The Conservative Party showed a “craven indulgence” towards Apartheid’s rulers, Labour former minister Peter Hain said today.
The anti-Apartheid activist said he also found claims from former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit and others that “complicity” with Apartheid brought about its end and helped free Nelson Mandela “stick in the craw”.
Mr Hain, who spent time living in South Africa as a boy, said he knew for a fact Mr Mandela did not believe the Tories had brought about his freedom.
The Labour MP for Neath also welcomed Speaker John Bercow’s admission he was once on the wrong side of the anti-Apartheid struggle.
Mr Bercow was formerly a member of the hard-line Tory Monday Club, notorious for its ‘’hang Nelson Mandela’’ slogans.
Mr Hain, whose parents were also activists against South Africa’s racial segregation, told the Commons: “Forgive me for a brief moment, I strike what I hope won’t be seen as too discordant a note on this occasion, which sees the House at its very best coming together to salute a great man.
“Were it not for the interventions in the media in recent days I would have leapt past correcting the historical record.”
Addressing Mr Bercow, he said: “I give credit especially to you for volunteering most graciously that you were on the wrong side of the anti-Apartheid struggle as a young Conservative.”
Turning to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Hain continued: “I give credit to you for apologising for your party’s record of what I have to describe as craven indulgence towards Apartheid’s rulers.
“And if Nelson Mandela can forgive his oppressors without forgetting their crimes, who am I not to do the same for our opponents in the long decades of the anti-Apartheid struggle?
“But it really does stick in the craw when Lord Tebbit, Charles Moore and others similar tried over recent days to claim their complicity with Apartheid, because that’s what I think it was, somehow brought about its end.
“Even to my utter incredulity when Lord Tebbit told BBC World in a debate with me that they had brought about Mandela’s freedom.
“I know for a fact that Nelson Mandela did not think so.
“On every possible opportunity, he went out of his way to thank anti-Apartheid activists across the world for freeing him and his people.”
Mr Hain insisted praise for his anti-Apartheid campaigning was “over generous” with tens of thousands of activists also deserving recognition.
He told the Commons: “I’ve never really been in to heroes but Nelson Mandela was mine from when I was a young boy in Pretoria, unique amongst my school friends, relatives as well, as having parents who recognised everybody to their house regardless of their colour.”
He added: “History gets compressed and rewritten over time and we take change for granted. The reality was very different.
“Nelson Mandela’s struggle and that of his African National Congress was long and it was bitter, taking nearly 100 years from the days that under British colonial rule the routes of Apartheid were established.
“Under Britain in 1900, 50 years before Apartheid was formally institutionalised in South Africa, most of Apartheid’s features were already in place in the bustling gold rush city of Johannesburg.
“By then Africans were already prevented from walking on the pavement - they had to walk in the streets - they had to carry passes to work in the city, could not use buses and trains designated for whites, were dreadfully exploited in the mines and had no political rights.
“We all say in Britain we were against Apartheid and doubtless we were. But some did things about it, others didn’t.”
Mr Hain said the anti-Apartheid struggle was for most of its life involved in a big fight.
He continued: “Protests to stop whites-only Springbok tours provoked fierce anger. I remember it well - ‘Hain the Pain’ as I recall, some people might still feel that.
“Yet as Nelson Mandela confirmed to me, the Springboks sporting isolation was a key factor in making whites realise they had to change so that today that wonderful black rugby star Bryan Habana can be a Springbok, when he’s predecessors under Apartheid at the time we were demonstrating never could.”