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Our Editor Remembers


In 1981 the Springboks toured New Zealand. It was a time of incredible turmoil for a country of just over three million people. It divided this normally gentle nation. Over dinner tables, in pubs, in Parliament, in universities and in schools, the argument of ‘politics and sports do/don’t mix’ raged. I was at university in Auckland and my flat of five fellow students was split – the three women against the tour; one of the guys pro-tour and the third a fencesitter. Needless to say my friendships with the men did not last the year. The three of us attended protest after protest. We marched in our city and elsewhere around the country as the tour progressed, chanting among other things: ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. My view was simple: We Kiwis, living at the bottom of the globe, needed to do everything we could to end apartheid. Our contribution was to show the world – and especially South Africa – that we were aware of the nation’s plight and that in some small way, we could help change it. On July 25 1981 myself, my brother and two friends hitch-hiked to Hamilton, headed for Rugby Park. We joined some 5000 others at Garden Place to march on the sports park. Three of us ended up among the 350, on the field that day, arms-linked surrounded by furious, bottle and can wielding rugby fans screaming ‘We want rugby, we want rugby’. They kept trying to get onto the field. Never come between a diehard rugby fan and their sport. It got ugly and the only thing keeping us safe was a thin line of equally frightened police. Then the light plane flew overhead. Reports were that it had been stolen and its pilot’s intentions unclear. Perhaps he would crash it into the stadium or bomb it. As it turned out he did the latter, Kiwi-style, with flour bombs and tacks. Either way, the police knew security was a problem and the game was cancelled. There was pandemonium. Leaving the field with a small police escort saw many of us kicked, punched and sprayed with more bottles and cans. But, ‘all of this drama was captured live on TV and the images were beamed around the world, including South Africa where fans had got up early to watch the match.’  That was what we wanted. Today we have a free South Africa. And I am in no way saying it was due to a bunch of people on the other side of the world. But what I am saying is that all around the world people are mourning the death of the man who did so very much to make this happen. It’s 10 years since I made this my home and throughout this time I have felt honoured to be part of this nation that produced such a leader, such a statesman and a true hero. Thank you Madiba. - Naomi Larkin