Leaving a lasting legacy

South Africa is a nation with a rich heritage


South Africa is a nation with a rich heritage. With 11 official languages, nine culturally diverse provinces and one of the most progressive constitutions in the world – we are the true definition of a Rainbow Nation. But to embrace the new South Africa we live in today, we had to learn from the hard lessons of yesterday.

One of the greatest lessons was that of forgiveness—a powerful message that was reiterated by the late Nelson Mandela. He said, “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”

And many were not afraid to walk these roads with him. The late music icon Johnny Clegg and former Springbok winger James Small heeded Tata’s call and aided in helping him achieve his dream of a united South Africa. Their untimely deaths leave us with much to acknowledge. These three men were drawn from different sectors: politics, music and sport but were united by the common goal of creating a South Africa for all its people.

Nelson Mandela, in his quest to take a stand against the deeply rooted discrimination spurned on by the apartheid government, sacrificed like no other. He believed sport had the power to change the world, one of his greatest examples of how sport could be used to help heal the wounds inflicted by apartheid was when he walked on the rugby field wearing the Springbok’s traditional green cap and jersey, after South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win in 1995. Through that action alone Madiba showed us that a path that forgives will be walked pleasantly by many, but a path that holds a grudge very few can navigate. He changed the narrative with his divine capacity to forgive, even after being imprisoned for nearly three decades.

Singing for change

Johnny Clegg used his musical platform to break racial barriers and Small was an important participant of the first-ever major sporting event to be staged in the country following the end of apartheid. We pay our respects and give tribute to their roles in helping build the South Africa we are all proud to be part of today.

In 1996, Mandela described Johnny Clegg’s music as a combination of, ‘strains of hope and despair’. A decade later he indicated that in a South Africa still ridden by racial and other divides, the country needed more South Africans like Clegg. We should learn from Madiba’s wise words, encouraging us to possess a spirit and heart like ‘the White Zulu’, as Clegg was affectionately known. Clegg’s involvement with black musicians during the apartheid regime often led to arrests for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act. He performed in the bands Juluka and Savuka but it was his transition as a solo artist that attracted an international audience, his songs and performances united people who were against South Africa’s apartheid regime, which institutionalised the racial segregation that plagued the region for five decades.

One of South Africa’s most celebrated sons, the singer, songwriter and dancer used his platform to bring to light the true spirit of what it is to be South African. In over three decades Johnny Clegg sold over five million albums, which was a vibrant blend between Western pop and African Zulu rhythms.

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, he died at the age of 66 on the 16 July 2019. One of the most memorable moments, which Clegg referred to as the highlight of his career was when he was performing Savuka’s 1987 song, ‘Asimbonanga,’ which translates to, ‘We have never seen him,’ it was penned while Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. During that time, Mandela’s images were banned from being published by any newspaper, the song was a dedication to Mandela, openly calling for him to be released from prison. This track resonated to the point that Mandela surprised Clegg in 1999 during a show in Frankfurt, Germany when he joined him on stage for while he was performing the song. Throughout his career his deep love of music, people and country’s history was evident in his lyrics, making him irreplaceable in our hearts. His spirit lives through his remarkable music.

Backing the boys

It’s no secret that one of the ways Nelson Mandela used to overcome the legacy of apartheid was through the sport of rugby. South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, before that, apartheid laws ensured black and white South Africans played rugby separately. The International community, could not fathom this discrimination and racism, so it launched an international boycott on the springboks and made sure South Africa was excluded from participating in the first-ever Rugby World Cup in 1987.

Following that devastating outcome, rugby served as a road to racial reconciliation, Mandela collaborated with Springbok and South African Rugby Union (SARU) leaders to initiate the ‘one team, one country’ campaign in the months leading up to the Rugby World Cup. Black and white South Africans alike embraced the campaign. Throughout the tournament, South Africans of all races painted their faces in the colours of the new flag and cheered on the Springboks—who Mandela referred to as ‘our boys’.

One of those boys was James Small, who played as a winger on the Springbok’s team. Considered South Africa’s greatest number 14 and part of the team that won the Rugby World Cup on home soil.

He made his international debut playing against the All Blacks in 1992. His final appearance was against Scotland in 1997. It is with great sadness that this leading try-scorer passed away on the 10 July 2019, at the age of 50 due to a heart attack. When Mandela’s government took over, the Springboks were being taught the lyrics of the new National Anthem “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica”. Small was one of the most enthusiastic people on the team to learn the lyrics because he understood the damage segregation caused as he had experienced it first-hand when he joined the Springboks.

Looking ahead

The apartheid regime destroyed many lives, however many great lessons were born from this fight for democracy. The greatest lesson learnt is that of forgiveness and the importance of developing a constant desire to fight for unity. Mandela taught us that we might all have different skin tones, backgrounds or work in different industries but when we join forces for the greater good, we create a Rainbow Nation. A nation that thrives because it can embrace diversity and maximise on the advantages of being different. 

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