South African Elections: Huddleston casts his vote and rejoices

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The Independent Online
ARCHBISHOP Trevor Huddleston had never been optimistic - but optimism, as he likes to point out, is not the same as hope. Hope he had had in plenty that he would see the end of apartheid. The d'Oliveira affair, the death of Oliver Tambo, sanctions, Nelson Mandela's release from prison were among the landmarks on the path trodden by the now frail, 80-year-old Archbishop in his remorseless campaign to bring about change in the country he always considered his home.

Hobbling on crutches because of his broken knee cap, the white-haired former monk, English suffragan bishop, African Archbishop, and President of the Anti- Apartheid Movement in Britain did something he had never had the stomach to do before: he voted in a South African election. He walked through the main entrance of South Africa House, the building in Trafalgar Square long associated with apartheid for the thousands of protesters over the years.

Many were there again, remembering the years when they formed small groups, often in wintry conditions, often taken for granted, but a constant reminder of an injustice. Archbishop Huddleston was often among them and, as he later spoke in the reading room heavy with colonial history, he thanked God for being able to participate in 'something unspeakably wonderful'.

South Africa House had been 'the symbol of apartheid in London and a focus for protest. From today, it must become a mission which represents a democratic South Africa and serves the interests of all its citizens.' He reminded his audience of 'all those who gave so much and yet are not with us to share our joy, above all my very special friend, Oliver Tambo'.

The Archbishop was among up to 60,000 South Africans who voted at polling stations in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Jersey.

(Photograph omitted)