LETTER FROM THE DM168 EDITOR
Our thanks to the Springboks for providing South Africa with a little light in dark global times
The 'Stronger Together' theme that emerged at the previous World Cup rippled through our nation, and calls for everyone to support the Boks no longer seemed forced.
Dear DM168 readers,
I need to admit something that might make you a wee bit angry, but I hope you read to the end to give me the chance to temper your vexation. I haven’t always been a Springbok fan. As an Indian kid growing up in apartheid South Africa, rugby was never on my radar. Tennis and cricket, yes, but not rugby.
Daily Maverick sports editor Craig Ray writes in his brilliant lead story this week that rugby was used as a symbol to “somehow portray the ‘best’ of a disgusting political system”, and when Madiba famously asked us in 1995 to support the Springboks, it just didn’t feel right to me.
A few years later, when the South African Rugby Football Union took Madiba to court to challenge the commission of inquiry into racism in rugby, the sport felt even less like one for all South Africans.
But, many years and controversies later, the Boks started to feel like “our team” at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when it seemed like they had finally shaken off their troubled legacy to evolve into a collective that was somehow truly South African.
The days of rugby writers and fans scrutinising and unfairly criticising the credentials and talent of players of colour seemed to be behind us when the Boks took to the field in Japan and surreptitiously mounted a campaign to upset the rugby world order by claiming a surprise championship win.
The “Stronger Together” theme that emerged at the previous World Cup rippled through our nation, and calls for everyone to support the Boks no longer seemed forced. I relented and became a Bok supporter when we read afterwards about how the team had motivated themselves to win for all South Africans – it was hard not to be touched by their spirit, sincerity and patriotism.
It goes without saying that Springbok captain Siya Kolisi played – and continues to play – a huge role in giving the Boks universal appeal. Few sportspeople have used their fame in a more wholesome way than he has, with his charitable foundation, his easy humility, his sense of gratitude and his supercool disposition. (Is there anyone cooler on this planet?)
As Craig Ray writes in the lead story: “It might sound like some sort of socialist utopian dream, but the Boks really do embody the best of South Africa, and give us all a glimpse of how great this country really could be.”
And that’s why this edition of your favourite weekly newspaper is unashamedly green and gold, with rugby stories on pages 4, 5, 60, 61, 62 and 63. And if you consider yourself a Springbok superfan, test your knowledge with our fun Boks quiz on page 56.
In South Africa, we’re lucky to have many people who give us a glimpse of how great this country could be, and one of those people is the Rural Doctor of the Year, Dr Bukiwe Spondo from Tafalofefe Hospital in the impoverished village of Centane in the Eastern Cape, whom we profile on page 24. Spondo started driving to clinics in the area in 2012 to deliver prepacked medicines after she noticed that patients had stopped taking their medication because of what it cost to get to the hospital. This meant a drive of 40km a day twice a week.
She mentors youth in the area, has paid school fees for orphans and, after observing that some patients in the maternity ward were as young as 12, she started doing talks at schools in the area to educate learners about contraceptives.
Also in the newspaper this week is a worrying story about the push for a coal mine on the Kruger National Park’s southern border, and a story about how Cape Town is bracing for a surge of violence during the festive season as rival gangsters try to fill the void left by kingpins who have been arrested or assassinated.
And, to put a much-needed satirical twist on life, Maverick Life associate editor Malibongwe Tyilo writes about how we’re all looking forward to watching Busisiwe Mkhwebane EFF things up even more with her new BFFs, the Red Berets.
In victory or defeat
Tomorrow, as we marvel at the immense talent of a team that effortlessly carries the hopes of 62 million people on their shoulders, I hope we appreciate how much the Boks put on the line for us and I hope we stand proudly beside them, and one another, in victory or defeat.
I also hope that we appreciate the opportunity the Boks give us to escape briefly from the horror unfolding in the Middle East. The human cost of the conflict has us all feeling sick about the victims of violence on both sides, so let’s express our gratitude to the Boks for providing a little light in dark times.
Yours in defence of truth,
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.