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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 22. 14th September 1972

Rugby, Racism & Fear

page 3

Rugby, Racism & Fear

"'For New Zealand rugby is a religion, in South Africa it is anti-Christ," Dr Barakat Ahmad, Rapporteur of the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid, told over one hundred people at a H.A.R.T. fund-raising dinner Saturday night.

For Ahmad has been visiting New Zealand [unclear: as] a guest of Hart to explain the United Nations attitude to apartheid in South Africa. He was in Wellington on Friday and Saturday and addressed a public meeting in the Concert Chamber on Friday night. Probably a lot of people at the public meeting were disappointed with Dr Ahmad's address. He stuck very carefully to his brief as a representative of the Special Committee on Apartheid and refused to answer many questions which fell outside his area. The United Nations battle against apartheid was often [unclear: neffective] as Dr Ahmad pointed out, because Governments were quite happy to pass resolutions but were not willing to implement them. The task of fighting the United Nations battle against apartheid therefore fell on the people of member states. "In a true democracy", Dr Ahmad said, "it is the [unclear: people] who lead, not the government." At the dinner on Saturday night, he said that he was not associating himself with extremists [unclear: or] demonstrators, "they are associating themselves with the United Nations."

Photo of Dr Barakat Ahmad

The important thing about Dr Ahmad's visit was not that he provided us with any [unclear: really] new information about apartheid, but that he was here at the invitation of an unrespectable non-governmental organisation. The New Zealand Government was not happy about his visit, and showed it by refusing to pay Dr Ahmad the respect usually accorded important foreign diplomats. Jack Marshall and his cabinet colleagues didn't meet Dr Ahmad, and he is reported to have had angry discussions with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Some people may say that Dr Ahmad's visit was no business of the New Zealand Government, and that it was just another example of United Nations irresponsibility and extremism.

No one who met Dr Ahmad during his visit would have called him an extremist. His address at the Wellington public meeting was very low-key and moderate, and personally Dr Ahmad was a trained diplomat all the way through. When he spoke in the Concert Chamber Dr Ahmad said the New Zealand Government had a good record on voting in favour of anti-apartheid resolutions at the U.N. That was surprising news to many present. However, interestingly enough one of the resolutions New Zealand voted for last year. Resolution 2275 of the 26th General Assembly, authorised the Special Committee on Apartheid, inter alia, to consult with non-governmental organisations opposed to apartheid Dr Ahmad pointed out that he was talking in New Zealand with Hart by the authority of this resolution, supported by the New Zealand Government. So there was no real excuse for the Government's rudeness to Dr Ahmad. Marshall will have only himself to blame if people infer from his attitude to Dr Ahmad that the New Zealand Government is not serious about its participation in the United Nations.

The result of Dr Ahmad's visit will be a strengthening of the contacts between the Special Committee on Apartheid and anti-apartheid groups in New Zealand. Sitting in the midst of a vast bureaucracy in New York there is not much practical help the Special Committee on Apartheid can give to Hart and other groups in New Zealand if the Springbok Tour comes here next year. It is all very well for the New Zealand Government to talk about the ineffectiveness of the United Nations in the safety of its own country, but if the Government continues to ignore the international campaign to isolate the white minority regime in South Africa, it may find itself painfully isolated in the United Nations forums in New York.

Dr Ahmad's visit to New Zealand shows anti-apartheid groups here the importance of their work fighting apartheid. We are part on an international campaign to isolate Vorster's latter-day Nazis, and our struggle is a very important part of that campaign. It is a part of New Zealand anti-apartheid movements job to make the New Zealand Government and public more aware of the international dimensions of our struggle.

Cheshire cat cartoon