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Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Native nostalgia. Description Challenging the stereotype that black people who lived under South African apartheid have no happy memories of the past, this examination into nostalgia carves out a path away from the archetypical musings. For the rulers of South Africa, which had experienced a growth rate in the s second only to Japan's, their Luddite ways must have seemed more ridiculous by the day, especially in the light of their claims to be the last defenders of 'western civilisation' in Africa.

They could not exactly claim to be defenders of such civilisation and yet be opposed to television. Something had to give. So they caved in in and allowed television to come to South Africa. I was of course too young to know any of this at the time. But the absence of television did have its benefits. It meant I was brought up in a world of radio or, as we called it at home, the wireless. It also meant that I grew up in a family where the imagination was allowed to wander and to dream as we gave body, colour, demeanour and setting to the hundreds of voices that came into our house through the air each day.

Deprived sight of the images that were the staple of television, we could see things with our minds unencumbered by the limited medium of television. We befriended the voices of our radio presenters, developing such intimate knowledge of their 'timbre, range, turn of phrase and key words used' that we could identify these voices and their owners even in our sleep.

We could, thanks to the wireless, let our imaginations wander. We could see far and wide. We could also be present in places thousands of miles away from Katlehong. The date was 23 September and Dokes, boxing world heavyweight champion at the time, was defending a title he had won in December Dokes's challenger was Gerhardus Christiaan Coetzee, a South African fighter with little in the way of stamina but a powerful right hand.

Dokes was a black American; Coetzee a white African. Coetzee had already lost to Mike Weaver and John Tate, two big-hitting American boxers, and was not expected to trouble Dokes. But he was South African and a homeboy, coming as he did from the East Rand city of Boksburg, about 10 kilometres from Katlehong. In fact, his nickname was the Boksburg Bomber.

Coetzee was an Afrikaner and spoke with a thick Afrikaans accent but he had endeared himself to black South Africans by declaring publicly that he was opposed to apartheid and was no bigot. My family supported Coetzee and my mother would let me stay up to follow his fights on the radio each time the man went into the ring. He was one of ours and we cheered him on without reservation. We followed every twist and turn of his fight against Dokes, every blow on the radio. As I recall, the fight began promisingly for Dokes. He was quicker than Coetzee and had a bigger arsenal than Coetzee.


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But he did not look like a man who had trained seriously for this fight. So it did not come as a surprise when, in the fifth round, Coetzee caught Dokes in the jaw with a right hand. The punch sent the champion to the canvas on one knee.

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But it was not over yet. Coetzee, who had done well not to show his legendary lack of stamina, caught Dokes again in the tenth round. This time Dokes did not get up. The fight was over and the world had a new boxing heavyweight champion. My family was ecstatic.

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So were the other families in our street. We had all been cheering Coetzee and had all followed the fight on the radio. Coetzee's victory made him the first African ever to be crowned world heavyweight champion. He also happened to be the first white boxer in twenty-three years to be crowned world heavyweight champion.


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  5. The world had not had a white world heavyweight champ since when Ingemar Johansson defeated Floyd Patterson. Given that the sport of boxing is always nursing 'white hopes', I have no doubt there were white supremacists out there who found cynical vindication in Coetzee's triumph. The apartheid South African government must also have tried to milk Coetzee's victory for all it was worth.

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    This was in the early s and the anti -apartheid movement was starting to gain traction and the cultural and sports boycott of South Africa was increasingly becoming noticeable. We did not care. A better fighter had won on the night. What's more, the winner was one of us, a South African and a homeboy.

    That is what mattered. It also helped that Coetzee had used his position as a public figure to speak out against apartheid. Was his opposition to apartheid genuine? After all, his promoter was one Don King, the father of cynicism. It did not matter. What mattered was that Coetzee came from our neck of the woods and was only too happy to advertise the fact.

    My neighbourhood friends and I followed his fight over the radio and because we could only see with our minds, we embellished every possible detail in our re-enactments the following day. Some took the role of Dokes; others assumed the triumphant poses of the Boksburg Bomber, ducking and weaving as they imagined themselves in that ring thousands of miles away in Akron, Ohio. News that there were black families that supported Coetzee enthusiastically, and that we would stay up all night or get up early in the morning to follow the broadcasts of his fights on radio, may come as a surprise to those who would like to think that the world of apartheid was one of moral clarity.

    It might even come as a shock for these people to discover that apartheid South Africa, even at its worst, was never a world of black and white. There were shades of grey, zones of ambiguity that individuals traversed daily as they went about their lives. Naturally, these shades of grey and zones of ambiguity were not experienced the same way.

    In the case of Coetzee, it may have helped that he was openly opposed to apartheid. But Coetzee was no freedom fighter, no knight in shining armour. He was simply a boxer of moderate talent who got far. None of that mattered, however. What mattered was that he was one of us and we claimed him as such. It is also possible that Coetzee's acceptance in our street was helped by the way he was presented by Radio Zulu. For all of this, our deep love for him and the recording of his exploits, was done in Zulu. In fact, Radio Zulu was famous for its sports broadcasts.

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    People who did not speak Zulu as their first language would tune in to the station to follow its broadcasts. This is worth recalling because it went against apartheid communications policy, which sought to connect so-called Bantu radio stations to the doctrine of separate development.

    In terms of apartheid thinking, these stations sought to promote ethnic consciousness and pride in one's languages. But things did not go according to plan for apartheid's planners. According to Liz Gunner, the cross-ethnic appeal of supposedly ethnic radio stations was not the only way in which apartheid was undermined.