• Friday, December 08, 2023
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The African spirit


 As write this, I recall Nelson Mandela’s preface to the book Mandela’s Way – Lessons on Life by Richard Stengel. It is a profoundly inspiring book which captures the spirit of this extraordinary man – warrior, martyr, husband, statesman and moral leader. We long for heroes, but have too few. Nelson Mandela is perhaps the last pure hero on the planet.

In the preface, Mandela talks about the African concept of Ubuntu, which means that we are human only through the humanity of others, that if we accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and accomplishment of others.

This also brings to mind my experience at the Moyo African Restaurant in Johannesburg at the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa when Ghana played the United States – an experience which reiterates the meaning of Ubuntu.

Football is a team sport, a unifying global force. That World Cup was not just about the game; it presented a strong image of a united Africa to the world – and the profound power of the African Ubuntu spirit. It was amazing that all of Africa pulled its weight behind Ghana, the only African team left in the World Cup. Even Brazilians and Chinese supported the fans of Ghana against the United States in a match that left nearly everyone in the restaurant on their feet.

There is no doubt that South Africans went out of their way to give the 2010 FIFA World Cup a real African flavour. From the decorated miners’ helmet called Makarapa, nearly everyone in the restaurant wore this unique headgear that is proudly South African. Likewise, every fan had the notoriously popular vuvuzela, the brightly coloured noise-making trumpet that sounds like a swarm of angry bees. It was real African flavour to the beautiful game. Then there was the Diski Dance, which has become the symbol and rhythm of African football. Whenever, Ghana scored a goal, the waiters and waitresses joined by guests energetically danced the Diski for a couple of minutes before returning to their chores. It was a delightful way to view a rigorous and interesting match which saw the defeat of the United States by an African team.

Apart from the Ubuntu spirit, South Africans indeed used the World Cup to reposition their country as the foremost tourist destination in Africa. It was incredible how they were able to map out beautiful tourist packages for visitors into their country. Visitors to the Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace and the cultural home of the Xhosa people, had the luxury of visiting Addo Elephant Park, Hole in the Wall, Nelson Mandela Museum, among others. Those in Free State could visit the Free State National Botanical Gardens, National Museum Mangaung, Vredefort Dome, Basotho Cultural Village, Golden Gate Highlands, among others.

Visitors to Gauteng, the economic centre of the country, had the opportunity to visit important historical and anthropological sites that attract interest on a global scale, such as the Constitutional Hill, Mandela House Museum, Zoo Lake, Freedom Park, Origins Centre, Apartheid Museum, Union Buildings, Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, etc.

The country maximised all the opportunities the hosting of the World Cup had to offer. What was really amazing was the level of mobilisation of the citizenry because the frenzy was truly infectious. Even those that had nothing to do with football bought in, including even taxi drivers, tour operators and ordinary fruit sellers on the street.

At the restaurant, we were welcomed by cheerful young men and women who were clad in traditional attires. They went from table to table singing traditional Zulu songs and doing the Diski Dance. Europeans, Americans, Asians were really having fun taking photographs of these amazing people and culture. I could not but feel proud being an African!