Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

The Springbok Tour Of 1981 – 25 Years On

SOUTH AFRICAN CONSULATE
WELLINGTON (NZ)

Gregory Fortuin
Honorary Consul for the Republic of South Africa

Wednesday 19 July 2006.

The Springbok Tour Of 1981 – 25 Years On

When Sports Minister Trevor Mallard welcomes the 2006 Springboks at a parliamentary function this evening, it will be 25 years to the day since the divisive tour of 1981 began - an event that set mate against mate and divided a nation.

The class of 2006 is in New Zealand with the blessing of the nation ranging from Nelson Mandela to the vagrants in the subway of Cape Town station. The Boks of 1981 could at best claim 15% national support with Mr Mandela and the vagrants all shouting for the protestors and the All Blacks (in that order) - though the 49-0 debacle in Brisbane might just temporarily see the 15% being rivalled. I bet more than just a few of today’s Springboks last Saturday night wished the 1981 No-Landing Australian Policy for planes from South Africa was still in place.

As human beings I am sure there is little to choose between the two teams. The individuals were never the target. Rather the target was the cruel and unjust policies of the apartheid regime that discriminated on the basis of skin colour – “an extraordinary human disaster that lasted far too long” to quote Mr Mandela.

Black Africa’s ire for the New Zealand Government’s perceived collaboration with the apartheid regime was ignited in the Seventies. There was a brief glimmer of hope in 1973 when Prime Minister Norman Kirk followed his conscience and prevented the 1973 Springboks from touring. But all of this was undone when amidst the bloodshed and rising death toll of the 1976 Soweto uprising, the All Blacks went to South Africa with the blessing of Robert Muldoon’s Government. This led to the first major boycott of any Olympic Games when Africa displayed its frustration with New Zealand at the July 1976 Montreal Olympics.

A year later New Zealand signed up to the Commonwealth Leaders Gleneagles Agreement which accepted “the urgent duty of each of the Governments to vigorously combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and taking every practical steps to discourage sporting contact by their nationals with South Africa”.

The 1981 tour was seen not only as a betrayal of the Gleneagles Agreement but defiant support by Muldoon’s Government for the apartheid regime. Fifteen years later at a State Banquet in Cape Town former member of Muldoon’s Cabinet and then Prime Minister, Jim Bolger acknowledged “The tour was a mistake. In the final analysis, New Zealanders came to a more mature appreciation that we could not isolate ourselves – not pursue our domestic preoccupations- as if we were divorced from a broader responsibility to promote racial equality and good governance elsewhere”

In spite of the Muldoon Government, New Zealanders have had a long and proud history of opposition to apartheid. That opposition was one, which during the painful years of apartheid, those of us in the liberation struggle for a better life for all South Africans, valued dearly. During the long grim period of oppression, our spirits were lifted by the solidarity shown by New Zealand organisations such as the Churches, HART, CARE and many others.

Given the fanatical religious significance of rugby to the majority of the apartheid regime supporters, opposition in New Zealand to All Black – Springbok encounters had a unique impact inside South Africa. That opposition, initially incomprehensible, became an important force in convincing many that South Africa had no alternative but to adapt.

The cancellation of tours, and the opposition to apartheid provoked by events such as those which occurred in 1981, lead many in the apartheid regime to conclude that a negotiated settlement was essential. One need no greater example than archconservative Danie Craven meeting the ANC in exile or Louis Luyt campaigning for the release of Nelson Mandela - not because they were ardent human rights campaigners, but solely to heal the heartache of being isolated from playing ball with the other kids in the street.

To South African exiles abroad, to all political prisoners inside South Africa and to those South African political parties, civic organisations and individuals who struggled against apartheid, such protests were a source of great inspiration. As Mandela so eloquently said during his state-visit in 1995 “the sun shone into the dark cells of Robin Island and transformed the oppressive Soweto dungeons of despair into beacons of hope”

The story of New Zealanders’ opposition to apartheid is a story of commitment to the highest ideals of internationalism. The anti-apartheid movement in New Zealand was enterprising, committed and courageous. Often campaigning in a very hostile environment, it was responsible for achieving very significant victories. While there were anti-apartheid demonstrations in many parts of the world, very few assumed the magnitude that those of 1981 did in New Zealand. Masses of ordinary people got involved and that has special significance.

From a South African perspective, the 1981 Springbok tour was a story of hope. It chronicles the power of ordinary people to defeat complicity in an evil system. Whilst we must not live in the past, we must never allow ourselves to forget the bitter –sweet lessons of the past. To do this is to invite old evils to reappear.

To all those sports-mad ordinary New Zealanders who had no desire to be dragged into the political issues of South Africa and simply wished to enjoy a good game with the old enemy, I wish to say that I respect your views and sincerely regret the infringement of your rights.

To the institution who believed that politics should be kept out of sport and that it should be allowed to engage no matter the amount of innocent blood on the enemy hands, it is with some difficulty that I try to comprehend your purist view. It is with even greater difficulty that I am trying to understand your rationale in blatantly excluding your very own indigenous people to appease the regime.

I do however believe the time has come to heal whatever wounds might still exist and close the chapter on any unfinished business.

To all those New Zealanders who joined hands with us in South Africa, and who campaigned for so long and so effectively we salute you. From 16000 kilometres away we never knew the high price you paid as a nation. For your scars we say sorry, for our liberty we say thank you. Together, we were part of one of the great struggles of the 20th century.

Finally to the cynics I would say, yes South Africa still has many challenges especially in the area of education, health, safety and security, HIV/Aids and poverty. However in the 12 years of democracy (3% since colonisation in 1652) over 10 million people have shifted from tin sheds and plastic sheeting to little homes they can call their own. Access to running water and electricity has more than doubled for the previously disadvantaged. A Gallup International poll found 84% of South Africans believing the country holds out a happy future for all races and 80% of business owners are optimistic about the year ahead.

We could have been a Rwanda or a Bosnia. We could have chosen statutory revenge as per Nuremberg, but we chose truth and reconciliation. “Never again shall it be that this beautiful land will experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world”- Nelson Mandela at his inauguration.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Budget

It may seem like Oliver to be so bold as to ask the Finance Minister for more gruel – but what the Dickens, Steven Joyce… is this Budget really as good as it gets?

Supposedly, the public was going to receive significant rewards – an election year lolly scramble no less – for the eight years of belt tightening that they’ve endured, and for the rundown of essential public services.

Well, what Budget 2017 delivered instead in Education and in Health were allocations barely sufficient to maintain the current levels of service delivery More>>

Scoop Full Coverage: of Budget Announcements & Reaction
Latest: Scoop Search

 
 

Carer Settlement: Threat Of Staff Exodus In Mental Health

As a result of the recent pay rise awarded to their aged care and disability sector colleagues, many staff in non-government mental health and addiction organisations are considering leaving to join these workforces. More>>

ALSO:

Climate Policy: New Zealand Set To Blow Its Carbon Budget By 27%

The Government’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows New Zealand is set to release 647.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions between 2013 and 2020 – 137 million tonnes more than we are allowed under the Kyoto Protocol. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

Christchurch Considers Cathedral, Stadium: Cathedral Working Group Report Released

“About half of Christchurch wants to see the cathedral reinstated, the other half wants something new and more modern, but really, everyone just needs a decision." More>>

ALSO:

Auditor-General Stands Down For Investigation: Gordon Campbell On (Not) Taking Responsibility

So Martin Matthews, our current Auditor-General wishes he could have detected “earlier” the fraud that occurred on his watch at the Ministry of Transport. Hmmm. But he could have detected it earlier, surely? That’s the point. More>>

ALSO:

NGOs Pleased: Govt To Halt Collection Of Client Data

Brenda Pilott, the chair of ComVoices and national manager of Social Service Providers Aotearoa, congratulates the government on its decision to call a halt to the collection of individual client data until the concerns of not-for-profit service providers have been worked through. More>>

ALSO:

Gosh: Blasphemy Law Repeal Struck Down

Chris Hipkins, the MP who tabled a Supplementary Order Paper to add our Blasphemy Law to the Statutes Repeal Bill, said this was a "sad day for freedom of speech, tolerance, and leadership". More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 

Opening The Election Supporters

 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election