Tribute to His Excellency, Former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Architect of the Free and Democratic South Africa3149 16 Jan, 2014
Mr. Neendkumar: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. I rise to support this Nelson Mandela motion that is in the name of our Hon. Prime Minister.
Sport was a tool with which Nelson Mandela united a deeply divided South Africa and as a consequence, began to heal the scars of apartheid. Nelson Mandela was indeed the father of the powerful Nation, South Africa. He was a revolutionary who was born and grew up in a poor and humble background, and became one of the greatest sons of the soil. Sport was a persistent theme in South Africa’s journey from apartheid to emancipation. First, sport was a lightning rod for the globalisation for the anti-apartheid movement. However, Mandela who did not have any hatred for his enemies, but he who had his strong belief in reconciliation, used sport as a means of healing the deep division that plagued South Africa.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup Final was a high point for post apartheid South Africa because of President Mandela’s public support for a predominantly white national team – a gesture that became a transcendent movement in South Africa’s transformation to a multi racial democracy. Mandela emerged into bright winter sunshine and stepped onto the lush green field. He wore his cap and long sleeved green rugby jersey which was un-tucked and buttoned right up to the top – a style all of Nelson Mandela. Within seconds 65,000 white rugby supporters were joyously shouting Nelson, Nelson, Nelson. It was Mandel’s cap and the team jersey that demonstrated what sport is capable of achieving. Mandela showed the incisive understanding of the role sport plays in the lives of millions.
In the year 2000 Mandela said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”
In the dark days of apartheid, the old imperial games of cricket and rugby were central to white South African identity. It was forbidden for black and white South Africans to play together. Only white were selected in the national team to represent South Africa. The African National Congress while operating in exile recognised the symbolic power of this and campaigned for global boycott of teams selected on racist lines. The boycott was perhaps the most effective of all sanctions hitting white identity hard and brought iniquities of the apartheid regime to the attention of the entire world. South Africa’s exclusion from the Olympic Games was as symbol of global revulsion but it took the united action from Asian and African countries to overcome European resistance within the International Olympic Committee.
Basil D’Oliviera was denied the opportunity to represent South Africa because he was not identified as a pure white. He was later qualified and selected to play for England. In 1968 Basil D’Oliviera was identified to represent England against South Africa in South Africa. However, the racist Pretoria orchestrated his omission from the England team. Basil D’Oliviera’s omission from the MCC touring party to his homeland prompted an outrage and massive protest. He was again selected to the touring party for South Africa and the then racist white South African Government cancelled the tour describing the MCC squad as team of the anti-apartheid movement.
The powerful anti-apartheid campaign only came to an end when Mandela was finally released from prison after spending almost three decades of his life in the most inhuman conditions. The Progress Youth organisation (PYO) organised countrywide lectures and seminars that sensitised and brought apartheid awareness in Guyana. In the 1980s the PYO organised a big lecture at Friendship House on apartheid. The speakers were the late Chief Justice Mr. Rudolph Harper, who was then the President of the GOA, Dr. James Rose and Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
Sport, which was used as a toll in the struggle against apartheid, became a symbol of change when Mandela was released. The South African team competed under the Olympic large in Barcelona in 1992, and the cricket team played in the West Indies in the same year with the Pretoria, a flower replacing the springbok on their badge. Major sporting events were drawn to South Africa including the 2003 World Cup, and most recently the 2010 FIFA World Cup which brought Mr. Mandela’s final public appearance. He was driver around Soccer City in a golf buggy, visibly frail but greeted by a global audience hungry for a piece of the modern-day saint.
Many things matter more than sport as South Africa comes to terms with life after Mr. Mandela. But when black and white play together they can take comfort that the simple act of Nelson Mandela is part of his great legacy.
Mr. Speaker, I urge this House to support this motion in the name of the Prime Minister. [Applause]
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