From 1948 until the early 1990s, South Africa pursued a system of institutionalised racial segregation known as apartheid. It ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation's minority white population. According to this system of social stratification, the Afrikaaner-speaking white citizens had the highest status, followed by Asians and Coloureds, and then black Africans.
Sport was also segregated along similar lines. Black Africans, Asians, and coloured people participated in sporting environments that were separate and inferior to those in which white athletes participated. Non-white athletes could never participate at a high level of competition, or represent their country at international events.
From the 1950s, sport, with its myths of level playing fields and cross-cultural exchange, became one of the nodal points of anti-apartheid activism in South Africa and around the world. In 1958, Dennis Brutus, a vocal critic of apartheid, co-founded the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC). In the years that followed, SAN-ROC was the coordinating centre of an international movement to isolate South Africa in international sport.
In this episode of the Nagrik Podcast, we try to learn how a small group of people were able to lead a campaign of such global influence, and explore the lasting impact of the sporting boycott.
We hear from:
Sam Ramsamy, Brutus' successor at SANROC, who from the mid-1970s, went about constructing and protecting, along with his colleagues, an international boycott against South African sport.
Abdul Samad Minty, who represented SANROC at the meeting of the International Olympic Committee at Baden Baden, to persuade its delegates to exclude South Africa from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
Douglas Booth, the dean of the School of Education, Sport, and Exercise Sciences at the University of Otago. His work primarily focuses on the political and cultural aspects of sport and in the mid-1980s, while at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, Booth started his work on the sports boycott of South Africa.
Sean Jacobs, an associate professor of international affairs at The New School in New York. He is founder and editor of Africa is a Country, and in 2019, published his book, Media in Postapartheid South Africa: Postcolonial Politics in the Age of Globalization.
John Minto, who led Halt All Racist Tours or HART, which was formed in New Zealand to protest against rugby tours to and from Apartheid South Africa.
Bruce Kidd, a Canadian campaigner for the preservation of the boycott, who had won medals at the 1962 Commonwealth Games.
ES Reddy, “A tribute to Sam Ramsamy and others who fought apartheid sport”, South African History Online
“1976 - African countries boycott the Olympics”, BBC - On This Day
“The D’Oliveira Affair”, BBC - Sporting Witness
Mike Rowbottom, “Ramsamy, the man Mandela called his son, reflects at 80 on SANROC, the IOC and his “greatest moment” at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics”, Inside The Games
Tom Hunt, "Trevor Richards: 50 years on from Halt All Racists Tour and the power of protest", Stuff
“1981 Springbok Tour”, New Zealand History
"Rebel Rebel", BBC - The Documentary Podcast
Venu Madhav Govindu, “India’s gift to the struggle against apartheid”, The India Forum