The long history of black community neglect has left a deep, ugly mark 

The Springboks’ 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards demonstrate that sport, like nature, is a wonderful metaphor for business. 

Springboks, winning the Team of the Year Award at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, March 17, 2020, was just the good news South Africa needed during gloom and despondency. 

The Boks emerged top in the vote that included Uefa champions league winners, Liverpool, F1 team Mercedes-AMG Petronas, Spain’s main basketball team, Women’s World Cup winners, the US and the NBA champions, Toronto Raptors.  

This was truly extraordinary.  

At 12-year intervals, not only did we equal New Zealand’s All Blacks’ record of three wins (All Blacks had played in two more Rugby World Cups than South Africa) at Yokohama Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. The Springboks also hold the record of never having lost in a final. 

With this win in the final against England, Bok captain -Siyamthanda Kolisi – in his 50th Test match, in front of President Cyril Ramaphosa – also became the first black captain to deliver this most epic, drama-tic and emphatic win with the biggest margin of 32-12 yet.  

Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi also became the first South African to score a try in a Rugby World Cup final.  

Right wing Cheslin Kolbe scored the second try and was nominated for the World Player of the Year Award.  

The Springboks went on to win the Team of the Year Award.  

South Africa owes a huge debt of gratitude to Johan “Rassie” Erasmus for the art of the possible.  

Francois Pienaar and his Springbok’s 15-12 win against the All Blacks in Ellis Park in 1995, was seismic, an occasion graced by the late president -Nelson Mandela. 

Former president Thabo Mbeki celebrated the 15-6 reassuring win against England at the Stade de France in St Denis, France in 2007.  

But as if to throw a spanner in the wheel, South Africa was shaken to its core by one of the joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with Mandela, apartheid era former president FW de Klerk excusing the harm done by apartheid. 

 By publicly denying nearly four years earlier in 2020 that apartheid was not a crime against humanity, De Klerk soiled the goodwill that had been taking root in the country.  

But he later changed and claimed he had not been aware that the United Nations had declared apartheid a crime against humanity. 

This is preposterous to the extreme. Not only was the denialism offensive to South Africans – but it was hurtful, especially to the millions of apartheid victims who, up until today have not seen nor experienced justice.  

The Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid has its roots in the opposition of the UN to the discriminatory racial policies of the apartheid government which lasted from 1948 to 1994.  

 Apartheid has annually been condemned by the general assembly of the UN as contrary to Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter of the United Nations from 1952 until 1990.  

It was regularly condemned by the UN Security Council after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in which innocent anti-pass protesters were killed and maimed by the apartheid security forces.  

In 1966, the general assembly labelled apartheid a crime against humanity with the Security Council endorsing this determination, declaring it to be criminal. 

The apartheid system created educational inequalities through overt racist policies such as the Bantu Education Act of 1952. 

In addition to content, apartheid legislation affected the educational potential of black students.  

School was compulsory for whites from age seven to 16, for Asians and coloureds from seven to 15, and for blacks from age seven to 13.  

The less education students received, the fewer choices they had in the working world and in accessing more education.  

De Klerk consistently defended apartheid at every platform and there is no doubt he was not a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  

The Rainbow Nation is a deeply torn country echoing identity politics, reminding us just how a liberated nation set up a fragile but functioning democracy on the ruins of a racist tyranny, where the long history of neglecting black communities has left a deep mark, and where service delivery remains worse in poor areas than in the suburbs. 


  • Mohale is the chancellor of the University of the Free State, chairman of two listed entities, The Bidvest Group Limited and ArcelorMittal, and author of the two best-selling books, Lift as you Rise and Behold the Turtle

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