Sunday, June 7, 2020


On the afternoon of November 23 1973 one of South Africa’s most committed non-racial sports administrators, Mr Morgan Naidoo, telephoned me in what sounded like a withdrawn and unhappy voice. “Subry, please come and see me. I am at the Lotus Club in Prince Edward (now Dr Goonum Street). I have a story for you.” I was at this time working for the Daily News, situated at 85 Field Street (now Joe Slovo Street) in central Durban. I rushed up to my news editor, Chris Smidt, and informed him about Mr Naidoo’s call and told him: “It seems the government has imposed a banning order on him”. “You go and get the story,” he said. When I arrived at the Lotus Club, Mr Naidoo, who was the President of the non-racial South African Amateur Swimming Federation at this time, was already sitting at a table in a corner of the large room. He had an envelope and some papers on the table in front of him. He looked very distraught. “Hi Subry. It seems the South African Government sees me as a terrorist. They have imposed a five-year banning order on me.” He opened the envelope and showed me the banning order signed by the then apartheid Justice Minister, Mr P C Pelser. Mr Naidoo, who was 38-years-old at this time, told me that two members of the security branch called at his offices in Goodhope Centre in the former Queen Street (now Denis Hurley Street) to deliver the banning order. He was banned in terms of Section 9 (1) of the Suppression of Communism Act 1950 and according to the order was prohibited from attending any social or political gathering. He was also barred from addressing, instructing or training pupils and students. “SPORTS MAN GETS BANNING ORDER” I rushed back to the office and wrote the article, which was published on November 24 1973 under the headline: “Sports man gets banning order”.
Mr Morgan Naidoo was one of the many sporting, political, social and educational anti-apartheid leaders that I should keep in touch with on a regular basis and write their struggle stories while working for the Daily News and thereafter when I founded and ran the Press Trust of SA Third World News Agency since 1980 until early 1994. I built a strong relationship with Mr Naidoo and the other struggle heroes and heroines and all of them used to inform me of the developments in their struggles. This interaction gave me the privilege and opportunity to write hundreds of articles on the anti-apartheid political and sporting struggles over the years between 1970 and early 1990s. In this feature, I am concentrating on the articles I had written about Mr Naidoo and his struggles and sacrifices to promote non-racial sport and swimming in particular. “WITHDRAWAL OF PASSPORT WILL DO ‘UNTOLD HARM’ TO S.A. SPORT”
The banning order was imposed only three months after the apartheid regime withdrew his passport at a time when Mr Naidoo was busy preparing to attend a meeting of the world swimming federation, FINA, at Belgrade in Yugoslavia at the end of August 1973. Mr Naidoo was to have presented a paper in support of his non-racial swimming federation’s application for membership of FINA. The white South African Amateur Swimming Union was a member of FINA at this time. The decision to withdraw Mr Naidoo’s passport was taken by the then Minister of Interior, Dr Connie Mulder. At this time Mr Naidoo was not only deeply involved in the promotion of non-racial sport but was also taking concrete steps to building two Olympic size non-racial swimming pools in South Africa. “POOLS PLANNED FOR 'MIXED' SWIMMING" This article was published on August 6 1973.
"SWIM CHIEF AWAITS PASSPORT" Mr Naidoo was waiting at this time for the return of his passport to attend the world swimming body’s meeting in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He had applied for an endorsement on his passport to travel to Belgrade. I wrote an article about this and it was published on August 14 1973 under the headline: “Swim chief awaits passport”.
"NAIDOO: LET'S CO-OPERATE FOR SA" Even after his passport was withdrawn, Mr Naidoo offered to help South Africa return to FINA after it was expelled at the end of August 1973. I wrote the article and it was published on August 31 1973 under the headline: “Naidoo: Let’s co-operate for SA”.
The withdrawal of his passport in August 1973 and the banning order imposed three months later were strongly condemned by the anti-apartheid fraternity. They included Mr D K Singh, who was president of the Amateur Swimming Union of Natal; and Mr Norman Middleton, who was president of the South African Soccer Federation at that time. But the white Amateur Swimming Association of Natal, Mr Mike Mortimer, refused to comment on the banning of Mr Naidoo. “It’s a political matter,” he told me. “OFF HIS MARKS”
The Daily News even published an editorial on August 22 1973 under the headline: “Off his marks”, strongly criticising Mr Mulder for his action in denying Mr Naidoo the freedom to travel overseas. “RAY SWART ATTACKS BANNING"
One of the progressive white political leaders at this time, Mr Ray Swart, who was the national chairperson of the Progressive Party, also condemned Mr Mulder’s action. Mr Swart told me: “If Mr Naidoo has committed any crime against the State he should be brought before the courts and tried. In the absence of this procedure one can only assume that the Government has taken the step because Mr Naidoo as a sports administrator has been advocate of non-racial sport. “From all accounts Mr Naidoo has never been actively involved in any political organisation but has devoted his energies throughout the years to sport.” “THREAT TO EXPEL SA SWIMMERS REGRETTED"
Mr Archie Hulley, who was the vice-chairperson of the non-racial S A Amateur Swimming Federation, told me in an interview on August 23 1973 that the withdrawal of Mr Naidoo’s passport would lead to SA being expelled from the world swimming body, FINA. About Mr Naidoo’s banning, Mr Hulley told me: “We can only presume that Mr Naidoo is being victimised because his ideas are not shared by those in authority. If this is so, then the Government’s oft-repeated claim that there is no racism in South African sport is false.” "SWIM BODY ATTACKS POOL RACISM" This racism was there for all to see and Mr Naidoo’s swimming federation pointed this out in its newsletter, called the South African Swimmer. I wrote this article and it was published on August 28 1973 under the headline: “Swim body attacks pool racism”
The non-racial swimming federation charged that of the 75 municipalities in South Africa, every one of them has at least one swimming pool for whites. But only 11 of them had a pool each for blacks. Despite the banning of Mr Naidoo on November 23 1973, his swimming federation refused to succumb to the oppressive actions of the apartheid regime. The federation chose to retain Mr Naidoo as its president. I wrote this article and it was published on November 26 1973 under the headline: “Banned man to retain presidency” "BANNED MAN TO RETAIN PRESIDENCY"
The vice-president of the swimming federation, Mr Archie Hulley, told me that the federation had decided that Mr Naidoo should continue in office “in so far as it may be necessary”. “We strongly deplore the action of the Minister in silencing Mr Naidoo who was dedicated to swimming on a non-racial basis in the country. “Despite the severe setback the federation will continue to propogate the ideals for which Mr Naidoo stands.” "BANNED ORDER PLEA" On April 4 1974, Mr Naidoo applied for a relaxation of his banning orders so that he could attend a crucial unity meeting between his federation and the white South African Amateur Swimming Union in Durban later that week. I wrote the article on April 5 1974 and this was published under the headline: “Ban Order plea”
But the very next day on April 6 1974 Mr Naidoo was refused permission to attend the meeting that was to have been held at the Edenroc Hotel in Durban on April 7 1974. I wrote this article and it was published under the headline: “Swimming chief can’t attend”. The Chief Magistrate of Durban had refused to grant him permission to attend the meeting.
(MR D K SINGH AND MR ARCHIE HULLEY AT A MEETING WITH WHITE SWIMMING OFFICIALS IN DURBAN IN 1974) "MOVE FOR INTEGRATED SWIMMING" Although Mr Naidoo was not present at the meeting, his fellow officials fully pushed his passion for integrated swimming in South Africa. The meeting decided to establish a multi-racial steering committee to investigate the possible introduction of integrated swimming in the country. Mr D K Singh and Mr Vasi Nair from Durban were appointed by the non-racial swimming federation to serve on the committee. One other anti-apartheid swimming official, Mr H C C Hendricks, president of the Eastern Province Swimming Association, was also chosen by Mr Naidoo’s organisation to serve on the committee. This article was published the next day on April 8 1974 under the headline: “Move for integrated swimming”.
At the same in April 1974, Mr Naidoo, who worked as insurance agent, wrote to the Minister of Justice, Mr Jimmy Kruger, asking for full reasons as to why he was banned for five years. But Kruger took his own time and after nearly five months later, the Minister through one of his officials said he was convinced Mr Naidoo was involved in communism. Mr Naidoo gave me details of this letter and I got it published on August 21 1974 under the headline: “Naidoo’s ban: Full details not given”. In the letter dated August 1 1974 the Justice official said: “The Minister is satisfied that you engage in activities which are furthering or are calculated to further the achievement of the objects of Communism. “The information which induced the Minister to issue the notice can, in his opinion, not be disclosed without detriment to public policy.” "TALKS ON INTEGRATED SWIMMING"
(Bring in news clip) Early in July 1974 the non-racial and white swimming organisations decided to bring about unity in swimming. The first article I wrote on this attempt was published on July 4 1974. But these talks in Cape Town did not yield much success and I wrote this article which was published on July 8 under the headline: “Swim talks: Still no solution”. "SWIM TALKS: STILL NO SOLUTION"
“MEETING ON OPEN SWIM CHAMPS” Despite the banning of Mr Naidoo, his federation continued with its talks with the white association and its affiliates about promoting mixed championships. I kept a close watch on these developments. On July 23 1974 I wrote an article which was published under the headline: “Meeting on open swim champs”.
"NO PROBLEMS IN MIXED GALA EXPECTED" Then two days later, I wrote another article. This was published under the headline: “No problems in mixed gala expected.”
"SWIM POOLS: COUNCIL ACCUSED" On July 29 1974 I wrote another article and this was published under the headline: “Swim pools: Council accused”.
“OLYMPIC POOL LIKELY TO BE FOR ALL RACES" Then on July 30 1974 I wrote another article about the Durban City Council saying that it was planning to build an Olympic size pool that would be used by all racial groups.
Although Mr Naidoo was not convicted of any crime against the state, the apartheid regime continued with its intimidation and harassment. “BANNED MAN, FAMILY REFUSED PASSPORTS" In early 1974, Mr Naidoo, and his wife, Maya, had planned to undertake a tour of Mozambique and Swaziland with their children, Jayseelan (13), Nithiaseelan (11) and Gonaloshnee (6) during the Easter holiday season. They made their applications for passports in February 1974. Three months after waiting for a response, Mr Naidoo wrote to the Department of Interior on May 27 to inquire about the applications. A month later an official of the Regional office in Durban replied that “the Secretary for Interior after careful consideration of your application has decided that he is not prepared to grant you the facilities”. I wrote the article and it was published on June 28 1974 under the headline: “Banned man, family refused passports”.
“NO PASSPORT FOR SWIM CHIEF'S WIFE" Then a year later in June 1975, Mr Naidoo’s wife, Maya, a nursery school teacher, had applied for a passport to visit Mauritius as part of a group of educators in July 1975. But, the Department of Interior, had declined her a travel document. The Department of Indian Affairs in Durban responded to her latest application in a similar manner that the office had responded a year earlier. Mr Naidoo once again contacted me about this latest harassment and I wrote the article that was published on June 17 1975 under the headline: “No passport for swim chief’s wife”.
“BANNED MAN ELECTED SWIMMING PRESIDENT" Meanwhile – the swimming federation took another step to re-iterate its support for Mr Naidoo when on January 19 1977 it unanimously decided to re-elect him as president of the federation. This was fifth time in succession that he was elected president. This article was published on January 20 1977 under the headline: “Banned man elected swimming president”.
“VOTE TO EXPEL SA 'NO SURPRISE'." While the South African authorities were harassing Mr Naidoo and his family, the world swimming body ratified in February 1976 its decision to expel white South Africa. I spoke to Mr Naidoo’s deputy, Archie Hulley, and he told me that they were not particularly sorry that their white counterparts had been expelled because of their racism. I wrote an article about this on 29 February 1976 and this was published under the headline: “Vote to expel SA ‘No Surprise’”.
“SWIMMERS MUST WAIT FOR UNITY" The expulsion of South Africa forced the white swimming union in the country to try to find some agreement with the non-racial swimming federation led by the banned Mr Morgan Naidoo. Mr D K Singh, president of the Natal non-racial swimming federation, informed me about this move and I wrote an article that was published on Oct 7 1976 under the headline: “Swimmers must wait for unity”.
“BLACK SWIMMERS INVITED TO DURBAN" In February 1976, the white swimming union invited Mr Naidoo’s federation to participate in a mixed swimming championship in Durban. But the non-racial federation delayed its decision even though six black African swimmers from Johannesburg had agreed to take part. Mr Archie Hulley, deputy president of the non-racial federation, told me they were still deciding their response. He also said the six black African swimmers were not their members. This article I had written was published under the headline: “Black Swimmers invited to Durban” on Feb 28 1976.
"BLACKS REJECT SWIMMING INVITATION" But Mr Naidoo’s swimming federation was not interested in “mixed” swimming championships only at national levels. Mr Naidoo’s deputy, Mr Archie Hulley, told me that they would be only interested once all swimmers were members of clubs that were non-racial in character and “non-racial swimming” was practised at all levels. I wrote this article on March 1 1976 and it was published under the headline: “Blacks reject swimming invitation”.
“BLACK AID PLEDGE ON ALL-RACE SWIM BODY" A year later in December 1977, Mr Naidoo’s organisation said they were willing to co-operate with its white counterpart to establish a single non-racial swimming body in the country provided certain conditions were met. The conditions were: • Swimming pools in every town and city be available to both black and white swimmers. • Integrated swimming be held at school level. • Black children join white clubs and vice versa. • Multi-national tournaments must be scrapped and non-racialism take its place. I wrote the article with information supplied by Mr Archie Hulley and other officials of the non-racial federation. This article was published on December 20 1977 under the headline: “Black aid pledged on all-race swim body”.
"BANNING ORDER ON SPORTS OFFICIAL NOT RENEWED" At the end of October 1978 Mr Naidoo received some good news when the then Minister of Justice, Jimmy Kruger, did not renew his five-year banning order which expired on October 31 1978. Mr Naidoo, who was 43-years-old at this time, telephoned me to inform me about what seemed to him to be a “dream”. “After five years of restriction I am now wondering whether it was all a dream,” he told me. I wrote the article and it was published on November 1 1978 under the headline: “Banning order on sports official not renewed.” Mr Dharma Nair, who was president of the Amateur Swimming Union of Natal, reacted to the Minister’s decision by saying that swimming had suffered enormously during the five years that he was silenced. South Africa had been isolated after the world swimming union, FINA, expelled the white swimming union from the world body in August 1973. “We welcome our ‘Mr Swimming’ back into our folds with open arms and are elated that he would now be able to continue to serve unhindered the cause of his first love, swimming at club, provincial and national levels”, Mr Nair told me.
Mr Naidoo went on to involve himself fully in the non-racial sporting fraternity and served not only swimming at national, provincial and club levels, but also the South African Council of Sport(SAOC) with leaders of the calibre of M N Pather, Norman Middleton, Hassan Howa, Ramhori Luthcman, Dharam Ramlall, R K Naidoo, and S K Chetty. Mr Naidoo and his fellow anti-apartheid sports leaders used the sporting arena to fight for a just and non-racial South Africa. Mr Naidoo, who was born in the Springfield/Asherville area in Durban in 1936, passed on, on October 20 1988 at the young age of 52 at a time when the struggles against the former apartheid regime was being escalated at all sides. Mr Naidoo’s life and contributions to the struggle should be a reminder to all South Africans about the roles played by stalwarts of his calibre. His values and principles are a difficult act to follow today. He and his fellow anti-apartheid leaders and activists were also shouting: “I can’t breathe” when the apartheid regime unleashed its oppressive measures against them at that time in the 1970s and 1980s. Ends – June 7 2020

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