Sixty minutes between two o’clock, when Nelson Mandela arrived at Ellis Park, and three o’clock, when the game began, everything happened. First there was a song, then a jumbo jet, and finally a shout that shook the world.

… Louis Luyt’s rugby union had chosen Shosholoza as the official World Cup song, and the white fans had cheerfully adopted it as their own.

They needed a bit of help, though, with both the music and the words. They needed, as the Springboks had with Nkosi Sikelel› iAfrika, a singing coach. This was where Dan Moyane entered the picture … He was co-hosting a 6am-to-9am radio show with an Irish-born former rugby player called John Robbie who had played for the British Lions against the Springboks in 1980. The duo were very popular, and their blend of easy banter and serious political discussion was one of the more palpable contributions that emerged from civil society to help precipitate South Africa’s political changes …
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‹All kinds of emotions and thoughts flooded through my head›

The Rugby World Cup gave them plenty to talk about. For Robbie it was a dream come true, an opportunity to reconcile his two passions, rugby and racial reconciliation in South Africa. Moyane was not so sure at first. Shaking off the associations the Springboks triggered in his mind was no easier for him than it was for any other black person. He and Robbie would argue on air about rugby. Until the inaugural game against Australia.

Over the next month, much of the morning radio show consisted of Moyane playing the naïve interrogator to Robbie’s worldly-wise rugby man.

One day they played Shosholoza on air … but when Robbie asked Moyane for his opinion, he replied that, for him, the spirit of the song ought to be more raw. «It was a song of encouragement, of hope sung by men far away from their families who were working hard now but would be catching the train home soon enough.»

Moyane told Robbie that this was not a song designed, in his view, for heavily produced choral arrangements. «I felt it as a song to be sung with gusto, with go-for-it street passion, with heart and guts.» So Robbie said, «OK, why don’t you sing it then, Dan? Show us how it’s done.» And Dan Moyane did. He belted out a couple of bars. «It was the first time I’d ever sung like that on air, and within seconds the telephone lines into the studio were red-hot …»

Soon, local music producers were calling Moyane too. Within 10 days he had recorded and produced his own version of Shosholoza with a choir from Soweto. «The song was a smash hit.»
‹… the truth is that I was an utterly apolitical white person who voted Nat›

All this was astounding enough, but nothing compared with what was to come.

A week before the final, after South Africa had beaten France, the World Cup organisers invited him to lead the fans in song at Ellis Park an hour before the game against the All Blacks.

… At 2pm, he walked out on to the field. Moyane’s version of Shosholoza had been blaring from the sound system as fans filtered into the stadium; now they would all sing it together. Moyane walked up to the microphone and asked: «Do you hear me?»

Sixty-two thousand fans bellowed back: «YES!»

«OK, to make sure you really are hearing me, can we have some silence now?» Ellis Park went suddenly quiet. Then the Zulu words of the song came up on the big screens at either end of the stadium. Into the silence, Moyane declared: «We will sing the song to drown the All Blacks out of the stadium!» and a vast cheer went up. First he read the words aloud with the crowd, and then everyone began to sing.

… «All kinds of emotions and thoughts flooded through my head,» Moyane said. «Images came to my mind of 1976, of my friends being jailed, people I knew who these very people – or people close to them, at any rate – had tortured and killed. But then I also thought, what a gesture on these people’s part! They were repaying us for letting them keep the green jersey. This was a black street song, a soccer song, a migrant workers› song, a prisoner’s song. It was an amazing example of crossing the lines, of hearts changing.»

And of people revving up for a big game. What came next raised the decibel levels even higher. Blame the protagonist of act two of the pre-game show, a SA Airways pilot called Laurie Kay … He was one of those English-speaking white men who, by a quirk of family circumstances that had affected two million others like him, just happened to have ended up living in the southern tip of Africa.

«I am not proud to say it now,» he said, «but the truth is that I was an utterly apolitical white person who voted Nat.»

The first seedlings of a political conscience emerged within Kay shortly after Mandela’s prison release. They were both on an SAA flight from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town. It was a Boeing 747 and Kay was the captain.

«It was my first and last face-to-face encounter with Nelson Mandela. I got a message that he wished to see me. So I stepped out of the cockpit and found that he was with his wife, Winnie. They were on seats 1D and 1F – I’ll never forget it,» said Kay. «The moment he saw me he stood up. I said, ‹No, please,› but he insisted and he stood up and greeted me and shook my hand. It never, ever happened to me before or since with a passenger. For me it was transforming. The courtesy and respect of his gesture …

«Until then he was another black face and name who may have been a threat to my way of life. I was exposed to the Afrikaans mentality, and that, while I thought little about politics, was what shaped me.

«He explained that the rest of his delegation were in economy and he wished to see if they could be upgraded.» Kay did not hesitate. «I immediately gave the order that they be taken upstairs to First.

«From that day on I changed for ever. He’s a magician, no doubt about it. In my mind there is an aura about certain people … Mandela has an aura of goodness.»

Kay’s and Mandela’s paths collided one more time – or they very nearly did – on the day of the Rugby World Cup final … Kay received a call from an SAA executive asking him if he might be persuaded to fly a 747 jumbo jet on the afternoon of the final match with the words «Go Bokke» painted on the plane’s underbelly. Kay did not think twice about it …

«They said they wanted me to fly past at exactly 2.32pm and 45 seconds. That was doable. But then they said I had to fly over a second time within 90 seconds.

«This stumped me, because I did not know if I could manoeuvre a plane so big so quickly … I could see it was going to require an aggressive bit of flying.»

… It was in such a spirit that Laurie Kay approached the most perilous professional challenge of his life.

… «So I came down at a low angle to make sure that the words underneath could be read by the spectators, flying at the slowest speed possible short of a stall. At 140 knots. I went slow so that we could generate maximum power to climb once we were over the stadium. So when we got there … we revved up the engines, we really opened up to their maximum sound and thrust so as to put as much noise and as much energy into the stadium as we possibly could.»

He flew only 200 feet above the stadium’s highest seats – the same distance as the plane’s wingspan … «We had factors in our favour. Visibility was terrific. No wind. But above all I wanted us to send a message down to the stadium, that we were strong and we were going to win …»

The impact of the Boeing 747’s four screaming engines deafened every person in the stadium, making its walls vibrate. Louis Luyt was up in the presidential suite at the time, with Mandela next to him.

«How I jumped!» Luyt exclaimed. «And Mandela jumped too!» As did everyone in the stadium. «The bastard!» grinned Luyt. «He never told us he was going to fly that low. At 200 feet! I got such a scare! He could so easily have touched the top of the stadium.»

Surprise and shock gave way to thunderous elation … But that was nothing compared to the impact of act three of the pre-game show.

Five minutes before kick-off, Nelson Mandela stepped out on to the field to shake hands with the players. He was wearing the green Springbok cap and the green Springbok jersey, buttoned up to the top. When they caught sight of him, the crowd seemed to go dead still. Then a chant began, low at first, but rising quickly in volume and intensity. Morné du Plessis caught it as he emerged out of the dressing room and down the players› tunnel on to the field. «I walked out into this bright, harsh winter sunlight and at first I could not make out what was going on, what the people were chanting … Then I made out the words. This crowd of white people, of Afrikaners, as one man, as one nation, they were chanting, ‹Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!› Over and over…and, well, it was just …» The big rugby man’s eyes filled with tears as he struggled to find the words to fit the moment. «I don’t think I’ll ever experience a moment like that again. It was a moment of magic, a moment of wonder. It was the moment I realised that there really was a chance this country could work.»

The symbolism at work was mind-boggling. For decades Mandela had stood for everything white South Africans most feared; the Springbok jersey had been the symbol, for even longer, of everything black South Africans most hated. Now suddenly, before the eyes of the whole of South Africa, and much of the world, the two negative symbols had merged to create a new one that was positive, constructive, and good. Mandela had wrought the transformation, becoming the embodiment not of hate and fear, but generosity and love.

Louis Luyt would not have known what to make of it a couple of years earlier, but now he got it too. «Mandela knew this was the political opportunity of his life and, by God, he seized it!» said Luyt. «When that crowd exploded, you could see: he was South Africa’s president that day without one vote against. … He was our king that day.»

No one captured the sea-change that Mandela had effected better than Tokyo Sexwale. «This was the moment when I understood more clearly than ever before that the liberation struggle of our people was not so much about liberating blacks from bondage,» Sexwale said, picking up on the core lesson he had learned from Mandela in prison, «but more so, it was about liberating white people from fear. And there it was. ‹Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!› Fear melting away.»

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