Robert Haswell and Dr. Darrell Kruger, geography scholars from South Africa who now hold leadership positions in local government and academia, respectively, discuss the unifying power of rugby, monuments to a nation's troubled history and lessons learned from Nelson Mandela.
Megan Hayes: On this episode of Sound Affect, we have two guests who share a common history and interests. Robert Haswell was a senior lecturer in Geography at the University of Natal: Pietermaritzburg between 1974 and 1989, before entering parliament in South Africa, first as a member of the Democratic Party and then as an African National Congress Member of Parliament, from 1989 to 1994 Between 1996 and 2010, he served as the Municipal Manager and Senior Executive Manager of the Msunduzi Municipality. He's a Board member of the Umgungundlovu Economic Development Agency.
As a geographer and political activist, He has written extensively on the cultural geography of place and memory, racial landscapes, racial and social justice, and sports as mediators of political antagonisms. Haswell speaks on meeting and working with Nelson Mandela, and he's on our campus to share this lecture, as well and to engage more deeply with some of our students and faculty. Rob Haswell, welcome to our campus, and welcome to Sound Affect.
Rob Haswell: Thanks very much. It's great to be here.
Megan Hayes: Darrell Kruger began his tenure as provost and executive vice chancellor at Appalachian State University in July 2015. Kruger came to Appalachian from the University of New Orleans, where he was dean of the College of Education and Human Development. He holds a doctorate in Geography from Louisiana State University. In addition to the University of New Orleans, he has held administrative and faculty posts at Illinois State University and has been on faculty at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana State University.
Kruger's historical and geography research, publications, and presentations focus on South Africa and the United States. His fellowship appointments include the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Institute for Educational Management, the American Council on Education, and the Fulbright Group Project Abroad, South Africa. Darrell Kruger, thank you for joining us on Sound Affect.
Darrell Kruger: Great to be here. Thanks Megan.
Megan Hayes: I'd like to start with you Darrell. Could you take a moment to talk about why you invited Rob Haswell to our campus and what you hope our campus will gain from his visit?
Darrell Kruger: Certainly, Rob first and foremost is a geography as you mentioned. He's an exceptional teacher and I had the privilege of studying with him nearly 30 years ago. I think given Appalachian's commitment to teaching and learning, I thought him coming to campus and interacting with some classes which he did would be very beneficial as a teacher. Equally importantly, Rob also worked in local government and I think of much of his work as kind of applied cultural historical geography.
Given some of the things we continue to wrestle with in the United States, I think we can learn from his experience as an academic geographer working in an applied sense. If I give you a specific example, I think right now, nationally we continue to speak about Confederate monuments and memorials and there's lots of discussion around those. I think some of the work that Rob and folks in Pietermaritzburg worked on, it's been possible for them to be more inclusive and take more of an additive approach rather than as a practical approach. I think as a campus, we can learn much from Rob's experience and I think the students did The presentation and discussion last night was informative and fruitful-
Megan Hayes: I'm looking forward to hearing more about that. Can you talk a little bit about ... I know you just shared your professional history. Can you talk about how the two of you met and how you got to know Rob Haswell?
Darrell Kruger: Yeah. Rob and I met back in 1988. I had just finished a bachelor's degree and was looking to either study geography or town planning. I remember going to the University of Pietermaritzburg where Rob worked and I had never heard of what cultural geography was. I said to Rod," What is this cultural geography?" And he said, "Don't worry. Come here, you'll enjoy it." And so I went to Pietermaritzburg in 1988 and studied with him and three other faculty. Because of that experience, I decided to come to graduate school at LSU to work on a master's degree and eventually a PhD. As Rob will mention, he does have some connections with LSU.
That's sort of academic connection. So we've known each other for about 30 years and it continues to be fruitful and enjoyable relationship. Rob's been a very, very good mentor so I thank you for that again.
Megan Hayes: So, Rob Haswell, I'm interested in your work at LSU. In particular, I read an interesting anecdote about how the LSU rugby club came into being. Can you tell us a little bit about your work there and particularly talk about the rugby club and how it came into existence?
Rob Haswell: Okay, how did I know this would come up? If you're born white in South Africa and you have two arms and two legs, you play rugby. Let me give you an example. In a South African high school, you enter high school, let's say you're 12 years old. That school will field an under 13 A, B, C, D, E, F team. Under 14, the same. Under 15, the same, and then senior teams, first, second, third, fourth, fifth.
Any good rugby player in high school, on an average Saturday, 15, 16 rugby teams will play against the teams from another school. Rugby for white South Africans, particularly of Afrikaans background is pretty much religion, which may be understating its importance incidentally. I played rugby at high school. I played rugby at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Got to LSU in 1970, I'd finished a masters degree at Southern Illinois. I had a three year period where I fiddled around with flag football, but [inaudible 00:05:59]. There was no rugby there.
I'd actually thought, "well, basically my rugby playing days are over." Two guys walked into my room and they said, "Are you the white South African guy that's just joined the faculty?" I said, "Yes." They said, "You interested in rugby?" And I said, "Yeah." The one guy pulled out a rather battered, rather round rugby ball and said, "Well, we'd like you to start rugby." I said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute." It turned out the one guy had played some rugby in Maryland, the other guy was a real southern and he told me, "Yes, we tried a couple of years ago. We had a game but it ended in a brawl."
I immediately said, "Well, look guys, I love rugby. It's part of me but, who we gonna play against?" "No," he said, "Don't worry, there's a team in Hammond, Louisiana. There's a team in Tulane. There's Loyola, [inaudible 00:06:51] College Alabama." I said, "Hey, you mean there's three or four clubs?" "Yeah, there's clubs in Texas, blah, blah, blah." I said, "Okay." We put a little notice in the daily student newspaper. "Anybody who likes football is gonna like rugby. It's a crazy, high contact sport. No pads, no blocking but you'd knock the hell out of each other and then you drink beer together after a game."
I think that caught their attention. Maybe the beer but, the first meeting, I get there, I've got this bad rugby ball. Over 80 students turned up. "When's the first practice?" That was it. I then scratched around. I still had an old pair of rugby ... Because rugby is played in shorts. I walked out and I could see the Americans were looking thinking, "no, no, no. This cannot be a rough game if you're gonna wear short ... this is the [inaudible 00:07:46] on the beach. What are you talking about?" they got over that. As it turned out, I was quite lucky because in rugby, there's four or five key positions. It's like, if you're gonna start a football team, if you don't have a quarterback, it's pretty difficult.
I could play that kind of quarterback, the playmaker role. I had a couple of big guys who'd been in a scrum before so they could stand up. And then there are no shortage of big, tall american guys that played basketball who were ideal for winning lineouts, rebounds in rugby. Of course, for back-line runners, Louisiana is full of them. I found it very easy to teach Americans because I learned that in fact, American football didn't just fall from the sky. It was actually adapted from rugby.
Harvard and Yale used to play rugby against each other in the 1870s. Harvard played a 15 man game based on the rugby game in England. Yale happened to prefer an 11 man game of rugby on a narrower field. When Harvard and Yale played, on the Saturday that they played the Harvard game, on the Sunday they'd play the Yale game. To cut a long story short, Walter Camp at Yale became a leading light. If you ask me, "Why are there 11 players in american football and that size field?" It's because Yale played rugby with 11 players on that field.
Yale then looked at rugby and said, "This is a mass of bodies all clambering, wrestling for the ball." The ball is in amongst there somewhere. One team keeps it, so he said, "Hey we've gotta separate this." He took a rugby scrummage and he created a line of scrimmage between them. He then systematically said, "okay, one team cannot have the ball for 30 minutes, so you've go four downs to make 10 yards." Then you gotta walk the cross-line so you get the gridiron football.
From those beginnings, and it really struck me. The goalpost, the width and the crossbar in football are identical to those in rugby. It's a tell tale. It tells you, "This is where the game comes from." There are one or two relics of rugby left in football, but obviously football went its ... I don't know whether to be happy about Walter Camp or curse him, because but for him, America probably would now be the world's best rugby playing country, and they will be one day. There's no question about it.
To cut a very long story short, I was able to print something almost like the 10 Commandments. In rugby, you may not pass the ball forward, you may not block anybody, you can only tackle the person who has the ball. If you're scared, get rid of the ball. Pass it laterally to the guy next to you. It was very easy. In two practices, I could take a guy who'd played football ... You're playing on a field. The objective of the game, advance that ball and cross the opposition's line. Hey, if you can run through people, so much the better, but use the ball. Play three, four lateral balls, and it's nonstop. There's no downs, and of course you've gotta learn how to tackle because you don't have pads.
I look at football now, football is in a crisis because of all the concussions and brain damage. They need to look at rugby. We tackle big people every day of the week, because we know how to tackle. We know how to use the shoulder, we know how to use the arms. We don't have helmets on, so you learn where to put your head because if you put your head in front, you get kicked. You get concussed. On that score, the Seattle Seahawks are now employing rugby coaches to teach their defensive teams how to do it.
So, within two, three weeks we were [rompt 00:11:20] all over Tulane, Loyola, Hammond, we whipped all of them. I think we won four of five games. It got very popular. Within the first two years, we produced two guys who went on to play rugby for America and in different parts of the world because Louisiana is football country. You have a pyramid. You've got hundreds of students who've played high school football, who thought they'd make the LSU side, who didn't get on. What do they do? Rugby filled that vacuum.
We had guys coming out and literally ... I'd see a guy on a Tuesday and say, "Listen, I want you out here two, three days because you're playing in my team on Saturday." He'd say, "I don't know the rules." I'd say, "I don't want you to know the rules. I just want you to get the ball and run and add American flare to it. Do what another rugby team is not gonna expect you to do."
Rugby got big on campus. We actually played a couple of curtain raisers to football in Tiger Stadium. The club will be 50 years old in 2020 and it's still going strong, and rugby is a brotherhood. Once you start playing ... You go to war with people without the ammunition and the protective clothing. Once you've sweated blood, sweat and tears with the rugby people on your own team, you develop enormous respect for somebody who clobbers the hell out of you legitimately and fairly on a field.
Rugby is unlike any American sport. It's a rough, tough game, but sportsmanship is the order of the day. You listen to the referee. You don't argue with him. If a guy cuts a big hit on you, you get up, you wait for him to get the ball, you give him one back with interest. So yeah, it's been an amazing success story that it's still going. I think as you've seen, now that rugby seven got into the Olympics, I look forward to the day when America is able to see that they indeed have so many surplus football players that could be playing rugby and they'll beat the world. They'll beat the rest of the world because you've got the best athletes in the world.
Megan Hayes: We'll look at our game this weekend a little bit differently than I think I would have prior to this conversation. You talked about this a little bit but, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the power of sport in building community. Can you talk about your personal experience with sport and how it allows communities to come together?
Rob Haswell: Amazingly, and I guess 90% of the credit of what happened in sport in South Africa must go to Nelson Mandela. While he was on Robben Island, 27 years, not entirely all on the island, but obviously having nothing but time to think. One of the many things he did was, he learned the Afrikaans language. The Afrikaners were the ruling party. They were the architects of apartheid. He knew that when he came out, [at least 00:14:17] he can speak their language, how the hell is he gonna negotiate a solution to the country's problems?
Having learned the language, he then also began to appreciate that rugby was very close to Afrikaners' hear. Next to the Dutch Reformed Religion, rugby was number two and South Africa, we were very good at rugby. It was the only sport in which South Africa could play the rest of the world and triumph. Again, if you're who'd been beaten by the English way back, lovely to get one over them. Rugby international games, when South Africa plays England or Wales, you sing the national anthems of each country before the game. It's on conflict with good rules. I cannot overestimate the importance of rugby to white Afrikaners. This was their moment.
Mandela realized that, and South Africa just happened to be able to host the World Cup in '95. That's the year after he became president. He saw exactly what this meant to the Afrikaners and against his own party, he said, "Hey ..." and the South African team is known as the Springboks. Their emblem is the antelope, the springbok. The ANC said "No, that's an apartheid symbol. It must go. Has to be replaced along with the flag, the anthem. Let's reject it." Mandela said, "No, it's an important symbol. You elected me to unify the country, don't now take decisions that divide us even further. We've got enough divisiveness in this country. It's a time for healing."
He said, "I want us to keep the springbok, and I want people to support the Springboks because it's no longer an all white team. It's now a South African team, get behind it." And he prevailed. He stuck his neck out because in the ANC, you can be the leader, but if the collective says, "No, no, no," it would have been a massive humiliation for him to do that. He stuck to his guns. South Africa got to the finals of the World Cup in South Africa. He comes out wearing the Springbok jersey ... Hey, I get choked up thinking about this. Anyway, I think almost within a minute, he turned the whole country on its head.
On a smaller scale, thanks largely to the effort of one of my sons, because a lot white South Africans then also believed, "Well, that's fine but black people will never like rugby. They love soccer." We've shown on our local campus in Pietermaritzburg the exact opposite. That rugby can be exciting, can be attractive. That university, which is now 90% a black student body, now fields a rugby team which will have 10, 11 black players. Often we joke, we say, "Yeah, there's a white quota. We need two or three tall white guys to win the ball for us." It's now the most popular sport. It exceeds soccer in terms of its appeal.
If you go and watch those game, you watch rugby, there being played and enjoyed by black people, you sit there and you think it's almost as if apartheid never existed because these are things which people said will never happen. Sport has been able to work wonders.
Megan Hayes: It's really amazing to me because I think about rugby as such an aggressive and competitive sport and yet it was such a unifying factor in times of real turmoil.
Rob Haswell: Absolutely, yeah.
Megan Hayes: Rob, how and why did you get into politics?
Darrell Kruger: This is gonna be a long answer.
Rob Haswell: Yeah, let me cut to the chase. Look, I think by the mid to late 1980s, there was reason to be optimistic. The winds of change were blowing, not just across Africa, but in South Africa. One could sense that at last, some kind of realism was coming into the scene. Mandela was not just in jail for 27 years, he was a banned person. Banned organization, which meant that nobody could print a picture of him or quote him.
I had to come to America to learn about who the hell this guy was. What did he stand for? I've got a lot to thank America in that regard. The more I read about him, I said, "[inaudible 00:19:05]." He says South Africa belongs to all the living black and white men. What's so terrible about ... We put a man in jail for saying that? I got involved in local politics on environmental issues, but very soon realized, "Listen, environmental is a sideshow in relation to what needs to be done." I began to introduce motions about calling for non racial election and so in a local level.
That attracted the attention of some guys who were forming a new political party. They got ahold of me one day and, "We want you to be a candidate." I said, "no, no, no. I'm not gonna get involved in white politics." "No, no, no. This is not white politics. This is the last white election. Once we're in, we're gonna push like mad for the ANC to be unbanned. As soon as they're unbanned, we're gonna seek to work closely with them. We want to avoid what's happened in the rest of Africa. Clack government comes in, whites pack and leave. We've gotta become the passport. We gotta be the bridge that shows we can work. We can use our expertise to help usher in a sensible, same majority government in the country."
I said, "that sounds good, but I don't believe you." They said, "Well, you can write it into our constitution." So I wrote that clause. On that basis, I get elected to parliament in 1989. The first sitting on the 2nd of February 1990, the then president FW de Klerk announces, "I am today unbanning the African National Congress. I will be releasing Mr Mandela in due course." Bang, hallelujah, it's happened, so massive celebration because I thought, "Okay hey, this is exactly what I wanted."
Go to the caucus meeting of the party and say, "Okay, now what?" "Now we have to move cautiously." I said, "Hey, our constitution ... We got elected to now start talking seriously to the ANC." "Yeah I know, we will. We will," but clearly the leadership was stalling. They didn't want it. This carried on. 1981, we more or less forced them. We had a two day session. 15 from the Democratic Party, 15 from the ANC, chaired by Mandela. The end of the two days, he said, "Look, I think we have more in common than separates us. Let's not play semantics. I think we should form joint working groups." He said, "I'll be perfectly honest with you. We can learn a lot from your experience, your expertise. We're going to win the election, make no mistake."
He said, "But we are naive when it comes to finance, running the country, budgeting, context with business, economic advice." He said, "That's your guys bread and butter so let's work together. We don't have to merge, you don't have to lose your identity, but let's work together." Of course, we were about to go into serious negotiations about a new constitution. Again, I thought hallelujah again.
It very soon became clear to me that the Democratic Party had despite signing the joint agreement, would rather work closely with the apartheid government party, and I said, "No. I feel totally betrayed." Because I didn't stand for [inaudible 00:22:37]. I didn't get elected on that basis. In April of '92, five of us just said, "Hey, there's no good fighting and arguing with these guys every week." So, we made an appointment. We went to see the ANC. We met Mandela and we said, "Here we are. We're offering our services to the ANC. Take us or leave us, but that's who we are."
He said, "Look, I need to consult with my regions. I don't know you from [inaudible 00:23:04]. Let me see what kind of ... Are you good guys? Have you got any standing? Come back and see me next week," which we did. Came back the next week, he walked in and he said, "Gentlemen, you're welcome to join ANC. We welcome you with open arms. One condition, you must pay your $12 membership." I jumped up. I had a $20, I slapped it in his hand. He said, "No." I said, "Yes." And I said, "You can keep the change." I've still got my regional membership card that he signed. Andy Warhol said everybody has to be famous in their life, even if it's for only 15 minutes, so yeah.
I became instantly famous. Hated by alot of white people. I was a, you know what lover. I was this, I was that. I was turncoat. I was a traitor, whatever, but for every white person, I probably gained 1000 black admirers, so it was a whirlwind. Democratic Party, if you had a meeting you'd get 30, 40 people, ANC you'd get 30,000.
Megan Hayes: It made international news, I mean, it was-
Rob Haswell: That whole moving around then with Mandela, going to rallies, introducing him, having to give a vote of thanks after him, how do you do that? How do you introduce this guy? How do you speak after him? He's left, everybody's walking out. You're supposed to speak. At local government, I became the first ANC mayor of my city and the first city manager. In the run up to the '94 elections, ANC asked me to organize one day with him. "You're the geographer. You know where to take him. Urban, rural, big, small, blah, blah, blah, blah."
Mandela came down and I said, "This is what we have." He said, "Well, you're the boss." I said, "I beg your pardon?" He said "you're the boss. You tell me. I do whatever you do. What you tell me to do." I had an incredible quiet moment with him, where you get behind the mask. The smiling, lovable, fantastic guy that he is, but you see him in quiet times when he's not so certain. When maybe he's emotional or whatever. That was an incredible experience.
Then Pietermaritzburg, and Darrell touched on this. We were a typical British colonial city. Statues of Queen Victoria, the Dutch founders who laid it out. Victorian architecture, that was it. I stood up one day and said, "You know, this city is famous for one thing only," and it's actually infamous. This is where Mahatma Gandhi got thrown off a train, because although he had the ticket, he had the wrong color.
I said, "that's a site of international significance. The station is there. We can mark that spot. We can mark where he spent the first night and decided there and then that he would launch a nonviolent resistance campaign, which changed the course of history in India, South Africa, and inspired the Civil Rights Movement in this country." I said, "Hey, we've got a site of international significance. What have we got statues of Queen Victoria for?" Nothing against Queen Victoria and I never met the lady.
I managed to convince the council then that we should have a statue of Gandhi. That that was easily the most famous incident in the history of the city. The most prominent statue in the main street, right outside the colonial buildings that he peppered with petitions and letters and so on, symbolically that's where he stands. He occupies pride of place. The other statues stay, but they're almost incidental. You pass them. They don't stop you. Just in passing. One of the problems with the Confederate State statues, whatever you think it is, they aren't pedestals and they demand your attention. You have to look up to them whether you want to or not. You go to Richmond, Virginia, down the street that's it. You can't miss it. It dominates.
We adopted an approach said, "No, these other statues are fine, but they cannot dominate." Because Queen Victoria was a colonialist. Some of these other guys were ... Yeah, they had slaves. Yeah, they're part of our history but frankly I don't want to look up at them all day. I don't want to be forced to look up to them, so yeah, they can survive almost as reminders of what you probably shouldn't do. We were able then to add things. With Mandela's assistance, I asked him ... Because he was arrested we knew somewhere north of our city, outside the city on the 5th of August 1962.
I said to him one day, "look, if I drive you down that road, would you find the spot?" "Oh, yes, yes, yes." I said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." He described the whole scene. As a geographer, I knew I could ... I said, "Hey, I can narrow it down ow to two or three miles." We duly took him down that road and he said, "yeah, this is where it all happened." Sp the Mandela capture site has become an international ... The city now has the railway station, the Gandhi statue, the Mandela capture site. He was captured there, he was brought to Pietermaritzburg. He spent one night in our prison. He appeared in our magistrates court the next morning.
We have site of international ... You can walk in the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela in the city. You don't have to demolish anything else. You simply build up those two iconic figures and what they meant and I think that's also crucial. I was in New Orleans once and I'm thinking, "Was Robert E Lee ever in New Orleans? How come he occupies ..." I'm not being discouraging towards ... I'm sure he was a wonderful general et cetera, et cetera, but the reality is, [inaudible 00:28:36] totally out of place in New Orleans.
We've said, "Yes, the others are a part of the history, but our parks, our street names and our most prominent statues must surely reflect people who were ahead of their time. People who we admire to this day." I've had incredible experiences with Mandela, and as I said, for two days, I was actually his boss which was quite funny because he would be quite humorous. He'd say, "Well, you're the boss," but he'd have a twinkle in his eye.
Megan Hayes: I want to ask both of you this question. One of the criticisms of Mandela, I think it was really interesting for me to hear you talk about coming here to learn about him, because I was a teenager at the time. I remember being in high school and stories about Mandela and apartheid were in the daily news. That was something that I was relating to and trying to find my place with in terms of, where did I stand politically on that and how could I make a statement about that being a kid that grew up here.
One of the criticisms of Mandela, which I do think is common for activists who work within government or rather structural systems to affect change, it seems like the people who are working within those systems, whether they're government or whether they're academic or whether they're corporate, they are often criticized by those who are outside that system. "You're not being bold enough, you're not doing enough. We want you to do more."
At the same time, those inside that system are saying, "You're being too bold. Don't go so fast. Slow down." I'm interested in both of your perspectives. As an academic, someone who holds a leadership position in academia Darrell, and also positions of power within government and you've touched on that a little bit already Rob. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Darrell Kruger: Yeah, I'll go first. First of all, it's been a delightful conversation. You can see why I wanted Rob to come to campus. This is a great podcast. I think two things as I've been listening in the time that we've been together. We've spoken about rugby and respect. Everyone is sort generalized. I use those two anchors if you wish, because rugby as Rob said is more than a game. You learn to work in a collaborative way with people. You're not the most important person on the team. Everyone has a role to play.
And then we've been speaking about respect. The fact that Pietermaritzburg is a city, South Africa is a country. One group had political power, but in order to bring about that change, you have to be able to respect other people and listen. Those two anchors, the way they translate into my work in the current role that I'm in is, I don't have a great deal of power. I have positional power, I have a title, but the only real power I have is the power to persuade people that I have a good idea or two.
The way you do that, drawing on sort of the teamwork with rugby and respect of people is, you have to be a good listener. You have to truly listen to people. I think I was sharing the other day, one of my favorite biographies is Meacham's Biography by Thomas Jefferson because Jefferson was president at a different time, but he opened The White House and just listened to people and what people had to say.
I try and model that in the work that I do, knowing that we have to have a great deal of respect for the institution in this case, for the history of the institution. As we chart a course forward to bring about change, we have to build on the strengths of the institution in a respectful way, and when we make decisions that may seem radical departures from our institutional DNA, we have to as leaders take the time to explain to people why we make those decisions in the way that we do.
The glue that really keeps us together, at least in higher education and as I've been listening to Rob today and over the course of the last few days in politics, I think you have to consult with people and shared governance what we value and pride in higher education. John Lombardi wrote a great book a couple of years ago called How Universities Work. One of the points he makes in the book is that universities change very, very slowly, and I think probably political systems do to some extent as well.
We are just here for a moment in time to be able to influence the course forward. People who are not in those roles, and not because they know more or because they're cavalier, they oftentimes look at the work that's done in higher education or in politics and they may be critical and say, "you're not moving quickly enough." Or, "You're moving too slowly." At the end of the day, we're stewards for a particular point in time and can advance things and really history over a longer period of time will be a better judge than sort of trying to see change in a month or a few months or a couple of years even.
I think the shared governance piece is a critically important one. In my role, it's my responsibility with the slow and steady growth that we continue to have, it to advocate for the requisite resources to ensure we can add faculty positions and we can add the physical facilities to ensure that we can remain a strong institution. We can serve our students as best as possible so they can be successful and go on to transform other people's lives in society.
Rob Haswell: Let me start ... Obviously I'm a great admirer of Mandela. I don't think I hero worship him, and I think we often make a mistake like that. Politicians are not worth of heroism, because politics by definition is the art of what is possible. You can have a campaign, you can dream about ... Take the American system, it's built on checks and balances. You can have a Democratic president elected by a huge majority, and a Republican controlled Congress. How revolutionary can you be? No names, no pectoral. Or you can have a president that doesn't ... Even if he's on the same party, doesn't necessarily get along with them.
I think it's applicable. One looks at the South African situation ... No good saying whether it was a political miracle, it was this, it was that. Mandela recognized that in order for us to go not just from apartheid, but from a parliamentary system to a constitutional system with a Bill of Rights, so that voting, whether you were black or white ... Yes you had the vote, but the constitution protected. We have 11 official languages. Nobody can feel left out, "Hey, I'm a foreigner. This is my country, but I'm not allowed to use my mother tongue."
If you go to court, you can speak your mother tongue and they have to make adjustments so they can understand you rather than you have to go and speak broken English and maybe get a life sentence because your English wasn't so good. Then we have a Human Rights Commission, a Gender Commission. All those kind of institutions. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association. Whether you're a minority or not, if your language is protected, your language, your religion, your whole culture, then it really doesn't matter who's the government does it? You've just gotta be good neighbors, get on with it, respect people.
I live in a block in which there's two Christian churches and a mosque. People say, "You're living near a mosque?" I say, "Yeah, it's five doors away." I'm surrounded by people of all religions. I have the world's religions in one block. I can hear 10 or 12 languages every day. Just sit outside, students are walking past from all over Africa. That whole idea of getting unity and diversity, and he brought it. He recognized that. Said, "Yeah." You can come up with all these radical ideas, let's do this, let's do that. You could've prompt a really bloody civil war.
People say, "Hey, we're gonna fight to the death," and if you threaten people, if you say, "listen, you either give up power or we kill you," well, then you're gonna have a war. That's very simple. I reject almost with contempt when people say Mandela wasn't bold enough. Let me tell you, the guy spent ... His resolution, his defiance, 27 years. He came out of jail saying exactly the same thing he said when he went in. He didn't compromise on one issue. He said, "every person in this country of adult age, regardless of [inaudible 00:37:40], color should the vote. Nonnegotiable."
He had 48 meetings with the government in secret. It's coming out now. They kept trying to say, "Well you know, we'll never accept that." He said, "Well, then there's no basis for further discussion." They'd come back and say, "Okay, how do you protect us?" He said, "Well, Afrikaans, I've learned that it's a wonderful language. I think it should be one of the official languages." Suddenly the Afrikaners' main fear, "Are we gonna get wiped off the face of the earth by this black majority?" Boom, he said, "No, no, no. That's why you have a Bill of Rights."
The changes he brought, not just freedom but to create a new society, a constitutional democracy. There's probably only two on the world you know? Other than the US and South Africa, yeah ... Canada is often described as a constitution that's looking for a country. It needs a bit of a simplification. I think people should ... It's fine in campaigns and rallies, "This is a movement, it's gonna do this, it's gonna do that." Once you get into power ... As Darrell was saying, this is a big institution with a history. You're ability to change course is there, but it has to be incremental. It's not gonna be, "Hey, from tomorrow, the national language is Arabic. All classes will be in Arabic." Go away, what are we talking about? That's chaotic.
As you grapple with diversity issues, whatever, whatever, I think as Darrell was saying, there's a reaching out, listening process. Mandela again, how do you address people's fears? Well for a start, understand them. If you can't speak their language, how the hell are you gonna communicate with them? It sounds fundamental, but if I ask now, how many Americans speak Korean? I don't expect you to speak Korean, but how many in the Diplomatic Corps? How do you deal with North Korea if nobody can speak their language? It's not a political statement, I'm just saying. If you wanna be interactive, reaching out, having alternatives to war, then you've gotta be able to talk.
I think I'm correct. As we sit here now, South Africa does not have a Consul General in South Korea. What are we gonna communicate? I don't want to be sarcastic, are we gonna conduct this by Twitter? What are we gonna do? There's gotta be somebody. You gotta reach out. As repugnant and ridiculous as we see what's happening in North Korea, don't think I'm apologizing for them for one second, but there's gotta be that basis for discussion. That's the only way to avert that kind of crisis.
I think we ought to see what Mandela did in that ... What's possible. What are the key elements at that time? Maybe there's been a rallying cry for 30 years, "We need to do this," but at that particular juncture, what do we do? As he recognizes rugby, yeah I can wipe rugby out. I can say, "Hey, rugby is banned." I can do what my predecessors did. I can ban things I don't like and you're just gonna alienate large sections of your population. I think in fact, that's his gift to the world.
Megan Hayes: If you'll indulge me one final question.
Rob Haswell: I'll leave it to Darrell. I get on my high horse sometimes.
Megan Hayes: No, I'm very much enjoying this. It relates so much. As you said Darrell, to the conversations that are taking place across our campus every day, and multiple times a day. This is actually related to a book that some of our high school English classes are reading. They're reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
I've been tuned into that because I have a daughter in high school. I heard him recently in an interview talking about how in America, we're burdened by the history of genocide and slavery that we haven't addressed, and we're burdened by it because we haven't addressed it. His point is that until we as a nation can address this, we can't become a society that values our citizens equally.
He referenced Rwanda and Germany and South Africa as nation that their societies have recognized that they can't make progress without this process and he calls it giving truth a hearing. He talks about how you can't have justice without truth. His point is that we first have to talk about slavery and we have to talk about lynchings, we have to talk about segregation. I was thinking about that more when you were speaking earlier about not wiping out some of these monuments that you have, but providing the fuller story for people. From your experiences in South Africa, I'm interested, both of you, in you speaking to the value in the process of that truth telling on a very large societal scale.
Rob Haswell: Yeah, let me be brief. Another one of Mandela's genius ideas was to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Desmond Tutu. That afforded every individual in South Africa ... "If you believed that you committed a crime that was politically motivated, please come forward and if you tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, that commission can grant you amnesty, you'll never be charged. We want the truth to come out."
They held hearing around the country and it gave an opportunity for many of the apartheid killers to come forward and say, "Hell, please I'm sorry. I killed. Yeah it was me. I opened fire that night. I killed 11 people. We cut them up and we buried them. I know where they're buried and if need be, I'll take you and show you the spot." You say that in front of the families.
Anyway, I don't want to say that solved all of the issues, but certainly it took a burden off people on both sides. It allowed families to achieve closure, particularly for Africans with their deeply spiritual values, that not knowing where your child or relative is born, actually the child never lived then. The child has no hope of getting any spiritual relief after death if you can't. It's important for anybody to know, but in Africa, it's doubly important to you. Your very being, it's as if you never existed. If we don't know how you dies, where you're buried, you're nothing.
That process was very important, and of course we took that idea. Mandela played a key role in Rwanda-Burundi as well on that basis. It didn't solve all of the problems. I sometimes still get a bitter and twisted. I know people who were killed. I've got a pretty sure idea of who killed them and they didn't come forward, but I've had to get over that. That was the process. It's not for me now to try and ferment anger and violence. That was the moment we closed the chapter.
I think there are lessons from America to be learned because as I say, you can look at the Civil Way purely as a military exercise, or you can dig deeper. I think it would be very important for Americans to do that to deal with it. What was this war about? South African history is riddled with, "Oh no. This wasn't about slavery. This was about land." Rubbish, absolute rubbish. It was about maintaining relationships between the boss and the underling, the master and the slave at the end of the day.
The British did the same. Both the Afrikaners and the British tried to wipe out the Zulu nation on several occasions for a very simple reason. They wanted the Zulus to be laborers, nothing else. To help grow the economy and for they, they had to subjugate them quite simply. If you read the Anglo-Zulu War, these famous battles, highest number of Victoria Crosses awarded in a single day. It's a glorious military exercise. Yes it is. I can admire their bravery, but what hell were they doing there in the first place?
And then you realize the other wars were fought between the English and the Dutch because suddenly they found diamonds and then gold and everybody said, "Hey, we didn't draw this map properly. Let's just change the line. We need that gold, we need the diamonds. Now you gotta conquer somebody else." Again, the wars in South Africa we not glorious events. Very difficult to regard those people as heroes. Some of them were very brave, but the reality is, the wars were fought for some dubious reasons. Of course, the politicians don't openly say that, and unfortunately the history is all written by usually the people who won the war, so you get a very slanted view. Enough said from me.
Darrell Kruger: As folks know, I really like quotes and I'm kind of a quote collector. As we've been speaking, I think one of the quotes I think that's a tribute to Nelson Mandela is, you said in terms of language, you said if you speak to a person in a language they don't understand, it goes to their head but if you speak to them in their language, it goes to their heart. In a literal sense, you're looking at language, but sort of apply it to the question you posed.
I think you can also look at language in a metaphorical sense as well. I think again, truly the ability to understand when people are speaking about their perspective and their experience and the way you truly move anything forward is by truly listening to people and truly understanding. Even if you don't agree with their perspective, understanding where they're coming from.
The other quote of course would by Achebe. Chinua Achebe is now deceased, but probably most famous for the book Things Fall Apart, which was translated into many, many, probably a dozen languages. He said, "Until the lions produce their own historian, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." If you apply those quotes to our current context, whatever the perspective is and whatever the polemics are, we have to go in as human beings, truly listening to other people's perspectives and then trying to forge a way forward.
If we don't, we then just live in echo chambers, where you just got one group positing and extreme perspective or their perspective, and the other group positing their perspective and you just remain locked in those positions. I think the listening piece can't be overemphasized.
Megan Hayes: Wow, thank you both very much for your time and your thoughtful answers. I appreciate your bringing your South African perspectives, combined with your perspectives of people who've lived and worked in Southern United States in particular. I think that has really made for a very rich and engaging conversation and conversations that I know are going to continue on this campus. There's so much more for us in this regard to discuss on our campus and you're giving us this great ... I was gonna say jumping off point, but we've been jumping off for a while.
Darrell Kruger: It's just continuing the conversation.
Megan Hayes: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've got this endeavor and it's challenging. It's difficult, this work of building a campus that's welcoming to a diversity of thought, belief and community. These conversations are so critical to that work so thank you very, very much for your time and for being here today.
Darrell Kruger: Thank you.
Rob Haswell: Thank you and good luck. It only took us 20 years so you got some catching up to do.
Megan Hayes: A little bit, yeah I think so.