’81 Boks protest ‘a great day for Dunedin’: Minto

Veteran protester John Minto returned to Carisbrook yesterday, 40 years after the Springboks...
Veteran protester John Minto returned to Carisbrook yesterday, 40 years after the Springboks played Otago at the former stadium. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

Seeing the remains of the House of Pain brought back a flood of memories for veteran activist John Minto.

The former Halt All Racist Tours (Hart) national organiser (68) returned to Dunedin this week as part of a national road trip to mark the 40th anniversary of the controversial 1981 Springbok tour.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Boks’ game against Otago at Carisbrook.

Although the event was not marred by the large, and at times violent, demonstrations that had occurred earlier in the tour, more than a thousand protesters marched along the Southern Motorway to show their opposition to the tour, and to South Africa’s apartheid policies.

Mr Minto, who grew up in South Dunedin, was a vocal opponent of the tour.

He had been involved in protest action in the city in the days before the match, including wake-up calls at the Springboks’ hotel and protesting during their training sessions.

‘‘We were out to disrupt the tour as much as we could, to be frank.’’

But he missed the early demonstrations on game day, as he had to race to Invercargill and back for a court appearance.Nevertheless,  support for the anti-tour movement was strong in Dunedin that day, he said.

‘‘It was a great day for Dunedin to say ‘no’ to racism, and so many people did.’’

The tour was hugely divisive at the time.

John Minto  speaks into a megaphone as he leads an anti-Springbok tour march in Dunedin in 1981....
John Minto speaks into a megaphone as he leads an anti-Springbok tour march in Dunedin in 1981. PHOTO: ODT FILES

‘‘It’s the closest New Zealand’s ever come to civil war,’’

But attitudes had changed during the intervening four decades.

‘‘In the early days after the tour, I used to get a lot of abuse.

‘‘In the last 10 years, I’ve had two people come up and abuse me. On the other hand, people have come up and in their hundreds, and probably their thousands, and said, ‘You know, I was on the other side in ’81 but good on you guys — we can see what you were on about and you were on the right side’.’’

Attitudes might have changed, but he believed large-scale protest action like that seen during the Springbok tour could happen again in New Zealand, Mr Minto said.

‘‘The gap between rich and poor is so extreme now. There are so many people ... living in poverty that we will see real outbreaks of violence and, unfortunately, National and Labour governments are not doing anything to ameliorate it.’’

Mr Minto spoke at an event at the University of Otago last night, where he covered  both the Springbok tour and his opposition to Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians.

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