View Full Version : The greatest South African? No contest

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004, 09:18 PM

September 28, 2004

The greatest South African? No contest. It's the other votes that split the nation
From Jonathan Clayton in Johannesburg

THE result was never in doubt. Nelson Mandela, by far the most popular person in the country, was always going to walk away with the top slot on the list of 100 Greatest South Africans.

The real race would be between the also-rans. Jaws dropped as the results came in. The poll, revealed by SABC 3, one of the state broadcasters, during a special programme on Sunday evening, read like a roll-call of the country’s past and present ills.

Hardline racists, apartheid strongmen, philanderers, sports cheats and villains all followed quickly on Mr Mandela’s heels.

Hendrik Verwoerd, the chief architect of apartheid and a man often compared to the Nazi theorist Joseph Goebbels, was in 19th position — well ahead of such stalwarts of the anti-apartheid struggle as Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, who came in at 31 and 33 respectively.

Eugene Terre’Blanche, the jailed former leader of the extreme right-wing AWB party took 25th position. He was finally jailed for assaulting a farm worker and, in a separate incident, a petrol attendant, who was left brain damaged.

SABC’s many critics said that the system, which allowed people to phone in with their nominations, was biased in favour of the country’s small, but vocal, minority groups.

It has revealed a country that is still deeply divided ten years after the end of apartheid — and the embarrassment is not limited to right-wing whites.

Alongside Jan Smuts, the former Prime Minister, a pioneer of white minority rule, who took tenth place, is Mr Mandela’s controversial ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Since her separation and divorce she has been named in murder trials, torture allegations and accused of involvement in several murky financial scams. The ruling African National Congress has distanced itself from her, although she remains popular in the black townships.

To the chagrin of SABC, which hoped that the poll would showcase the new “Rainbow nation”, the controversy was not restricted to the political arena. Hansie Cronjé, the disgraced former cricket captain who plunged South African cricket into an international match- fixing scandal, came in at 11. F. W. de Klerk, the country’s last white President, is in 3rd position, just behind Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi came to South Africa after studying law in London and stayed for 20 years before returning to India to lead the independence struggle in his homeland.

The results have sparked soul-searching debates on radio talk shows, with many commentators and callers saying they were “flabbergasted and disgusted” by the results.

In its defence, SABC said that it did not want to ban certain names from the list. “The way the poll was conducted played into the hands of small, but organised groups,” one South African journalist said.

SABC is keeping its fingers crossed that a run-off vote between the nine behind Mandela in the Top Ten will spare it further embarrassment. Others in the Top Ten include President Mbeki, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Gary Player, the golfer, and Nkosi Johnson, a boy who became a figurehead in the fight against HIV/Aids before he died last year.


Christiaan Barnard
Mahatma Gandhi
Nkosi Johnson
F.W. de Klerk
Nelson Mandela
Winnie Madikizela Mandela
Thabo Mbeki
Gary Player
Jan Smuts
Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004, 02:44 AM
Nelson Mandela? Isn't he a former terrorist? Maybe there's still hope for Osama Bin Laden. :icon_evil