Destroying the new and the old: The removal of a mural at the Durban Botanic Gardens depicting South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy


The Durban Botanical Gardens was established in 1849 and is the oldest botanical garden in Africa. The Botanic Gardens curates major collections such as cycads, palms and orchids and, in the true tradition of botanic gardens, is several gardens within one.

The Durban Botanic Gardens Trust runs the Botanical Gardens.  The Trust is an independent and discretionary Trust, established in 1993 to support the Botanic Gardens with various maintenance and development projects including projects with a focus on education, biodiversity, heritage, horticulture, research and people, plants and culture.

This week a mural reflecting South Africa’s old and new flags was removed from the Durban Botanical Gardens after the Ethekwini Municipality received complaints that it was offensive and provocative. I have written before about the desirability of banning the old South African flag or not. In my view, a ban will be counterproductive. However, I understand the association of the old flag with Apartheid and I, therefore, personally discourages people from displaying it in public, other than for historical or artistic purposes.

The following newspaper article covered the removal of the mural:

Old SA flag removed from Durban Botanic Gardens

I live in Durban and visits the Botanical Gardens often. It’s a place of tranquillity and reflection, and it often hosts music concerts and other events. Many many people have therefore since it had been put up twenty years ago, walked past the mural at the entrance to the Gardens witnessing its magical transition from the old flag to the beautiful new South African flag. A powerful symbol of transition from the old to the new and symbolising change and renewal. Walking from the other side past the mural and towards the exit of the Botanic Gardens, only the new South African flag is visible unless one looked consciously back over your shoulder to then view the old South African flag. The artist producing the mural created this effect to symbolise the need to look forward rather than backward to a South Africa that belongs to all, Black and White.

Sadly because of a few complaints and the random act by an administrative functionary, Mr. Thembokosi Ngcobo who is the Head: Parks, Recreation and Culture at the Ethewkini Municipality, this beautiful mural is now lost forever depriving patrons and visitors to the Botanic Gardens of its powerful message and symbolism. He instructed that the mural be removed, and this was done in a matter of a day. On Twitter, he describes himself as a seasoned public administrator and political activist who tweeted the following after the mural was removed.


At the time of the complaints from a few people on Twitter about the mural, the Durban Botanical Gardens tweeted as follows about the history and background to the mural on display, which reveals that the mural was commissioned by the Ethekwini Municipality itself and one of its Public Museums, the KwaMuhle Museum. Mr. Ngcobo therefore not only destroyed something commissioned by his employer namely the Ethekwini Municipality but he did so without obtaining permission from the Municipal Council to do so!


The random act of Mr. Ngobo raises many serious questions that require answers from him and the Ethekwini Municipality. These are the following:

  • How can an appointed municipal official usurp the power to take what I suspect is in effect an illegal decision, without due process and consultation and that without anybody even batting an eyelid?
  • What evidence does Mr. Ncogo, have to say that municipal protocol was not followed when the mural was put up 20 years ago, especially seeing that the Tweet from the Botanical Gardens indicate that the Ethewkini Municipality itself commissioned it?
  • Were the Trust of the Botanical Gardens consulted on the matter? Looks like not because the IOL article linked above quotes an anonymous employee who says they received an instruction from the Municipality to remove it.
  • What about the patrons of the Botanical Gardens? Were they consulted or don’t they have a say in the matter?
  • What about the person who created the mural? Was he/she consulted and what about the irreparable damage done to his/her intellectual and artistic property?
  • Was the matter submitted to the Ethekwini Metro Council for a decision? Clearly not given the timeline involved.

This act is a clear example of abuse of power by an official who I suspect did not have the necessary authority or delegation to do so. It speaks to how most senior officials at municipalities these days are beholden to the political ideology of the ruling political party, rather than serving impartially all the citizens at large and without fear or favour.

My municipal career started back in the Apartheid days and functionaries of those times are often unfairly accused of having been dictatorial or not following due process. I worked for some 18 years at municipalities in a senior management capacity, and remember, for example, the hoops the Margate Borough and I as its Corporate Service Manager had to jump through to obtain the necessary permission to demolish the old Margate town hall to make space for much needed public parking. It took months of applications to bodies like the Heritage Council and consultation with the public. No usurping of power to do what we thought was in the public interest. We followed the due process in the interest of transparency and proper governance.

Given the wide definition of property in our Constitution, this act is but one example of how as citizens we can be robbed of it without compensation if the Constitution is amended as the African National Congress is planning to do. Let this serve as a warning to us all.

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A case of Aggravated Assault & the State of our Nation (Part 2 in the series – Verwoerd, Malan & a Case of Aggravated Assault)


This is the second of three posts detailing incidents within two weeks, which had a dramatic impact on my life. Part 1 was about the book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” and a chapter in it that brings the credibility of one of the book’s authors, Mark Minnie, into question.

Verwoerd, Malan & a case of Aggravated Assault – Part 1 (Malan & the Boys of Bird Island)

In Part 2 I write about a case of aggravated assault on people dear to me and what it says about South Africa as nation still having to fully make peace with itself.

In the very early hours of Wednesday 15 August 2018, I received a call from the daughter of my Stepmother (70 years old), who lives next to them in an apartment in Port Edward, together with my Dad (76 years old). “Oupa and Ouma were attacked, and it does not look good, there is blood everywhere. We are waiting for the ambulance”. We rushed from Durban to Port Shepstone Hospital where I found my dad lying on a stretcher covered in blood. My Stepmother was still in Port Edward waiting for a transfer to Port Shepstone.

It turned out that they were attacked and severely assaulted for two hours by two youngers who barely stole anything of worth. My Dad’s skull was cracked after a severe beating with a rock, his jaw broken in two places, and he suffered a number of stabbed wounds. My Stepmother was similarly assaulted and traumatized.

Immediately following the event I wrote on Facebook that I never thought I would say this, but I hate this country at the Southern tip of Africa with a passion so strong that it scares me. I followed it up the next morning with the following post, wherein I tried to explain my feelings in more detail:

I’m a mess of emotions. After yesterday’s events, I woke up this morning and realized how much healing our country still needs. First of all, it struck me that almost two years ago to the date, my wife was assaulted outside of SARS in Pinetown, by two criminals. I remembered how my laatlammetjie bravely jumped on the back of one of the perpetrators and with her little female hands beaten him off my wife and how I found my wife bleeding in Pinetown’s streets in shock. An event that I have almost forgotten about, but which were pushed back in my consciousness by the shock of yesterday.

BREAKING: Grandmother viciously attacked outside Pinetown SARS

Then I think back to yesterday’s events and ask “God why my elderly father and stepmother? Surely they don’t deserve this?” My stepmother who used to operate a Black private school in Port St Johns until recently, mostly at a loss and using her own meager funding because of her love for children. How she was hurt by two youngsters, who are not much older than those that she now teaches at a different school. A brave Afrikaner woman who, in spite of what happened to her just yesterday, wanted to go back to the school to teach again today, because she did not want to let her mainly Black scholars down.

Then my thoughts drifted to those who so often claim that it’s us older Afrikaners fault that our children behave in an unbecoming manner, as children are not born with any inborn prejudices. I read my children’s and the daughter of my late sister’s heartbreaking messages (see postscripts 1, 2 and 3 for these messages) about their grandfather and yesterday’s events and ask myself, what then do I tell my children about some people who have no respect for human life and dignity? How do I convince them to still stay put and assist to make South Africa work? Then I realize this is a deeply personal matter that political and other social studies professors and analyst can analyze at wit’s end, but that its something that they do not know or understand anything about.

Then my mind jumped to my perhaps unjustified comment on Christi van der Westhuizen’s Facebook post yesterday. It was by coincidence the 1st post on my Facebook timeline that I read just after I saw my Dad bleeding and in shock, in the Port Shepstone hospital. I saw the pain and bitterness in his eyes and her “wink wink” I’m going to talk to my favorite Eusebius McKaiser on the radio this morning about white privilege, was in that moment just too much for me to handle.

Then I think of my earlier interaction with Christi about the Magnus Malan saga and how we all pursue the truth, but from different perspectives. She from a perspective that Apartheid was only evil and bad, me from a perspective that I do understand to an extent why my father and dear late mother supported the NP government at that time, namely the Afrikaner’s quest for a place they could call home and in the light of their parents and grandparents’ trans-generational trauma experienced as a result of the Anglo-Boer war.

Then I think of her wake-up call to me when she said Riaan, but PW Botha, personally called for the police file of the Bird Island case and destroyed the dossier! But just the next day I read that according to policeman Minnie’s then commander, the dossier was only about his investigation of Allen and his ties with Wiley, and then I wonder aloud, but why does the book make it out as if Magnus Malan and another unnamed previous Minister were also under investigation?

But then my thoughts go to the Minnie family and what sorrow and sadness they must experience at this moment after his apparent suicide, compared to my family where loved ones got hurt, but thank God they still live. May they find peace and answers by God’s grace in this difficult time.

Then in my further search for the truth about the Malan case, I came across a contribution from Leopold Scholtz. In it, he writes that emotion is good, but only to a point and that yes, the past must be seen through the glasses of emotion, but always in equilibrium with rationality. Then I wonder whether analysts like Christi are not so overcome by emotions when viewing our troubled past, that they sometimes lose perspective?

Then I came across an article in News24 early this morning, in which Christi correctly explains the context in which the allegations that Magnus Malan is accused of in the book, took place. I read it and realize that we all seek the truth but still judge the past from our own context and perspective. She who sees the 1980s and the dark period in our history from the perspective of that the security forces during this period was only evil. Compared with me, and what I had experienced, given my work in townships at the time, which makes me want to shout out, hokaai Christi – the ANC was not always the angels during this period, their People’s War destroyed the lives of many ordinary black families. And then I wonder if she and my perspectives about the same period of our history could ever be reconciled?

But then luckily I came across another article this morning wherein the former coloured politician Peter Marais, urges that “The Afrikaner has to leave his nonsense.” He writes about what he promised his mother on her deathbed namely “You can fight against injustice, but you do not fight the Boers because your grandfather was a Boer.” The article once again made me realize how interwoven our past and shared history are, black, brown and white. His words leave me with the hope that one-day emotion and rationality will come into full equilibrium and that we will then be able as South Africans to take hands on the path of healing and reconciliation.

(See my previous post that also dealt with our shared history and how it should unite us as a nation – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Death: Time to Rediscover our Common History )

Dad and Tannie, I love you very much and sorry about the hurt and pain of yesterday. Thank you very much for your contribution to our country’s well-being and future for almost 70 years, we will never forget it.”

The whole incident made me reflect deeply on the state of our nation. I’m still very very angry at what happened, and it will take a long time for things to return to normal. My Dad and Stepmother is on the way to recovery but still severely traumatized. Luckily some of those involved has been caught and will stand trial for their evil deeds. One of the main perpetrators is however still on the loose but will hopefully be arrested soon.

The incident also made me think about how crime is viewed and reported in South Africa. A case of criminality like the assault and kidnapping of a man and the act of trying to shove him into a coffin is immediately condemned as a racists incident that receives endless newspaper coverage and condemnation by all. Aggravated assaults on defenseless old people like what happened to my family, and which happens to many other victims of crime on a daily basis, barely register any mention in the mainstream or social media. I can’t but wonder what agendas are at play in the way crime is reported upon in South Africa and how some incidents are immediately seen as having racist undertones, while others with many similarities are not.

I wanted to write some more about the scourge of farm murders after having read Ernst Roet’s book, Kill the Boer. The attack on my Dad took place not on a farm but on the outskirts of Port Edward and in an area surrounded by smallholdings. I decided not to do so in this post, lest I be called out for promoting the notion of a white genocide, when all I would, in fact, have asked for is that the government and police declare farm murders and attacks a priority crime, given the high prevalence thereof.

Below is the few local newspaper reports that covered the incident involving my Dad and Stepmother:

JUST IN: Knife attack leaves Port Edward couple traumatised

Four arrested for attack on Port Edward pensioners

UPDATE: Men arrested for Port Edward pensioner attack to apply for bail


Postscript 1: My eldest daughters Facebook post – “When will SA say ENOUGH is ENOUGH???

During ‘women’s month,’ as well as four days after my grandfather’s 76th birthday, he and his wife were subjected to a brutal and unwarranted attack by two cowardly thugs in Port Edward.

At 3.30am, these two cowards entered a fully-fenced complex, targeted my granddad and tannie (70) and thought it wise to brutally assault two old, defenseless elderly people. My grandfather, who cooperated every step of the way, was stabbed twice, his jaw broken and skull fractured. He is too old to fight back…these cowards only wanted to take his pride from him, nothing else. Tannie, who has dedicated her life to teaching poor, rural children, who will give you the last shirt off her back, also fell victim to these menaces, despite doing exactly as she was told.

When I arrived at the Port Shepstone state hospital, where my granddad was laying in a bed drenched in blood, my heart sank. We arrived in time for morning prayer. A short, black woman walks over to myself and Brendan: ‘Don’t cry dears, he’s in good hands.’ I wish I got her name; I want to thank her personally. Her words comforted me.

Moments later, a nurse puts an open needle on the dirty table. Oupa asks me to lift the backrest of the bed, but I can’t, it’s broken. I then ask for a pillow…’We don’t have pillows here.’

A male nurse walks over…he first sticks a syringe with a clean needle in Oupa; then, I hear my mother’s voice in my head. ‘Don’t you dare put that dirty needle in him,’ I find myself saying.

Poor Oupa was drenched in blood. So I asked for a wet cloth to clean him a little.

As I wiped the blood from his hands, I already said to myself ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! BLEED MY BELOVED COUNTRY, but I will never bleed for you again.

Our government is failing us…not white, black, coloured or Indian, IT IS FAILING ALL OFF US! It protects the rich, the corrupt, the murderers, the thieves, the kidnappers, and rapists. But it fails its vulnerable; women, children, the elderly and frail.

So dear SA, my beloved, beautiful country, when the rubbish of this country is done taking, and when there is nothing or no-one left to take from, remember the day I wrote this…asking you: WHEN WILL ENOUGH BE ENOUGH?!

Hours later, we’re told Oupa has to go for facial reconstructive surgery in Durban, but he will be kept overnight for observation. Two, frail, old people’s lives have been turned upside down because two good-for-nothing cowards wanted a little power trip.

Now, IS THERE ANY COUNTRY OUT THERE THAT HAS SPACE FOR 2 hardworking individuals who would love to give their daughter a fighting chance at a better future?


I can still smell his blood, even after washing my hands and having a shower. I hope I smell it until I leave, so it serves as a constant reminder of why I left SA…Bleed my beloved country.”

Postscript 2: My youngest daughters Facebook post – “I don’t even have words for what two disgusting savages have done to my amazing grandparents.  May your guilt catch up to you and eat you alive. To my family, I love you all.”

Postscript 3: The daughter of my sister’s Facebook post – “I am trying to use my words wisely, I am trying to say what I want to say without prejudice, but I am finding it very difficult, I am so angry, I am so full of hate! How does one human being do this horrible thing to another? What type of person must you be? How could these two barbaric monsters do what they did to two elderly, defenseless, good-hearted people? How do they brutally attack for hours on end and not feel a thing? How am I not supposed to feel hate and anger, how am I supposed to stay true this country that I love, how am I supposed to love and accept. People who know me, know that I have no problems with people of other religions, race, creed ( all this bullshit) that divides us. I think there is a little place under the sun for each of us to live in harmony. But today, today I cannot. My grandfather and his girlfriend were attacked and beaten and tortured by two monsters in the early hours of this morning, and for what? There wasn’t really anything of worth to steal. They went there to inflict pain and suffering. I do not want to share my world with monsters like these. And most importantly I do not want my children exposed to this sickness. Angry and hate are actually not strong enough words for what I feel. I am scaring myself because I am feeling vengeful, I wish I could hurt this low life’s like they hurt my grandparents. I am sad that it has come to this. Cry the beloved country.”

Adam Catzavelos, Racism and Prevailing Double Standards

A matter that received a lot of attention this past week and rightly so, was that of Adam Catzavelos and his now infamous video below in which he used the k-word.

Almost at the same time, the news broke of another incident in which a member of the ANCYL, Suzanne Govender, used the k-word in a WhatsApp message. Here is a link to the Govender story breaking:

KZN ANCYL executive in hot water over ‘racist k-word’ outburst

Both incidents in essence are the same as both used the k-word via WhatsApp. Adam Catzavelos posted his video as I understand on WhatsApp, whereas Suzanne Govender had a discussion on WhatsApp as per the screenshot below:


I believe that both of them are idiots for what they have said but as a firm believer in freedom of speech, I believe in their right to make idiots of themselves in public rather than trying to suppress their thoughts and views as racists as it may be. Suppressing racists and their views via legislation in my view is just going to drive such behaviour underground and will serve no public good.

As soon as both the Catzavelos and Govender incidents broke I decided to track how many media articles and mentions each incident received via a simple Google search and the result is reflected in the chart below which speaks for itself. Whilst the Adam incident quickly gained traction and grew from 0 to 22 300 articles or mentions in no time and are still trending upwards, the Govender incident has barely registered as a blip on the mainstream media radar and are trending to nowhere with only 143 articles/mentions by 18h00 on the evening of 24 August 2018.


I also analyzed as many of the articles on both incidents as I could and identified 44 direct consequences for Adam Catzavelos, some of which has dire consequences for him such as losing his job, being investigated by the the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) at their own volition, a radical political party visiting his residence and threats being made against him. For Suzanne Govender I could only identify 9 such direct consequences, the worst of which is that she lost her party political position on an executive committee (not sure if this was her full time employment) and a possible further investigation against her by the SAHRC, that’s if they decided to take the matter further.

I will summarize my findings of the analysis undertaken below (disclaimer – it was a rapid analysis and if I missed something and therefore what I state below is not factual please let me know and I will gladly correct same):

  1. Calls were made to boycott the family business that Adam used to work for and some of their existing clients took their business elsewhere.
  2. Both incidents were condemned but with the Adam incident, receiving much much wider public condemnation. Even Afriforum condemned Adam for his use of the k-word.
  3. Govender denied having used the k-word whereas Catzavelos, in the end, admitted ‘guilt’ and made a public apology for his actions. His apology was however not accepted well on social media.
  4. Major organizations such as Nedbank, 702 and Nike distanced themselves from Catzavelos whereas in the instance of Govender only her ward committee and the local ANCYL did so.
  5. Other political parties such as the EFF and the DA got involved in the Catzavelos incident but none in the case of Govender other than the ANCYL of which she is a member.
  6. The EFF visited the house of Catzavelos but not so for Govender.
  7. In both instances, a case was opened with the SAPS. In the Catzavelos instance, the EFF laid a charge and in the Govender matter the local ANCYL. The EFF gave the police a deadline within which to arrest Adam.
  8. Fun was poked at Catzavelos on social media and a campaign launched,  #AdamCatzavelosChallenge. I could pick up no such campaign against Govender.
  9. Catzavelos family released a statement condemning his actions. No word as yet from the family of Govender.
  10. In Catzavelos instance, the government released an official statement, none in the case of Govender.
  11. In the Adam incident, calls were made to criminalize racism and experts provided a number of opinions on the likelihood of him being successfully prosecuted. No such opinions on what Suzanne did.
  12. In the Adam incident, calls were made for all to say no to racism and to acknowledge that we are all to blame.
  13. In the Adam incident, the SAHRC decided to investigate the matter out of their own violation, although the DA and others subsequently also reported the matter to them. In the Suzanne incident, the ANCYL in her ward reported the matter to the SAHRC but its not sure whether they will take the matter further.
  14. The private school where Adam’s children are enrolled banned him from their premises. Rapper AKA congratulated the school.
  15. Various other SA celebrities condemned Catzavelos, none did so in relation to Govender.
  16. In the Adam instance, social media went berserk and the matter soon trended on SA Twitter.
  17. Twitter was used as a medium to track down Adam and his personal details were made public on social media (the personal details of Govender is not known).
  18. No such social media explosion happened in response to the Suzanne incident.
  19. In the Catzavelos incident, threats were made against him and the family business and some Nike stores closed for a short while out of fear for the safety of their staff.
  20. Adam Catzavelos wife and her employer Nike were also drawn into the incident. We don’t know if Suzanne Govender is married and if so who her partner works for.
  21. Catzavelos was fired from the family business and Govender resigned as a member of the ANCYL Exco in Ethekwini (but only after she faced a suspension and disciplinary hearing). It’s not clear whether she has any other formal employment.

From the aforementioned, the double standards at play should be clear and evident to all. I wrote a blog piece about this prevailing double standards earlier (see link below):

The Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse)

The same double standards were pointed out in a report compiled by the Solidarity Research Institute in 2017 (see the following links for more information):

It looks to me like the race of the ‘perpetrator’ plays a major role in how the mainstream media, social media, political parties, the SAHRC, public analyst, radio talk show hosts and the government treats instances of racism. It’s high time that all of them be called out for this in the interest of balance and fair and equal treatment in front of the law and the court of public opinion.

Unlike in my previous blog posts highlighting double standards, I will this time around try and get comment from the parties listed above but don’t hold your breath.

Ashwin Willemse – did he infringe the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha?


The independent review into the Ashwin Willemse walk-out has found that the conduct of Nick Mallett and Naas Botha “does not manifest naked racism”. The former Springbok rugby wing walked off of the SuperSport set in May after he had accused co-hosts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha of patronizing him.

An independent review was conducted by advocate Vincent Maleka SC with the assistance of Wits University’s Professor Adam Habib. The full report can be read here –

The full Ashwin Willemse studio walk-off report



I have already written five blog posts featuring the Ashwin Willemse incident. In the firstThe Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse) I pointed out that doing a Google search on “Ashwin Willemse Supersport Mallet” limited to 19/20 May 2018 I was startled to find 3 090 results compared to only 4 Google results for the first two days after which a CEO assualted a pregnant women. In the second postThe Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to I compared how Eusebius McKaiser on his 702 Talk Show dealt with the incident compared to a similar discussion on the matter on the Gareth Cliff Show. In the third postAshwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s I highlighted what certain commentators wrote in opinion pieces, following the incident, about rugby in South Africa in the 1980’s and pointed out certain key instances where they have not been accurate with the truth and questioned why the need to support their points of view with falsehoods.

In the last two blog posts Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) and Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990). I firstly provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF)], and the Leopards [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA)] for the period 1971 to 1976 to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made some progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport, and secondly I highlighted some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.


The Maleka Report into the incident is well written and easy to follow and it’s clear that Advocate Maleka went to great lengths to try and get to the bottom of the incident. He  concluded that he could find no evidence of naked racism on the part of Messrs Mallet and Botha and that he based his conclusions on the following considerations:

  • What Messrs Botha and Mallett conveyed to Mr. Willemse during the off-air incident was not based on a belief held by them of superiority, based on their race or skin colour, or cultural or social background. They were motivated by a common concern that Mr. Willemse was not afforded enough time to express his analysis before the commencement of the live broadcast of the Lions/Brumbies rugby match.
  • Both of them confirmed that they did not use or direct overt racist terms such as “quota player” when they engaged with Mr. Willemse during the off-air incident. They also indicated that they did not reference their past background and achievement in the sport of rugby during years of apartheid or sports segregation in their off-air conversation with Mr. Willemse.
  • Second, there is nothing in the audio-visual clip of the post-match studio broadcast of 19 May 2018 which reveals utterances by Messrs Botha and Mallett of naked racism directed towards Mr. Willemse. Ms. Mohcno heard what Messrs Botha and Mallett said to Mr. Willemse. Mr. Monale also heard what they said during the live broadcast. Both Ms. Mohono and Mr. Monale did not regard or consider the utterances of Messrs Botha and Mallett to Mr. Willemse as being racist.
  • Third, Advocate Maleka placed weight on the collective opinion of Ms Mohono and Mr Monale. The opinion that there was no overt racism is held by persons across race and gender diversity who would ordinarily be sensitive to utterances that are overtly racist. The fact that they did not hold such an opinion is weighty enough, in his view.

  • Fourth, during his interview with the CEOs of MultiChoice and SuperSport on 21 May 2018, Mr.Willemse was asked whether he considered the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallett to be motivated by racism. Mr. Willemse indicated that he did not regard their conduct as racist. Mr. Willemse was also asked whether he considered Messrs Botha and Mallett to be racists. He indicated that they were not, in his view. He was then asked whether he would be prepared to still work with them. He indicated a willingness to do so.

With regards to subtle racism (also called microaggressions), Advocate Maleka found no evidence of this playing any part. Messrs Mallet and Botha conduct were not motivated by malevolent intent, or a desire to hurt  Mr. Willemse and there is a rational explanation or justification for their conduct.

This is in line with my own initial assessment of what happened in the studioand as I reported in The Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to. I also listened and viewed the video of the incident again and again with a very attentive ear to try and pick up any subtle racism (or microaggressions), whether covert or not, on the part of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha that can be viewed as either condescending or patronizing but could not identify any.

It should be noted that the concept of microaggressions (or subtle racism) is not without its critics as alluded to in this article The trouble with ‘microaggressions’ wherein its author, Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfield, casts a critical eye over the concept and the evidence on which it rests. He questions how microaggressions are defined and assessed. He observes that the concept’s meaning is nebulous, to the point that there is no agreed understanding of what it includes and excludes. Any manner of experiences could in principle find shelter under its broad umbrella.

He concluded that “microaggression” is not the best way to think about subtle prejudice. Its definition is amorphous and elastic. It fails to appreciate the ambiguity of social interaction, relies too exclusively on subjective perceptions, and too readily ascribes hostile intent. By doing so, the idea of microaggression contributes to a punitive and accusatory environment that is more likely to create backlash than social progress.

Is this not exactly what happened in this incident? Those that crucified Nick Mallet and Naas Botha did not take into consideration the ambiguity of the social interaction that took place on the day in the studio, relied on their own subjective prejudices and immediately ascribed hostile intent on the part of Naas Botha and Nick Mallet against Ashwin Willemse. This created and accusatory environment against all concerned, including Ashwin Willemse, that created more of a negative backlash than contributing in any way to social progress.


This brings me to another angle, and that is how Ashwin Willemse, granted when being upset about something which I will come to later, infringed on the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha by attacking their reputation as rugby players who according to him, only played segregated rugby in the Apartheid era. As for Naas Botha, he is one of the few SA rugby players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as he was in his own right a player of exceptional talent and recognised internationally as one of the games best flyhalves ever. He also did not just play rugby in the Apartheid era so Ashwin Willemse is wrong on this point, but also after 1990 when he captained the Springboks in tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and France.

As for Nick Mallet he played in only two tests in the 1980’s due to South Africa’s sporting isolation, but his real claim to fame is when he capably and with distinction, coached the Springboks in the post-Apartheid era, and from 1998 to 2000, equaling the All Blacks long-standing world record of 17 undefeated international tests. His reputation is therefore not based mainly on being a former Springbok player which Ashwin Willemse lashed out against, but that of a post-Apartheid coach who ably coached the Springboks in this capacity to many victories.

In addition, and as pointed out in my blog posts Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) and Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990). rugby under the South African Rugby Board (SARB) banner was played on non-racial, and therefore not a segregated basis, from 1977 onwards. Both Naas Botha and Nick Mallet, therefore, played their rugby yes, mainly during the Apartheid era, but not on a racial or segregated basis as claimed by Ashwin Willemse.

Ashwin Willemse, therefore, has a lot to answer for how he acted out against Naas Botha and Nick Mallet in the manner that he did. He could have taken his grievance up with the management of SuperSport afterwards, who would have had to investigate the matter in terms of their relevant procedures. In acting out as he did, he in my view unfairly impinged the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha and that on a public platform where they could not defend themselves.


Almost on cue following the release of the report Eusebius tweeted as follows:

“I read every sentence of the #AshwinWillemse report. It’s amazing how 1652 Twitter ignore the FULL detail. Adv. Vincent Maleka SC is clear that his findings aren’t binding AND that Supersport should refer racism claims to the Human Rights Commission for final resolution.”

In response to this Max du Preez rightly tweeted “That it’s hypocritical to loudly protest against the EFF’s crude ethnic chauvinism one day and to refer to “1652 Twitter” the next”.

As for Ashwin Willemse, his lawyer revealed that he will approach the Equality Court to rule on the matter as he feels that Maleka’s investigation was ‘not the forum to voice his concerns’. His lawyer further indicated that the process was a fruitless exercise and that they believe the whole incident is rooted in racism. This despite Ashwin Willemse indicating in the initial SuperSport investigation that he did not regard the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallett as racists and that he did not consider Messrs Botha and Mallett to be racists.

So if the conduct of Naas Botha and Nick Mallet was not racists as found by the thorough Maleka investigation and as confirmed by Ashwin Willemse himself, what then to make of the statement that the whole incident, rather than the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallet in itself, is rooted in racism? All will, of course, be revealed in due time in the arguments put in front of the Equality Court, but I would not be surprised if it does not have to do with a rugby-based difference of opinion on whether Elton Jantjies versus somebody like Handre Pollard, is the best South African flyhalf with Ashwin Willemse arguing that Naas Botha and Nick Mallet are biased against rugby players of colour and always questioning their rugby playing ability whilst always favouring white players and not questioning their ability or form.

It’s a well-known fact that Ashwin Willemse has a soft spot for Elton Jantjies. In this light there is a telling part in the Maleka report which read as follows:

  • Next, the anchor introduced a topic for commentary. It related to the changes made to the Lion’s side and invited the analyst’s views thereon.
  • Mr Mallett provided a detailed analysis of the changes, and his analysis proceeded for approximately one minute. Thereafter, the anchor turned to Mr Botha and invited him to comment on the form of Mr Elton Jantjies, who plays for the Lions. Mr Botha provided his analysis against the background of live pictures from the stadium, depicting the warm up by Mr Jantjies. Now and then Mr Mallett would add his views to the points made by Mr Botha, in a manner that revealed a collegial conversation between them. The inputs from both takes about few minutes.
  • Then, the anchor suddenly announces that it is time to join the live broadcast of the match at the Emirates Airline Park stadium.
  • Throughout the pre-match commentary, Mr Willemse did not have the opportunity to provide a pre-match analysis. He stood next to a touch screen television monitor and listened to the analyses of his colleagues, as they were led by the anchor.

My guess is, although I have not had the opportunity to listen to or view the pre-match or half-time match analysis , that Ashwin Willemse, more likely than not, took umbrage to something negative either Naas Botha or Nick Mallet said about the form of Elton Jantjies in the pre-match analysis and that this further confirmed his belief that they are by nature biased against players of colour. This coupled with the fact that, due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control, he had no chance to contribute to the pre-match analysis and therefore not being able to contribute to the discussion on Elton Jantjie’s form, might have been what upset him so much to react the way he did in the post-match analysis. It’s of course pure speculation on my side at this stage, but it makes sense when viewed in the context of what happened on the day as explained in detail in the Maleka report.






Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990)

In a previous blog post, The Ashwin Willemse incident and the many critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s , I concluded that, maybe those so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth Stead, Pieter du Toit and Christi van der Westhuizen and others, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes still far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of in rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I want to therefore highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

As background, rugby in South Africa was for a large part played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board. This unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, on the other hand decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.

In part 1 of this blog post Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) , I provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), and the Leopards being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA) for the period 1971 to 1976. The purpose was to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport.

In this part 2 of the blog post I will highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.


1977 – Players of colour took part for the first time in the national rugby trials in Pretoria to elect the Springbok team to play against a World XV (the selectors were also racially mixed). This included Errol Tobias, Piet Boonzaaier, Hennie and Turkey Shields, Hannes Meyer, Louis Paulse, Randy Marinus (Randy Marinus: Een van rugby se onbesonne helde) and Charles Williams from the former SARFF and a number of other players from the former SARA.

SARU forbade its players to take part in the trials, though three did. None of the SARFF  or SARA players made the Springbok side but Hennie Shields was chosen for the Gazelles and Errol Tobias and Turkey Shields for the SA Country XV.

In that year, too, all grounds where SARB matches were played were open to all races.

Randy Marinus

Randy Marinus in action – He played against the 1976 All Blacks at the age of 19. He later decided to continue his career under the SACOS affiliated SARU. 

1977 – Timothy Nkonki and Hennie Shields selected alongside the Northern Transvaal captain, Thys Lourens, to travel to Argentina to be part of an Invitation XV to play in the centenary celebrations of the Club Atletico San Isidro.


Hennie Shields (right) with a visitor outside the SA Rugby Museum

1977 – Timothy Nkonki and Morne du Plessis participate in a festival match in France.

Michell tackled Leopards76

Joe Morgan getting scythed down by Mncendi Mnqatu (left) and Timothy Nkonki in a match between the 1976 All Blacks and the Leopards

1978 – Timothy Nkonki, Andrew Msuki and Solomon Mhlaba and a number of coloured players from the former SARFF participates in the Springbok trials ahead of the tour by France. Tour however cancelled with many saying that it robbed Nkonki from the opportunity to become the first black Springbok.

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Solomon Mhlaba

1978 – Two black teams from the former SARA as well as two coloured teams of the former SARFF participates in the Sport Pienaar Competition that catered for the second tier provincial unions in South Africa. They were SARA West, SARA East, WP league and SWD league. They played against teams like South Western District, Eastern Transvaal, Northern Free State and the like.  Other than the WP League under Dougie Deyers, the other teams found the going tough.

Dougie Deyers played more than a hundred matches for WP League and 38 for the Proteas, including matches against England (1972) and the British Lions (1974). In 1971 he was the captain of the Proteas team that toured the UK and England (for more on this see part 1 of this blog post – Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) .

He was also a national selector from 1977 through to 1991 and in the post-Apartheid era from 1993 to 1995.


Dougie Deyers

1978 – The American Cougars (also known as the USA Cougars or United States Cougars) is the only rugby union team from the United States ever to beat a reigning Currie Cup championship team in South Africa. A combined and invitational side from the United States, the Cougars toured South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1978. On 12 August 1978 they lost 12-44 to a racially mixed South African Country Districts XV side at East London. Some 5,500 spectators watched as future Springbok Errol Tobias contributed two tries to the Districts’ total and aided in the scoring of two others.


The Cougars touring team to South Africa

1979 – The SARA West and SARA East teams combined to play in the Sport Pienaar competition. In the years to follow they, and the SWD League decided not to participate in the competition, but rather in the Golden Cup competition against teams of semi-provincial stature.

1979 – WP League continues to play in the Sport Pienaar competition and ended fourth in Conference 1 after winning four of their seven matches against stronger second-tier provincial teams.

1979 – Possibly the most significant event for the SA Barbarain rugby club was the first multiracial South African rugby team to tour outside South Africa when it went to the United Kingdom in October 1979. The tour squad had eight white players (SARB), eight coloured players (SARFF – Hennie and Turkey Shields, Nicky Davids, Charles Williams, Louis Paulse, Hannes Meyer, Errol Tobias and Pompies Williams) and eight black players (SARA/SARU – Morgan Cushe, Timothy Nkonki, Lillee Jonas, Sydney Ncate, Bridgman Sonto, Welcome Mtyongwe, Solomon Mhlaba and Arthur Poro) and was managed by Chick Henderson. Attempts were made from the start to integrate the squad’s three ethnic groups, with six of the eight white Barbarians rooming with black or coloured teammates on the first overnight stay. The squad was coached in English despite only two of the twenty four using English as their first language whilst tour singing was often in Xhosa.

The South African Barbarians take on Devon in 1979

SA Barbarians take on Devon in the opening match of their UK tour

Seven fixtures were played; the results were as follows:

  • Weds 3 October 1979 – Devon (Exeter) W 27-18
  • Sat 6 October 1979 – Cornwall (Camborne) W 23-7
  • Weds 10 October 1979 – Scottish Border Club (Galashiels) D 20-20
  • Sun 14 October 1979 – Co-Optimists (Hawick) L 4-24
  • Weds 17 October 1979 – Coventry W 41-24
  • Weds 24 October 1979 – Llanelli W 15-6
  • Sat 27 October 1979 – Newport L 15-21


The SA Barbarian team in action

The tour was a great success and seven of the members of the 1979 SA Barbarians went on the play for the Springboks including Errol Tobias.

Policemen line the pitch during the South African Barbarians game against Devon in 1979

The SA Barbarian team in action

1979 – On the 1979 Barbarian tour to the UK Morgan Cushe became the 1st Black person to captain a representative South African team in the match against Cornwall which the Barbarians won 23-7.


Morgan Cushe

1979 – World Invitation XV toured South Africa under captaincy of All Black Frank Oliver. They played seven matches including matches against a Craven XV, Transvaal and Northern Transvaal. The XV included a few South Africans including Hennie Shields, Errol Tobias and Ray Mordt.

International XV

International XV – 1979

1979 – Norman Mbiko (A legend in our lifetime) plays his last international game when he captained the Eastern Province Invitation XV, against Newport in Wales.


Norman Mbiko

1980 – The Craven Week become racially mixed. The Craven Week is an annual rugby union tournament organised for schoolboys in South Africa. The tournament started in July 1964, and is named after the legendary Springbok rugby union player and coach Dr Danie Craven.

1980 – On Wednesday 4 June 1980 the South African Country Districts XV team lost 7-27 at Windhoek’s South-West Stadium to the Lions on their tour of South Africa. A crowd of 9,000 saw replacement Charles Williams score a try and fly-half Errol Tobias add a penalty to complete the Districts’ score. Jim Renwick, Gareth Williams, Clive Woodward and Colm Tucker scored a try each for the visitors, while Gareth Davies added 11 points through a conversion and three penalties.

1980 – History will record that a SARA XV, nominally a Leopards XV , recorded a second defeat at the hands of the British and Irish Lions of 1980 by a margin of 28 – 6. Veteran flanker Morgan Cushe, who had played in the corresponding 1974 fixture captained the side although with a smattering of white Northern Transvaal and Western Province players beefing up the pack in accordance with the Lion’s expressed wish to play multiracial sides, the team departed from what some at the time considered its African XV origins.

1980 – A South African XV looses to the British and Irish Lions 22-19 at Olën Park, Potchefstroom. The SA XV featured Hennie Shields, Frankie Davids, Hannes Meyer and Timothy Nkonki.

SA XV 1980 2

Some of the SA XV that played against the 1980 British and Irish Lions

1980 – Billy Beaumont’s British and Irish Lions touring side of 1980 defeated a Proteas XV 15–6 in front of a crowd of 15,000 at the Danie Craven Stadium on 27 May 1980. The nomenclature Proteas XV is of import here and the distinction is made since whilst the Proteas’ running backline included notable SARFF star players such as Ronnie Louw, John Noble, Hennie Shields, Charles Williams, Frankie Davids, Errol Tobias (who notched two penalties on the day) and Attie Lategan, the Proteas’ forward pack’s front five was composed entirely of white Western Province players.

1980 Lions Proteas

1981 British Lions vs Proteas

1980 – Errol Tobias was included at centre in the South African Barbarians team that lost 25- 14 to the British Lions at Kings Park on 2 July 1980. His teammates included Argentinian Hugo Porta and three players of colour, Francois Davids, Charles Williams and Solomon Mhlaba.


Francois Davids

1980 – Tobias elected as a member of the Springbok touring party to South America in October 1980 making him the first black Springbok. The Springbok touring party was denied visas to enter Argentina. As a result all tour matches were played in Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile and drew crowds as small as one hundred. Errol did not feature in any of the two tests on the tour.


Springbok Errol Tobias

There was some opposition to Tobias’ inclusion from both black and white communities. Some within his own community in Caledon felt he should not play as long as apartheid policies existed, while some white people wanted Tobias excluded.

Remembering that time, Tobias said: “We had no say in politics. We didn’t even have a vote, so all I knew at that stage was to play rugby. My goal was to show the country and the rest of the world that we had black players who were equally as good, if not better, than the whites, and that if you are good enough you should play.”

1980 –  As part of the tour to South America, South Africa beat a Chilean Invitation XV by 78-12 in a match that saw Errol Tobias kicking 10 conversions to become the first black man to kick a goal in a Springbok jersey of the SA Rugby Board.

This also came after he became the first black player to wear the Springbok jersey when he played against a Paraguayan Invitation XV, and the first to score a try in the jersey after scoring against British Schools Old Boys.

1980 – The Mbabalas (“bushbucks”) team consisted of African players sent on a tour of the United Kingdom and United States of America in 1980, by the SA Rugby Board.  By the nature of it, this tour was meant to promote the newly established multi-racial SARB which came into being in November 1977. 


Team jersey of the 1980  Mbabalas

1980 – In the beginning of the 1980’s, Danie Craven appointed Ian Kirkpatrick, and along with first Abie Williams and then Dougie Deyers, Piet Kellerman and others (including several Springboks), they took rugby to every corner of South Africa. Their mission was to change South Africa on the rugby field by promoting racially mixed rugby. The tool that they used was coaching clinics. These efforts continued for most of the 1980’s.

1981 – WP League joined the Western Province on a trail basis, and from 1984 onward on a permanent basis.

1981 – The Irish toured South Africa in 1981 and in their first fixture, saw them take on a strong SA Gazelles team, basically the Junior Springboks, with Wilfred Cupido of Western Province in the team who beat the Irish 18-15.


The SA Gazelle team against the Irish – 1981

1981 – In their second fixture, the Irish took on a fairly underwhelming opposition in the guise of the Gold Mining Invitation XV. Solomon Mhlaba, a tourist to the UK with the 1979 SA Barbarians started at full back for the GMI XV but he saw little of the ball to demonstrate his attacking prowess as Ireland ran in seven tries with John Murphy contributing a total of eighteen points via his boot from fullback.

1981 – Errol Tobias selected at centre for the Springboks to play against the touring Irish team making him the first black Springbok to play in a test match. In the first test at Newlands on 30 May, a crowd of 37,000 watched as Tobias broke, then gave an inside pass to Rob Louw, who scored.

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Errol Tobias before his 1st test against the Irish – 1981

1981 – Tobias was a member of the Springbok squad that toured New Zealand in 1981 under controversial circumstances, but did not feature in any of the three tests.


Errol Tobias playing in New Zealand – 1981

1982 – Avril Williams and Wilfred Cupido selected to play for Western Province, with many other players of colour following in their footsteps to play provincial rugby.


Wilfred Cupido (far left) playing for Western Province

1982 – A Five Nations XV tours South Africa to play at the official opening of the revamped Ellispark stadium. They played against a SA Presidents XV which by all intents were a full strength Springbok team. The players of colour in the SA XV team was Errol Tobias, Avril Williams, Wilfred Cupido and Jerome Paarwater.


SA Presidents XV

1983 – Anglo-American sponsored the Mbabalas, this time a multi-racial team consisting of 10 white and 13 Black players, to tour the United States of America for almost four weeks. They played seven matches including a repeat match against the Dallas Harlequins.

One of the most notable players who emerged from the tours by the Mbabalas (“bushbucks”) was Timothy Nkonki, who made his mark by first obtaining national representative colours as a SARA Leopard but also turned out for a World XV against France in Paris 1975 under the captaincy of Morné du Plessis, to mark the 75th anniversary of the French Rugby Federation.  Nkonki also played against the 1975 French, 1976 All Blacks, British Lions as well as representing the South African Barbarians on their tour to the United Kingdom in 1979 (for more on this see part 1 of this blog post – Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) .

1984 – The 1984 Springbok team against England contained no less than two players of colour namely Errol Tobias and Avril Williams.

2nd Test: SA 35 England 9

Avril Williams playing against England

With Tobias pulling the strings at flyhalf, the Springboks beat the tourists 33-15 in Port Elizabeth.


Springboks versus England – Ellispark

This was followed up with a 35-9 win at Ellispark in Johannesburg.


Errol Tobias playing against England

In the second test Tobias scored a spectacular try in the Ellispark corner where I have been sitting as a twenty-one year old watching the test, with Avril Williams also having a hand in a flowing Springbok movement. As he raced to score the try the whole of the Ellispark East Stand rose with him. He divided to score and stood up facing his team-mates, arms aloft in a giant ‘V’ as if to symbolize that he had conquered – racial barriers on the one side, and accusations of tokenism on the other.

His performance in the 2nd test made headlines with many national newspapers proclaiming “Errol Tobias: Pure Gold”.


Errol Tobias: Pure Gold

1984 – The Country Districts XV side played against both the 1984 touring English and South American Jaguar sides. The team was drawn from players of all races competing in the Sport Pienaar Cup, losing both fixtures 33-12 and 30-18 respectively.

1984 – Errol Tobias elected to play in both tests against the visiting South Americans in October 1984. The Springboks won the first test 32-15 and the second 22-13.

E Tobias

Errol Tobias in action against the South Americans

1984 – Five years later on and the SA Barbarians undertook their second overseas tour, this time to West Germany. The touring party of twenty five was composed of twelve white and thirteen coloured and black players. Four fixtures were played (in Bonn, Wiedenbruck, Hannover and Heidelberg ) 314 points were scored and only 27 conceded. South African “sides” had toured Southern Germany in 1974 and 1977 but this was the first multiracial tour to the Federal Republic which received official support and was seen as a reciprocal visit to the unofficial West German tour to South Africa in 1983 (under the guise of a Bonner XV).

1984 – Towards the end of 1984 Errol Tobias played against England for an RFU Presidents XV together with Rob Louw, Danie Gerber and Rudi Visagie.


Errol Tobias playing for the RFU Presidents XV

1984 – Wilfred Cupido, a coloured player selected for the Boks internal tour in 1985, played against a Wales XV for a Presidents XV captained by Rob Louw.

1985 – WP League missed promotion to the Currie Cup competition by a whisker.

1985 – Mbabalas, a multi-racial team played the visiting USA Chicago Lions in Welkom.

1985 – Four black players invited to take part in the Springbok trials for the upcoming All Black tour. Tour however cancelled due to political pressure in New Zealand.

1985 – In 1985 the Springboks undertook and internal tour after a visit by the All Blacks was cancelled. Dolly Ntaka became the 1st ethnic black person to be selected for the Springboks. Unfortunately as it was an internal tour no official colours were awarded and Ntaka lost out to be recognized as the 1st ethnic black Springbok. Wilfred Cupido from Western Province was also in the team.


Dolly Ntaka in Springbok colours

1985 – In the final match of their internal tour the Springboks beat the SA Barbarians by 30-18.


Dolly Ntaka playing for the Springboks against the SA Barbarians

A number of players of colour played for the SA Barbarians including Michael Mboto.

Michael Mboto

Michael Mboto

1987 – During the rebel South Sea Barbarians’ 13 match tour (a team made up of representatives from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and one Canadian in 1987, organised in lieu of the cancelled visit by Australia, the SA Barbarians played two unofficial test matches. The 1987 SA Barbarians lineup had a far more distinct Springbok XV feel to it despite some senior players questioning the quality of the opposition. The South Sea tourists were defeated 56-30 at Ellis Park but pushed their hosts considerably closer at Kings Park one week later in a narrower 38-32 loss.

1987 – The South Sea Barbarians’ played against the Proteas and drew 25 – 25 as well as the Leopards who they beat 46 – 11

1998 – Greater rugby unification gained further momentum on 7 May 1988 when representatives of SARB and SARU met at the Cape Sun in Cape Town to discuss the way forward for rugby in South Africa.

1988 – In 1988 a multiracial side (the SA Barbarians in all but name – they toured as the Nampak Pioneers) eventually undertook a six match visit to Chile and Paraguay after a series of postponements and rescheduling. Home sides were intended to be bolstered by considerable Argentinian and Uruguayan representation – which did not come to pass and consequently a series of one sided encounters took place with over 100 points being scored against the respective national sides.


In two blog posts I provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas being the representative side of the coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), and the Leopards being the representative side of the black South African Rugby Association (SARA) for the period 1971 to 1976, and highlighted some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

The purpose was to demonstrate that even before and especially after the unification of 1977, rugby made great progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport and that it is therefore not correct to state that Naas Botha and Nick Mallet played segregated rugby in the 1980’s under Apartheid.


Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976)

In a previous blog post Ashwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s I concluded that, maybe those so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth Stead, Pieter du Toit and Christi van der Westhuizen and others, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes still far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of in rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I want to therefore highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

As background, rugby in South Africa was for a large part played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board. This unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, on the other hand decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.

I will in this first of two blog post provide an overview of international matches involving the Proteas [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF)], and the Leopards [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA)] for the period 1971 to 1976. The purpose is to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made some progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport.

I will follow it up with a second blog post to highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.


1971 – In December 1971 the Proteas embarked on a six-match tour of Britain and Holland – the first “coloured” rugby team to tour abroad. They achieved two wins, a draw and three losses. Cuthbert Loriston, the Proteas’ team manager and SARFF’s first president, explained that the purpose of the tour was ” ‘to test our strength’ and that the two wins, a draw, and three losses proved that ” ‘we have the technical know-how and enthusiasm to build strong opposition within the next five years'”. Loriston said that the next steps would be to play against white teams that tour South Africa, such as England’s intended visit in 1972; to play white South African teams; and then move towards integration of sports.

1972 – On 22 May 1972, the Proteas side lost narrowly 11 – 6 to John Pullin’s touring England side in Cape Town. England had undertaken a short, unbeaten seven match tour to the Republic and whilst the headlines in the UK were mostly about his side’s shock 18–9 test match victory against the Springboks, it should be noted that the Proteas versus England fixture is the first reported international rugby match in which coloureds played against whites on South African soil.

1972 – On 24 May 1972 the Leopards played against John Pullin’s touring England side in Port Elizabeth, losing by 36 – 3. The team was captained by Norman Mbiko Never-say-die Mbiko.


Captain Norman Mbiko in action against the England touring side.

1973 – The Leopards played a test against the touring Italian national team in Port Elizabeth. For the Italians, who were undertaking a tour of the then Rhodesia and South Africa, it was only the second time that the Azzuris had ventured outside of Europe after a short tour of Madagascar, their 24-4 victory against the Leopards amounted to their only success of the nine matches played.

1974 – On Tuesday 4 June 1974 the Proteas played against the touring British Lions side at the Goodwood Showground in Cape Town. Fly-half Errol Tobias scored the only points (a penalty and a drop-kick) for the Proteas, who were beaten 37 – 6 by the visitors. The team included Hennie Shields, John Noble, Turkey Shields, and Doug Dyers. For the Lions, centre Dick Milliken, wing JPR Williams, lock Gordon Brown, flank and captain Fergus Slattery scored a try each. Fullback Andy Irvine (a conversion, three penalty kicks) and fly-half Alan Old (two penalties) also contributed.


Errol Tobias in Protea colours 

1974 – On 9 July 1974 the Leopards met the British Lions at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdtantsane. The team was captained by hooker Thompson Magxala and included lock Liston Ntshongwana and Morgan Cushe at 8th Man. The lightweight Leopards were no match, losing 56-10 and often pleading with the referee not to award scrums against them. Still, they had talent: Toto Tsotsobe was a quicksilver winger, and Charles Mgweba a dangerous three-quarter. Their chief attacking weapon, however, was Morgan Cushe; the clash at Mdantsane would be the making of him.


Willie John McBride leading out the Lions at the  Sisa Dukashe Stadium

Cushe was a master of the open game and prospered against the Lions, making a nuisance of himself defensively and intercepting a pass, only to be hauled down agonizingly short of the line. In one of the Leopards’ few attacking moves he hared downfield to hysterical shouts from the crowd before slipping the ball to Mgweba to score. The Springboks hadn’t managed a try in two tests, and the provinces were finding it increasingly difficult to breach the Lions’ line. For the 30 000 crowd the try was as sweet as a victory.


Lions full-back Andy Irvine shaking hands with a Leopards captain, Thomas Magxala, after the match

1974 – The Leopards undertook the first tour by a black South African rugby team abroad when they embarked on their reciprocal month-long tour of Italy in 1974. The Leopards were also “the first South African team to tour Italy”. The squad had 25 players and played in six fixtures, winning one against Zebre in Milan, drawing against the Italian U23 side and losing four including a 25-10 defeat in the “test” defeat against the Italian national side in Brescia, the only occasion when the margin of loss was by more than one score.

Morgan Cushe in this article Selling out or scrumming down? describes the tour to Italy as one of his best rugby moments.

“His happiest tour was arguably to Italy with the Leopards in the months prior to the famous Mdantsane match against the Lions, when the Leopards played against Brescia, Lazio, the Dogi (an invitation side) and the Italians themselves on a six-match tour.

Finding himself in Rome on a day off, the girls chic and the cappuchinos smooth, Cushe spotted a jacket he just had to buy. Speaking no Italian, he looked frantically for the team’s bus driver, Luciano, to act as interpreter and find out the price. Luciano was nowhere to be found and at first Cushe lacked the courage to open up a conversation in pidgin Italian, worrying that the jacket might be bought by someone else.

But, eventually, he could wait no longer. He spent most of his meagre allowance on the purchase, bringing it home to South Africa like the blazer he never had.”

1975 – This year saw the French undertake an eleven match tour to South Africa which included two tests. Many of the 1974 Leopard team featured against the touring French side on 2 June 1975 when the teams met in Mdantsane with the French emerging as comfortable winners, 39-9.


Morgan Cushe playing for the Leopards against the French touring side in 1975.

The captain of the Leopards against the French, Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana, passed away in 2017 and SA Rugby paid tribute to former national skipper . He had pace, excellent handling skills and a massive kicking range. Contemporary sport writers described Ntshongwana as being “able to transform a beaten side into a lively set” and a versatile player as well as “a good leader, he runs well with the ball and tackles effectively”. Renowned former rugby historian, the late Vuyisa Qunta, listed Ntshongwana as one of the best Number 7 flankers in African rugby and therefore a sure choice for his ‘dream team’ after Ben Malamba.


Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana who captained the Leopards against the French

1975 – The French played their third tour fixture against the Proteas at Goodwood in Cape Town on 4 June 1975 winning by a comfortable 37–3 margin.

1975 – It was perhaps the events that unfurled at Newlands some three days which resonated louder when a South African Invitation XV, the first officially mixed-race team (containing white, black and coloured players) ever fielded in South Africa ran out 18–3 winners against the touring French side. Twenty-one-year old John Noble, one of the two Federation (Proteas) players in the side, scored the try of the match, running down the right wing like a shot from a cannon to swallow-dive onto Dawie Snyman’s grubber kick and score in the corner just before half-time. Prop Turkey Shields was the other Federation player in the Invitation XV while the Leopards (SARA) supplied wing Toto Tsotsobe and Morgan Cushe.

Players before game

John Noble on the far left together with his teammates (including Morgan Cushe) that would play against the 1976 All Blacks as members of a SA Invitation XV (see post below). Tommy Symons pictured far right played club rugby with my dad.

1976 – During the 1976 All Black tour of South Africa, the Proteas were defeated 25-3 by the tourists on a wet 7 July 1976 at Goodwood Oval in Cape Town before a crowd of 10,000.


Lyn Jaffray scoring against the Proteas with Ronnie Louw and Clive Noble too late to stop him.

The full-strength All Black team included players such as Laurie Mains, Bill Osborne, Sid Going, Andy Leslie, Frank Oliver and Lawrie Knight. Among the Proteas were John Noble, Ronnie Louw and Charles Williams (who would later go on to represent the South African Barbarians side who toured Britain in 1979).

Ronnie Louw

Ronnie Louw of the Proteas playing for the SA Invitation XV against the All Blacks

One of the other Protea players was Piet Boonzaaier who played at lock and who described this match against the All Blacks as the highlight of his career, in fact he described it as a test. He passed away in 2017 and in this article Een van SA Rugby se grootes ten ruste gele his former teammates bemoaned the lack of respect he and others that played rugby under SARFF received for what they did for the cause non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990 (both the Western Province Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union failed to attend his funeral). After 1992 he supported the All Blacks in protest against the fact that the former SARFF players and administrators were sidelined in favour of those that were aligned the SACOS affiliated SARU.


Piet Boonzaaier

1976 – The 1976 All Blacks touring team played the 4th match of the tour against a SA Invitation XV on 10 July 1976 at Newlands in Cape Town. The SA Invitation team lost 31 -24 and included four persons of colour including Ronnie Louw at full-back, John Noble on the wing, Morgan Cushe at flank and Broadness Cono at hooker.


The multi-racial SA Invitation XV playing against the 1976 All Blacks, with Morgan Cushe, Ronnie Louw and John Noble looking on as the All Blacks scored a try

1976 – The touring All Blacks were the fifth touring overseas side to play against the Leopards. The fixture which took place on 31 August 1976 saw the New Zealanders running out comfortable winners 31-0 in Mdantsane. The Leopards side still contained seven of the line up which has featured against the 1974 British Isles side.


Best of pals, Kent Lambert and Broadness Cona leaving the field after the Leopards match at East London. 

This concludes the first blog post about non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990. In the next post I will highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.