H.E. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa congratulating H.E. Dr. Cyril Kenrick Hunte shortly after presenting his credentials as Guyana’s High Commissioner at the Sefako M. Makgatho Presidential Guess House, Bryntirion Estate, Pretoria South Africa.
For those old enough to remember, Guyana had a very strained relationship with South Africa for many years, during that country’s white minority government and its brutal policy of apartheid, in which the majority Black population was treated less than human beings for the better part; many, including children, were murdered mercilessly by that brutal minority racist white regime.
For those not old enough to have known, the then all-White minority government of South Africa kept the majority Black population of that nation in abject poverty and suppression, and not full citizens in the country of their birth. Blacks had to have identification documents with them at all times and were subjected to random checks of their person at any time by members of the security forces. In the 1970s, the population of South Africa was 22 million. The present population is now over 55 million.
During White minority rule, Black South Africans were not permitted to participate in the political process of their country; they were not permitted to vote or to seek public office, and for that and the many atrocities, including the Sharpeville massacre of March 21, 1960, in which 69 men, women and children were shot and killed by police using sub-machine guns, while demonstrating against the government’s oppressive Pass Book laws, most of the Free World turned their backs on South Africa.
In present day South Africa, March 21 is observed as a public holiday in honour and to the memory of the Sharpeville martyrs. That and for the many other vile acts committed on the Black majority, South Africa was expelled from the British Commonwealth of Nations, as well as from the United Nations. Many countries severed diplomatic and trading arrangements, Guyana foremost among them.
During the 1970s, the Guyana government banned all trade with South Africa and gave financial and other tactical support to the Freedom Fighters in a number of the countries in Southern Africa; Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa of course.
In 1975, the Guyana government erected an African Liberation Monument in the compound of the Umana Yana in Georgetown, in solidarity with the African Freedom Fighters who were fighting bravely for their freedom, thousands of miles away.
The Burnham government also instituted an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of South Africa, as well as with Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. What is hardly known, is that Cecil Rhodes, the White founder of the former African colony of Rhodesia in Southern Africa, located immediately north of South Africa, was a relative of Guyana’s own retired
News Anchor on the Evening News, Tommy Rhodes. For while one section of the Rhodes family migrated from Europe to Africa, another — the ancestors of Tommy Rhodes — migrated to the then British Guiana.
Let’s now fast forward 26 years after the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa in 1991, to what pertains in that country in 2017. Guyana’s first Ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Kenrick Hunte, arrives in Pretoria, the capital, and is accredited as Guyana’s Ambassador to that democratic republic. He also meets with the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. He gets down to work establishing the presence of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to as many South Africans — both Black and White and others — who make up the 55-million population.
There were two specific occasions when Ambassador Hunte was able to make some important clarifications as regards Guyana’s role in working with others to help dismantle the cruel apartheid system in South Africa. On the occasion of Guyana’s 51st Independence Anniversary, the new ambassador, in a feature address, mentioned two Guyanese of international repute, who made special contributions to helping to bring apartheid in South Africa to an end.
The first was the World War Two fighter pilot, Educator, author and diplomat, E.R. Braithwaite. His popular book “To Sir, With Love” was previously banned by the white minority South African Government, but the ban was subsequently lifted. Braithwaite then decided to pay a visit to South Africa. But since apartheid was still official, he was given the status of “Honorary White.” However, while in South Africa, Braithwaite would make visits to the Black communities and gather first-hand information of their lives under that suppressive system of apartheid. The outcome was the book “Honorary White,” which exposed much of the suffering of the Black South Africans to the rest of the Free World, as reported by that well-respected international author, E.R. Braithwaite.
The second Guyanese individual which Ambassador Kenrick Hunte spoke of publicly, was Eddy Grant, whose hit song ” Give me Hope Johanna,” like a hawk zooming between the intimidating South African fighter jets, did much damage to apartheid. However, what Ambassador Hunte discovered, was that most South Africans — Blacks included — were of the view that Guyana’s Eddy Grant was a Jamaican. That misconception was set right by the ambassador.
Since his arrival in South Africa, Ambassador Dr. Kenrick Hunte, has participated in a number of radio interviews, promoting Guyana and its role in assisting with the liberation of South Africa, as well as the present growing friendly relations between the two countries.
“Our diplomatic relations focus on strengthening pathways for human development, and ending poverty,” the ambassador said in a recent interview on Ubuntu Radio in Pretoria. “Our backgrounds are similar; we had to ensure colonialism, imperialism and discrimination were no more”, he continued, “we had to work on building democratic institutions that included everyone with the freedoms that would ensure progress and self-determination.”
Asked what were the key issues he had to prioritise when he took office, the ambassador spoke of making connections with the people in the mining and education sectors, Reserve Bank, and other Government and private agencies.
Ambassador Hunte, who was once the General Manager of the now defunct Guyana Agri Bank and a professor at the Howard University in Washington, DC, also told the vast radio audience of an air-service agreement that was signed by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Luwellyn Launders, and Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge. The ambassador mentioned the recent discovery of commercial quantities of oil and gas in Guyana. He also alluded to the work in progress of trade agreements between the two countries.
In response to a question regarding tourism between the two countries, the ambassador spoke of the lack of direct air connections between Guyana and South Africa, which makes a vibrant tourism not possible at this time. However, it is already known that a growing number of Guyanese who are based in North America and Europe, are visiting South Africa.
Since his arrival in South Africa, Ambassador Dr. Kenrick Hunte has visited Cape Town, Robben Island, where President Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated for 27 years, Mandela’s home in Soweto and a few others, in order to get better first-hand knowledge of the country and its people.
(Sourced from Guyana Chronicle– August 27, 2017)