Springbok Mandela

In 1994 Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the elections that changed South Africa.  He had no reason to love the Whites who locked him away for 27 years.  The title of this post is his prison number.  While in prison Mandela read the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley.  It gave him the mental courage to continue his struggle.  He read the poem to other inmates to keep them motivated.

My greatest memory of Mandela is how, in 1995, he donned the Springbok shirt.

The Springboks were the bastion of white supremacy, the symbol of Apartheid.  Other, lesser, leaders of the ANC might have refused to attend the rugby world cup.  Mandela embraced it.  He shared his love of Invictus with Francois Pienaar, the Springbok captain.  South Africa won a celebrated victory against a seemingly unbeatable All Black squad featuring Jonah Lomu at the peak of his game.

Mandela presented the cup to Pienaar, wearing the Springbok shirt, symbolising the union of black and white.  “If you want to make peace with your enemy you have to work with your enemy.  Then he becomes your partner“….Nelson Mandela


Invictus; by William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.


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