Mandela defies critics to meet Farrakhan

James Roberts
Sunday 28 January 1996 00:02 GMT

THE arrival of Louis Farrakhan in South Africa this weekend appears set to reopen racial wounds to a degree that will be no surprise to America's black Muslim leader.

President Nelson Mandela is due to meet Mr Farrakhan at his home in Johannesburg this morning. There he will be able to inform Mr Farrakhan of the progress of his policy of racial tolerance and reconciliation. Mr Farrakhan, for his part, will have the chance to explain and discuss those of his statements that have attacked Jews specifically and whites generally.

There is a growing body of opinion in South Africa that insists the meeting should not take place. The neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), for example, has complained of ANC double standards. Mr Mandela, it says, shunned David Duke when the former Ku Klux Klan leader visited South Africa in 1994. "The ANC refused to have anything to do with a pro-white American politician, yet now they are falling over themselves to meet an anti-white American politician," an AWB spokesman said.

But outrage is not confined to the political extremes. The formerly ruling National Party has said it wants Mr Farrakhan deported if he uses South Africa to gather support. The mainstream newspapers are growing agitated. The Citizen of Johannesburg said Mr Mandela should have shunned a meeting with a man who was, after all, not a foreign government representative or high dignitary. The Saturday Star said the sentiments Mr Farrakhan was likely to express were in direct contradiction to the "freedom ethos" that had developed in the country. While that ethos demanded that he be allowed in, there was a danger of his inflaming racial and ethnic sensitivities. "Do we need Farrakhan to dig up our skeletons?" it asked.

Mr Farrakhan visited Libya last week. Col Gaddafi gleefully announced after his departure that Libya now had an ally "on the inside" in its fight against the US. If Mr Farrakhan is seeking a further sponsor in Mr Mandela for a role as fifth columnist inside America, all he will take from Johannesburg will be a very polite flea in his ear.

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