Saturday, July 25, 2009

On The Life and times of Bill Jardine, by Chris van Wyk of Riverlea


I just finished 'Now listen here: The Live and Times of Bill Jardine', by renowned author from Riverlea, Chris van Wyk. From the moment go I gobbled up, the over 200 pages, enthralled by the way in which van Wyk draw pictures, weave aromas and emotions, through his words. It was almost a state of nirvanah,for me. Enough of trying to emulate van Wyk. I like the book.

van Wyk gives in another interview with Litnet a glimpse of his soul. He states,

'A few years before Shirley I wrote a biography (entitled Now Listen Here) of one Bill Jardine, an ANC activist who lived in Riverlea. In order to write Bill’s life story I interviewed dozens of people in Riverlea. The stories were so incredibly interesting that I continued to do the interviews even after I had finished writing the biography. So interesting, in fact, that I became almost obsessed with it. I became a kind of stalker of oupas and oumas, looking out for someone to interview everywhere I went. I now have in my possession dozens of cassettes crammed with stories which I can use in any creative way I like. And I strongly recommend that all writers in this country embark on a similar exercise. Apart from enriching one’s own writing, it is crucial that ordinary people, who in many cases did not believe they were part of our history, tell their stories.'


The African Book centre states of this book,
A biography of Bill Jardine telling the story of his childhood in Johannesburg and the formation of his beliefs to his adult political activism. Index,gloss, bib, b/w illus, 263pp, SOUTH AFRICA. STE, PUBLISHERS, 1919855084.
But this is much more then that. This book, like van Wyk states, is about people, 'ordinary people', who make history. it is the grit and gut struggle of making people's history, of creating a strong sense of identity, a strong self-hood, of pride, nurturing subjects, who will take life into their own hands- who think for themselves and act accordingly.

In a sense, this is also the story of Bill Jardine. Van Wyk tells the story of a coloured man from 'Fietas', who raised himself, his family and community up to walk tall and look any-one in the eye. His humble background, the obstacles of institutional racism, in the sport which was so close to his heart, rugby, did not deter Jardine to excel and to leave a legacy, for generations to come. He had to make difficult decisions, many times in the face of the brutal assault from the white regime, many times at the expence of his family-life, and fiendships, to unite South Africans, espescially through rugby. There are two anecdotes, which remains with me.

In the early to middle 80's black sport was to a large degree dictated by the SACOS slogan, 'No normal sport in an abnormal situation'. In this context however, more and more calls were made to 'normalise' sport from being an endorsement of the apartheid ideology. These anti-apartheid ideological positions was to a large degree dictated by the movements pushing for non-collaboration, yet, for some, it did not move beyond mere rhetoric. I remember that in our communities, the sport was well-organised, in our local clubs, and schools, from local up to national level. Yet, it was seperated. It was in this context that people like Jardine and others, from the rugby frateral (SARU) started, in consultation with the UDF, and later the MDM, pushed for non-racial sport (unity), under the banner of the National Sports Council (NSC). This paved the way for our re-admittance to international competition and, like we allways say: the rest is history. We enjoy the fruit.

Another story was how, in 1995, the then president Nelson Mandela instructed Jardine and the NSC to leave the Springbok as national rugby symbol, as a gesture of goodwill, for the sake of reconciliation. Van Wyk vividly tells how 'Uncle Bill' Jardine, literally in tears, asked the policy conference of the NSC to respect the instruction from the President. A few weeks after that, Louis Luyt, then president of SARFU, took the government to court and the same President Nelson Mandela was humiliated, when he was sapoenaed to appear in the dock.

This book not only presents deep insights in the anti-apartheid, struggles of rugby in the then Transvaal, it also take us into the colourful, yet up to now, invisible world and traumatic, yet resilient journeys of Johannesburg's coloured communities. Yet, it is a book of hope, a book that give birth to a new 'self-believe', that, indeed they are part of history. It's then so tragic then that recently the nomination of Jardine's son, Neville, as the next, possibly the first coloured president of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, was simply sweeped from the table. I guess, the struggle continues, as it was in the life and the times of Bill Jardine, as it is now, with hope...
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