South African Minister supports Martin McGuinness for Áras

A former South African government minister and ANC activist has given a gushing endorsement of Martin McGuinness's presidential bid. In a video address posted below, Ronnie Kasrils says "we South Africans are very pleased and interested" to hear of Martin McGuinness's nomination. Kasrils says that activists and leaders of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, recognise in Mr. McGuinness "the same qualities that served [South Africa] so well in [its] endeavous to bring about a united free democratic South Africa".

In 1997, Mr McGuinness was one of 27 members of nine Northern Ireland political parties to attend the Arniston Conference in South Africa, also known as the Indaba, or "gathering of the minds". The conference allowed unionists and republicans to hear the experience of the chief negotiators from all the parties involved in reaching South Africa's peace settlement in 1994. Padraig O'Malley, who convened the conference, credits Martin McGuinness and David Trimble with applying the lessons of Arniston: 

"They kept in touch with the individual South Africans so they could ring them up for advice, and the South Africans reciprocated. The negotiations very much proceeded along the lines of the processes used by the South Africans. Negotiations are all about process. If you get the processes in place, the outcome will emerge." 

On 20 July 1997, the IRA declared a new ceasefire, and in September, Sinn Féin signed up to the Mitchell Principles of non-violent and democratic means and entered the multi-party talks at Stormont. 

ronnie kassrilsWho is Ronnie Kassrils?

Originally a South African film maker, he joined the African National Congress in the early 1960s and later the South African Communist Party. He was a founding member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC and worked for the organisation overseas. He lead the ANC's campaign section from 1991 to 1994. From 2004 to 2008 he served as Minister for Intelligence Services

In 1992, Kassrils was one of several ANC leaders who led 60,000 people in a march on Bisho, the capital of the Ciskei homeland (or Bantusan). The ANC was demanding the resignation of the regional Ciskei leader and the reincorporation of Ciskei into South Africa. The Ciskei Defence Force (CDF) opened fire on a group of marchers led by Kassrils who tried to enter the city through a gap in the fence (video below). Some 29 people were killed and 200 were injured. The Goldstone Commission report on the the massacre recommended that Kassrils be publicly censured for leading demonstrators into danger.  

Of Jewish lineage, Kassrils is an outspoken critic of Israel's subjugation of the Palestinian people and has called for peaceful dialogue to end the conflict.  

Video of the Bisho massacre.