Thursday, June 10, 2004

Via Fodder: SABC3 has apparently launched a competition to find the greatest ever South African. They've specifically asked that people don't vote for Nelson Mandela since it's clear that he'd win by a country mile. That being the case, who's in contention?

I'm pretty certain that most of the nominees will hail from a political background. South Africa's history is, overwhelmingly, the history of a political battle amongst various groups for control of the state. That being the case I would expect names like Luthuli, Sisulu, Tambo and, possibly, Mbeki to feature prominently. I wouldn't be surprised if de Klerk or Smuts make a strong showing either. Nevertheless, once you move beyond the political sphere the possibilities dry up very quickly. Desmond Tutu is an obvious candidate although even he made his name in political activism. Who else? A writer, possibly Gordimer or Coetzee, although I have to concede that the majority of South African's have probably never heard of these two let alone read anything by them. A Sportsmen, names like Hezekiel Sepeng, Bruce Fordyce, Naas Botha, Gary Player and Josia Thugwane spring to mind. With the exception of Gary Player, though, it isn't clear whether any of these ever achieved worldwide fame and recognition. Certainly, nobody has come close to being a South African equivalent of say, David Beckham or Michael Jordan. The only other person that I can think of off-hand is Chris Barnard. Indeed shortly after I came to Oxford a foreign friend claimed that the only things he could associate with South Africa were apartheid, Nelson Mandela and Chris Barnard. Is Barnard really South Africa's greatest non-politician? I'd like to think not. For a start he hardly led an exemplary private life and furthermore, questions have been raised about the extent to which the first heart-transplant was based on his own work as opposed to that which he cribbed from American colleagues.

It seems incredible that a country the size of South Africa should have produced so few people who could genuinely claim to have international recognition. Not surprising really, the smartest and bravest people have spent the last century fighting oppression when, under normal circumstances, they would have been pursuing careers as sportsmen, artists or scientists.


At 10 June 2004 at 13:25, Blogger Shayne said...

Politically, I'd have to go with De Klerk. Together with Mandela he brought an end to apartheid - his complicity in that seems to be largely ignored.

Non-politically , what about Charlize Theron? At the very least, she could win the "greatest South Africa actor/actress" award.

author - Alan Paton. No doubt.

sportsman, Gary Player.

At 10 June 2004 at 16:52, Blogger Igneos said...

No contest, you two are the greatest!

At 10 June 2004 at 21:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beyers Naude'?

At 17 June 2004 at 12:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. There are however some interesting nominees who, while they might not truly qualify as "South African", did the bulk of their work here. Cecil John Rhodes springs to mind. As would an author like Kipling. Other contenders like a Shaka Zulu, who united the Zulu tribe into a single nation should also be strong contenders.

At 6 February 2007 at 09:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi ;)
wow... what brainsick newz!
what do U suppose about it?


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