The Edmond Sun

Opinion

May 20, 2014

South Africans unite aside race boundaries

Soweto, South Africa — The people crowding the streets of downtown Oklahoma City in commemoration of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s recent triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers were similar to the jubilant crowds that filled the streets of Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa, when that nation’s rugby team defeated the national team of New Zealand for the World Rugby Cup in 1995.

The story of that contest and how it transformed South Africa is set forth in the recently published “Knowing Mandela, a Personal Portrait” by journalist John Carlin.

The author details how bitterness and suspicion divided black and white South Africans when apartheid officially ended in 1994 and Nelson Mandela was elected that nation’s first black president. Mandela had been imprisoned by the South African government in 1964 and was not released until 1990.

Traditionally, the black population supported soccer teams while white South Africans followed the national rugby team, the Springboks. Many black South Africans would cheer for the team that was playing the Springboks. But Mandela saw a chance to use the rugby team, which was overwhelmingly white, as a way to bring all South Africans together. He began by  arranging to have the World Cup Games to be held in South Africa in 1995. He later met with the young white man who was captain of the team, Francois Pienaar, and urged him and his teammates to reach out to black South Africans by appearing in the black townships and coaching young people there in the sport.

Prior to the game with Australia, Mandela came to the Springbok’s training camp and told the players that “You now have the opportunity of serving South Africa and uniting our people. Remember, all of us, black and white are behind you.”

The Springboks defeated Australia and met the New Zealand team on the field in a stadium in Johannesburg that was filled with white spectators. Nelson Mandela came onto the field wearing the green jersey and green cap of the Springbok team and the crowd began to cheer him and call his name.  

Carlin quotes Pienaar as saying that it was an almost magical moment in which everyone in the stadium and those watching it on television realized that all South Africans regardless of race were united as one people.

When the Springboks won, jubilant crowds of both black and white people celebrated the victory in the streets.  

Carlin also details how on several different occasions, when it appeared possible that a civil war would break out in South Africa, Mandela managed to work with all the diverse stakeholders there to avoid such a catastrophe.

When black leader Chris Hani was assassinated, Mandela went on national television and called for everyone to remain calm and talked of how the assassin had been captured by police because a white woman had written down the license number of his car and gave it to the authorities.   

Like most people who dealt with Mandela, the author was charmed by him, and he makes clear that Mandela’s warmth and charm was bestowed on everyone who came in contact with him regardless of their status

The South African president remained close to some of the men who guarded him during his years of imprisonment and also to the journalists and reporters who covered him during his years in office. It would be fortunate if there were leaders of this stature on the world stage today.

William F. O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”
    Who’s right?

    July 30, 2014

  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results