Washington, DC -- Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation to remove a government-imposed stigma against membership in the African National Congress of South Africa, which fought against Apartheid, by removing from any U.S. databases any notation that would characterize the ANC and its leaders as terrorists.
“It is shameful that the United States still treats the ANC this way based solely on its designation as a terrorist organization by the old Apartheid South African regime,” Berman said. “Amazingly, Nelson Mandela still needs to get a special waiver to enter the United States based on his courageous leadership of the ANC. What an indignity. This legislation will wipe it away.”
The South African Apartheid regime banned the ANC in 1960; its leaders were imprisoned or forced into exile. But with the end of Apartheid the ANC went on in 1994 to lead a multiracial, multiparty government, and it continues to be the leading political party in the post-Apartheid, democratic South Africa.
“The ANC sets an important example: It successfully made the change from armed struggle to peace,” Berman noted. “We should celebrate this transformation, and not continue a policy that is nearly two decades out of touch with reality. No one should be prohibited from entering the United States simply because of ANC membership.”
The Berman bill (H.R. 5690), which effectively removes current and former African National Congress members from our country’s travel and terrorism watch lists, has the support of the State Department and is expected to have broad backing in the House and Senate. Original co-sponsors of the legislation are Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Africa Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Foreign Affairs Committee member Barbara Lee (D-CA).
“Basic principles of fairness and opportunity for Members of the African National Congress have been wrongly denied for some time,” Chairman Thompson said. “It is a travesty to reject entry to America because of one’s participation in a fight for freedom and justice in South Africa. For far too long, many of these patriots have been mislabeled as terrorists solely because of their membership in the ANC. I applaud Chairman Berman for introducing this bill and working with my office to ensure that this injustice is corrected.”