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US briefly holds S.Africa politician as 'terror suspect'

Tokyo Sexwale at a working group meeting on racism and football on October 7, 2013 at the United Nations offices in Geneva
Tokyo Sexwale at a working group meeting on racism and football on October 7, 2013 at the United Nations offices in Geneva

A former South African minister and ex anti-apartheid activist was briefly detained in the United States because he was on an outdated terror watch list, the ruling ANC said Monday.

Tokyo Sexwale, an ANC lawmaker and a prominent businessman, was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York last week, the party said, warning that the incident could harm US-South Africa ties.

His name is still on a list of indiviuals banned from entering the United States because of their involvement in military activities against South Africa's old apartheid regime.

"He was briefly detained at the airport, (but) he was later released after he raised objections and after he contacted our embassy," said African National Congress spokesman Keith Khoza.

"He subsequently received apologies from the airport, as well as the White House," he told AFP.

The US government had listed the ANC as a terrorist organisations, and barred its members including anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela from entering the country.

The ban was lifted in 1990, but some of the names of the anti-apartheid fighters remained on the US blacklist.

Mandela's name was only removed in 2008 under a bill signed by then president George W. Bush which gave the US authorities clearance to waive restrictions against ANC members.

Sexwale, who is now back in South Africa, had been in the United States on private business, according to the ANC, although some local media said he was travelling on FIFA business.

Sexwale, 60, is a FIFA delegate and member of its Task Force against Racism and Discrimination.

Khoza said the ANC was concerned that such a list still exists and that incident risked tarnishing the ties between the two countries.

"We think it should not have happened for starters. It impacts negatively on the relations between South Africa and the US," he said.

"That matter should have been resolved a long time ago, as we believed it had been done."

The foreign ministry said it was working to ensure that the travel restrictions were scrapped.

"We have raised this matter before and we will continue to raise it until the matter is sorted out," spokesman Clayson Monyela told AFP.

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