Dan Sandman

50: Invictus by John Carlin

In Biography, Books, History, Non-Fiction on 13/12/2013 at 12:00 pm

Invictus by John CarlinIf you happen to be in Johannesburg, I recommend a visit to the apartheid museum, in the city’s centre. There, upon my visit, I was given a randomly assigned identity and asked to enter through one of two entrances. One entrance is for white people and one entrance is for non-white people.

In fact, the actaul identity cards, the documents that enforced the racist Population Registration Act in South Africa, separated the population into four categories: Whites, Coloureds, Indians and Blacks. Under the laws of apartheid, the colour of a person’s skin would effect their position in society. For example, only white people would be given the right to vote in national elections, white people traveled on separate buses to non-white people, and there were “white only” public toilets. In 1952, during the ANC’s Defiance Campaign, Nelson Mandela was photographed burning his identity card, the first of many to do so. After spending twenty-seven years in prison, for fighting against apartheid, Mandela was released and became South Africa’s first black president on May the 10th, 1994.

One year later, on June the 24th, 1995, Mandela would help the South African rugby union team, known as the Springboks, to win the Rugby World Cup. Prior to this point, the green and gold Springbok t-shirt had been seen as a symbol of apartheid. Through a series of shrewd political moves, wielding the power of sport, towards reconciliation, Mandela was able to unite the South African nation in support of the Springboks.

This story, about the politics of the time, as framed by a rugby game, following the key events of 1990’s South African politics, was skillfully turned into a non-fiction book by British journalist John Carlin. The biography starts with Mandela’s release from prison, on February the 11th, 1990, and gives a concise account of his five years as president from 1994 to 1999. Originally published as Playing The Enemy, but changed to Invictus, following a movie adaption starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, the history is well researched and well balanced. The overall tone is informative, the general content significant, and the end product emotive.

A gripping read.

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