National Olympic governing body SASCOC joins the world in mourning the death of former South African President, statesman and global icon Nelson Mandela who passed away in Houghton, Johannesburg on Thursday 5 December,2013 at the venerable age of 95 after a period of illness.


Paying tribute to Madiba, SASCOC CEO Mr Tubby Reddy said his passing was an immense loss on many fronts.


“It was Madiba’s willingness to pursue a path of reconciliation and nation-building that has allowed South African sportsmen and women the opportunity to achieve so much on the global stage. Tata Mandela was instrumental in promoting the role of sport as an organ of change in our society and deserves huge credit for his extraordinary vision.


“It goes without saying that it is the duty of all our sportsmen and women to, at all times, continue to pay tribute to his legacy by conducting themselves in a fitting manner wherever they may be competing in national colours.”


SASCOC President Mr Gideon Sam added his condolences from Taiwan where he is on sporting business with Mr Reddy. “It is with great sadness that Tubby and I heard about the death of former President Nelson Mandela while we are here in discussions with the National Olympic Committee of Taiwan.


“Tat’u Madiba has been an inspiration to so many sports people the world over and will be sorely missed by all. We join millions of people throughout the world in sharing the great grief with his family. There will be no other inspirational leader for sport in the mould of Madiba and we say farewell to him with all the dignity and respect a man of his stature deserves.”


Born in Mvezo, Eastern Cape on 18 July, 1918, the man known fondly as Madiba played a pivotal role in the transformation of a nation rent asunder by enforced racial segregation into what many now refer to as “the rainbow nation”.


Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island and later in Cape Town and Paarl and went on to serve as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first person of colour to serve in this role.


Sport was an integral part of Mandela’s life and he was an often-seen figure at sporting occasions around the globe. He once said: Sport has the power to change the worldit has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.


A great lover of boxing, indeed of all sport, Mandela was also very much in attendance at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg where, wearing a green and gold Springbok jersey, he presented the winner’s trophy to national captain Francois Pienaar in a move often seen as a big step towards the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.


Handing the William Webb Ellis Trophy over to captain Pienaar, Mandela said: “Thank you very much for what you have done for our country,” to which Pienaar replied: ‘it is nothing compared to what you have done for our country.’


The enthusiasm showed by Madiba for sport and the Springboks was very much evident in the 2009 film Invictus where he was portrayed by much fabled American actor Morgan Freeman.


A year later Mandela wore a replica of Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey’s No9 jersey at the FNB Stadium as an inspired national football team beat Tunisia 2-0 to win the prestigious 1996 Africa Cup of Nations title.


“The nation will long mourn Madiba but South Africa as a nation can feel privileged that we were afforded the honour of having a man of such immense global stature in our midst to count as our own,” concluded Reddy.

Picture: SABC Sport