Many show business, and sporting personalities are lining up to pay tribute to Mandela but some need to come clean about the part they played in supporting Apartheid South Africa says PETER FROST.
The obscene Apartheid regime had many strategies to keep its white supremacist state on track in Southern Africa.
Key was keeping opponents of Apartheid, leaders of the ANC and the South African Communist Party in prison or in exile. Mandela we know served 27 years.
Capital punishment was another weapon. In the 1980’s South Africa was hanging more prisoners than any other country in the world.
It didn’t draw the line at legalised murder either, its security forces became masters of death by letter bomb and political assassination.
The army, police and other forces, often secretly trained, backed and equipped by British government agencies and companies had a key role. There were economic and trade links, again with British Banks, not least Barclays, and other well known giants of British Industry.
But the Apartheid state also craved international recognition and acceptance and to get this credibility it targeted show business and sporting personalities to visit the country to give it a veneer of normality and respectability. It hoped these visits would also convince its white population that all was well in South Africa.
Today it’s hard to find anyone, except perhaps a few Tory backwoodsmen and some out and out fascists, who admits to supporting the Apartheid state and their racist policies.
In fact the list of those who went to Apartheid South Africa to entertain either on stage or on the sporting field is a long and disgraceful one.
One of the most cynical actions of the Apartheid state was the building of a huge entertainment resort called Sun City. This tawdry resort was, on paper, in the one of South Africa’s so-called Bantustans; Bophuthatswana.
This had been set up as an independent state by South Africa’s apartheid government although no one else in the world recognized it as such. It was simple a convenient puppet state.
Sun City offered such delights as gambling and topless shows which were banned in what masqueraded as a respectable protestant and Christian South Africa.
The resort was close to both Pretoria annd Johannesburg and it became a popular holiday and weekend destination for affluent whites including, of course, many government officials.
Sun City also allowed international stars to earn large fees, while arguing they were not actually performing in and for the Apartheid state.
Among those who took advantage of this flimsy legality were Elton John, Cliff Richard, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Elaine Paige, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Liza Minnelli, Sarah Brightman, Johnny Mathis, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Elkie Brooks. Dionne Warwick, and Kylie Minogue.
If the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer then the Marylebone Cricket Club is the Tory Party at play. Who has this august body elected to be its President in this its 150th anniversary year? Why none other than Mike Gatting.
Many of us can remember what we were doing on Feb 11 1990, when Nelson Mandela walked to freedom from Victor-Verster Prison.
Mike Gatting needs no reminding he was leading his rebel cricket team to play in South Africa. By 1990 the Apartheid regime had been ostracised by just about every international sporting body in the world.
In January 1990 Gatting and his team left from England. There had been six previous tours, between 1982 and 1987, from England, Australia, the West Indies and Sri Lanka all to bring a little respectability to South Africa’s all white cricket world.
Gatting’s team and tour was worst of all. South Africa was going through a period of momentous change. Mandela was free, but Gatting and his 16 England players signalled business as usual to the racist sports fans of South Africa.
Gatting and his team were being well paid directly by the Apartheid state rather than corporate sponsors, which had been the case on previous rebel tours.
The tour was organised by Dr Ali Bacher, who had been South Africa’s last cricket captain before the country was ostracised from Test cricket at the start of the 1970s.
Whereas previous rebel tours had played to capacity white crowds, this tour met with hostility and massive demonstrations.
In Pietermaritzburg the team was confronted by the crowd chanting “Gatting go home!” and, totally unrepentant, home they went, clutching their bulging pay packets.
Mandela went on to build his Rainbow Nation. Today we bury Madiba, one of the greatest people of the age.
But as we pay tribute let’s take a moment to remember some of those who, for greed or lack of conscience extended and offered respectability to the cruel Apartheid state that took away Mandela’s freedom for so long.
A few heroes.
George and Beryl Formby
Unlikely early heroes in the battle against Apartheid are George and Beryl Formby. In 1946 George toured the pre-Apartheid South Africa with his ukulele and his wife. They refused to play racially-segregated venues. At one concert a young black audience member presented Beryl with a box of chocolates. George gave the youngster a hug.
When National Party leader Daniel François Malan, one of the first architects of Apartheid, phoned the indomitable Beryl to complain about this multi-racial contact Beryl’s reply was short and sharp, “Why don’t you piss off you horrible little man?”
In 1964 Dusty was actually deported from South Africa. For her tour she had an anti-apartheid clause written into her contract and refused to perform for all white audiences. Under South African segregation laws Dusty was arrested and then deported for performing in front of a racially mixed audience.
Dusty and her band were escorted to the airport by armed guards. As she and the band walked across the tarmac black airport porters lined up and removed their berets as a sign of respect and silent protest.
Steven Van Zandt and Sun City
One musician who took up Mandela’s cause and fought for an end to apartheid was actor, E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who in 1985 brought together fifty anti-racist musicians to record the protest song “Sun City”.
His group Artists Against Apartheid decided to boycott South Africa. The song raised awareness about apartheid during a time in the 1980s when many American’s weren’t too concerned about was happening in South Africa on indeed their own racist southern states.
Artists from Miles Davis to Bono sang on the track. The album and single ended up raising more than a million dollars for the anti-apartheid cause.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 14 December 2013 to mark Nelson Mandela’s funeral.