African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela blasted the Japanese government Tuesday for not doing enough to support blacks struggling for equality in South Africa. Mandela said at a packed news conference here that "the contribution made by the Japanese government is absolutely insignificant."
"If you compare it to what has been done by very poor countries in Africa, and the countries we just visited in Asia, and the other countries in the West . . . again, the contribution of the Japanese government has been very insignificant," Mandela said forcefully.
The 72-year-old black African leader, stopping here for six days during a tour of Asia, has received a virtual hero's welcome from the Japanese people, with long lines of people waiting at every stop and saturation media coverage. But in his appeals for aid from the Japanese government, Mandela has evidently struck out.
On Monday, Mandela met with Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and asked for a grant of $25-million to the African National Congress to assist ANC refugees who are now returning in large numbers to South Africa.
Kaifu responded that "there is no precedent" for the Japanese government to provide "direct assistance" to political groups. As a result, Kaifu said, "it will be difficult" to grant Mandela's request, but he said Japan might consider funding aid to the ANC through a group like the United Nations.
Given the lack of clarity inherent in Japanese language and culture, where a certain ambiguity is considered good form, it was not absolutely clear that Kaifu's answer constituted a rejection of Mandela's request.
But Mandela clearly took Kaifu's reply to mean "No." At his news conference Tuesday, he sharply contrasted Japan's rejection with positive replies he had received from other Asian countries during his current trip.
"India responded by giving us $5.8-million," Mandela said. "In Indonesia, we asked for $10-million; we got that amount. Australia has given $15-million."
Japan's Foreign Ministry says this country has provided $1.4-million to help South African blacks this year through its foreign aid program, and another $430,000 through United Nations programs.
One area where Japan's government was willing to break precedent for Mandela was in the Diet chamber, where the visiting South African was asked to address both houses of the Japanese parliament, an invitation normally reserved only for heads of state.
Mandela delivered a complimentary message that expressed thanks for Japan's opposition to apartheid.