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International Boycott of Apartheid Sport

International Boycott of Apartheid Sport

25 May 1971

With special reference to the campaigns in Britain by the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Paper prepared for the United Nations Unit on Apartheid in 1971

The system of white supremacy in South Africa is applied in the field of sport as much as in all other walks of life. In other societies where black people have been subjected to widespread discrimination it is in the field of sport and culture that they have managed to make substantial inroads. Not so in South Africa because both the sports administrators, who control all official sport, and the Government have jointly taken measures deliberately to exclude South Africa`s non-white people from participating in representative sport.

The imposition of apartheid in sport means in effect that no `mixed` sport is permitted under the aegis of the official organisations which are accorded international recognition and bear the responsibility for selecting representative teams for international competitions. There are no open trials to permit the selection of the best sportsmen in each class from the entire sporting community. Instead, competition is limited to whites only and it is from them that national teams are selected. This situation was well-known to all the international sports bodies which granted unqualified recognition to the racialist, official organisations in South Africa. Just as the South African white sports bodies are responsible for enforcing racial discrimination in domestic sport, so the international bodies which granted them membership are responsible for bestowing respectability upon such practices.

Apartheid is not only limited to the level of administration of sport and selection of participants. As spectators, the African, Coloured and Indian people are subjected to rigid racial segregation. The main sports arenas have separate entrances, seating enclosures and toilet facilities for non-whites. These are usually the worst and minimal rather than `separate and equal`. At some arenas non-whites are banned altogether from attending sports gatherings.

Non-white sportsmen have always opposed the enforcement of racial discrimination by the official sports bodies and countless appeals were made to the all-white bodies to end apartheid in sport. Without exception, the administrators refused to relax the racial barrier and remained adamant in maintaining the colour bar. In most cases they even refused to meet representatives of non-racial sports bodies to discuss the problem.

The only alternative left open to sportsmen who wished to replace racialist sport with open and non-racial sport was to make representations to the international bodies and point to the enforcement of apartheid by the South African member. But it was not until the mid-1950s that these initiatives were first taken. At that time white sporting bodies enjoyed international recognition in the field of athletics, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, tennis, table tennis, soccer, rugby and cricket. The all-white South African Olympic Games Association (SAOGA) was a full member of the International Olympic Committee. White South Africans were thus able to participate in the Olympic Games as in all other international sport.

South African white teams did not, however, establish any bilateral links with non-white countries. For example, in the field of cricket, white teams from South Africa exchanged visits with teams from Australia, New Zealand and England but not with teams from the West Indies, India or Pakistan, though all these countries were members of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) until 1961. There is no record of the cricketing bodies of England, New Zealand or Australia expressing concern, let alone opposition, to this extension of racialism to the international level. Since membership of the ICC is open only to Commonwealth countries, South Africa lost its membership when it left the Commonwealth in 1961. But that has made no difference in that the white members of the ICC still continue to exchange visits with racially selected teams from South Africa.

What is true of the cricketing authorities in white Commonwealth countries is also true of other sports bodies in those countries, and of most sports bodies in other white countries which have enjoyed traditional links with colour-bar sport in South Africa. The leaders of sports bodies in these countries are among the best friends of white South African sports administrators. Since representatives from these countries enjoy an undue preponderance of influence in most international sports bodies, the battle for withdrawing recognition from all-white South African bodies has been a difficult one.

International sporting involvement in apartheid

Before examining the efforts of non-white South African sportsmen to win equal opportunities and their representations to international federations which have led to the present isolation of large sections of official South African sport, it is useful to consider the implications of continuing the exchange of visits with apartheid bodies. This is not merely of historical interest because there are still a host of bodies in Western countries which ignore the existence of racialism in South African sport. They continue to visit South Africa and participate in sport conducted under rigid apartheid conditions. They see nothing wrong in inviting all-white teams from South Africa to their own countries.

The moral position is absolutely clear. Human beings should not be willing partners in perpetuating a system of racial discrimination. Sportsmen have a special duty in this regard in that they should be first to insist that merit, and merit alone, be the criterion for selecting teams for representative sport. Indeed non-discrimination is such an essential part of true sportsmanship that many clubs and international bodies have express provisions to this effect. For example, the first fundamental principle of the Olympic Charter states: "No discrimination is allowed against any country or person on grounds of race, religion or political affiliation".

The objection to tolerating apartheid sport is not confined to a firm stand on principle only, though that is clear and should be enough for most people; this toleration in fact gives direct support to the enforcement of apartheid in South African sport. As long as the white sports leaders continue to enjoy international recognition on the basis of apartheid, why should they make any effort to eradicate racialism from the playing fields? The exchange of visits with apartheid teams serves to provide added encouragement and stimulus to racialism in sport, and impedes the efforts of those sportsmen inside South Africa who make brave efforts at promoting non-racial sport. It is ironical that sportsmen committed to the international principle of no discrimination in sport are handicapped in their efforts as a result of overseas recognition granted to apartheid bodies.

Furthermore, playing with white South African sportsmen who represent all-white bodies involves the extension of apartheid principles to overseas sport in that all visiting teams to South Africa have to be selected on the basis of apartheid: non-white players are not welcome as members of visiting teams to South Africa.

Until fairly recently very few non-white sportsmen reached international class in white overseas countries. These countries felt justified in maintaining close links with South Africa, although it had always been understood that overseas teams visiting South Africa must be all-white. They willingly accepted this pre-condition for playing sport with apartheid teams. They were well aware that all games in South Africa with touring sides are played before segregated audiences: international teams which are prepared to tour accept and reinforce apartheid in this respect also.

A real problem arose when the English cricketing authorities found it impossible to exclude a Coloured cricketer from the M.C.C. team to tour South Africa. The South African Government banned the entire team from entering the Republic. It was as a result of this development that the sporting public in Britain and other parts of the world really began to understand the full implications of continuing to exchange visits with apartheid bodies.

Finally, it is well known to the overseas bodies which maintain links with South African apartheid organisations that they refuse to play with teams from non-white countries. Yet, none of the traditional partners of apartheid sport considered it desirable to end its voluntary association with racialist sport.

The international campaign against apartheid sport

It was not until the mid-1950s that the status accorded to all-white South African sports bodies by the international sports community was effectively challenged. This challenge was launched in the main by the direct victims of the system of apartheid sport, South Africa`s non-white sportsmen, who took initiatives to dispute the international membership of apartheid bodies which apply racial principles to national sport. They recognised that it was not enough merely to ensure that recognition was not accorded to racial bodies; their place must be taken by non-racial sporting organisations.

In 1956, the first victory against apartheid sport was won in the field of table tennis. The International Table Tennis Federation removed the all-white South African Table Tennis Union from membership and recognised the non-racial South African Table Tennis Board as the sole controlling body in South Africa. Although the non-racial body was not able to send representatives to international competitions, because of Government action in withdrawing the passports of its players, this decision encouraged other sports organisations to take similar initiatives.

By 1955 the non-racial South African Soccer Federation had made representations to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA). It was pointed out that the non-racial body had more than twice the membership of the white body, the Football Association of South Africa (FASA). Because of the large number of friends of the all-white Association who held influence in FIFA, it was not until 1961 that FASA was first suspended. But this led to even more concerted efforts on the part of these friends to reinstate the offending member. The device chosen was to send a FIFA commission to investigate the situation in South Africa. Sir Stanley Rous of Britain, President of FIFA, and Mr. James McGuire of the United States constituted the mission. During their visit to South Africa in January 1963, the Johannesburg Star of January 9, 1963, reported Sir Stanley as having said that no provision in the FIFA constitution required its members to apply the principle of multi-racialism: if South Africa applied segregation in soccer that was its concern.

    "All we are interested in is to see the controlling body of soccer in this country furthering the cause of football to the best of its ability."

The commitment of Sir Stanley Rous to keeping FASA as a full member of FIFA, despite its colour-bar, was also evident in the lengthy correspondence between him and the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, which called for the exclusion of the racialist body from international football.

The report to FIFA recommended the reinstatement of the racial body and this was done in 1963. This decision met with widespread opposition in Afro-Asian countries with the result that the suspension was reimposed at the 1964 Tokyo congress of FIFA. In retaliation the South African Government imposed banning orders, including 12-hour-a-day house arrest, on Mr. George Singh of the non-racial Soccer Federation.

This brief account of developments in the field of soccer reveals a pattern of behaviour which was repeated in other battles to eliminate racialism from sport. In most cases the most important and senior officials of international bodies worked desperately to maintain the status quo and retain the all-white bodies as full members. The South African racialist organisations were, therefore, very well placed to receive high level advice about ways of retaining membership, as well as support for their position.

The South African Government`s response is indicative of the general policy towards sportsmen who have dared to oppose racialism in sport. They are not only condemned by the apartheid sports bodies but systematically victimised by the Government authorities. To advocate open sport is to invite speedy and direct persecution. Numerous leaders of non-racial sport have had to endure severe penalties within South Africa for their determined efforts.

The fact that FASA was suspended in 1964, only a year after having been reinstated, was due not so much to any material change in the situation within South Africa as to the fact that more Afro-Asian members were present at the FIFA congress in Tokyo where the Olympic Games were held. Because of the high cost of international travel, many members from African and Asian countries are usually absent at meetings of international bodies. But on those occasions when the international federations have held meetings simultaneously with major gatherings such as the Olympic Games, attendance has been better. It is at these meetings that the majority of members are able to voice their opposition to apartheid sport, and that every manoeuvre and trick has been used by friends of white South Africa to keep it in international sport.

The pressure grows

By the end of 1956, non-white sportsmen had applied for international recognition in several other sports. The Imperial Cricket Conference received an application from representatives of non-white cricketers asking for full international recognition. The South African Weight-Lifting and Body-Building Federation wrote to the Olympic Games Governing Council asking to be admitted to the 1960 Games. There were also moves within rugby clubs to form a federation so as to apply for international recognition. Non-white sportsmen had established a South African Coordinating Committee for International Relations in Sport to coordinate their applications for international recognition.

These early developments led the Minister of the Interior, Dr. T.E. Donges, to make a Government announcement on June 27, 1956, to the effect that while the Government was most sympathetic towards and anxious to help "legitimate Non-European sporting activities", these must accord with the policy of "separate development". Whites and non-whites should organise their sporting activities separately, there should be no inter-racial competitions within the Union, mixing of races in teams should be avoided and sportsmen from other lands should respect the Union`s customs as she respected theirs. Within that framework non-white sportsmen from outside would not be barred from entering South Africa to compete with non-whites.

He went on to say that the Government would prefer non-white sports organisations seeking international recognition to do so through the aegis of white associations already enjoying recognition. It would not support non-white sporting activities designed to force the country to abandon its traditional racial divisions by any process of squeezing white South Africans out of international competitions. Dr. Donges concluded by announcing that no travel facilities would be granted to people guilty of such subversive intentions.

This was the first time that the Government felt it necessary to stipulate the framework within which it expected sport to be conducted by all its citizens. Those sportsmen committed to promoting non-racial sport were given a clear warning that their efforts would be considered "subversive" and that henceforth they could expect retaliation from the Government if they persevered with their efforts.

The apartheid sports bodies, on their part, had to make some concession to the growing pressures at the international level. The formula which was adopted in most cases was to invite non-white sporting bodies to affiliate to the existing white bodies as subservient members with either no representation at all on the governing body or token representation. Some controlling bodies also promised to send white and non-white teams for overseas tours in alternate years as an alternative to selecting national representative teams drawn from all South African sportsmen.

They succeeded in creating some division among non-white sportsmen. Some who wished to obtain the benefits of gaining official recognition with the possibility of international competition, albeit on apartheid principles, were prepared to join racial non-white organisations which in turn would affiliate as inferior members to the controlling white body. However, a large number chose to forego these benefits and remained firm in their stand against racial discrimination in sport. For example, when the 1958 Stockholm meeting of FIFA failed to recognise the non-racial Soccer Federation, the latter issued a press statement to the effect that refusal of full status by FIFA was preferable to the acceptance of a subservient associate membership through FASA. It pledged to continue its fight for international recognition.(2)

The Olympics campaign begins

The campaign to gain recognition for non-white sportsmen reached a new level in 1959 with the establishment of the South African Sports Association (SASA), with Dennis Brutus as its Secretary. At its inaugural meeting in January 1959, its patron, Alan Paton, said that the object of SASA was to secure proper recognition for non-white sportsmen and "to do this on a non-racial basis".

SASA had affiliates from a wide range of sports representing about 70,000 members. The first major campaign of the association was to secure recognition of the right of non-white sportsmen to participate in international Olympic sport. This involved making representations to the International Olympic Committee and international bodies governing specific sports. Inside South Africa, it required consolidation of national non-racial organisations and entering into negotiations with white controlling bodies. It was hoped that, faced with the prospect of international isolation, the white bodies would agree to end the enforcement of racial discrimination.

But the persistent efforts of Dennis Brutus and other officials of SASA did not produce any meaningful response on the part of the white organisations. By the end of 1959, the South African Olympic Games Association (SAOGA), which practised apartheid, was still a member of the ICC and there were no indications that it would agree to an end to racial discrimination in sport under its control.

The SAOGA officials, however, saw the dangers inherent in the growing frustration of non-white sportsmen and the likelihood of international isolation. They devised elaborate methods to prevent mixed sport within South Africa and encouraged non-white sportsmen to join subservient non-white bodies in order to be considered for selection. This would mean that if any non-white sportsman wished to participate in international sport, he had to accept racial separation before having an opportunity for selection. Even if selected, he would have to participate internationally as an `individual` and not as a member of the national team.

Sportsmen all over the world realise that it is only in open competition that they are able to attain high standards. It is vital to have good facilities: in South Africa non-whites usually have virtually no facilities or wholly inadequate ones. They are also from the majority section of the population that works hardest for the lowest pay and as a result have very little time for recreation and little finance to purchase equipment. They are allowed membership only in inferior sports bodies. Then, in separate trials, if they happen to record better times than white athletes, they may be permitted to participate in international sport.

These conditions make a travesty of the fundamental principles of all truly representative sport. Since trials have to be separate and along racial lines, how can the best representative be selected? For example, how is the best boxer determined between a white and a non-white contender? And even in the case of athletics, separate trials at separate times and different tracks mean competition under unequal conditions. Every athlete knows that it is by competition with others in his class that he can record better times. As if this system is not sufficiently objectionable, there is still no guarantee that even if a non-white athlete records better time than a white competitor he will be selected. The white controlling bodies cannot be trusted even to behave according to racial rules of their own making.

Black athletes left out

In 1962, a South African team had to be selected for a tournament in Lourenco Marques. By this time one of the two athletic bodies with non-white members had decided to affiliate to the white controlling body, while the other refused to accept subservient status. The affiliated South African Amateur Athletics and Cycling Association was given an assurance that if any of its members recorded better performances than whites, then they would be selected. The white trials were held at Queenstown and special African trials were arranged for the following week at Welkom. As it turned out, two African athletes succeeded in bettering the times of white athletes. Bennet Makgamathe returned a time of 13.8 seconds faster than the best white athlete the previous week for the three miles. The other, Humphrey Khosi, ran the half-mile one-tenth of a second faster than the best white half-miler.

A few days later the president of the controlling body announced that the two African athletes would not be included in the South African team. The official reason given was that Makgamathe`s time had been beaten by a white athlete at a gathering a week after the official white trials and that Khosi did not have a good enough record to deserve selection. A few weeks later it was revealed that the selectors had in fact chosen the African athletes, but that the executive committee of the white South African Amateur Athletics Union had refused to approve the decision.

Even white journalists condemned this decision, since it had been agreed at the beginning that selection would be based on timing at the two official trials. An African journalist wrote in the Johannesburg Star of May 12, 1962:

    "The only reason that Africans could find for the exclusion of the athletes was their colour. If this was not the case, why then was the verdict of the stopwatch not upheld?"

The truth is that the white controlling bodies have always voluntarily practised racial discrimination. The complicated formulas proposed by white bodies to give the impression of some progress to non-racial sport is at best tokenism designed to stave off international isolation. But, even if the system of separate sport is implemented honestly, it amounts to a further refinement of apartheid rather than its elimination.

SAN-ROC formed

By 1962 it became clear to SASA that no further progress was possible by making representations to the white controlling bodies. In May a letter was sent to the IOC urging that South Africa be expelled and stating that SAOGA and the Government were guilty of practising racial discrimination and making the country unfit to take part in the Olympic Games. A meeting of the IOC in June 1962 warned SAOGA that if the policy of racial discrimination was not changed, it would be suspended in 1963.

This decision caused considerable reaction within South Africa. White sportsmen and sports-loving public realised that unless real progress was made quickly, South Africa would be excluded from the Olympic Games. Even organisations such as the white Athletics Union, which had earlier violated its own rules by excluding African athletes, were now passing resolutions to demonstrate their fitness for international sport. At one of its meetings held in Pretoria in January 1963, the Union decided that if any non-white athletes reached the required standard of performance, they would be selected for the Olympic Games, in which case South Africa would not compete on a team basis, but on the basis of individual competition. Other controlling bodies adopted similar resolutions. (The Government had made it clear that no mixed team would be permitted to represent South Africa abroad; hence the reference to participation as individuals rather than as members of a national team.)

In August 1962 SASA announced a plan to establish a non-racial Olympic body which would seek international recognition in place of the apartheid SAOGA. The inaugural meeting of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) took place in January 1963. SASA remained in existence, but the battle for Olympic recognition passed on to SAN-ROC with Dennis Brutus as its President.

The untenable case of the apartheid sports bodies

The case of the SAOGA was that the white controlling body had to obey the laws of the country which prohibited mixed sport. But this was clearly not true. Mary Draper of the South African Institute of Race Relations, in an article entitled, "Custom and policy - not law - bar mixed sport", in the Johannesburg Star of January 31, 1963, summarised the position in the following way:

    "Sportsmen of different races may lawfully compete with one another provided (a) members of the `wrong` race groups do not make use of club facilities, and (b) the body or person controlling a `public` sports ground has not laid down conditions restricting its use on racial lines."

It was not illegal for teams composed of `mixed` races to play against each other or to hold matches between teams or individuals of different races. However, persons of one racial group may not enter club buildings in an area zoned for persons of a different colour. That is why, in 1963, the Indian golfer, Sewsunker (Papwa) Sewgolum was awarded his prize for winning the South African Open Golf competition in pouring rain outside the club-house while the white competitors celebrated inside.

In October 1962, the Natal Supreme Court ruled that it was not illegal for persons of different races to play football together. In other words, the provision excluding mixing across the colour-line did not extend to the playing fields themselves. As Mary Draper concluded in her article:

    "It is true that the policy of the present Government is hostile to inter-racial sport. There is, however, a big distinction between law and policy. Laws have to be observed, and are enforceable by the courts. Compliance with policy is a matter for choice on the part of individual citizens and organisations."

An examination of South African sports history shows clearly that the official controlling bodies in each branch of sport have voluntarily practised racial discrimination over the years. Several of them, including the white Football Association, even had colour-bar clauses in their constitutions. In this particular case the all-white body deleted this clause in 1956 when representatives of FIFA visited South Africa, but maintained that they would continue to follow the laws and customs of South Africa.(3)

The 1963 Olympic conference

SAN-ROC had intended that its President, Dennis Brutus, and Chairman, John Harris, should represent the organisation at the meeting of the International Olympic Committee at Baden-Baden in October 1963. The SAN-ROC memorandum to the IOC stated:

    "Due to the actions of the South African Government, Mr. Brutus is at present in prison after having been shot. Mr. Harris is now unable to leave South Africa as he was detained by the South African police and his passport was withdrawn."

A new element had also entered the debate by 1963. Since early 1962, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement had taken a keen interest in working for the elimination of apartheid sport from the Olympic Games. Its annual report for 1962-1963 stated:

    "We have sent material to 118 national Olympic Committees and other sports bodies about racialism in South African sport. We are hoping that the South African Olympic Committee will be excluded from the International Olympic Committee this year. We are sending a representative to the IOC conference in Baden-Baden in October 1963."

The interest of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement was evidence of the growing international concern at the practice of racialism in sport. This concern was not limited to sportsmen alone, for persons from all walks of life supported the AAM representations.

At Baden-Baden the delegates were given lengthy documents by the white South African Olympic Games Association. It pleaded that it would need to go on practising racial discrimination inside South Africa, as well as in selecting participants for international competitions, as this was Government policy. It offered that non-whites of merit would be selected, but without any direct competition with white candidates.

Even if separate trials for athletes of different racial groups were acceptable, how would one select the best representative, if two athletes of different colour achieved the same times? The reply of SAOGA was contained in a curious annex No. 9, submitted by Dr. P. Leary of the Chamber of Mines Applied Physiology Laboratory, which stated:

    "By the use of objective tests of physiological and psychological capacity we hope to help with the final assessment of material available for selection in 1964...

    "Thus should a situation arise in which two sportsmen of like ability vie for the final place available in our athletics or cycling team, this laboratory will be able to recommend which of the two performers should be selected. This will exclude the possibility of racial discrimination completely and ensure that merit alone counts."

Tests by "physiological and psychological capacity" conducted by a medical laboratory were to be used as a substitute for allowing sportsmen of different races to vie in competition with one another for selection!

Despite the diligent efforts of the South African security police, however, evidence was sent out of South Africa by SAN-ROC, including a special message to the IOC from Dennis Brutus in prison.

The AAM representative at the Baden-Baden conference was joined by a white South African who had managed to leave the country to represent SAN-ROC. Both acted on behalf of SAN-ROC and found that senior officials of the IOC were strongly committed to keeping white South Africa in the Olympic Games despite open violation of the Olympic Charter. South Africa enjoyed extensive support among representatives of most Western countries. It was only by the coordination of the efforts of the Afro-Asian representatives, supported by the Socialist countries and one or two officials from Western Europe, that apartheid sport was excluded from the Olympic Games.

The Afro-Asian national Olympic committees made it clear that they would not feel able to participate in Olympic sport if one of the IOC members practised racial discrimination. It was this firm stand that led the IOC to adopt the following resolution:

    "The National Olympic Committee of South Africa must declare formally that it understands and submits to the spirit of the Olympic Charter and particularly articles 1 and 24. It must also obtain from its Government, before December 31, 1963, modification of its policy of racial discrimination in sport and competitions on its territory, failing which the South African NOC will be forced to withdraw from the Olympic Games."

Persecution of Dennis Brutus

This was the first major victory against apartheid sport. But it had been achieved at some considerable cost. Dennis Brutus, one of the most persistent campaigners against racialism in sport, became a special target of the South African regime.

From the early days when SASA was formed he was closely watched by the security police. In 1960, when a state of emergency was declared following the Sharpeville killings, security officials raided the homes of SASA officials and took away all the documents they could find. None were returned. Dennis Brutus was placed under severe personal restriction. Banning orders served on him prevented him from attending gatherings of more than two persons. Anything he said or wrote could not be printed, published or distributed. He was also banned from teaching and journalism, which deprived him of the means of earning a livelihood.

Despite these restrictions, Dennis Brutus still carried on his work. In 1963 he went with a few colleagues from SAN-ROC to the white Olympic Committee offices to meet Mr. Balsiger, a Swiss journalist visiting South Africa, who intended to report his findings to the IOC. The meeting was interrupted by security officers who entered the offices of the white Olympic Committee and arrested Mr. Brutus allegedly for violating the terms of his banning order by attending a gathering of more than two persons.

While awaiting trial, Dennis Brutus escheated bail and left South Africa in an effort to reach Baden-Baden for the Olympic conference. He was detained by the Portuguese security police in Mozambique and secretly handed over to the South African Government. When outside Johannesburg police headquarters, he attempted to escape in order to draw attention to his whereabouts. He feared for his life if the world at large did not know of his arrest and detention. At point-blank range a police officer shot him in the stomach in a busy Johannesburg street.

After recovering partially in the prison hospital, he was sentenced to 18 months` imprisonment for contravening the terms of his banning order. When he completed his term of imprisonment, Dennis Brutus left South Africa on an "exit permit", which prohibits his return to his country. He went to England and continued the work of SAN-ROC in exile.

At no point did any of the white sports officials or organisations protest to the Government at the victimisation of Mr. Brutus. Indeed the arrest inside the office of the white Olympic Committee did not provoke even the mildest criticism, with the result that many non-white South Africans felt that the Committee was itself involved.

The case of Dennis Brutus is just one example of Government action to intimidate and silence sportsmen who work for non-racial sport.

Developments after the Baden-Baden meeting

South Africa`s friends did not rest after the adoption of the 1963 resolution. They almost succeeded in having the suspension withdrawn and enabling South Africa to take part in the Mexico Games. It became clear that as long as South Africa remained a member of the IOC it could move from suspension to membership and vice versa depending on whether South Africa`s friends happened to be in the majority present at any particular meeting.

Once again it was the action of the Afro-Asian countries which resulted in the Mexican organising committee not inviting South Africa rather than face a boycott from a large number of national Olympic committees. In May 1970 the IOC took the inevitable decision of expelling the white body from South Africa from the Olympic movement altogether.

Action outside international organisations

So far we have examined the battle against racial discrimination at the level of international sports organisations. But this is not the only level at which international opposition to racialism in sport has been expressed. The white Commonwealth countries and France have sports bodies which continue to exchange visits with apartheid teams. It is in these countries that individual citizens have organised national campaigns against maintaining links with white South Africa which only serve to strengthen racialism in sport.

Rugby and cricket teams from Australia, New Zealand and Britain have continued to exchange tours with white South African teams. So have rugby teams from France and Ireland.

Over the past few years opposition to these tours in Australia and New Zealand has led to the establishment of national bodies of protest which have extended their area of concern to the apartheid situation as a whole. Massive campaigns have been organised on a nation-wide basis when white South African teams have visited these countries and before their national teams have gone to South Africa to play under apartheid conditions.

In the Scandinavian countries there has been extensive opposition to holding tennis competitions with white South Africans. These events have had to take place at secret venues because of the strength of public reaction.

But it is Britain that has the closest links with apartheid sport and it is there that the most significant victory so far has been achieved by the cancellation of the 1970 all-white South African cricket tour.

Anglo-South African cricket links

The all-white South African Cricket Association (SACA) lost its membership of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) when South Africa left the Commonwealth in 1961. This did not, however, produce any change in the attitude of the MCC towards racist cricket. Representations by the non-racial Cricket Board of Control were met with the advice that they develop a separate "all-coloured" cricket organisation!

For over a decade the Anti-Apartheid Movement has been campaigning for an end to British links with apartheid sports bodies. Because of the long historical links between the two countries, it was always difficult to obtain publicity via the media for information on the operation of racialism in South African sport. Many looked upon the AAM campaigns as being solely motivated at isolating South Africa on political grounds and argued that politics should not be introduced into sport. But this argument was effective only because the public did not know about the operation of racialism in sport in South Africa.

Because of the persistent efforts of the AAM to educate public opinion, more and more people learnt the facts and joined the battle against apartheid sport.

In 1960, when a South African white team toured England, the English Test cricketer, the Reverend David Sheppard, refused to play against the tourists. He said at the time:

    "I do not regard cricket in South Africa as a non-political game. South Africa has never yet played against the West Indies, or against India or Pakistan. There are 20,000 non-white cricketers in South Africa. Because they are non-white, they will have no opportunity of playing in a club side, in a province side or in a Test match. I believe at this moment that cricket is touching on the most important single issue in the world. And I believe that as a cricketer and a Christian, I would be wrong to keep silent."

In 1965, when a white South African team toured England, demonstrations were held in many centres where the tourists played and the public was asked to boycott the games. The Queen was asked not to attend the Test match at Lords, particularly since, as Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty should not be seen to be supporting apartheid cricket. She stayed away, but this was ignored by the press. The Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, also responded to the AAM call. This was the first time in cricketing history that the Crown and the Prime Minister had stayed away from a cricket Test match. Thousands of leaflets were distributed outside the cricket grounds as well as in shopping areas in cities which staged the matches with the apartheid team.

The D`Oliveira affair

But it was not until 1968 that the public at large had the problem of apartheid in cricket brought home to it in a dramatic way over the "D`Oliveira affair".

Basil D`Oliveira is an outstanding South African all-rounder, who could never hope to play representative cricket for his country of birth because he is Coloured. He left South Africa in 1960 and played in English county cricket; he was first selected for English Test matches in 1966.

An English cricket team was to be chosen in 1968 for a tour of South Africa and there was considerable speculation as to whether the team would be permitted to enter South Africa if Basil D`Oliveira were a member. As early as January 1967, over 200 Members of Parliament had called on the MCC to cancel its proposed 1968-1969 tour of South Africa, since South Africa`s Interior Minister, Piet le Roux, had been reported as saying that the Coloured cricketer would not be allowed into the country. The MCC, however, insisted on going ahead with the tour.

When the touring party was announced at the end of the English cricketing season in 1968, Basil D`oliveira was omitted and this provoked one of the sharpest controversies in the history of English cricket. His outstanding performance against Australia at the close of the season was more than adequate to win selection for an English touring team. Most people believed that he was dropped because the MCC did not wish to embarrass the South African authorities by selecting him. A public opinion poll published in the London Daily Mail of September 12, 1968 revealed that two out of every three people deplored the omission of D`Oliveira and believed that he was dropped because he was Coloured. The MCC was completely taken aback at the uproar that followed their decision.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement sought a meeting with the Minister of Sport, Mr. Dennis Howell, and saw him on 12 September. As the delegation - composed of Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, M.P. (Leader of the Liberal Party), Bishop Ambrose Reeves (former Bishop of Johannesburg) and Mr. Abdul S. Minty (Honorary Secretary of AAM) - left the Minister`s office, they were informed by waiting journalists that D`Oliveira had just been invited to join the MCC party in place of an injured player. On the following night, Premier Vorster told a Nationalist Party meeting in Bloemfontein that the MCC team was no longer welcome in South Africa. He claimed that "the team as constituted now is not the team of the MCC, but the team of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the team of SAN-ROC, and the team of Bishop Reeves".

The MCC was left with no alternative but formally to call of the tour.

Nothing before had been so effective in getting across to the British public the full implications of exchanging sports tours with apartheid teams. Even right-wing Conservative Members of Parliament were forced to condemn both the MCC decision to omit D`Oliveira and the action of the South African Government in banning the tour. The weight of public opinion was strong enough to force several leading defenders of South Africa to condemn the two decisions.

It became clear that if the MCC proceeded with its invitation to the all-white South African Cricket Association to tour England in 1970, that tour would be actively opposed by people all over the country. But the cricketing authorities at Lords remained adamant and went ahead with their plans for the tour.

The 1969-1970 ruby tour

The British public had scarcely recovered from the D`Oliveira affair when the all-white South African ruby tour of Britain and Ireland began in 1969. This provided an opportunity to people in Britain to show their disapproval of invitations to racialist teams. The Rugby Board had ignored the many requests for the cancellation of the tour. There was no choice but to organise nation-wide protests and demonstrations at every match.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement mobilised its branches, members and supporters all over the country and printed thousands of leaflets and posters for the campaign.

The Stop-the-Seventy-Tour Committee, which was established in September 1969 to protest at the forthcoming cricket tour, began by mobilising support against the rugby tour. The STST Committee was sponsored by eight organisations, including the AAM. Mr. Peter Hain led the new Committee as its Chairman.

The first game was due to be played at Oxford, but because of the strength of opposition from all sections of the local community, including staff and students at the university, it was switched to Twickenham and the venue was only announced on the day of the match. Well over a thousand people turned up at Twickenham to protest outside the ground despite the short notice.

From then onwards the movement of protest began to develop its own momentum. The AAM organised demonstrations outside rugby grounds, while STST asked its supporters to enter the grounds and, if necessary, disrupt the game.

Virtually every match thereafter was played in an atmosphere of siege; large numbers of police had to be summoned to protect the grounds and rows of policemen encircled the playing fields to prevent demonstrators from invading them. Barbed wire fences were erected inside and outside the grounds and police dogs were brought in and held in reserve at strategic points.

Clashes between the police and demonstrators took place at several matches, the worst at Swansea where almost 150 young demonstrators claimed to have been beaten by rugby vigilantes and the police.

The national press calculated that at least 50,000 people took part in the demonstrations held at every match that was played. Police costs alone amounted to well over £ 50,000.

The white South African team could never feel at ease throughout the tour. On the field matches were interrupted; off the field demonstrators protested outside their hotels. One student almost succeeded in driving away the coach full of white South African players, as they were about to set off from their hotel for a match.

When the white team reached Dublin, they met with even more widespread opposition. Mr. Corrie Bornmann, manager of the white rugby team, admitted at the end of the tour that he had thought of calling it off as a result of the protests in Ireland. The Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement obtained massive support for its campaign against the visit of the white ruby team to their country. Large numbers of rugby fans boycotted the game, which had a very small attendance for an international match.

As a result of the new public interest, anti-apartheid groups emerged in areas where there were none before and plans were made for even greater demonstrations during the 1970 cricket tour.

The 1970 tour stopped

From January 1970 onwards individuals and organisations called on the Cricket Council to cancel their invitation for the all-white South African cricket tour due to begin on May 2.

On January 22, a deputation from the AAM, including three Members of Parliament, handed in a letter to officials of the Council and early the following month the Movement delivered a petition with over 12,000 signatures objecting to the tour. Many other organisations made similar representations.

Spontaneous action was taken by individuals and prominent leaders. The press reported on January 21 that grounds all over the country had slogans painted on walls, sightscreens, scoreboards and pitches. In Cardiff a four-inch hole was dug in the pitch.

Members of country clubs called on them not to play against the white South African team and many resigned their membership when the clubs refused. For example, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Glyn Simon, a cricket supporter for more than 40 years, told the Glamorgan Cricket Club that he would terminate his membership if the Club played the apartheid team.

However, on February 12, the Cricket Council approved the tour and announced drastic cuts in its duration. Originally the tour was to last for four months with 28 matches on 23 grounds. Now it was to be completed in eleven weeks with 12 matches on the eight grounds which were the easiest to protect: the barricades would go up around the grounds and each one would have an artificial pitch, in case the turf wicket was damaged by demonstrators. All the grounds were to be defended and patrolled for the next four months. At some grounds, such as Leicester, day and night patrols were carried out by police with dogs. The Council was determined that the tour would take place - even under siege conditions.

The Council proved to be insensitive to appeals from community relations organisations which felt that the tour would damage race relations in Britain. Mr. Frank Cousins, Chairman of the Community Relations Commission, wrote to the Home Secretary in February warning of the "untold damage to community relations" that the apartheid tour would cause. The Right Reverend David Sheppard, former Test cricketer and now Bishop of Woolwich, said:

    "Few, if any, members of the MCC Council live in areas of racial tension and they do not understand what deep feelings are raised by this tour of a racially selected team."

By April, opinion against the tour reached a new peak. Trade unions announced that they would support those members who felt obliged to boycott the tour and refuse to service the players. Television technicians urged the BBC to cancel its contracts for coverage of the tour. John Arlott, the world`s foremost cricket commentator, informed the BBC that he would not broadcast on the matches arranged for the white South African team. Granada Television announced that it would not screen any of the play during the tour.

In May the Fair Cricket Campaign was launched by the Bishop of Woolwich with a view to drawing in even more people to support the campaign. The Bishop was elected Chairman and the two Vice-Chairmen were Sir Edward Boyle, Conservative Member of Parliament and ex-Minister, and Mr. Reginald Prentice, former Labour Minister for Overseas Development. Thus, in addition to the AAM, two other organisations - the Fair Cricket Campaign and the STST Committee - were working for the cancellation of the tour.

However, even an appeal by the Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, urging the Cricket Council to reverse its decision, had no effect on the Council members.

One other factor then entered the situation. The Commonwealth Games were due to take place in Edinburgh in July when the South African team would be touring England. The AAM made representations to most of the participants invited to the Games that they should not come to Britain at the same time as a visiting racialist team from South Africa. Representations were also made to several Commonwealth Governments. On May 5, India announced that it would not attend the Edinburgh Games if the South African tour went ahead. At least 13 African countries threatened to do the same. There were also reports that participants from the West Indies would refuse to go to Edinburgh.

The Commonwealth Games were threatened with total disaster, as the majority of the Commonwealth decided to boycott them if the cricket tour went ahead. As a result, the Government was forced to call upon the Cricket Council to cancel its invitation to the apartheid team.

The success of the campaign was due not only to the work of the various British organisations, but also to the swift action of Commonwealth countries. The STST Committee, spearheaded by Mr. Peter Hain, and the Fair Cricket Campaign, under the leadership of the Bishop of Woolwich, added fresh resources to the work of the AAM, which had been campaigning for over a decade against international collaboration with apartheid sport. SAN-ROC played an invaluable role in effectively representing the views of South Africa`s non-white sportsmen.

Continue boycott of all apartheid sport

The victories against apartheid in sport have led to re-thinking among white South African sportsmen who have until recently been active supporters of racial discrimination in sport. Their reactions have been interpreted in some quarters as being a genuine change of heart. If there has been such a change, it has come about not so much because of the long years of international contact with apartheid sport, but from the threat of international isolation. Many individual white sportsmen, such as golfer Gary Player, have begun to make public pronouncements against apartheid sport, whereas only a few years ago they were open defenders of this system.

But while international isolation has forced some white sportsmen to voice their protests inside South Africa, that was never the sole purpose of the boycott campaigns. More important is the impact made on the oppressed African, Coloured and Indian people, who have been enormously encouraged by the protests and demonstrations all over the world against the system of organising sport on the basis of skin colour.

The British campaign has shown people in other parts of the world that it is possible to stop their national bodies from continuing to exchange tours with apartheid teams. Already campaigns are under way in Australia and New Zealand - two countries with long-established links with apartheid sport.

The South African Government has also learnt certain lessons in the past two years. In future it is likely to be more flexible in permitting non-white members to be part of overseas teams visiting the Republic. But that cannot justify exchanging tours with white South Africa.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement has always urged that the outside world should boycott all apartheid sport. All links with racialist bodies should be abolished until sport inside South Africa is conducted on the basis of merit alone and not of colour. This may not be possible until white domination itself is ended in South Africa. Until there is a non-racial society which will permit open sport, we may have to exclude South Africa from all international competitions. For it is wrong to support racialism in any form. And apartheid is not a game.

  1. United Nations Unit on Apartheid, Notes and Documents, No. 16/71, April 1971
  2. Rand Daily Mail, June 7, 1958
  3. A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa, 1955-1956

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