The best symbol of a united nation

Friday, 2 November 2007

Tuesday midday in GP: A R29 “business lunch special” at a Chinese restaurant in Rosebank with a colleague followed by filter coffee and baklava at Fournos around the corner. And as I used my finger to wipe the last drops of honey from the plate, I sighed in satisfaction: “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”

And then I caught myself: “Wait a second, we do have time to stand and stare.”

My companion agreed. We smugly clinked coffee cups together and headed back to work …

Of course, if WH Davies (the “Poet of Tramps”) were alive today, he would probably disapprove of my combining his advice with driving.

Cape Town springs to mind. I head down to the Mother City about once a month for a dinner engagement on the last Thursday. It’s a bit of a routine:

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  • look through 1time, kulula.com, Mango etc for the cheapest flight;
  • drive to OR Tambo and drop the Merc in the cheap parking space at Jet Park;
  • sleep for two hours on the flight;
  • pick up the rental car (class J, el cheapo) at Cape Town International Airport;
  • hit the N2 for the Cape Town city bowl; and
  • reach Hospital Bend and look out for the quaggas.

Have you ever wondered, if you happened to have glanced up at those slopes of Table Mountain, how that magnificent slice of real estate came to be preserved from the marauding incursions of German octogenarians and Irish coke barons?

I did, many years ago. Since then, whenever I drive past through Hospital Bend, I give silent thanks to Cecil John Rhodes.

Why?

The man, by all accounts, was a blackguard. Rhodes wanted to expand the British empire because he believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was destined to greatness, saying of the British: “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race.” It was Rhodes who introduced the Glen Grey Act in 1894 to push indigenous Africans from their lands and make way for industrial development, and introduced a tax on the landless as a stimulus to encourage wage labour.

But the devil may quote scripture. Ideas are good irrespective of where they originate. Dying at the age of 49, Rhodes left almost his entire fortune to public service.

And as part of that vast bequest, he left the large area of land on the slopes of Table Mountain to the South African nation. Part of this estate became the upper campus of the University of Cape Town, part became the Kirstenbosch gardens, and the rest was left to the people of this glorious land in perpetuity with the proviso that it be protected from development.

And so we come to the springbok.

It’s a magnificent animal; beautiful to look at — a hardy, nimble, agile native of our lands.

And it matters not to me that it came to symbolise sport under the apartheid government. Because it was a good idea.

And it is still a good idea.

The time has come for the people of South Africa to reclaim the springbok. It is the perfect symbol for sportsmen and -women of this country. When all who represent us against the rest of the world are Springboks — whether they play soccer, cricket, hockey, basketball, tennis or chess — we can then stop obsessing over the symbol and focus on becoming champions in every code.

  • Kanthan would have mentioned that springboks also taste good, but that would have been frowned upon by some readers. Still, it’s a good idea.