Vigne, Randolph, The Independent (London, England)
Activist whose efforts helped bring about the end of apartheid
The story of the ending of white racial supremacy in South Africa has for its cast men and women in political, church, cultural and other such groups whose members mostly ended in prison or exile in the 40-year struggle. Was there another case, like that of Dennis Brutus, of an individual who built up on his own personal initiative and toil a process which brought the evils of apartheid to a world- wide constituency and bit by bit won its war against the perpetrators of apartheid and their complacent, blinkered allies in many countries? Was there a man who actually forced the South African government to yield, at a high price to himself and at the cost of much suffering?
Dennis Brutus, a teacher in his thirties in a school for mixed- race children in Port Elizabeth, had learned about liberation politics at blacks-only Fort Hare University, where, funded by the family's Catholic priest, he took his BA in 1947. In his teaching job he kept clear of the African National Congress and its multi- racial allies, the Liberal Party and the Trotskyites, certain that he could run his own campaign more effectively independent of them. His objective was to open up South African sport, at home and abroad, to spectators, administrators, and media people of all races, and in the process to bring the anti-apartheid struggle before millions scarcely aware of it.
In 1958 he founded the South African Sports Association, dedicated to breaking the whites-only monopoly of South African sport, the exclusion of people of colour from national teams and the colour bar imposed on visiting teams. He recruited as patron the universally admired writer and liberal Alan Paton and constructed a committee of which he was secretary, but which scarcely ever met. Dennis Brutus was SASA, from which, running on small donations, the photocopier of a local liberal NGO, no office and no staff, he took on the deeply embedded racially discriminatory South African sports establishment.
At the 1959 Liberal Party congress Paton, the President, himself proposed the abandoning of the forthcoming tour of "Mr Worrall's cricket team from the West Indies". The opposition got through to the Caribbean and the tour was cancelled, as was the All Blacks rugby tour the following year. A Brazilian football team cancelled its Cape Town visit when SASA and the Liberals made it clear that its black players would not be allowed on the field with whites. The movement grew mightily and in 1961 Brutus set up the South African Non-racial Olympics Committee (SANROC): the fight was on to exclude a whites-only team from the Olympics, with activists like Chris de Broglio, John Harris and Sam Ramsamy sharing his huge task.
Dr Verwoerd's government caught up with Brutus that year and a banning order put a stop to his social and political activity, his writing and organising. Escaping to Swaziland, he was caught by the Portuguese police on the Mozambique border on his way to a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Europe and taken back to South Africa. He briefly escaped his captors in the streets of Johannesburg and was shot in the back. It was a close call: a blacks- only ambulance arrived after some delay.
Sentenced for evading his ban, he spent 18 months on Robben Island. A fellow prisoner, Eddie Daniels wrote: "Dennis Brutus was systematically and …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Dennis Brutus. Contributors: Vigne, Randolph - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 1, 2010. Page number: 36. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.