Archive for the ‘Life in Mzansi South Africa’ Category

My letter to Jesse Duarte

July 11, 2014

It is common knowledge that the ANC has it in for Israel. Even though it is ‘official’ South African government policy to support a peaceful two state solution, we have become used to the regular verbal attacks against Israel by individuals within (or aligned) with the ANC. Personally, I am dismissive of these attacks and I put it down to ignorance, inflated ego and politicising. Come on, there are greater atrocities in this world that these so called leaders always choose to ignore. I don’t even need to get into examples, there are so many take your pick.

That said, I shivered in my boots when I read yesterday’s press statement  authored by Jesse Duarte and released on the ANC website (read: very public forum). It was absolutely disgusting and extremely inciting. I lay in bed last night frightened at the prospect of how words like this could dangerously impact on Jews living in South Africa, whether maliciously intended or not on our community. Jesse Duarte’s actions cannot go unchecked. Although it will ultimately be left to the appropriate representative bodies to campaign for the community and safety, individuals also need to lend a voice. These are my words..

 

FAO: The Executive of the ANC

C/o sngubane@anc.org.za

Cc: sazf@beyachad.co.zaisrael@adl.orgeditorial@nytimes.comstarletters@inl.co.zaletters@jpost.com

Dear The Executive of the ANC

Re: My response to the ANC Press statement dated 10 July 2014 titled ‘The situation in Gaza Strip’ by Jesse Duarte

(see http://anc.org.za/show.php?id=10991)

I hope this letter reaches its intended addressees.

Firstly, I would like to query if the statement titled ‘The situation in Gaza Strip’ authored by Ms. Jesse Duarte, in her capacity as the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, and posted to the public ANC website, is the official position of the ANC regarding Israel i.e. the position of the governing party of South Africa?

The purpose of my letter is not an attempt to enter a debate with Ms. Duarte on her views on the politics of the Middle East (i.e. Israel and Palestine). Ms. Duarte obviously feels so strongly in her Anti-Israel views that she felt the need to proclaim her opinions on the official website of the ANC, with the tacit approval of the ANC infrastructure.  Any reader of the statement can interpret the message that Ms. Duarte’s (and the ANC’s) statement conveys: Pro Palestinian and Anti-Israel in the most damning tone.

My question to the ANC executive is if they have given any consideration to the impact of Ms. Duarte’s ANC press statement on the Jewish community of South Africa?

I actually wonder if Ms. Duarte actually considered as to how her inflammatory statements would impact on Jewish South Africans?  I am a Jewish South African citizen, and based on prior actions and statements by the ANC and its representatives, I have accepted that the government of South Africa is openly one sided against Israel. That stance within itself is cause for concern based on the fact that there is a strong Jewish heritage in South Africa.  It is an alienating stance.

I have never experienced anti-Semitism in South Africa in all the years that I have lived here. That is not something to be thankful for, that is something that one expects in a country of such strong convictions and diversity. However, the vitriolic tone of Ms. Duarte’s statement and explicit ‘call to arms’  against Israel was of such substance and hatred towards Israel that I literally went cold when reading it. My literal interpretation of such a strongly worded statement by Ms. Duarte was my first experience of flagrant anti-Semitism in South Africa. To me, Ms. Duarte has blatant disregard for the Jewish citizens of South Africa. She is experienced enough to know that she will invoke an angry response from the representative bodies from the Jewish community of South Africa (as was the case). Even if Ms. Duarte argues that her statement was Anti-Zionistic and not Anti-Semitic, many Jewish South African citizens I have spoken to feel the same way I do. And that is evidence enough of the damage the statement Ms. Duarte has caused a section of the South African population, no matter how large or small that section.

My own view is that such a strongly worded display of Anti-Zionism is a masked (yet increasingly) less-subtle form of Anti-Semitism. The recent comprehensive survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League into global anti-Semitism shows that 38% (or 13 million) adult South Africans harbor anti-Semitic views (and Ms. Duarte statement exhibits some of these views – in the form of a public official statement!! It blows my mind).  Considering that the ADL survey also shows that a large percentage of the population has never met or interacted with a Jewish person, only affirms for me the reckless and persuasive nature of the official press statement by Ms. Duarte.  Ms. Duarte is an experienced politician and public servant to the citizens of South Africa, therefore, she has no excuse to be so careless and biased in the most public of forums. She should know better to be so insensitive and to handle a delicate situation, well, delicately. The ANC should know better too.

Ms. Duarte should be the one who should be well reminded of the “atrocities of Nazi Germany”, as it is exactly this kind of rhetoric, her words, that inflames the hatreds towards the Jews of the world. Readers of these words, many who are not as well-informed as an experienced politician as Ms. Duarte, are not in a position to properly disseminate the propaganda preached by Ms. Duarte and are not able to differentiate between Israel and Jews. It sets a very dangerous precedent. Not only in South Africa.  Based on their very public and influential positions in society, Ms. Duarte and the ANC need no reminding that it is their role to act more responsibly towards the people of South Africa.  Ms. Duarte is setting a very dangerous, irresponsible and frightening precedent.

I am certainly no official or religious representative of the Jewish community (that is the job of the official organizations), yet in my view, the ANC needs no reminding that, despite the size of our community, the Jewish citizens of South Africa positively contribute to all aspects of South African society.   From what I can see, as an active professional in the South African business community, the Jewish community is totally committed to the betterment of our beautiful country.

I am just one voice, however, one that is not alone, and I am telling you that the statement by Ms. Duarte was unacceptable. I have had the opportunity to live elsewhere but I am a proud South African, and South Africa is my home. Don’t alienate me, embrace me… I guarantee you that your investment in me and my community will continue to pay off. As it always has…

Sincerely

Ps. Ms. Duarte, it was three young Israeli people murdered, not two as you incorrectly stated.

Advertisements

Goodbye Madiba – one South African’s tribute

December 6, 2013

It could have been so different…

But for the angelic force of one individual I, and millions of other South Africans, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, will never have to imagine how it could have been.

Barack Obama could not have summed him up better “For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived.”

For if there was no Nelson Mandela – what might there have been?

I am a white South African:  too young to remember the harshness of apartheid, old enough to live through the democratic change, and astute enough to appreciate the miracle witnessed as the subsequent years unfolded. And what a miracle it was.

My voice is but one of the countless South Africans who claim to have this mystical bond with Madiba. We did not get to meet Mandela, we did not get to speak with him, but yet we all feel this incredible connection to him. So much so that we all truly believe that each and every one of us sense that he, in some paternal way, was a spiritual father and tata to us all.  Its an unexplainable sensation. One only a South African will know.Nelson+Mandela+NelsonMandela5 (1)

As one correspondent described on CNN earlier, that when he visited South Africa in its infancy years as a young democracy, he not only had he sensed the spirit of Mandela, but the unyielding spirit of the people. All of the people. And that is the greatest tribute that Mandela will leave to his children – each and every citizen of South Africa. He showed us how. And lived by example.

Having been privileged enough to live and travel outside my home country, I am constantly reminded that if ever there was a citizen of the world who evokes warmth and smiles from another (foreign) persons face it is when you answer to them when they ask you where you are from “I am South African.” I can only think that when others hear those words coming from our mouths they see a living symbol for positive change – that from the darkest days of apartheid rose a country so proud, so free and so colourful that every person around the world can, in that one moment, dare to dream that anything is possible. We are all living proof to the world that anything, ANYTHING, is possible.

It is currently a time when the patience of all South Africans is being severely tested, as we are all frustrated that the principles and values of not only Mandela, but the forefathers of the ANC, are seemingly being forgotten by our current leaders. But it is a time for our resolve and that unyielding spirit to ensure that these bumps being experienced on our young road of democracy will be overcome.

And even though, it is a sad time, a poignant time for all South Africans, it is a time to celebrate Madiba – all 95 years of him – and to remember his message of love and peace and a truly unified South Africa. Let us not forget that most important lesson.

It could have been so different.

But it was not.

And for that… Madiba… this ‘one’ South African is truly thankful.

Rest in peace.

Image

The implosion of South African Israeli relations by Howard Sackstein

August 21, 2012

Sharing a considered and thought provoking article, well written by a friend of mine. The focus of the article is not on the general ‘who is wrong, who is right’ debate regarding the Israel/Palenstine situation, but rather the South African governments stance thereto. As I commented “South African govt has lost its right to comment on, or to even try be ‘impartial’ in this conflict (which they obviously do not understand, or bother to understand, hey Ebrahim Ebrahim?) after what happened in Marikana last week, which was absolutely disgusting and embarrassing…”

The implosion of South African Israeli relations by Howard Sackstein

No one truly understands South African foreign policy, albeit that “policy” may be a strong word to describe our approach to the rest of the world.

One-by-one, we have watched our close friends and allies in the Middle East tumble from power in the Arab Spring. We have defended the military junta in Burma at the United Nations and we have supported some of the most tyrannical and vicious dictatorships and theocracies in the modern world.

Our support has been complicit in the gross human rights violations in our neighbours in Zimbabwe and Swaziland and we have cozy’d up to exemplars of oppressive regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Sudan.

Our support for a no-fly zone in Libya, much to our horror and surprise, ultimately resulted in the overthrow of one of our closest despotic allies, Muammar Gaddafi. We knew that we should never make that same mistake again, and so we still watch silently as tens of thousands of Syrians are butchered at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and that country spirals irrevocably downwards into civil war.

Amidst our indifference to human suffering comes a new policy towards the Middle East, that of unbridled Israel bashing.

Now let’s face facts, Israel is no paragon of virtue. Its occupation of territories captured from Jordan in 1967 has resulted in the rule over more than 2 million Palestinians, none of whom want to remain under Israeli control. No occupation is ever benevolent and the Israeli control over the West Bank is no exception. It is however one of approximately 200 international territorial disputes including our good friend China’s occupation of Tibet.

Israel’s human rights record within its own territory, especially towards its minority Arab population is generally perceived as good; and towards the Palestinians it occupies, generally poor. The conflict has however been subject to more propaganda than any other dispute in living memory.

The collapse of Middle Eastern peace initiatives, ongoing Palestinian terror targeting Israeli civilians, the failure of many Palestinian groups to recognize the right of Israel to exist, the Hamas coup against Fatah in Gaza, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Yasser Arafat’s rejection of all Israeli peace offers, ongoing Israeli security check-points, Hamas’ rockets fired at Israeli civilian areas, the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, the capture of Israeli soldiers as hostages and the detention of Palestinian prisoners have all contributed towards the morass of the conflict.

To make matters worse, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems unwilling to settle the conflict with Palestinians, while Iran threatens Israel with nuclear annihilation and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to either get Hamas to recognise the right of Israel to exist or bring the Palestinian people along in any settlement deal.

The ANC has never had a particularly close relationship with Israel, but the Palestinian Liberation Organization (Fatah) did provide logistic support to the ANC in exile. For many within the ANC, they see echoes of their own struggle within the Palestinian conflict.

Thabo Mbeki visited Jerusalem in 1995 and President Nelson Mandela visited Israel in 1999. In 2006, then President Mbeki called on Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza enclave, to recognise the right of Israel to exist – a challenge never consummated by the fundamentalist group whose militia literally threw Fatah supporters off tall buildings after gaining a majority in the Palestinian elections in Gaza in that same year.

Over the past few months, the South African government’s increasingly aggressive pronouncements have caused relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria to spiral to unprecedented lows. Under the guidance of Deputy Minister of International Relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, government has embarked upon a concerted campaign to demonise the Jewish state.

Relations between the two countries started their decline during Operation Cast Lead (2009) where Israeli forces bombarded Gaza in retaliation for the continued kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and later a barrage of rocket attacks fired by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad at Israeli civilian areas.

Pretoria, who has always seen itself as a referee in the Palestinian corner, failed to condemn Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, the cross-border kidnapping of Shalit or the fact that Hamas used civilians as shields for their own forces. To Pretoria, Israel was merely exerting its force over the Palestinian enclave from which it withdrew in 2005. Hamas’ actions during that period were later labelled as war crimes by a United Nations Commission that singled out Hamas for its failure to neither investigate nor take any action against any of its forces guilty of such crimes.

When Turkey dispatched a flotilla of boats laden with activists to break the international blockade on Gaza in May 2010 – a blockade declared legal by a United Nations Commission which investigated the issue – Israel intercepted one of the vessels which refused to stop, resulting in the loss of nine Turkish lives and the bludgeoning and stabbing by the Turks of a number of Israeli soldiers. South Africa, Nicaragua and Ecuador were the only countries other than Turkey to withdraw their ambassador from Tel Aviv as a result of the flotilla incident. The South African action placed us firmly in the anti-Israel camp.

In 2011, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) under the force of anti-Israel Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaigners, cancelled its bi-lateral agreement with the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, resulting in Israel withdrawing its technology used by UJ in water purification projects in South Africa. UJ was the first academic institution internationally to formally cut ties with an Israeli university.

Earlier this year, the University of Kwazulu-Natal refused to allow Yaakov Finkelstein, Deputy Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, to address a gathering on its campus. So fierce was international condemnation of the University and its lack of commitment to freedom of speech, that the university was forced to issue an apology.

A spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy commented that “Anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a campaign of intellectual terror which rejects everything that academia believes in, meaning dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech,” she said. “The use of bullying to silence freedom of expression in an academic setting is a very sad development.”

Meanwhile, at the behest of pro-Palestinian advocates, Open Shuhada Street, South African Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies announced that he was to issue an official notice “to require traders in South Africa not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as products of Israel.”

There was little doubt that Davies was technically correct. Products manufactured in the West Bank are not manufactured in Israel, they are manufactured in Palestinian territory first occupied by Jordan in 1948 and then captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967. Israel has neither annexed the territory nor laid claim to the land. Davies said that Pretoria recognized the State of Israel “only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations (UN) in 1948” and that these borders do not include territories occupied by Israel after 1967. His phraseology was interesting, primarily because almost the entire world, including the PLO, appears to recognize the boundaries of Israel within the pre-1967 borders not the 1948 borders. Once again South Africa appeared out of step with the international community, albeit that Davies may well just be ill-informed of the detail.

The detail of the labeling issue was less about the labels and more about the political message Pretoria was attempting to send to Jerusalem.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, claimed Davies’ notice displayed “unbelievable ignorance”. He said “We have chosen harsh words to respond to the labeling issue because it is merely the latest in a long line of insults and undiplomatic behavior toward Israel, which sometimes smacked of racism”.

Minister Rob Davies denied the move was politically motivated, saying that he was merely bringing product labelling in line with the Consumer Protection Act. The Minister’s statements were however soon contradicted by Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman who told an audience in Athlone, Cape Town,  “economic diplomacy could be one of the most effective weapons of change in the Palestinian situation. Palestinians and their supporters, inspired by the economic boycott of apartheid-era South Africa, have been trying for years to emulate our success in that terrain. Until now their campaign of divestment and boycott has had negligible economic effect, but the voice of our government could be a symbolic boost. However, I am glad to inform you that our government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry [DTI] has recently, in May 2012, released a government notice 379 of 2012, as a strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel.”

He continued that he was “highly inspired by the role played by organizations such Open Shuhada Street, PSG, the MJC, Al Quds Foundation and others.” A number of these organisations deny the right of Israel to exist.

In March 2012 the South African government granted entry to renown Hamas terrorist Abdul Aziz Umar to visit the country.  Umar, was given seven life sentences for taking part in the Café Hillel suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem which killed 7 people and injured 50 in a sidewalk cafe. Umar was released in the Gilad Shalit  prisoner swap deal.

Ironically, Umar whose organisation calls for the expulsion of Jews from the Middle East and for the establishment of a theocratic Muslim state in the current Israel, was dispatched to South Africa to promote Israel Apartheid Week.

So sympathetic has South Africa become to the anti-Israel cause, that terrorists last month felt comfortable enough to attempt to carry out an attack on Israeli targets in South Africa. While details of the planned attack remain sketchy, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed some information about the foiled attack in the wake of the bombing of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, which left 6 people dead and 17 injured.

When a group of South African Jewish communal organizations and business leaders attempted to address the appalling service delivery record of our government by training South Africans in Israel, government immediately attempted to step in to stop it.

Over the past 60 years Israel has been training Africans throughout the continent and has been one of the largest contributors to Africa in the fields of agriculture, rural development and skills training. Israel is also one of the few countries which has transferred actual technology into Africa and the Israeli drip irrigation method is one of the most important advances in African food security over the last few decades.

Under the leadership of Yehuda Paz and the Afro/Asian Institute of the Israeli trade union movement, the Histadrut, black South African civic leaders, trade unionists and NGOs have been trained in Israel since the 1970’s. Yehuda Paz was banned by the Apartheid government from entering South Africa. Similarly today, a post Apartheid South African government attempts to use the same tactics to ban South Africans from travelling to meet Paz and his team at the Negev Institute in Israel. Paz and the Negev Institute have hosted many delegations from Africa, in general and South Africa, in particular.

The South African Department of International Relations has now attempted to put a stop to all of these exchanges. Israel has never sought publicity for its efforts in capacity building in South Africa, but behind the scenes many, even within the ANC, are furious at Ebrahim’s actions.

Last week, Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim went even further, now informing South Africans that Pretoria discourages all South Africans from visiting Israel. He said “Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there.” He later told a Sunday newspaper “Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel.” Days later, King Goodwill Zwelithini accepted an invitation from Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg to visit Israel.

Predictably the South African Jewish Board of Deputies described the Deputy Minister’s stance as “grossly discriminatory, counter-productive and wholly inconsistent with how South Africa normally conducts its international relations and contradicts its official policy of having full diplomatic ties with Israel.”

Probably the most eloquent and scathing criticism of the Deputy Minister came from the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Warren Goldstein, who, in a statement calling on the Deputy Minister to resign said ” Most recently you have used your platform and title in an active campaign to prevent South Africans – and especially members of government – from visiting Israel. This is but one example of your irrational obsession with Israel to the detriment of the proper execution of your governmental duties. You have acted in breach of your government’s own foreign policy, in terms of which South Africa and Israel have full diplomatic relations.”

“Your actions hark back to apartheid-style control of information and censorship. Why would you try to prevent South Africans from travelling to Israel and seeing the situation for themselves? Do you think, Mr. Ebrahim, that the South African people are not as clever as you are, that they cannot think for themselves and that they need to be protected from the facts? For the sake of peace and justice, we need more information, not less; we need more dialogue, not less; we need more connections with other societies, not less. You clearly do not believe so, and hence you are unfit to hold public office. Do the honorable thing: resign.”

One of Ebrahim’s predecessors, Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig, was herself dismissed from cabinet in 2009 after an anti-Semitic outburst against Jews to a Cosatu meeting in Lenasia.

Israel has little to gain from its contributions to South Africa. In the mind of Israel, South Africa is a underdeveloped nation battling with rampant corruption, spiralling unemployment, chronic under-education and crippling service delivery. To Israel, South Africa is an irrelevancy which during this past weeks Lonmin disaster, committed an abhorrent massacre against its own population.

Israel maintains close political and economic relations with the United States, Russia, China, India and the European Union. In fact, relations between Israel and the European Union were recently upgraded. The Israeli economy is booming while the South African economy languishes. Israel leads the world in its technological contribution in the fields of computers, agriculture, cellular technology, biomedicines and nano-technology.

We should all start fearing that Israel will take action to restrict its technology from being used in South Africa. Many farmers in rural Limpopo and other provinces around the country have moved from subsistence farming to commercial farming based entirely on Israeli knowhow and technology.

But the effect of the South African government’s decisions, go much further and will be felt in subtle ways around the world. Israel has many friends in the third world, in European governments and American politics. Our government’s approach to Israel may well start being factored into whether nations wish to assist us, trade with us or grant us preferential access to their markets. To all of these countries, Israel is a far more important ally and trading party than anything South Africa has to offer. Most worrisome for South Africa will be the danger that Ebrahim’s comments become an issue in the American elections as both American parties scramble for the crucial Jewish vote for November’s election.

South Africa’s bona fides reached an all-time low in the MTN-Turkcell case, currently before the US court system. If the Turkcell allegations against MTN are correct, it would appear that South Africa allowed its foreign policy to be rented to Iran in return for granting an Iranian cellular license to MTN. Iranian nuclear officials appear to have visited the South African government and with the alleged assistance of MTN bribes, South Africa agreed to protect Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Assisting Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, not only destabilises the entire middle eastern region but also puts South Africa on a collision path with most of the civilized world. Not only does it destroy South Africa’s entire international credibility but it positions us firmly as a destructive force in international relations. It also places us squarely in the anti-peace camp in the Middle-East.

The ANC have jumped onto this bandwagon hoping that a rabid anti-Israel policy will potentially win them lost votes amongst the Muslim community in the Western Cape, the only province not controlled by the ANC.

It is possible that the ANC’s gamble may well win them some votes in the Western Cape, but South African Muslim voters, like all voters, will rank poor service delivery, job creation, economic poverty and lawlessness far higher on their priority list of reasons to vote for any particular party in our next general elections.

Madiba’s birthday should be celebrated every day

July 19, 2012

Driving to work today my mind reflected back to 18 July 2010. I recall this date as the first time the concept of Madiba Day was sold to the citizens of South Africa as a day in which people should donate 67 minutes of their time or resources to helping a less fortunate fellow citizen.

We all got caught up in this force of generosity. One clear memory I have was noticing motorists giving ‘gift’ bundles (mostly winter warmers such as blankets) to the street beggars at the corner of Oxford Street and Glenhove road in Rosebank. Both motorist and beggar gave and received graciously and with smiles on their faces. On any other day of the year, especially at this rather large intersection, the motorist would be most bothered and react rudely to the beggars insistent invasion of the motorists personal space.

On 18 July 2010, all across the country, there was a genuine warmth, respect and gees (spirit) emitted by the citizens of South Africa towards each other. It was energising and empowering! I myself joined a group of friends in donating food to a homeless shelter in Johannesburg. The food would last probably a week, maybe a couple of days. But the longevity didn’t matter, it was the thought that counted. Our 67 minutes. And it felt great!

There was a twist though… Madiba Day of 2010 was celebrated exactly one week after the world cup 2010 soccer final in Johannesburg. National pride was at an all time high as the world came and the world saw, but it was OUR country who most definitely conquered. We conquered the initial perception by the world that South Africa would be incapable of hosting a crime-free first class event. And the nation, together as ONE, including the government and importantly the public services sector (read: law and order), the private sector and most importantly the people of South Africa, all rallied together to create probably the most memorable World Cup ever. Quite an achievement considering it is the world’s largest sporting event.

So it was easy to keep the spirit flowing of the World Cup into Madiba Day that year. We were ALL proud, we were all energetic, and most importantly we were all hopeful that the country had finally proved to the world, and more importantly, to itself, that it was most capable. We had turned a corner.

And then it all came to a screeching halt! Since those glorious few weeks, in which the problems we did face were challenged and contained, we have been bombarded, daily, with negative news and sentiment: The incessant fraud, corruption and maladministration from the highest levels in government right down to our local MEC’s. The constant back stabbing and infighting in the ANC, with ‘leaders’ more concerned in maintaining their status quo, rather than in ensuring that the children in Limpopo got their text books. The worrying increase in racial disharmony fuelled by populist and socialist politicians and aggravated by the tiresome recycling of the ‘race card’, the toll roads, the metro cops, the police brutality… Not a day goes by without some scandal making headlines.

There are multiple, and sometimes complex, contributing factors. However, I believe that one of the single biggest causes to the negativity is the seeming lack of respect and simple courtesy we have for each other and for due process. An general attitude of “I don’t care, I will do what I want”. Respect for your fellow countryman is what Nelson Mandela habitually preached. He was a man who led, and still continues to lead, by example. A man who lives by the principle of “Do what I do, not do what I say” (unlike current leaders, hey JZ?). And for one day of the year, on Madiba Day, we are ‘tricked’ into acting on Mandela’s principles of respect and harmony. The irony is, we actually want to do it. World Cup 2010 proved that. It showed us what we are capable of when every one of us pulls in the same direction. We will always have the social problems of a developing economy, but imagine if the billions stolen from the now bankrupt Limpopo was properly channelled as it was intended, it would go a long way to improving the lives of many.

Madiba Day provides us with a momentary glimpse of what South Africa could be like everyday if we wanted. Mandela said “One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others”. Madiba would want us to adopt this attitude every day, and not just on the 18th of July. We are certainly most capable of it, to give each other mutual respect. It is really not that hard to do and best of all respect and courtesy costs absolutely nothing.

And this is the greatest gift the children and grandchildren of South Africa can give to their greatest Tata: Let’s celebrate Madiba Day every day!

My 67 minutes are up… Mzansi Fo Sho!

Just VOTE – it’s the right thing to do!

May 13, 2011

I was a non-believer. I never thought my vote would count. Like many disillusioned mlungu’s I also thought “what difference would one vote make anyway??” I felt like I was a transient passenger in this beloved country of ours. Proudly South African I liked to think, but not per the few radical politicians who preached that there was no place for whites in the new South Africa. Our presence was tolerated as ‘citizens’ of industry, living off the land of opportunity, trying our luck in the modern gold rush of the burgeoning economy. But don’t you dare ask for assistance from the government. I used to really believe this.

That was until the last national elections, when the ANC lost out on a two thirds majority by a whisker. The two thirds that would grant the ruling party the ominous power to change the South African constitution. And depending on who was in power that could be a very dangerous situation indeed. At least from a pessimistic point of view. AHA!! Now my vote counts! I have a say!

Pessimism is very Anti-South African. Despite it all: the rolling black outs, the Juju Malemas, the xenophobia, we are seemingly a country of optimists. Always believing that things will work out. Mandela illustrated this by example, and led us ALL into a new dawning with his positive attitude of reconciliation and unity.

So when the opportunity came to voice my opinion by applying to The Star Newspapers ‘The Peoples Panel’ – in which they select a small sample (30) of Joburg’s citizens to canvas opinion about the upcoming local elections – and then print their opinions in the newspaper I jumped at the chance to apply, to have a say that is a little louder than an anonymous vote, and to an audience just a little bit larger than a blog! I wonder if JZ was reading??

The question I was asked this week, and printed in today’s edition under the headline “Is withholding your vote good for democracy?” , was if I agreed with Cope’s co-founder Mbhazima Shilowa decision to personally boycott the upcoming local elections.   Whereas a few years ago I might have given a different answer, today my answer was an emphatic ‘NO”. I said that it is absolutely imperative that everyone exercises their right to vote, more so as a result of the general apathy seemingly stemming from the ANC supporters. I believe that Shilowa’s stance is counter-productive, and it is crucial for supporters of other parties to vote, which could affect the ANC’s grip on power in Joburg. I do not believe that the ANC will lose majority in our region, but any perceived lack of support could trigger the ANC into better performance in future years. The ANC’s performance over the years has deteriorated, and a large portion of the public believe that their leaders are more interested in lining their own pockets as opposed to acting in the best interests of the citizens, ironically, as they are appointed to do! Corruption is a fact, again proven by the latest auditor-general findings, and the biggest contributor to the decay of our democracy, in which many less fortunate people are crying out for basic services whilst their leaders pave the roads to their own personal gain.

The other day I was on the golf course, canvassing the opinion of the caddies who were part of our four-ball. The four caddies are young black men, all living in townships. Their aspirations are the same as any person from any background – to provide a better future for themselves and their families. The four caddies, all of whom I have come to know quite well, firmly stated that they were not voting. Their main reason? Corruption, and their lack of trust in the the politicians, who are all “stealing”. All four caddies are ANC supporters. Interestingly enough, when I asked them if they support Malema, there was a difference of opinion, an even split – 2 nays and 2 yays. This is where us whitey’s are flabbergasted. How could anyone support the little Mugabe? But Juju worryingly wields an influential stick amongst the youth. The one caddie, Sputla, who ironically has a remarkable resemblance to Malema (so I think), believes in the ‘nationalisation of the mines’ rhetoric.  I told him, that in my opinion, it is just further means for the fat cats to steal from the national coffers. Sputla seemed circumspect. Propaganda is an illusion.

However, when I canvassed if they would vote for the national opposition, the DA, the cadd’s put their differences aside and unanimously gave a resounding “NO”. When I inquired if it’s because the DA is perceived as a white party (historically, and because their leader Helen Zille is white), Vincent stated the ‘obvious’, “No, it’s because I won’t vote for a woman!”

At least they all said they would vote for me! Perhaps that’s because I was a paying customer.

Now is just as an important time as any to make your mark as a South African. Go vote next week in the Local Municipal Elections… after all, it’s the right thing to do!

Mzansi FO Sho!!

The Star People's Panel

World Cup, now British Open: Bravo South Africa!

July 19, 2010

Being the avid golf fan, who committed many hours in front of the tv this past weekend absorbing the victory of King Louis Ooosterhuizen, I trawled the internet for news articles best describing his victory. This article stood out for me, as it brilliantly captures and describes not only Louis’s victory but also the past month in SA. Its a must read! Enjoy!

“World Cup, now British Open: Bravo South Africa!”

Trapped inside the hard, forbidding walls of his jail cell, with barely enough space to move, did Nelson Mandela the prisoner ever dream that things would turn out quite this well?

Surely, even the world’s most inspirational and famous optimist must be thrilled and perhaps a little surprised — who isn’t? — that South Africa is proving to be such a shining ambassador for itself.

Talk about a country having a banner sporting year. First, hosting a football World Cup that radiated warmth and joy. Then, giving golf a new champion with an alphabet-soup name who came out of nowhere to win the British Open.

How deliciously intriguing that a player nurtured under the African sun proved best able to handle Scotland’s howling gales.

Do, however, spare a thought for the engraver who had to carve “Louis Oosthuizen” onto the base of that celebrated silver trophy. Takes up more space than Tiger Woods. And yet, in four short days that transformed him from “who?” to the name on everyone’s lips, Oosthuizen ensured that the entire golfing world now knows that his tongue-tripping jumble of vowels and consonants is pronounced WUHST’-hy-zen.

Can there be better karma than a South African lifting the claret jug on the day Mandela turned 92?

Clearly, Oosthuizen thought not.

“Felt a little bit special, really. When I walked down 18, I was thinking about his birthday,” he said.

The 27-year-old was just a young boy when the anti-apartheid leader was freed in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison.

“What he’s done for our country is unbelievable, and happy birthday to him,” Oosthuizen said.

The power of sport to put a nation on the map and to unite and inspire its people is not new. Mandela saw it. In fact, he practically willed South Africa’s Springbok rugby team to victory at the 1995 World Cup that his nation hosted. Mandela’s utter delight when South Africa lifted the trophy — he shook his arms in the air with the enthusiasm of a young boy — was infectious, an uplifting moment for a country mired in post-apartheid fears, uncertainty and hardships.

South Africa then topped that this year with what many visitors will remember as a football World Cup that was exciting, exotic and a huge success, even if it — grrrrr — also introduced the world to those infuriating vuvuzela horns. Perhaps infected is a better word — they’re now being heard at the Tour de France.

Of course, South Africans were crushed that their team, the Bafana Bafana, was knocked out after three matches, the worst ever showing by a host nation. But that didn’t really seem to matter compared to the PR triumph the nation reaped from being so welcoming and capable.

Since Spain beat the Netherlands in the July 11 final, we’ve not heard a squeak from the doomsayers who had predicted that holding the tournament in South Africa would be a disaster; that stadiums wouldn’t be finished, that lax security would allow terrorists to waltz in, that tourists would be robbed, raped and murdered by the busload. There were a few logistical glitches but nothing to really spoil the mood. World football had its first, and long overdue, African party — proving that it can be done.

And now, just to make sure that everyone gets the great-place-to-be message, here comes Oosthuizen, gushing about how South Africa is a fabulous home for a golfer. During the apartheid years, the sound of Afrikaans-accented English was like a stain on a person, marking them as coming from what then seemed to be a despicable country because it treated blacks as inferior humans and had Mandela locked away on Robben Island. Now, spoken by the likes of Oosthuizen, that same sound seems liltingly pleasant to the ear. It no longer carries shame.

“The weather in South Africa is brilliant,” he said. “Wintertime you can still play some days in shorts there.”

Quick, when’s the next plane?

No one, of course, is naive enough to think that sport can gloss over South Africa’s frighteningly large array of complex and difficult problems. It is a promised land of much misery. No number of new World Cup stadiums, for instance, can hide such a shockingly large gulf between rich and poor.

Nevertheless, the last few weeks have been remarkable — so much so that 2010 could perhaps mark a watershed in world perceptions of South Africa and its people. The rainbow nation. That colorful and positive name that South Africans give themselves makes so much sense now.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org

And the good time GEES just keeps on rolling…!

July 18, 2010

I enjoy writing. I really do. And one thing that is apparent to me is that every writer – from occasional blogger like myself to seasoned author – needs some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. If its inspiration you are looking for, best you quickly head down to South Africa, because inspiration is being given away by the bucket load at the moment.  Just take today for example…

In celebration of Nelson Mandela’s (92nd ) birthday, the 18th of July has been designated ‘Mandela Day’, an annual celebration of Madiba’s life and a global call to action for people to recognize their individual ability to make an imprint and change the world around them. The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: “Nelson Mandela has given 67 years of his life (since 1942) fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.”

Today, all around South Africa, Mandela Day was in full swing, as countless Mzansi citizens, from the platteland to the urban jungles, gave up some of their time to help make a difference. The momentum of the patriotic GEES (pride) generated from the world cup just keeps on flowing… I haven’t seen this much goodwill in SA since the Red Nose Days of yesteryear (remember that!)  So this morning I joined a group of guys at Immaculata Hall, a homeless shelter in Rosebank. Brilliantly organised by my mate Squeaky, contributions were made for purchasing much needed meat for the shelter and a small group of us went to the shelter to give our 67 minutes. It was a heart-warming experience as Jacob Modise, the manager, welcomed us all with open arms, gave us a tour of the facilities and even shared humorous anecdotes of the history and the day-to-day activities of the shelter (they even have a computer centre to teach computer literacy).

Walking into the shelter this morning I didn’t know what to expect in terms of acceptance and interaction, but I don’t believe it was an eye-opening experience for me. Having lived in Joburg for the better part of my life, I am very cognisant of the harsh realities many people face in South Africa on a daily basis. If anything, the street beggars, a hallmark of Joburg life, are a daily reminder of this fact: An ex-South African mate of mine was driving with me the other day and commented on the numerous beggars we encountered at almost every intersection. He asked me how I was able to seemingly ignore each beggar ambling past my window every time we stopped at a traffic light. I said to him that I don’t ignore them; it’s just that we are most likely desensitized by this near daily routine.  If you live in Joburg you will know what I mean. Sadly in South Africa there are millions of people who need assistance, not only the beggars in the streets. There are probably too many people for us as individuals to reach out to. But I believe, and as I preached to my friend in the car that day and something that I strive to practice, we don’t always have the ability as individuals to assist every single person we encounter daily, but if we focus our resources on helping maybe just one person, or even a few, and effecting a positive change in their lives, be it for a moment or for forever, than that is playing a significant part in helping South Africa. Someone might question the shallowness of seeing people suddenly give ‘only’ 67 minutes of time to help another today or to spend some time at charitable organisations, but you know what? Those 67 minutes, (and the donated meat!), might just have positively impacted on someone’s life. And even if it was seemingly just for a moment, the goodwill that it imparted might just have given them a little bit more spirit to keep on fighting the good fight, and that much more HOPE. If anything, the wonderful experience of goodwill today might just encourage us to make a little bit more effort in ‘giving’. And I think that is the main hope and idea behind behind Mandela Day… Madiba is a wise old man after all! 🙂

Zapiro Sunday Times 18 July 2010

The cherry on the top of a fantastic day, and to divert a little, was watching Louis Oosthuizen, or the endearing “Oosthoozen” to the Afrikaans-challenged overseas golf commentators,  absolutely destroy the best field in golf today to capture the most coveted trophy in golf: The Open Championship aka the British Open. Little Louis, a 200-1 rank outsider at the start, and whose slight frame belies his ability to pound the ball further than most, won his first ‘major’ at the Old Course of St Andrews, the literal home of golf for those less golf astute. I laughed as the colourful French commentator Jean van der Velde exacerbated “I am struggling to pronounce Louis correctly, never mind his first two names!!” (Ludowicus Theodorus “Louis” Oosthuizen).  Being a golf nut myself, I joined some mates about a year ago to go ‘hack’ my way around the hallowed links of the Old Course, and I sat glued to the TV this weekend with my course play book I got that awesome day tracking each and every hole. For me, when a South African is in contention in a big golf tournament, it’s as exciting to watch as a Springbok rugby game. Luckily with the talent we have in this country, these moments occur quite regularly. Watching Louis and his caddy, Zack Rasego (black caddies are a very rare sight in world golf), proudly marching down the final fairway, graciously receiving the deserved applause from the massive galleries I (somehow!) found myself cracking open the bottle of Edradour whisky which I bought at the distillery the day after I played St Andrews, and whose opening I saved for a special moment. Never mind the Bells advert, this was an EXTRA special moment and never has a single malt tasted so fine!

The first thing Louis, a humble, well-mannered man of few words, so typical of South African golfers on the tour, said as he gave his victory speech was to wish Nelson Mandela happy birthday. Well done boy! As the commentators were throwing out every superlative about Louis, Ernie Els, Gary Player and the best of what South Africa offers to the golfing world (for such a small country in the scheme of things we definitely punch above our weight) and as they also acknowledged the recent positive imprint South Africa has had on the world recently, I found myself toasting under my breath to King Louis, Madiba, Mandela Day and to the events of this past month, as it was bladdy lekker to be Proudly South African… “Mzansi Fo Sho!”

Louis & Zack Rasego walking down the final fairway

Another great 'South African' moment!

World Cup Winners and Losers… Part 1

July 13, 2010

Wow! Did the World Cup hangover hit me big time yesterday…  I’m still in a dwaal! My sports tour is officially over, and when people ask me what am I going to do, I despondently reply“the menial things in life like go to work, do some gym…” Back to reality!

Going to the final on Sunday was unreal, and I think the magnitude of the event has still not registered properly in my mind. I went to a soccer world cup final – probably the single biggest event in the world – what one-off event could possibly be bigger??

Much has been said & written in the news around the world about the success of the World Cup and what it has done for South Africa and for the unity of the country, none better described than by my mate Squeaky, whose creative headgear on Sunday was only bettered by the outrageous attempt by some whack job to plant a woollen hat on the world cup trophy!

From a soccer sense this was a world cup of unexpected results. This was the first final without one of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, or Italy! Spain were the best team, rightly so, as every time they stepped on the field they endeavoured to show the world why soccer is called the ‘beautiful game’. In a world cup surprisingly devoid of the expected superstars such as Ronaldo and Rooney, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan rose to the occasion and was rightly awarded the player of the tournament with some sumptuous goals and creative brilliance.  And bet you didn’t realise that the only unbeaten team of the whole comp was the minnows of football: New Zealand’s ‘All Whites’. How ‘bout them apples!

I am sure that in the weeks ahead much more will be written and debated about the successes and (limited) failures of South Africa 2010. Not much more to add here. When I lay in bed on Sunday trying to get over the excitement of the day, I thought about the best and worst of WC2010. I’m sure everyone has their favourite moments. Here is my take on the winners of the WC2010:

Madiba Magic – Just after the last performers ran off after the closing ceremony, I said to my mate how awesome would it be for Mandela to make a surprise appearance,  and right then and there, he rolled out on his golf cart, Colgate smile and all! The stadium erupted for South Africa’s most favourite ubabamkhulu (grandfather)!! Even though he was a fair distance away I could almost sense his magnetic and empowering aura. This man has done it all for South Africa, and then some! If it wasn’t for the Madiba Magic, we would all have been watching this WC2010 on our tv’s… Happy Bday Madiba for July 18!

The Organisers –  give massive credit where its due. They put together a monumental effort! Amongst other things I reckoned that transport would be the hindrance to a successful world cup. Especially in Joburg. However, barring some initial teething problems especially during the opening game, there were almost minimal complaints in the press thereafter as the organisers rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in ensuring fans got to/from the games and around the cities hassle free. I took a spin on the Gautrain and even caught a train from Park Station for the first time in 15 years! Very impressed indeed. Big ups to Comrade Danny Jordaan and his LOC!

The Police. Dinkum! In recent times SAPS & their ugly cousins, the Metro cops, have been rightly vilified for their lazy attitude, corrupt activities and general lack of performance. With the tag of crime capital of the world preceding WC2010, the police had a job to do to shed this deserved image, and what a job they did! WC2010 came and went almost incident free and with NO major problems or crises.  Thieves were tracked down, arrested and charged at a speed usually reserved for orders at the local Chicken Licken.  Nothing inspires a person to do his job like a bit of self-pride and respect. Hopefully, all these plaudits will give each and every policeman the motivation they need to carry on doing a great job. This is one legacy of the World Cup that really needs to carry on, we were ALL made to feel safe, and now the Bokgata have no excuses as they have proved it CAN BE DONE!

Madam & Eve, The Star, 13 July 2010

Paul the psychic octopus – Batting at 8 for 8 and getting every single prediction right was no fluke, Paul became the unwitting star of the WC2010. Winners love him, losing teams hate him, men want to be him, woman want to eat him! The Germans are backing his soon to be released auto-biography, and the current most popular dish in Holland is calamari & cheese with a free Heini!  He is going into retirement now, however, I reckon the bookies kidnapped him!

The Stadiums – Admit it, when you walked into Soccer City for the first time your first word was “JISLAAK”. How many (larger) countries in this world can boast the quality and beauty of the stadia South Africa built for WC2010? They were a tourist must see within themselves! From the Calabash design of Soccer City, to the arch-wrapped Mose Mabhida in Durban to the breathtaking backdrop of Cape Town Stadium, we are truly blessed with world-class facilities. Like the rest of us I am also concerned about the post-world cup white elephant phenomena, but the most positive aspect of the stadiums is the symbol of pride its gives the people of each region. A price cannot be put on that! Rugby should fill the void of the bigger centres  – Springboks/All Blacks Soccer City 21 August see you there! – and hopefully the other stadiums will be put to good use. If anything, I am sure we will be put on standby if the Aussies cannot pull it off come 2022 😉

Super Mario! My colleague was at the Durban semi’s and this is how he described it “there was this guy sitting on a wheelchair just in front of us. Next thing he rose up from his chair! It was a miracle!! He hopped the barriers and sprinted onto the field!! Unbelievable!” As far as light-hearted moments go, Italian Mario Ferri’s single handed crusade protesting that his favourite player was not picked was probably the best of ‘em, and it only cost him a R3,000 fine! (imagine 20,000 Bok fans running on the field in protest of PDivvy leaving out Francois Steyn!). The Bliksem of the tournament goes to the security fella who stiff-armed the introoda – in South Africa we don’t have streeka’s – who tried to touch the trophy before Sunday’s kickoff. Bakkies Botha would have been proud of this ‘sleight of hand’.

Hit first, ask questions later!

Vuvuzelas – Mrs Balls Chutney, Kreepy Krawly and now the Vuvuzela becoming an iconic SA export! Love it or hate it, the Vuvu became the symbol of the world cup. Debate raged on, and watching ESPN earlier it still goes on, whether it should have been banned or not. Personally, as I have gone to local soccer games and thus have witnessed the vibrant songs of the local fans , I think the stadiums would have been awkwardly silent as the majority of these locals sadly couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to match tickets. The Vuvu ensured a noisy, festive atmosphere at all games, and anyone who has blown one knows how much fun it is! Per the linguistic organisation Today Translations: “Thanks to the World Cup, the vuvuzela has the entered the shared language of the world and joined the ranks of words that need no translation.” Now thats Ayoba!!

Zapiro

The street vendors – to me the roads of Joburg seemed less colourful today as the swarms of street vendors have probably divvied up their hard-earned winnings and have taken off to Mauritius for a well deserved rest. The speed that these guys sourced the regalia of the flavour-of-the-day team was astounding. One day it was English scarves, then Brazilian and then finally just Spanish and Dutch (I never did see North Korea though, did anyone??) Each item was a commodity with a suggested ‘retail price’ – 100 bucks for a scarf, R60 for a beanie – and you work your way down from there… Finally these guys had something to sell that everyone wanted! Forget the cellphone adapters and plastic hangers.  Another legacy which needs to remain is all the cars adorned with rainbow adorned side mirrors and mini flags. It was pretty awesome seeing all this GEES whilst trawling through the painful Jozi traffic!

And finally…

South Africa and its people! I read in The Star paper earlier: “This wasn’t about Spain 1 Holland 0 it was simply SA won”! Hands down the biggest winners of this world cup were all of us South Africans whose infectious enthusiasm outshone the soccer spectacle. I have never been to any other World Cups, but who am I to argue when nearly every single one of the foreign experts and journalists claim this to have been the most festive, fun and friendliest World Cup ever!! The renowned Mzansi warmth and hospitality reverberated through every single foreign visitor to our shores, who are surely going to take the message of goodwill home with them. Organisers were worried that the early departure of Bafana would dent the interest of the country, but the opposite happened, partly due to our national pride and partly because we are a sports mad country we simply just picked another favourite team to support! And the rallying behind Ghana, which I witnessed at the game at Soccer City, was stuff of legend. I am truly proud, as I have always been, but DEFINITELY more so today, to call myself ‘Proudly South African’!

Mzansi Fo Sho!

SHOCK & HORROR A TOURIST HAS BEEN SHOT….. in alex

July 1, 2010

I have just been reading the ‘headline-grabbing’ news of the American tourist who was shot in “Sandton” as he disembarked from the Gautrain. Its seemingly all over the internet news, I read it on CNN.com, and I’m sure by now this tragic news is spreading globally.  Its just what the ‘naysayers’ were waiting for. According to the Associated Press, “The victim, identified as David James Bueche, was assaulted by four men as he was looking for his accommodation in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton area late Wednesday”.

The real story is this American tourist, disembarked at Marlboro Gautrain station, not Sandton, and walked at night, AT NIGHT, along the outskirts of Alexandra township to his backpacker lodgings. “Affluent Sandton area” I think not!

Sadly, even the South African press got it wrong – for some reason M&G wont publish my comment! haha But at least another reader corrected the M&G.

The tourist should have researched better. Especially as he is from LA, a city teeming with dangerous n’hoods. If I was visiting LA, I wouldn’t exactly get off the bus, suitcase et al, in South-central LA and ask for directions to the nearest hotel.  That’s a satirical scene best left for National Lampoons vacation…

American Tourists ek se! 🙂

For something more uplifting check out this video on youtube

Now thats Mzansi Fo Sho!

Will the Real Cinderella please stand up!

June 30, 2010

I just finished watching a program on TV called the ‘Blou train to Soweto’; a highlights package looking back at the recent and historical Blue Bulls triumph in the prestigious Super 14 tri-nation rugby tournament.

The show examined the Bulls rugby pedigree, from being the leading team in South Africa during the heydays of Apartheid: their approach to rugby a symbol of all the enduring qualities of the Afrikaans culture it represented – passion, discipline, strength and pride, to how the Blue Bulls suffered during the radical age of professionalism, ironically, coinciding with the drastic change in the South African political environment. The show explored how the Bulls have risen, from winning only about three games in three seasons at the turn of the millennium to winning three Super 14 trophies in four seasons in what is probably the most gruelling tournament in the rugby world, if not the sporting world – four months pounding your body against the best rugby players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the best rugby playing nations in the world. The only thing tougher than the Super 14 is supporting Liverpool FC!!

But the focus of the show, and definitely the highlight, was probably the most significant crowning achievement in modern South African history: The Bulls hosting and playing the Super 14 semi-finals and finals in Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Interestingly enough the recent growth in the Bulls success has allowed them to become the fastest growing sports brand in South Africa, across all races! I have written about my personal experience at the game, but in the midst’s of the world’s greatest sporting event, the Soccer World Cup being played out in my back yard, my sense of patriotism has been heightened, like many others, in recent weeks and the country’s positivity is at an all time high. Watching this highlights program, a couple of weeks after the event, about how the Bulls brought the so called ‘hardliner’ Afrikaner rugby supporter to Soweto, a land they previously dare not dream to venture, and how the people of Soweto, for so many years fearful and angry at all that the Bulls represented, and how everyone just… well… got along so fabulously, was nothing short of spine-tingling.

Preceding the release of the movie Invictus, I read the book on which it was based, ‘Playing the Enemy’. The movie does not do the book justice, no matter how good Morgan Freeman’s accent was! Reading the book I was astonished as to what this country actually went through in the ten years leading up to the climax of story, the 1995 World Cup Rugby final. Being a mlungu/white boy growing up in a bomb-sheltered like environment in the protected suburbs of Joburg, too young and mostly too naive to know what was actually going on in this country, the book was a shock for me detailing how close South Africa actually came to civil war between the Afrikaners and the ANC, how ghastly the marginalisation of the blacks/Indians and coloureds actually was in those last years, and how miraculous the transition was in the dramatic and rapid change in power in the early 90’s led by not only the virtues of only one blessed man, Mandela, but by the willingness of both blacks and whites alike to broadly accept change and to make it work – a phenomenon of human spirit. I believe many white people of my generation are still unaware of the actual detail of Apartheid, we all just knew what it stood for, not what it meant to the degraded population of this country. My curiosity perked, I began exploring further into the history of South Africa, learning about the effects of colonisation in South Africa, from both a black and white perspective (we only learnt about the white side in school, even then it was watered down propaganda). I was amazed at the ill-treatment of the African population through hundreds of years of South Africa’s history, unfortunate victims of religious ideals, fear, power grabbing and of course money and greed! This was a story played out all over the world, not only in South Africa, when peoples more equipped advance to the detriment of others.

Which brings me back to the rugby: the current World Cup Soccer has proved to the world, especially the pessimists and naysayers, that South Africa is willing and definitely able, given the right incentives, to rise to the occasion to successfully host a world class event, the biggest in the world.

However, re-watching the rugby through this program, illustrated for me that this event did something that much more important for our country. It allowed ourselves to look within and believe in ourselves that all that Mandela, and the class of ’94, worked for was not in vain, and that the future is bright for this once pariah state. As Naas Botha, the rugby legend commented on the show, this seemingly insignificant event on the face of it could do more for South Africa than the magnificent World Cup 1995 victory, which was, up until very recently, probably the best symbol of the potential for unification and progress in this country.

South Africa is the REAL Cinderella-story, and sport is her unifying glass slippers. Maybe just last year she was stuck slaving away in the kitchen, but with the Super 14 being the before-party and the FIFA World Cup being the ‘Ball’,  the belle is knocking Prince Charming off his feet. The only difference is that this time Cinderella won’t turn into a pumpkin, because come midnight, the party is HOPEFULLY just beginning…

To quote someone interviewed on TV at the Super 14 final in Soweto: “This is South Africa. Anything is possible!”

Mzansi Fo Sho!!


%d bloggers like this: