U.S. has no problem with Sexwale: Ambassador

Marianne Merten | The Daily News – Independent Online

US ambassador Patrick Gaspard said he had “a very good conversation” with businessman Tokyo Sexwale, the former human settlement minister, who was called aside for questioning when he arrived at New York’s JFK Airport on a recent business trip.

In an apparent replay of what happened in 2002, Sexwale’s name still appeared on a US terrorist list.

The ANC condemned the incident involving “a former minister of a democratic Republic of South Africa, a decorated freedom fighter, activist and leader of our liberation movement, not a terrorist”.

However, Gaspard said on Tuesday the fact the former minister received a visa to travel to the US was “of course, evidence that there are no issues around his application, no issues around his presence in the US”.

He said that he himself had been similarly questioned in what he described as “secondary screening”, not detention.

“Like many others who travel to the States – it happened to me – he (Sexwale) was referred to a secondary screening for all of 15 to 20 minutes and was then allowed to continue,” the US ambassador said.

“There are many foreign travellers and Americans who have gone through the secondary process when they arrived in the States…

“It’s not always altogether clear why any person would be screened or asked additional questions. But I can tell you in my case, it lasted about 10 minutes. It happens from time to time.”

Confirming the ANC “is not (regarded) as a terrorist organisation in the United States”, Gaspard pointed out a 2008 law to this effect.

That law formally removed Nelson Mandela from the watch list and, according to reports of that time, also gave the US state department and homeland security the authority to waive restrictions against ANC members.

“We continue to work with our state department and with leadership here in South Africa to make absolutely certain there aren’t any future difficulties,” Gaspard added.

Originally published in The Daily News, 11/06/2013