Community, Diaspora and Immigration

History of the Leicester/South Africa linking

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By Steve White

On Sunday 23rd March 1986 the Leicester City Council (LCC) took a momentous step in renaming the Welford Road Recreation Ground the Nelson Mandela Park (Original booklet of Opening Ceremony available from the LCC or SDSA). Madiba was still in prison and many in Leicester were surprised to ostensibly see the LCC endorse the acts of a terrorist. As they say the rest is history without doubt the Leaders of the LCC knew exactly what they were doing and why.


My first serious engagement with RSA was through my chance meeting with Denis Goldberg at a Woodcraft Gathering in the Midlands in 1995. Last week I attended the launch of Denis`s Autobiography "The Mission: A Life for Freedom in South Africa". I will be offering the book to our Central Library as a source of inspiration for all to read. Most appropriately Denis established Community H.E.A.R.T. See My particular interest came through raising books see in Leicester and Leicestershire mainly schools we raised and sent to RSA well over 100,000 books.


In 2003 I travelled to RSA as part of a delegation through to support RSA in its bid for the World Cup 2010 again as they say the rest is history. I also met up with Denis and visited schools and libraries where our books were being used and so appreciated. We also visited communities in Durban and Joburg fanatical on seeing football made accessible to all. The culmination was the watching of the match between RSA and England a great occasion where black and white from both fan groups mixed and enjoyed themselves. In December 2003 I wrote a paper "Give a Book, Build a Nation"(available at the SDSA) laying out my ideas of how we could work on links with RSA. At the core was exchanging ideas around Education and Sport looking to build bridges and work towards greater cohesion between nations and community groups. We in Leicester clearly were making strides towards an intercultural, interfaith and interracial society however we evidently had much to learn from the journey RSA were undertaking to transcend the scars of apartheid.


In 2004 Leicester’s relationship with RSA really took off. They marked 10 years on from Apartheid. A celebration was arranged in Leicester for the 19th April (see Appendix 1 + Press Release) refreshing the Plaque on the NM Park was the centre piece of the day’s activities and the Deputy High Commissioner Sisa Mcwana blessed us with his presence. The following Saturday on the Nelson Mandela Park we held a Fans Friendly Football Match between England and RSA organised by the "Electric Yetis FC" Patron Gary Lineker (See Appendix 2). Later in July we received Toyko Sexwale escorted by Limpho Hani (widow of the freedom fighter Chris Hani who was tragically assassinated) to receive an Honorary Degree from DMU. He also visited our books raised by Leicester/ Leicestershire schools and destined for RSA through the Community Heart Scheme. 


Early in 2005 we were received with LCC at the RSA HC to thank us all for contributing to the Freedom celebrations in 2004 (see Appendix 3 Letter and Press Release). On the 12th July Her Excellency Lindiwe Mabuza the HC of RSA visited Leicester/Leicestershire to receive a silver salver inscribed "United in Friendship, United in Sport" as well as fulfilling other civic engagements (see Appendix 4 Programme and Letters.) After this extremely fruitful visitation Her Excellency asked if we would set up a planning day considering how Leicester/Leicestershire could work more closely with colleagues at the RSA HC to forge constructive links. This we did on the 10th August at
The City Learning Centre at Beaumont Leys. (see Appendix 5 Programme).

A pause before another bout of action this time I attended the "South African Sport
and Investment Conference” at Chelsea FC on 11/12th May 2006. An inspirational event
bringing together politicians and Sports administrators to see how the 2010 WC and the
2012 Olympics and Paralympics could be mutually beneficial to both RSA and GB by cooperative action (see Appendix 7 SDSA Response). One of our suggestions was to twin
with the NW Province of RSA. Eventually on the 5/6/7th October a delegation from the
NW Province did visit Leicester (See Appendix 8 Programme). This resulted in a paper
based on earlier work entitled "Building Mutual Capacity, International Community Cohesion,
a Partnership Proposal between Leicester/Leicestershire and the NW Province" (See
Appendix 9) and follow up emails (Appendix 10).

Again inactivity until June 2007 then a visit from the RSA HC and a representative of the NW Province marking 21 years of the NM Park and Sports Links (see Appendix 11).

2009 was rather fallow however I did take a trip to RSA HC with the leader of the LCC to celebrate a Burns Night in the company of Denis Goldberg highlighting the work of Community H.E.A.R.T.

Most recently on 15th April 2010 I visited again the RSA HC with Adam Newman Turner for the Launch of Denis Goldberg`s Autobiography “The Mission: A Life for Freedom in South Africa" a copy of which will be available to our schools through the SDSA. Denis is an incredible role model sentenced to 4 life sentences alongside Nelson Mandela and others at the Rivonia Trial, served 23 years in an apartheid prison. Denis continues to work for the struggle in RSA. In 2009 he was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver by the President of RSA.

The intended visit of the Premier of the NW Province organised by the RSA HC to Leicester had to be cancelled because of the Volcanic Ash. In Leicester we are nevertheless willing to explore a MoU and keen to promote the NW Province as a destination to be visited particularly with the impending Football World Cup.





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