Johannesburg - The ANC has expressed outrage at the brief arrest of former Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale in America because his name remains on a US terror watch list of ANC “terrorists”.
Spokesman Keith Khoza said on Sunday night that while the ANC was not aware that the list still existed, South Africa would need to take up the matter “sharply” with President Barack Obama’s administration.
Sexwale was arrested at JF Kennedy Airport while on a business trip to New York last week.
This was because his name was still on a list of people banned in America. The apartheid regime classified the ANC, of which Sexwale is a member, as a terrorist organisation until it’s unbanning in 1990.
Former anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela, had been banned from the US.
The ban was lifted in the late 1990s, but not everyone was removed from the list.
The spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, Clayson Monyela, confirmed that Sexwale was arrested in the US, but said the detention was only for a few hours.
“What we heard is that the incident (arrest) happened last week and he was detained only for a few hours. We called our consulate in the US and they said they were aware. We haven’t been told why he was detained.”
“He is in the USA. He left some time last week. I am struggling to get hold of him,” Sexwale’s personal assistant, Eureka Smith said.
She promised to get back to The Star once she had managed to contact him, but she had not done so at the time of going to print.
It is understood that Sexwale has since returned to the country.
He has reportedly instructed his lawyer, Lesley Mkhabela, to take up the matter with the US embassy.
Khoza said the ANC was not aware of the arrest, but would immediately take up the matter.
“If the arrest has been as a result of his activities in the struggle against apartheid, I think it’s a matter that South Africa will need to raise sharply with the US because nobody can be arrested for matters that are purely South African in terms of the struggle against apartheid and the role people played in challenging apartheid,” said Khoza.
“What we know is that we have moved away from that. Everybody embraces the ANC and everybody accepts the Struggle that was waged by the ANC. So we are not aware that they still have that list”.
A Department of International Relations and Co-operation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media, said that arrangements were made recently to remove Sexwale from the US terror watch list.
“He has been on that US terror watch list for a long time. In fact, there were arrangements to remove him. Remember, in the past, people who received training from outside the country were put on that list. They were listed there and when the amnesty was granted, they were never removed,” said the source.
He added that Sexwale’s name was “unfortunately” not on the list that was circulated for clearance alongside that of Mandela.
Madiba’s name was removed from the terror watch list after former US president George W Bush signed a bill clearing him and other ANC leaders. Until then, they required a waiver from the US Secretary of State before visiting the US, a move once described by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “rather embarrassing”.