Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika (Lord Protect Africa)

Next week, I'm going to South Africa to speak at the AdReview Awards and renew my relationship with a country that, like every New Zealand rugby fan, has a piece of my heart. The relationship between South Africa and New Zealand has been forged with blood, bone, muscle, and heart on the sports – and protest – field.

All Black legend Colin Meads summed up the rugby challenge: "If you're ever going to play good rugby, you'll play it in South Africa. The atmosphere demands it of you, the contest is hard physically, the sun throws its heat on to your shoulders and there is always that feeling inside you, as an All Black, that this is what it has all been about, that this is South Africa and these are the players you most want to beat..."

It's a country of hard won gains, a land of creativity, energy, music, and enthusiasm. Few other countries have been so full of dreams of freedom, renewal, and evolution. The African National Congress won their long fight against an evil system, Nelson Mandela became the inspiration of a generation, and the 'rainbow nation' was born. I'm arriving on Election Day, which has been declared a national holiday.

With the Football World Cup in South Africa just over a year away and Hollywood visiting (Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, and Clint Eastwood directs in The Human Factor), South Africa's colors are starting to shine globally. My friend, hotelier extraordinaire Sol Kerzner, is back with another stunning property at One & Only Cape Town.

In South Africa, English is the most common language in business and government, but it's only the fifth most spoken home language. On my return, I'm hoping to find more of the diversity that gives the country its unique profile. Futurist Rolf Jensen says that the heroes of the 21st century will be the storytellers - so which of the 11 official languages in South Africa are they speaking in? Like the national anthem, alchemy can work magic.

Everybody knows the country's challenges. Infrastructure development needs further improvement, education and health (particularly HIV/AIDS) must benefit from aggressive funding and commitment, and the country's natural blessings must be conserved. Saatchi & Saatchi South Africa have just worked with WWF on Earth Hour and helped save 400 MW of electricity, 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 224 tonnes of coal, and about 576,000 litres of water. Taking an inclusive, 'we're all in this together' approach, is the way forward.

It's not always easy, but I'm optimistic. South Africa is a country full of inspirational players, on the field and off, and the world is about to find out how many there are in next year's World Cup. Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika!


akram bikhazi said...

Having lived with my family for 5 years in South Africa, I can so relate to what Kevin menioned about the inspirational climate of this diverse nation. One can feel the richness and the promise of this place just by experiencing the complimenting differences of everything from the music, the languages, the looks on people's faces and even that distinct air you breathe.

Rian said...

Hi Kevin - thanks for your post. I'm a South African currently living in the US, and with all the doomsday press South Africa sometimes get, it's refreshing to read your thoughts. Have a great time in Cape Town, and go try the wines in Stellenbosch if you get a chance :)

Harold said...

Hollywood wants to make some movie about a rugby game so South Africa's "colours are starting to shine globally". An ad man perspective maybe. South Africa has just finished a stint as Chair of the UN Security Council - that is "shining globally". What did they do with that time? They supported the regimes in Burma, Zimbabwe (with arms as well as moral support - after all to fail to support Mugabe would be "counter-revolutionary"! From an ANC Parliamentarian) and South Africa spoke up in defence of Omar al-Basheer's murderous regime in the Sudan. They have given hosptial treatment to Ethiopia's genocidal ex-dictator Mengistu, yet denied a visa to the Dalai Lama. Why do you think millions have fled South Africa? Because they are all racists? There are around 60,000 ex-SA's in NZ. Have you ever heard of a racist incident involving a South African here? Plenty involving morally-superior kiwis.
Try talking to some white people while you are there - preferably Gautengers. Remember over 70% of the "formally advantaged" voted for majority rule just as soon as the collapse of the USSR meant they could finish with the war on their border. "Evil regime"? Not really... I am a born NZer btw.

Peter said...

a good read and interesting comments.
Hope you'll have time to swim with the sharks in Gansbaai...

Kevin Roberts said...

Akram, Good to hear from you... Where are you living? KR.