Sport and apartheid



Sport of the apartheid era was based on customary segregation reinforced by general discriminatory legislation, challenged by an increasingly forceful non-racial movement that raised the crucial question: who is a South African? The government responded to the non-racial movement in a number of ways that included accusations of treason and regular threats of draconian legislation specifically targeted at sport. The authorities consistently failed to solve their problem of controlling recreational space sufficiently rigorously to achieve ultimate segregation; and in any case after 1967, sport was used as a reforming tool to persuade the rest of the world that real change was underway in South Africa. The new, multi-national sports policy failed to convince the international community that a boycott was not justified and South Africa was effectively isolated from 1970 onwards. By the early 1980s, sport had been exempted from apartheid legislation, but the facts that it continued to be practised in the context of apartheid society and that the non-racial movement was increasingly absorbed in broader political struggles meant that readmission to international competition had to wait for the unbanning of the ANC in 1990.