Home Food for Thought Springbok hero worship 'leads to a revision of our history'

Springbok hero worship ‘leads to a revision of our history’

Since heroes seem to be in short supply, perhaps the onus is on us to be more heroic, says agri thought leader Hein Gerwel

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My father, the late prof. Jakes Gerwel, was one of ten children of John and Sarah Gerwel, farmworkers and sharecroppers in what is now known as the Eastern Cape. My grandparents started a farm school, which educated all their offspring, as well as numerous other children of rural families that would have been denied this opportunity under the previous politico-ideological dispensation. We have now entered the seventh generation of Gerwels who hail from the same general region.

One of the most iconic images in the popular imagination of the “broad left” must be that of Ernesto “Che” Guevara emblazoned on T-shirts and posters; fiercely commercialised and “mainstreamed”. The late Fidel Castro asked for this to not be the destiny of his image. My father had a similar perceived bashfulness about adulted glorification of his role in social change and the establishment of a “non-racial democracy”.

Cricket, which seems to have become my go-to social metaphor, informs these musings. October saw the third instalment of the Gerwel Family T20 Tournament, hosted by UWC Cricket Club. As a former member of Tygerberg Cricket Club, I receive communication via a WhatsApp group regarding fixtures and the like. The latest instalment announced the playing of the “Jakes Grewel” tournament.

This got me thinking about how the recognition of a family – my Gerwel family, for example – can be reduced to that of its most famous son. My father, the late prof. Jakes Gerwel, was one of ten children of John and Sarah Gerwel, farmworkers and sharecroppers in what is now known as the Eastern Cape. My grandparents started a farm school, which educated all their offspring, as well as numerous other children of rural families that would have been denied this opportunity under the previous politico-ideological dispensation. We have now entered the seventh generation of Gerwels who hail from the same general region.

Hein Gerwel

Jakes was, and still is, a member of a social collective. My one uncle was the first black lithographer in South Africa, a momentous achievement in an industry that was actively excluding people of colour from certain levels of employment. His daughters are also the first of my generation to achieve PhDs, from NMU and UKZN respectively. Another of our cousins holds three Master’s degrees from the three traditional Cape Town universities. But, I am belabouring the point.

If we want to maintain the integrity of historiographies through narratives, let us not forget that people like Ashley Kriel, Bradley Barrows, Basil Snayer, Keith Powell, and numerous other revolutionaries are not acknowledged for the furtive and substantive role they played, jointly with the more publicly recognised luminaries of our liberation, in fomenting and facilitating social transformation in our country, continent and world.

I thus ask of us as South Africans to reflect on history, not only as what is brandished as exceptional in popular cultural circles, but also as the day-to-day and mundane business of bringing about change through the personal transformation of life-long learning and a critical and emancipatory education. I use the term social collective as opposed to family, because my conceptualisation of what family encompasses is broader than the biologically-centred blood relations implied through a Eurocentric and liberal social ontology.

The time has come for us as a sentient, reflexive species to reclaim our ability to look past the atomistic views of social organisation. It is up to us to rethink our views on what is, and what is possible, for our combined realities on the planet. Since heroes seem to be in short supply, perhaps the onus is on us normal individuals to be more heroic.

Here’s the Springbok tour bus schedule

Here’s all the details about the 2019 Rugby World Cup champion Springboks’ country-wide bus tour with the Webb Ellis Cup.

Thursday, 7 November from 10:00 to 11:00

Pretoria
  • Enter Tshwane via N4 (Witbank Freeway)
  • Turn left in Gordon/Jan Shoba
  • Right into Burnett Street
  • Left into Park Street
  • Left into Kirkness Street, past Loftus Versfeld
  • Right into Lynnwood via Areyengtoute through Sunnyside
  • Right into Paul Kruger Street, around Church Square
  • Right into Madiba Street
  • Stop at Tshwane House to meet the Mayor
  • 14th Ave via Sisulu Street

Thursday, 7 November from 13:30 to 14:15

Johannesburg
  • N1 Western Bypass. Take M1 to Smit Street
  • Take exit 12 from De Villiers Graaff Motorway/M1
  • Continue on Smit Street to Simmonds Street
  • Team stops at FNB Offices
  • Right into Anderson Street
  • Left to Soweto Hwy/M70

Thursday, 7 November from 15:00 to 16:00

Soweto
  • Bara to Maponya Mall
  • Straight along Chris Hani to Koma Road and Jabulani Mall
  • Bolani Road to Hector Peterson Memorial
  • Drive down and join Klipspruit Valley Road
  • Drive behind Orlando Stadium
  • At the traffic light turn right

Friday, 8 November from 10:00 to 12:00

Durban
  • Depart City Hall
  • Follow Anton Lembede Street
  • Right on Joseph Nduli Street
  • Right on Dr Pixley Kaseme Street
  • Left on Stalwart Simelane Street
  • Left on Braam Fisher
  • Right Samora Michel 

Saturday, 9 November from 10:00 to 14:00

East London
  • Depart East London City Hall
  • Follow Oxford Street
  • NY Express
  • Turns into Madtasne Access
  • Spine Road
  • Left on Jiba

Sunday, 10 November from 10:00 to 13:00

Port Elizabeth
  • Depart Port Elizabeth City Hall
  • New Brighton
  • Kwazakhele-Wolman Stadium
  • Zwide
  • Motherwell–Peace Park
  • Uitenhage
  • Green Acres Mall

Monday, 11 November from 10:00 to 11:00

Cape Town (Langa)
  • Jakes Gerwel Drive
  • Left on Washington Street
  • Left on Bhunga Avenue
  • Left N’dabeni Street
  • Into Rhodes
  • Back on to Washington Street

Monday, 11 November from 11:30 to 13:00

Cape Town (CBD)
  • Depart City Hall
  • Darling Street right into Adderley Street
  • Along Adderley, left into Strand Street
  • Up Strand Street and left into Long Street
  • Along Long Street, right into Buitensingel
  • Up Buitensingel and right turn into Loop Street
  • Right into Hans Strijdom Avenue
  • Left turn into Heerengracht at the Fountain Circle
  • Right turn into Hertzog Boulevard
Staff Reporter
Staff Reporter
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