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Mandela's name comes off US terror list
The good news is that the United States government has removed Nelson Mandela, Tokyo Sexwale and Sidney Mufamadi from its list of global terrorists.
The bad news is that the removal is only for the next 10 years. George Bush, the US president, and consular officials privately informed the three men during Bush's recent visit to South Africa, according to an official US source.
The US state department is reviewing the status of hundreds of listed South Africans. Some were listed for having convictions against them for terrorism, sabotage, treason or related offences against the apartheid state. Others were members of the guerrilla army, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
In all instances, if they apply as government ministers, they receive special dispensation to travel to the US, but if they apply as private citizens, their visas are rejected, particularly since the US has tightened visa applications in its "war against terror".
One US embassy official, who preferred to remain anonymous, denied that Mandela, Sexwale and Mufamadi were listed as terrorists, but refused to clarify what they were listed as.
Virginia Farris, the public affairs spokesperson for the US embassy in Pretoria, said people were not "delisted as such, they receive 10-year waivers from the department of immigration and nationalisation and the department of homeland security".
Farris said these regulations applied to everyone and that there would be "quite a number of leaders of countries around the world on the list".
"To make an exception for those who struggled against apartheid would require congress to change the law, and that would be a very lengthy process," Farris said.
She advised that those who had convictions against them for anti-apartheid activism apply "at least several weeks ahead of travelling to the US for a department of justice waiver. It could take months."
Another US embassy source said the state department was reviewing its list of "undesirable" South Africans, "but this could take a long time. The 10-year-only limitation is embarrassing in these instances, but that is the way legislation is presently constructed".
The removal of the three ANC stalwarts from the list appears to have been a pre-emptive move to avert a potentially damaging court case threatened by Sexwale, a Johannesburg businessman and former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander.
US sources said Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, personally intervened about six months ago, asking Sexwale to hold fire on legal action after his US lawyers served papers on the state department.
Sexwale brought the action after he was refused a visa to visit the US late last year. This was despite the fact that he had visited the US, without hindrance, as Gauteng premier several years ago.
Mandela has never been refused a visa.
Mufamadi, as a cabinet minister, would not be refused a visa, but were he to apply as a private citizen, he would be.
Sexwale and Mufamadi, also a senior member in Umkhonto we Sizwe, had convictions against them by the apartheid government. Sexwale killed a policeman and Mufamadi kidnapped a police officer. Mandela was convicted of sabotage.
Late last year Mandela, who has frequently visited the US at the invitation of its government and others, received the US's highest civilian decoration.
Sexwale has extensive business connections with US companies and chairs the world's second-biggest diamond company after De Beers, among other business interests ranging from oil to wine.
The former Gauteng premier was not prepared to comment and Mandela and Mufamadi were not available for comment.
However, a US source said the three had appeared pleased by the news.
A US embassy source said the state department was reviewing its list of "undesirable" South Africans, "but this could take a long time. The 10-year-only limitation is embarrassing in these instances, but that is the way legislation is presently constructed." - Foreign Service
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