Silas Nkanunu - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Welcome to the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. Our aim is to locate, document, digitise, and provide access to all archival materials related to Nelson Mandela. This is a work in progress. Here is a selection of materials arranged in exhibits for your enjoyment.
In 1997 the then-President of the South African Rugby Football Union Mr Louis Luyt managed to persuade a meeting of national rugby officials at Ellis Park that President Nelson Mandela should be compelled to testify in court to defend his decision to appoint a commission of inquiry into South African rugby.
Some of us objected; it had nothing to do with race because the four of us who objected were not all the same colour. We said ‘no’, but Luyt got the support of the majority of members.
When Mr Mandela was called to appear, we went to visit him to apologise, and to let him know that Mr Luyt’s actions did not have the support of all SARFU officials.
After welcoming us with the traditional Madiba warmth, Mr Mandela said he appreciated our support and the fact that we had visited to allay his anxiety. He immediately assured us that his position was that he would appear in court to demonstrate that nobody in the newly democratic South Africa – not even the President – was above the law. This was very important in terms of our Constitution, he said.
He encouraged us, saying that he was not offended and that these types of events could be expected in the early days of our freedom.
The role that Mr Mandela played for South African rugby was critical. He contributed enormously to shifting perceptions that rugby was the domain of one race group, and he was willing to go to court to do so.
He also helped to iron out some of the most niggling challenges we faced at the time, including the debate over the Springbok logo. At a time that the Protea had just been adopted as our national sporting symbol Mr Mandela had the graciousness to offer a compromise solution – and thus today, our national team proudly bears both the Springbok and Protea.
* Mr Nkanunu replaced Mr Luyt as President of SARFU in 1998, becoming the first black man to head South African rugby.
Quote: "His position was that he would appear in court to demonstrate that nobody in the newly democratic South Africa – not even the President – was above the law."
Collection: Moments with a Legend