U.S. Still Keeps Former Officials of South Africa’s Ruling Party on Terrorist List

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Tokyo Sexwale (photo Jeromedelay, AP)

It has been more than two decades since Apartheid ended in South Africa, creating a new era of political leadership under the African National Congress (ANC), which was once labeled a terrorist organization by the regime it sought to overthrow. During the country’s era of racial segregation, the South African government was backed by the U.S., which put members of the ANC on the State Department’s list of terrorist threats.


Decades later, however, the State Department still lists some former ANC leaders as terrorists, as evidenced by the recent detention of Tokyo Sexwale in New York City.


Sexwale, now a successful businessman and former South African government minister, was stopped for questioning at John F. Kennedy airport while attempting to enter the U.S. on a recent business trip.


Security officials said they held Sexwale because his name appeared on the terrorism watch list, which wasn’t updated to reflect the fact that the ANC member ceased being a threat in his own country 20 years ago.


One of South Africa’s richest men, Sexwale was released only after Ebrahim Rasool, the South African ambassador to the U.S., contacted the State Department to secure his release.


Sextale now intends to sue the U.S. government in federal court in response to his detention.


“It is totally unacceptable,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in an official statement. “We are living in a democracy and Tokyo is not a terrorist, he is a member of parliament and responsible businessman. He is a leader of the ANC. We would have thought the Americans would have taken all credible struggle heroes off the list. This is very disappointing. It makes us very worried. If Tokyo can be arrested, who will not be?”


Sexwale isn’t the only the ANC member to remain on the State Department’s watch list long after the end of Apartheid.


Nelson Mandela remained on the list until 2008, when Congress ordered the former president off. Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it “embarrassing.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Former South African Government Minister Detained in New York (by David Smith, The Guardian)

ANC Fumes over Sexwale US Arrest (by Piet Rampedi and Lebogang Seale, IOL News)


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