US finally passes bill to remove Mandela’s ‘terrorist’ tag

June 28th, 2008 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 27 (IANS) Fourteen years after Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s president after its first democratic elections in 1994, the US Congress has passed a bill to remove his name from its lists of terrorists. Passed Thursday night after an agreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Congress is now sending the legislation to President George W. Bush to finally erase the government-imposed stigma against association with the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.

When signed into law by Bush, the legislation will remove from US databases any notation characterising the ANC and its leaders, including former South African president Mandela, as terrorists. After that, ANC membership alone will no longer trigger additional investigation into an individual’s application for a visa to the US.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the additional review of ANC members’ visas “embarrassing” and has advocated a legislative change to lift it.

Nobel laureate Mandela became South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994 heading a ‘Government of National Unity’ after his ANC won 62 percent of the votes in the country’s first democratic elections with full enfranchisement.

“Congress finally stands ready to rid US immigration law of this anachronistic blight,” said Howard L. Berman, the bill’s author and Democratic Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee (D-CA).

“The Senate and House have now both affirmed that America’s place is on the side of those who fought against apartheid, and there should be no discrimination in our legal code based on their ANC association alone,” he said.

For decades the ANC resisted apartheid and advocated the rights of black South Africans - first through non-violence and community activism, and then through the actions of its military wing.

The South African government banned the ANC in 1960, and the US denied entry to ANC members based on the group’s activities. With the end of apartheid in 1990, the ANC grew to become the leading political party, and it continues to lead South Africa in a multiracial, multiparty democracy.

Berman’s bill, which passed the House on May 8, effectively removes the stain of the “terrorist” label from the names of current and former African National Congress members.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation Thursday, and the Senate passed it unanimously Thursday night. On the heels of Senate passage, the House approved the final version of the legislation as well.

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