Democracy Now!

Apartheid

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  • As Neil Gorsuch begins his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, we look at his extreme right-wing political positions as a student at Columbia in the 1980s and speak with his former classmate, Jordan Kushner. While on campus, Gorsuch co-founded the right-wing campus newspaper the Federalist Paper. The Associated Press reports that in Gorsuch’s writing both for the Federalist Paper and the Columbia Daily Spectator, he criticized anti-apartheid protests, saying divestment could hurt the university’s endowment. He also criticized racial justice protests and black-led movements on campus, while he defended the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra scandal.

  • In a Democracy Now! and Pacifica Radio Archives exclusive, we air a newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On December 7, 1964, days before he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a major address in London on segregation, the fight for civil rights and his support for Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The speech was recorded by Saul Bernstein, who was working as the European correspondent for Pacifica Radio. Bernstein’s recording was recently discovered by Brian DeShazor, director of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

  • Britain is in a state of mourning after a rising star in the British Parliament died Thursday when she was stabbed and shot in her district. Jo Cox was a 41-year-old mother of two who worked at Oxfam before being elected as a Labour MP last year. She was known for her passionate support for Syrian refugees and was a member of Labour Friends of Palestine. Her death comes just a week before the major Brexit vote—when British voters will decide whether the country should stay in the European Union. Cox was a vocal advocate for Britain to stay in the EU. During the attack, eyewitnesses said, her assassin, Thomas Mair, shouted "Britain First"—a possible reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant political party of the same name which is pushing for Britain to leave the EU. We speak with Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has revealed that Mair is a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. He notes Mair’s attack comes on the first anniversary of when self-declared white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine people in the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

  • Representatives from nearly 200 nations are in the final stretch of negotiations at the U.N. climate summit in Paris. The text has nearly 100 outstanding points of disagreement that still need to be resolved. One of the most contentious issues is the role that wealthy and more advanced developing countries should play in helping vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate change. "I feel—and this is not a comfortable thing to say—that if London, Paris, Washington, Brussels were facing as urgent the situation that we are facing in the developing parts of the world, I don’t think we would be having such a struggle to get the kind of ambition that we need and the goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2050," says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. We speak with Naidoo about what he calls "climate apartheid."

  • While the United States considered the African National Congress a terrorist organization, the Swedish government openly funded the group for decades. According to many accounts, Sweden was the largest single source of financial aid to the ANC. Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, was assassinated in 1986 just a week after he gave a keynote speech at the Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid in Stockholm. Rumors have swirled for years about the South African government’s involvement in his killing. Shortly after he was released in 1990, Nelson Mandela came to Sweden on one of his first foreign stops after being released from prison. During an address to the Swedish Parliament, Mandela thanked Sweden for standing in the "front ranks of the international forces that have fought against the apartheid system." On Wednesday night, one of Mandela’s closest associates, Ahmed Kathrada, spoke at an event organized by MIAGI (Music Is A Great Investment) in the Swedish town of Visby, which is hosting the week-long political festival Almedalen Week. Kathrada spent 26 years in prison, including 18 years on Robben Island.

  • In a Democracy Now! exclusive, one of the nation’s most prolific transparency activists, Ryan Shapiro, reveals he is suing the NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency in an attempt to force them to open their records on one of the country’s greatest secrets: how the U.S. helped apartheid South Africa capture Nelson Mandela in 1962, leading to his 27 years in prison. The U.S. has never confirmed its involvement, but details have leaked out over the years. Shapiro already has a pending suit against the CIA over its role in Mandela’s capture and to find out why it took until 2008 for the former South African president to be removed from the U.S. terrorist watch list. The NSA has already rejected one of Shapiro’s requests for its information on Mandela, citing "national defense."

  • We look back at how African-American workers at Polaroid in Massachusetts helped launch the divestment movement against apartheid South Africa in the early 1970s. We speak to Caroline Hunter, co-founder of the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement, who stumbled upon evidence that her employer was providing the camera system to the South African state to produce photographs for the infamous passbooks for black residents. Hunter and her late husband, Ken Williams, then launched a boycott of the company. The boycott and divestment campaign ultimately grew to target other corporations in apartheid South Africa, including General Motors and Barclays Bank, among others. By 1977, Polaroid finally withdrew from South Africa.

  • In part 2 of our interview with Danny Schechter, who has made six nonfiction films on Nelson Mandela, including "Mandela in America," he recalls the impact of the anti-apartheid leader’s visit to eight cities, including New York, Detroit, Oakland and Los Angeles. [includes rush transcript]

  • South Africa has begun a week of remembrance for Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. International leaders, global figures and celebrities will join 95,000 ordinary South Africans for a memorial service at FNB Stadium in Soweto, where Mandela made his final major public appearance during the 2010 soccer World Cup. President Obama is among 60 heads of state planning to attend. On Sunday, South Africans held a day of prayer for Mandela in congregations across the country. The commemorations will end with Mandela’s burial Sunday in his home village of Qunu. We look back on Mandela’s life with Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader who was at the head of the American anti-apartheid solidarity movement and was among the first to greet Mandela when he was freed from prison.

  • Former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95. South African President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s death Thursday saying, "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost their father." Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 27 years from 1962 to 1990. In 1994, four years after his release from prison, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. We air highlights of Mandela in his own words over the years, including a rare TV interview from the early 1960s.

    Click here to watch our special coverage of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

  • In 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island. He would become the most famous political prisoner in the world and his freedom became a central demand of the international anti-apartheid movement. Despite growing international pressure in the 1980s, the apartheid government received strong backing from the Reagan administration and Margaret Thatcher in Britain. The African National Congress was considered a terrorist organization by both nations. Mandela was listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008. We speak to Randall Robinson, founder and past president of TransAfrica. He helped found the Free South Africa Movement and was arrested many times during the 1980s protesting the apartheid regime.

    Click here to watch our special coverage of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

  • As the world marks the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a beloved symbol of the country’s struggle to end apartheid, longtime South African activist Trevor Ngwane takes Democracy Now! on a tour of the township of Soweto. Speaking outside of Mandela’s former home, Ngwane recalls when the ANC leader was first captured, leading to a 27-year imprisonment before his release in 1990. Ngwane was active in the struggle against apartheid that culminated in Mandela’s 1994 election and today remains a leading South African voice for human rights.

  • As post-apartheid South Africa struggles to fulfill its promise, the new documentary "I Live to Sing" follows three gifted singers at the University of Cape Town Opera School, which was once off-limits to black students. "For many years, opera was viewed in South Africa and elsewhere as a completely European, elitist, white art — both by whites who felt that blacks weren’t going have what it took to sing opera, but also more recently, by the black government in South Africa," says director Julie Cohen. The film premieres tonight on PBS Thirteen in New York City, and will be available to watch online.

  • As the African National Congress voted Thursday to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel known as BDS, declaring it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel," we look at a new film that examines the apartheid analogy commonly used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Roadmap to Apartheid" is narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker and puts archival footage and interviews with South Africans alongside similar material that shows what life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel. The documentary has just been released to the public after a year-long film festival run, where it won numerous awards. We are joined by its co-directors, South African-born Ana Nogueira and Israeli-born Eron Davidson, both longtime journalists. [includes rush transcript]

  • The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban marks a homecoming for Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. At the age of 14, Naidoo joined the anti-apartheid movement and was soon forced to go underground after he was arrested for violating the apartheid government’s state of emergency regulations. After nearly a year underground, he moved out of South Africa, not to return until after the release from prison of Nelson Mandela in 1990. We speak to Naidoo about the climate summit and the link between his anti-apartheid activism in the 1980s and his environmental work today. "The problem is, the level of ambition and the level of urgency being exhibited in these talks do not match what the science is telling us to do," says Naidoo. "We are seeing in Africa—in the Horn of Africa with the drought, the conflict in Darfur, the devastation that African women farmers are facing all over our continent—that climate change impacts are taking lives right now. So in that context, we feel that there has to be a much greater sense of urgency to move the agenda forward." [includes rush transcript]

  • As South Africa celebrates the 93rd birthday of anti-apartheid leader and former South African president, Nelson Mandela, we speak to one of Mandela’s allies, Ronnie Kasrils, who was on the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress for 20 years. Kasrils also served as minister for intelligence services in post-apartheid South Africa from 2004 to 2008. He has just published a new book, “The Unlikely Secret Agent,” about his late wife Eleanor, a Scottish South African anti-apartheid activist. [includes rush transcript]

  • In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government has asked Egypt to drop restrictions on the Rafah border crossing, just days after the checkpoint opened last week. In a major policy shift, Egypt’s transition government had unsealed the Rafah border after years of closure under ousted Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. But less than a week later, Egypt imposed a cap of 400 people per day, turning back busloads of people that had been cleared for passage. On Saturday, the border was sealed completely, causing angry Palestinians to storm the gates in protests. Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were one of the few teams of foreign journalists to witness the scene at the Rafah border, and they file this report from the Gaza Strip. [includes rush transcript]

  • This week Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa announced he is retiring from public life. Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work campaigning against the apartheid regime in South Africa. We play a speech Tutu made at a candlelight vigil to a group of children just outside the Copenhagen climate summit in December. [includes rush transcript]

  • A new film premiering tonight on PBS called Promised Land follows two legal struggles over land in contemporary South Africa. In 1994, the African National Congress-led post-apartheid government promised to redistribute a third of the land within ten years, but the struggle for economic justice continues. We speak with filmmaker Yoruba Richen. [includes rush transcript]

  • Israeli President Shimon Peres has denied reports he offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa when he was defense minister in the 1970s. On Sunday, the Guardian newspaper of London published top-secret South African documents revealing that a secret meeting between then-defense minister Shimon Peres and his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha, ended with an offer by Peres for the sale of warheads "in three sizes." The documents were first uncovered by senior editor at Foreign Affairs Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of the new book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa. [includes rush transcript]

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