Catholic advocates old SA-style apartheid
Well-known Japanese author and Catholic activist, Ayako Sono, 82, caused outrage this week when she suggested her country should implement the sort of racial segregation once practiced in South Africa.
In a column published in the conservative Sankei Shimbun daily, Sono – a lifelong Catholic who heads a charity that supports Japanese nuns caring for the poor in Africa and Asia – said it was better for people of different races to live separately. She wrote:
Since I learned the situation in South Africa 20 to 30 years ago, I’ve come to believe residential areas should be separated, so whites, Asians and blacks will live among themselves.
Sono was discussing the need to bring in immigrants to ease the shortage of workers to care for Japan’s ballooning elderly population.
This report said she then offered an anecdote about an apartment building in Johannesburg, saying that an influx of black residents after the end of apartheid caused white residents to flee.
Black people basically have a philosophy of large families. Therefore, they would bring their families into the apartment they bought. For whites and Asians, it was common sense for a couple and two children to live in one complex. But blacks ended up having 20 to 30 family members living there.
Sono went on to say that with so many people in such a small space, the water quickly ran out and the white people were forced to leave.
People can work, research, and socialize together. But only in terms of residence should they be separated.
Tweets and blog posts slamming Sono have flooded social media. Some attacked Sankei for running the column. Africa Japan Forum, a nonprofit group promoting knowledge of Africa, issued a statement asking Sono and Sankei to withdraw the article and apologise to the people of South Africa.
Naoko Tsuyama, the group’s representative, wrote in a letter.
This kind of thinking is shameful for a member of the world community.
Sono told The Wall Street Journal on yesterday that she wouldn’t discuss the column.
If there is an error in the article, I would correct it. I am a human and I make errors. But that piece doesn’t have any errors.
Sono, long an advocate for various conservative causes, has extensive connections to Japanese and international conservative and right-wing politicians.
In 2000, she welcomed into her home ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who fled the country during a corruption scandal. Fujimori was later impeached, and in 2009 was convicted of human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
More recently, Sono got into trouble over an August 2013 weekly magazine article in which she lambasted women who insisted on keeping their jobs after childbirth and urged them to stay home and raise their children instead of dropping them off at day care centres.
In apartheid South Africa, Japanese people were classed as non-whites, and excluded from whites-only areas and facilities such as swimming pools … until a trade pact was formed between South Africa and Japan in the early 1960s.
When Tokyo’s Yawata Iron & Steel Co offered to purchase 5,000,000 tons of South African pig iron, worth more than $250,000,000, over a ten-year period, the architect of apartheid, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, decided that Japanese should be designated “honorary whites“.
Verwoerd, who was assassinated in 1966, believed that it would be tactless and disadvantageous to the trade arrangements to subject the Japanese people to the same restrictions as other ethnicities, since trade delegations from Japan would now regularly visit South Africa for business.
Pretoria’s Group Areas Board then publicly announced that henceforth all Japanese people would be considered white, at least for purposes of residence.
Johannesburg’s city officials even decided that “in view of the trade agreements” the municipal swimming pools would be open to all Japanese guests.
The designation gave Japanese almost all of the same rights and privileges as whites (except for the right to vote, as well as being exempt from conscription).