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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971

Meanwhile Back in God's Own

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Meanwhile Back in God's Own

This article is not written for those who are still unsure as to whether sporting contacts with South Africa are right or wrong. It most certainly is not for those who somehow have managed to rationalize the issues out of their ambit of concern. It is written for those who have already decided that sporting contacts with South Africa are wrong, and, who furthermore believe that something should be done to ensure that they do not continue.

It is not my intention here to persuade, cajole, threaten or embarass anyone into supporting our campaign of militant non-violent disruption. That would be altogether too boring, for both you and me. All this article intends to be is a highly personalized explanation of what we are doing, why we are doing it. It makes no excuses, and offers no apologies. Both the situation, and the issues as we see them, are very clear; now is the time to take a stand.

Two years ago H.A.R.T. was formed in an effort to give the anti-tour movement coordination, strategy and tactics. In he early months of July 1969, eleven months before the tour, we adopted a strategy framework which was to last until the last day of March this year. The intitial strategy adopted was very simple: the fact of the proposed All Black tour, and others like it, would depend upon our ability to show to those in a position to stop the tour(s) the complete indefensibility of any sporting contacts between this country and South Africa. We believed, for better or for worse, that both the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and the New Zealand Government were ammenable to, and likely to be influenced by, reason.

Every other decision made was made with due respect for this cornerstone principle of belief. It therefore automatically followed that on the support of society's opinion leaders would be sought, that a petition would be launched, that large, but peaceful demonstrations would be aimed at. And of critical importance, at no stage would extra legal tactics be countenanced; the democratic process was declared inviolable. To quote from one of the early strategy documents;

Whilst we intend to be active, energetic and seeking maximum effect, at no stage would we contemplate moving outside of the democratic frame of reference. And neither do we have to. The issue in question is one where opinion can be influenced considerably by a programme of education. So often, when supporters of the tour are asked why they are in favour of the tour they reply that sports and politics should not mix. But when it is pointed out exactly what this phrase means, they begin to see what it is those opposed to the tour are getting on about. Once we have established the immorality and indefensibility of the tour, we are well on the way to success.

Reading back over documents such as this has a chilling effect. H.A.R.T. wass so optimistic about the odds. Given the rightness of our cause, the impeccable credentials of those who supported us, the enthusiasm of our many supporters, it seemed that it could all be over in six months. It was the World War 1 situation all over again. The Boch would be defeated in no time at all, and everyone would be home in time for Christmas. The early reversals were considered as no more than mild irritations which would be quickly overcome. But as it became clearer as the months progressed that this was going to be no push over, and that we were in for a long, protracted, and at times bitter battle, there was still no serious consideration given to the proposition that our strategy might be wrong. Our only reaction was to step up our activities - a 'more of the same' attitude held sway.

Yet, despite our best efforts, on June 13, 1970, an Air New Zealand Electra jet took off from Rongotai with a team of New Zealand rugby footballers bound for South Africa. We had failed to stop the tour.

Looking back, the most obvious thing for us all to do, then and there, would have been to sit down, and conduct a long postmortem, re-group ourselves, and adopt new policies. It would be encouraging to be able to believe that battles, campaigns, eras, could always end that way: positive, and full of vigour for what was to come. On June 13, we were anything but positive and full of vigour. What amounted to a years work for many of us, had failed in its most immediate objective. We were tired, we were dispirited, we were weary, so we went home, and we slept.

By the time we had stirred from our sleep, and decided that H.A.R.T. would have to continue, the memories of June 13 were sufficiently far behind us to have lost a lot of their initial intensity. We regrouped, planned, and continued on. The strategy was the same. In some instances the targets were the same—Government and the football union; In other cases, they were new - The New Zealand Surf Lifesaving Assn, The New Zealand Womens Hockey Association, to name but two. We sought from Government a variety of things, none of them at all earth shattering or drastic. We sought to get the Rugby Union to discuss with us the question of sporting contacts vis a vis the mooted 1973 Springboks rugby tour of this country. We sought dialogue with other New Zealand sporting bodies who were planning tours of South Africa.

And nothing happened. It was just as it had been before the tour. The great All Black tour, which, in the words of The Rugby News was going to 'light a torch for humanity', had clearly achieved nothing. Yet Government and sporting bodies were still prepared to take the strongest exception to anything which might hinder sports contact with South Africa.

About this time, many of us began having nightmares. We dreamed that we read new papers dated March 1977 in which there were accounts of the Halt All Racist Tours organisations efforts to open up dialogue with the N.Z.R.F.U. And that seemed to be a distinct possibility considering the way things were shaping up. Very slowly, it became quite clear to many of us that our basic strategy would have to be changed. What is surprising about all of this isn't that we decided to change our strategy, but that in fact we took so long to change it.

Discussions on the adoption of a completely new strategy necessarily dwelt in some detail with the reasons for our past failure. Broadly speaking, there appeared to be two possible explanations for our failure to stop the 1970 All Black tour. One would explain failure in terms of lack of adequate finances, organizational skills, etc. The second explanation ignores all of this and claims that the basic theory on which the whole campaign was based was at least in part faulty. It would seem to be either a case of faulty administrators or faulty tactics. Were we the victims of our own inefficiency and poor resources, or alternatively, were we too naive and unsophisticated in our planning?

That H.A.R.T. suffered from inadequate finance and critical regional organizational lapses is well known and need not be spelled out or dwelt upon in any great detailhere. Had all regions collected as many petition signatures as Christchurch, or brought as many people onto the streets as Auckland, or sustained the enthusiasm in the last stages of the campaign as Wellington, would the tour have been called off? I think not. It is also a moot point as to whether more adequate finance would have ended in the cancellation of the tour. If it is claimed that more money would have tipped the scales, how much more? $100, $1,000, perhaps $25,000. (Nixon spent $13M on his campaign and nearly ended up losing). Even had we enjoyed vastly better financial resources and organization, it is doubtful if we would have succeeded.

We lost, because we had played the game according to the rules. We had blindly accepted the rhetoric of the rules without examining their substance. Unless they are completely stupid, and I am charitable enough to believe that they are not, both Government and the NZRFU knew that the 1970 All Black tour was wrong. They failed to stop it for a variety of reasons, a lack of any real concern for the victims of apartheid being paramount amongst those reasons. It could also be fairly stated that in many instances those who were in a position to stop the tour were guilty of nothing less than a white racist approach to the whole question. Dennis Brutus is convinced that 'despite the magnificent campaign, we failed to stop the All Black tour... because of the powerful commercial and political interests who were convinced that links should be maintained - and not merely for sporting reasons.'

What all this impressed upon H.A.R.T. was that appealing to reason, morality, common sense, a sense of concern, would achieve nothing on this issue. For almost two years we had played the game according to the rules. We had been able to produce a wide range of material all of which conclusively showed that sports contacts with South Africa should no longer be tolerated. We showed that the moral, religious and intellectual leaders of not only this community, but of the world, were opposed to sports contact with South Africa. The pro-contact camp could put up no credible arguments, two or three organisations to support them together with a handful of outspoken individuals - Winstone McCarthy, and Sir Richard Wild.

After the tour came a variety of events which indicated even further the extent to which sports contact with South Africa is wrong. New Zealand was condemned in the U.N. Special Committee on apartheid for sending the All Blacks to South Africa. Vorster clamped a series of bans on various aspects of mixed sport which showed yet again that the tour had had no 'liberalizing' effect. And still the Government refused to admit that it had any business in the matter at all.

We were in an unenviable situation. Government claiming that the matter had nothing to do with it, and sporting bodies claiming that the matter had nothing to do with anything but sport. It seemed that the normal channels through which change can occur had closed, and that only a committment to a less tolerant and more controversial militancy of thought and action could produce a situation where either the Government or the sporting bodies concerned were prepared to call off sporting contacts.

What then were we to do? Violence was out - it is abhorrent, and furthermore, it is the one thing the New Zealand power elite know how to handle better than anything else. The obvious weapon seemed to be militant non-violent disruption. It was this tactic which resulted in the canncellation of the proposed Springboks Cricket tour of Britain. It is a tactic which appeals to self-interest and not to reason. Given that it is self-interest rather than page break reason which motivates our politicians and sporting administrators, and given the success of the tactic in Britain, it seemed to H.A.R.T. that here was an ideal tactic to adopt.

Photo of Stop the Tour

The reminiscenses of Trevor Richards

National Chairman of H.A.R.T.

What then does militant non-violent disruption mean? Obviously H.A.R.T. can only speak in the most general terms when it comes to discussing this matter. No sense in tipping off the men in blue. Make Gilbert's salvation army work for their crust. Besides, as is clearly stated in the pledges which are currently circulating, the exact form of action taken is not decided by me, or by your local area officer, or even by H.A.R.T.'s national council. The decision as to what action will be taken, and when it will be terminated, is taken by those prepared to involve themselves in this activity. One of the ideas which has gained some currency and publicity is that people will chain themselves together on a playing field - especially if one of the chains was attached to a permanent fixture i.e. a goal post, hockey goal etc.

The reaction of sporting bodies to these possible tactics has not been communicated to us. (We are not exactly in the confidence of N.Z. Sporting bodies!) One gathers however, from the grapevine, that they are not taking us very seriously. The time has come therefore, to show these doubting Thomases just what we can do. Whilst it would be neither practicable or desirable to have a full scale dress rehearsal, showing all concerned just how effectively we can disrupt, there is a need for something to be done. As a poor second to the undesired full scale dress rehearsal, the National Council decided that I should travel to all the campuses as early in the second term as possible, in order to meet all those people prepared to involve themselves in our disruptive activities. The number pledging themselves will be an indication of strength our disruptive activities will have. Hopefully, (assuming a large number are prepared to take part in these activities), sporting bodies such as the Womens Hockey Association will then have the good sense to call off their invitation(s) to a racist South African sports team.

Since our announcement, on the 31st of March, that H.A.R.T. intended to do all possible to non-violently disrupt all sports fixtures in which a South African team took part, we have continued to do everything possible to establish a dialogue with sporting bodies. The situation as it stands at the moment is that no sporting association currently involved in arranging contacts with South Africa will speak to us. The N.Z.R.F.U. would not allow us to address their annual meeting. 'We are interested in nothing but rugby' a prominent rugby official told me when asked why we could not enter the meeting.

The situation is similiar with other sporting bodies. The N.Z. Womens Hockey Association has informed us that 'we do not wish to have any further correspondence on this matter.' Bodies such as the N.Z. Bowling Assn, the N.Z. Cricket Council refuse to even bother answering our letters.

Government has also remained self-righteously aloof. In the past month without anything approaching a reasonable explanation being given, they have refused to:

recommend to sporting bodies maintaining contact with South Africa that they enter into a dialogue with the anti-apartheid movement.

take part in a three cornered conference involving the anti - apartheid movement, sporting bodies and Government, at which all matters relating to the issue could be fully and frankly thrashed out.

call for a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aimed at discussing all implications of the continuation of sports contact with S.A.

call for a report from the Ministry of Internal Affairs aimed at discussing the internal implications of a continuation of such sports contact.

refused to withold visas from the all-white Womens Hockey team due here this August.

Given the importance of the issues involved, and given the current attitudes of both New Zealand sporting bodies and the New Zealand Government, it would be irresponsible of H.A.R.T. not to pursue its policy of militant non-violent disruption both resolutely and firmly.

H.A.R.T. feels that we cannot dare wash our hands and say 'there is nothing I can do.' We cannot close our eyes to a possibility which is open to us. Robert Kennedy, in a talk given in South Africa in 1966, summed it up:

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

Every time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

For us, responsibility and effectiveness are both equitable disruption. Only time will tell.