANC’s recent stops throughout Asia, while at the same time letting Japanese central government officials in Tokyo know what he expected of them during the rest of his five-day visit in Japan.

The rally had a most emotional closing with Mandela, the ANC guests and a stadium full of supporters singing in unison the [ANC] African national anthem, “Nkosi Sikekel’ iAfrika” (God Bless Africa). With that, Mandela, flanked by dozens of press people and protective event organizers, then walked around the inner circumference of the stadium. The crowd went wild as he waved and smiled back. The cheers continued even after Mandela left the stadium.

The two-hour rally that had taken months of never-ending preparation was over all too soon for the mass of anti-apartheid supporters who showed up that memorable day. Nevertheless, the Nelson Mandela Welcoming Rally was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for participants to catch a piece of history — indeed, a chance to express their concrete support for freedom and justice in South Africa as one voice: “Viva Mandela!”

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While Mandela was in Japan…

...apartheid was alive and well in South Africa. The following news reports during Mandela’s visit to Japan showed just how strongly apartheid continues to oppress Africans on a daily basis — despite all the “reforms” that have taken place there.

OCT. 27, 1990: A chilling AP photograph showed South African riot police with shotguns shooting into the backs of fleeing Africans, some of whom can be seen falling to the ground. The hundreds of protesters in the Black township of Khayelitsha were marching on the local town council when police opened fire. Seven people were reportedly killed.

OCT. 27: Thousands of Africans of Zulu ethnicity, waving clubs, axes and spears, marched to South African police headquarters in downtown Johannesburg to protest police harassment of their Inkatha Freedom Party.

OCT. 28: The Rev. Beyers Naude, 75, an Afrikaner minister who broke away from the Dutch Reformed Church, preached a sermon for the first time in 27 years to 200 multiracial worshippers.

OCT. 28: Eight people were reported dead and 37 injured in fighting between Africans of the Zulu and Xhosa ethnic groups. Both sides — Inkatha and ANC supporters — have pointed to police interference in the ongoing “black-on-black” violence.

OCT. 29: Nine ANC members, including ANC executive committee member Mac Maharaj, were charged with terrorism and illegal weapons possession. The ANC has denounced the charges as a sham and an attempt by the white regime to derail the peace process.

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Mandela in Osaka, 1990:

SOME [FOREIGN] COUNTRIES and organizations were satisfied merely to condemn apartheid, but did nothing concrete to help us destroy apartheid. In particular, they did not give us the resources, the money, which would help us conduct an effective struggle for a new South Africa.

“We are now in the richest country in Asia, and we are going to ask the government and the business people in this country to give us these funds....

“Your presence here in such large numbers shows that we have hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are our true friends and allies....

“I will report to the African National Congress and to the people of South Africa that the warm welcome that you gave us yesterday and your presence here, representing so many people in this country, is a guarantee that our cause will never fail. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your commitment and for the support that you have given us.”

Mandela in South Africa, 1962:

ABOVE ALL, WE WANT equal political rights because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.

“But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs, it will not change that policy....

“Whatever sentence Your Worship sees fit to impose upon me for the crime for which I have been convicted before this court, may it rest assured that when my sentence has been completed I will still be moved, as men are always moved, by their consciences.

“I will still be moved by my dislike of the race discrimination against my people when I come out from serving my sentence, to take up again, as best I can, the struggle for the removal of those injustices until they are finally abolished once and for all.”

—Statement before Old Synagogue court, Pretoria