CAMBRDIGE, Mass. - The Harvard women's golf team traveled to South Africa during the winter recess period, immersing itself in the local culture while having the opportunity to train for the spring season. The Crimson maintained a blog throughout the trip, allowing family members and friends of the program to experience the adventure along with them.
From Nina Fairbairn '17:
In preparation for our trip to South Africa, all team members were asked to read Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom and Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa and to watch the History Channel documentary Miracle Rising South Africa and the movie Invictus. This learning colored our trip with background information that allowed us to fully appreciate how inspiring the movement to end apartheid was and understand how miraculous the country's change since that time is. To give you some of the history from Long Walk to Freedom:
Mandela grew up in Mvezo in the Xhosa tribe. His father essentially served as the PM to the chief of the tribe. Nelson eventually left to pursue a career in law. He was educated at the University of Witwatersrand, where he set out to earn his practicing degree as the only black law student. There, he discussed segregation and issues regarding abuse of government power with fellow students. To follow his belief that "democracy meant all men to be heard, and decision was taken together as a people. Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be clashed by a majority," he joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1950 and helped organized guerrilla tactics to battle against apartheid. Eventually in 1961, he was sentenced to five years in prison for organizing people to leave the country without their "dompass"-- or identification pass that only blacks were issued. However, that sentence was extended to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial, in which the leaders of the ANC were charged with recruiting and training people for revolution and sabotage, among other treasonous charges.
His 28 years in prison began on Robben Island and eventually ended at Pollsmoor Prison. The golf team visited Robben Island to fully comprehend what it was like to be held captive there for 20 years (See blog post from visit). In February of 1990, Mandela was finally freed and worked with then President de Klerk to establish a more free and safe South Africa through the CODESA talks (Convention for a Democratic South Africa). Violence worsened even when the ANC suspended their armed struggle in August 1990, thereby putting more pressure for the talks to achieve their aim quickly and effectively. The talks ultimately resulted in a fair democratic election date set for April 26, 1994 in which all citizens, regardless of gender or race, could vote. To no one's surprise, the ANC won with 62.6% of the vote and Mandela was inaugurated as their leader.
Since then, South Africans have worked hard to eradicate any roots of apartheid or racial prejudice that still exist. As a team, we saw how much the country has improved and how hard the citizens and government are working to make South Africa a better place for everyone who lives there. It is truly incredible how much can change in such a small time and inspiring to know the kind of change that can occur when people are dedicated to such a noble cause.