"The outpouring of support for the Springboks on the road to the final once again showed the immense potential of sport to unite us as a people"
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory must inspire the country to tackle and overcome its challenges on the political, economic and social front, President Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday.
The journey of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi from a township in the Eastern Cape to lifting rugby’s most prized trophy in Japan epitomises the transformation of a sport formerly associated with apartheid segregation and its potential to unite, Ramaphosa added in a weekly column.
“At a time when South Africa is experiencing profound challenges, we have rallied around the victory in Japan. The outpouring of support for the Springboks on the road to the final once again showed the immense potential of sport to unite us as a people,” he said.
The president argued that the country had a newfound national pride that went beyond sport.
“We are also united by a shared desire for a country where all can live in peace and comfort, where all have an equal chance to achieve their potential. We are united by the vision of a country where the divisions of the past can be overcome, a nation of equality, dignity and respect for human rights.
“Over the past 25 years, we have been working together to build that nation. And while this is still very much a work in progress, we are firmly on the path to unite, renew and transform our society.”
He said racism, tribalism and xenophobia had at times blindsided the country as it strives towards creating a united, tolerant society.
“But we have always come back, even when we stood at the brink of tipping over. Saturday was a triumphant day as it confirmed what we are as a nation, firm in its resolve to find unity in its diversity, as exemplified in our national rugby team which is transforming beautifully, being presented to the world with its first black captain,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africans should pause to think how far the country had come since 1995, when it won the first of its three Rugby World Cup titles, just after the dawn of democracy.
“We are proud of South Africa and what it has become. But there is much more that we need to do to make this a country where the black child and the white child can attain the heights they always dream of,” he said.
Everyone, from the public broadcaster to political parties to business organisations, should work to foster a more inclusive society.
Ramaphosa pointed to South Africa’s second investment conference taking place this week, which is expected to bring 1 500 foreign business people to the country.
“To mobilise the investment we need requires a massive effort from us all. More than ever, we need to be single-minded in our determination to build an economy that can benefit all our people. As we held our breath on Saturday and awaited the final whistle, we momentarily forgot our woes. And now, our sails swelled by the wind of victory, our pride must not deflate, our euphoria must not dissipate and our optimism must endure,” he said.
“Let the goodwill brought by our success at Yokohama inspire us to put our collective shoulder to the wheel as we confront our economic, political and social challenges together – and overcome them.”