Dale Williams
Dale Williams

How we missed Madiba

It’s a strange feeling to watch the United States celebrate our heroes more effectively than we can.

My father mailed me the link to the Arthur Ashe Courage Award presentation to Nelson Mandela which happened on the 19th July as part of the annual ESPY awards. If you haven’t seen it then stop reading now and watch. It’s electric and I guarantee even the most emotionally disconnected will feel a tear well up in their eyes.

I got curious about why I hadn’t heard about this prestigious award. I’ve been travelling and hit the ground running after my winter break (hence not much Thought Leader blogging). Thinking I may have missed the coverage, I searched the websites of the major English newspapers in South Africa.

Google showed the following results:

Mail & Guardian
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” site:www.mg.co.za – did not match any documents.

Sunday Times
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” site:www.sundaytimes.co.za – did not match any documents.

The only English paper to carry the story was the Independent. Why would this be? Why are we not celebrating our most famous citizen as he gets recognised internationally for his bravery and strategic brilliance?

The footage on YouTube, introduced by Barack Obama and presented by Venus and Serena Williams, takes you back to a different time in South Africa. The 1995 Rugby World Cup was set against a backdrop of violence and uncertainty in the years before. Hope emerged, at least for a moment, as we all dropped our guard and rallied around the boys.

As is usual for an American TV production, this ten minute segment is powerful, real and emotional. Unlike some US productions, it isn’t over the top.

Can you remember what you were doing on those days when we beat Australia in the opening game, beat France in the semifinal and then the big game against New Zealand? Prompted by the video, I remembered each occasion vividly.

Today I browsed Mark Keohane’s gushing account of the rugby world cup 2007 “Champions of the World: Seven Magnificent Weeks”. The book documents the Springboks second World Cup win. While a fantastic achievement, the 2007 win wasn’t quite the same as ’95. This means we have to look harder for these special moments.

Have a watch and then pass it on. We can’t afford to miss celebrating and feeling proud of Madiba and our rugby heroes.

The powerful catalyst that was created through a leaders’ foresight and a game of rugby is worth spreading. We’ll find more of these moments over the years ahead and they will help us re-build our country.

Don’t worry about the newspapers, they’ll catch up and start reporting the things that really matter; when we make them matter.


  • Madiba’s tears
  • Are South Africans really all capitalists at heart?
  • A commemoration of Nelson Mandela
  • Rhodes Fell
    • Dave Harris

      Welcome back from your travels Dale! Madiba’s encouragement by example in embracing rugby is a perfect example of using sports to heal divisions in our society. That youtube video was extremely moving. I too cannot understand our media’s bias in NOT covering significant events like Arthur Ashe award on ESPY. I suppose this just highlights the importance of having more diversity in our media organizations.

    • pete ess

      Two things: ONE: America’s NEED to rub shoulders with Madiba while they are acting like state terrorists slaughtering innocent civilians in Afghanistan by sending remote-controlled drones to bomb indiscriminately; While they support Israel unconditionally like they supported those who called Mandela a terrorist. TWO: South African leaders’ needs NOT to rub shoulders with Madiba – They don’t want people to be reminded that SA indeed has “good old days” – very recent good old days, when the Freedom Charter seemed to have a chance, and uber-enrichment was not as visible, and the big indunas did not need four black cars with blue lights shoving their way around to travel to the next indaba. Why our private media don’t report Madiba’s glory? That I don’t know.

    • Dave Harris

      @pete ess
      Your two points are bitter rants that totally miss the central point of this discussion – the SAn media bias.

      Btw. Why are you so blinded by your hatered of the US that you fail to acknowledge the social and financial pressure they exerted against the apartheid govt that you still seem to be longing for.

    • Francois Conradie

      Dale – don’t you think it’s even a little ridiculous to give the “Arthur Ashe courage award” to Nelson Mandela? To give to a man who risked getting hanged for treason, who spent decades in jail, an award named after a tennis player, at a ceremony organised by a sports channel? Pfff. I think it’s a bit of a joke.

      @dave – I think you’ll find the US did far more to support the apartheid govt than to act against it.

    • Dave Harris

      @Francois Conradie
      Everytime someone acknowledges Mandela ANYWHERE in this world, it serves as an inspiration to the millions who endure discrimmination and oppression. It is certainly no joke!

      You must be mistaking the US for the UK …easy to do, or you must have been living on another planet during our liberation struggle not to understand the support of the US public in making sanctions work in spite of Reagan’s unpopular “constructive engagement”.

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