by Tim Harding
In the early 1990s, I was put in charge of developing a new Fisheries Act for my state of Victoria, Australia. This work had major policy implications, as well as legal reforms. So when a delegation from South Africa’s new ANC Government came to Victoria, I was allocated the task of meeting and talking to them.
In my private life, I had long been opposed to apartheid, and I had attended protests against the visiting Springboks’ racially-selected rugby team. But as a public servant I had to be non-political. Nevertheless, I was smart enough to understand that I when I walked into the room to meet the South African Government delegation, I needed to first greet and shake hands with the black ANC politicians rather than the South African public servants (who were all white). I shudder to think what would have happened if I or one of my colleagues had not done this. During the meeting, I of course always deferred to the black politicians, even though their white public servants obviously knew more about fisheries policy and legislation.
After the meeting, we all went to the pub for lunch and got along fine, buying drinks etc. I think the ANC politicians were pleasantly surprised to find that they experienced no discrimination whatsoever in an ordinary Australian pub, whose staff would have no idea who they were. I’m glad I had this experience, and I hope that my fisheries policy advice was of some help to the new ANC Government.