John Key. Photo Reuters
Prime Minister John Key is standing by his decision to
lead the delegation of New Zealanders to Nelson Mandela's
funeral in South Africa, despite not being active in opposing
the 1981 Springbok tour.
Mr Key has come under criticism for not taking with him any
New Zealanders who were at the heart of the highly divisive
and influential protests against the whites-only South
African rugby team playing in New Zealand.
He has previously been quoted as saying he was "mildly
pro-tour" and has avoided speaking at length about the topic.
His response was no different this morning, when he told
TVNZ's Breakfast programme: "I'm not going to bother going
into it because if I do it will create a whole lot of other
"I can go through the whole thing but the bottom line is, I'm
opposed to apartheid. I didn't go and protest against the 81
tour, I didn't go to any of the games. I was about 20 years
of age and I had a whole lot of other things to do at the
He said he had selected the members of the delegation after
taking advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"I thought David Cunliffe should come and that was really
based on the view that, if you look at Mandela and his life,
he was a guy that could have been very bitter but actually
everything that personifies Nelson Mandela was unity ... so
it seemed a bit churlish not to have the leader of the
"In terms of the protesters, of course we could have had
some. It wasn't that we were particularly shunning them, but
in the end we thought the grouping that we got - the former
Commonwealth Secretary General, the prime minister of the
day, Jim Bolger, and Pita Sharples is the representative of
indigenous people - we had the combination about right."
Anti-apartheid protest leader John Minto said the delegation
was heavily weighted with those who supported the 1981 tour,
apologists for South Africa's apartheid regime and opposed to
New Zealand's anti-apartheid movement.
"In all conscience they should resign from the delegation,"
Mr Minto said he would not be attending the funeral.
Mandela, South Africa's former president and anti-apartheid
hero, died on Friday after a lengthy illness.