We have all been no doubt inspired by the story of Siya Kolisi’s rise from humble beginnings to lead the Springbok rugby team to world cup glory in 2019.
A journey which took him from the Dan Qeqe rugby stadium in Zwide to one of the biggest stadiums in the world, playing for its biggest prize.
Few though would realise just how much providence and destiny would converge in Kolisis’s story. That his story is a fulfilment of a dream and a path blazed decades before by a man fighting for equal opportunities for all black Sportsmen and women.
Kolisi’s story starts almost 70 years ago with the arrival in Zwide of one Dan Dumile Qeqe. Originally of Fort Beaufort, the avid sportsman, shrewd businessman and community organiser became one of the leading voices for change in the community.
A avid rugby player himself Qeqe joined the Spring Rose Rugby Football Club on his arrival in Port Elizabeth. He also excelled at his other great passion, Cricket, for which he received provincial colours.
Such was his desire for his people to gain equal representation in the sports fields that he became a leading administrator in rugby and cricket in the 1970’s.
With apartheid restrictions firmly entrenched, sport became another vehicle through which life was strangled in the black communities. It was under these conditions that Qeqe rose to prominence.
A man of vision and rare courage, Qeqe formed one of the first non-racial rugby unions of the time, the Kwazekele Rugby Union(KWARU).
This was ground breaking as at that time rugby was severely divided by race with the South African Rugby Association(SARA) exclusively for blacks and the South African Rugby Federation(SARF) for coloureds operating as separate entities.
Qeqe and KWARU cut through all the divisive labels and joined the South African Rugby Union(SARU) on a non-racial basis.
Unfortunately his initiative received no support from the then Bantu Administration Board who denied him access to all facilities.
Undeterred, Qeqe mobilised the community and set out to build his own stadium which today bears his name. Such was the success of the endeavour that his stadium would host the SA Cup Final between Tygerburg and Kwaru in 1975.
Shortly thereafter, though, his activities caught the attention of the infamous Special Branch of the South African Security Police and he was detained in late 1977 for allowing his stadium to be used for political rallies.
He continued to be a supporter of local rugby and was involved up until the time of his passing in 2005, perhaps not yet fully seeing the change that he was hoping for, as South African rugby found its way through the early years of the rainbow nation.
His life’s work as a sports administrator did receive recognition in October of 2019 as he was posthumously awarded the Andrew Mlangeni Green Jacket. The award recognises unsung heroes of sport from the Apartheid era an award that was long overdue.
With the path that Kolisi has trodden the saying is true that “Society grows when men plant trees whose shade they know they may never get to sit under”. The shade that Qeqe left behind will forever stretch into the stories that are told of this world cup.
“I really believe an individual can change South Africa, and sometimes you got to do something as simple as living your life and fighting for your dreams” Siya Kolisi
We trust Baas Dan that what has grown from the fruits of your labour will be worthy of your sacrifice.
Details: Pegasus Publishing