Memorial lecture for the late Bhamjee

THE Ismail Bhamjee Memorial Lecture, which was hosted by the Sports Veterans’ Association (SVA), was a huge success. The well attended function took place on Saturday at the Kharina Secondary School Hall.

The purpose of the lecture was to record the meaningful and eventful life of the late Ismail Bhamjee and his fight against apartheid sport. Its principal aim was to present a fuller picture of that life so that, in retrospect, one might find an explanation for all the things he did.

The President of the SVA, Terence Hoskins, said: “The lecture was also to record Ismail’s struggle to overcome the many hurdles that life had imposed on him. That struggle was the struggle of all humanity and humanity’s hallmark.”

Bhamjee identified fully with the struggling humanity. It was this which drew him close to people from all walks of life.

The Memorial Lecture was presented by the country’s rugby legend Oregan Hoskins, who emphasised the point that under the previous regime, sport had been governed by apartheid laws since 1948. He further elaborated that sport and politics were strongly intertwined in South Africa and, in this respect, Bhamjee and politics were synonymous with each other.

Throughout history there has been a very delicate interaction between sport and politics. Hoskins stated that this notion is supported by simply looking at the political influences on the modern Olympics.

Since Adolf Hitler refused to shake hands with the Black American athlete Jessie Owens at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, an ominous precedent was set. This confirmed that sport was no longer separated from the state.

By the end of the 1970’s, most of the South African sporting codes were already deprived of international participation because of the segregated sports policy of the apartheid government.

Segregated sport was characterised by unequivocal opposition to multiracial contact and resulted in strong international boycott actions against South African sport.

This in turn led to growing pressure from within the South African sporting community on the government’s apartheid policy.

Hoskins spoke about the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) which was formed in 1963 to fight against racism in sport and press for international recognition of non-racial sports bodies in South Africa. When the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) was established in 1973, it played a crucial role as a partner of SANROC in reinforcing the international boycott.

The sports boycotts were used only as a means to an end, and it came in very handy as South Africa was eminently a sport mad country.

The government’s initiatives regarding the normalisation of sport and SACOS’s principle of “no normal sport in an abnormal society” were perpendicular in conflict to each other and there was constant conflict between the two regarding the government’s sports policy. As a consequence, the pressure on the South African government increases at all levels- sport being one of them.

Internally, protest was led by SACOS, while externally, it was SANROC that was in the forefront of ongoing resistance to the racist sports policies of the apartheid government.

The main form of resistance used was an international sports boycott, which became a rallying point for anti-apartheid activists worldwide. Internally, the protest consisted of demonstrations and the refusal to have any contact with those involved in racist sport. Together, these measures comprised the sports struggle.

Throughout the province and more especially in the city, Bhamjee was in the vanguard of the sports struggle.

To counter the enormous pressure, the South African government introduced a number of superficial changes, which allowed sporting contacts between races with strict parameters set down by the government. But Bhamjee and others, together with SACOS, countered these changes through the slogan “No normal sport in an abnormal society”.

SVA stalwart Jay Rangiah stated that the Memorial Lecture was a fitting example to a man who spent almost 30 years to realise his dream to publicly honour previously disadvantaged sportspeople from all codes of sport for their outstanding achievements. Hence, the formation of the Sports Veterans’ Association in 2010. — Supplied