What happened to Tokyo Sexwale is an embarrassment to the ANC, to the SA government and perhaps, most of all, to the US, says the writer. File photo: Motshwari Mofokeng

Cape Town - The US State Department is aware South African freedom fighters remain - wrongly - on its “terrorist lists”.

This was confirmed today by South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation after businessman Tokyo Sexwale was detained last week while entering the US.

Sexwale a billionaire and former Robben Island prisoner, has long served as a senior leader of the ANC, as premier of Gauteng and as human settlements minister.

Sexwale was arrested and detained by immigration control last week at JF Kennedy Airport in New York.

His lawyer, Leslie Mkhabela, was quoted by SABC saying: “They alleged he posed a threat to international security.”

SABC US correspondent Sherwin Bryce-Pease tweeted that former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, now ambassador to the US, reported that Sexwale had been released only after the embassy’s intervention with the US State Department.

It was further suggested that Rasool might advise Sexwale on what court action he could take in the US to force Congress to strike South African struggle veterans from the “terrorist list”.

International Relations’ Clayson Monyela told the Cape Argus on Monday the government had made “repeated” requests to its US counterparts, who were clearly in need of “reminding”.

“They’re aware of it,” he said.

Monyela said representations had been made to the Americans under presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

Bryce-Pease explained from the US in a tweet: “Amb Rasool says appears no longer sufficient to alert authorities ahead of time to activate override when VIP visits USA.”

The Guardian quoted Mkhabela explaining Sexwale’s intentions: “He has instructed us to take the matter up with the authorities of the US, so we will address the letter to the US embassy in South Africa.”

At the time of publication, however, US embassy spokesman Jack Hillmeyer said they had no comment.

Cape Argus