THE sporting achievements of Basil D’Oliveira, Papwa Sewgolum, David Samaai and others are often raised for the wrong reasons as sportsmen of “colour” who had caused a stir in apartheid South Africa.
Contrast their stories with Bevil Rudd, Barry Richards, Gary Player, Frew McMillan and Johan Kriek – they are sure to be mentioned for their stellar sporting achievements. Richards scoring a hundred before lunch, Player’s part of the Big Three (Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus) and Kriek and McMillan for their grand slam achievements in tennis.
Rudd is referred to as the first South African to have won the men’s 400m in 1920 at the Antwerp Olympic Games.
D’Oliveira, on the other hand, is remembered for inadvertently plunging South Africa into sporting isolation after a political blunder by Prime Minister John Vorster in 1968. Vorster had banned D’Oliveira, who had been picked for the England cricket team, from playing in South Africa. Sewgolum is remembered for accepting his prize in the rain after being banned from entering the Durban Country Club after he had beaten Harold Henning in 1963 and Player in 1965.
Samaai was referred to as the first coloured chap to have a won a match at Wimbledon in 1949, one year after the National Party under white and apartheid Prime Minister Danie Malan had come to political power.
While the apartheid system denied, stymied and stultified the progress of non-white players, the resilience of many shone through in those dark days of apartheid.
One such player was the multi-talented sportsman William Londt, 81, a retired Inspector of Education.
Londt’s story is not part of the unity history. His story is not recognised anywhere in the annals of South African sports history.
Willie Londt was known by his peers to have had a feared left boot in rugby. He was an aggressive batsman, a fast bowler who took wickets more often than not and an athlete of note.
Like all of the non-white players, his achievements lie in a scrapbook in a filing cabinet with none of it ever mentioned or acknowledged in a museum, or repeated in the same breath as Richards, Player, Rudd and Kriek.
Born at 23 Hugo Street, Elsie’s River in 1935, Londt and his parents and siblings lost their two houses because of the 1950 Group Areas Act.
“We got chucked out because of the Group Areas Act. I have no time for the Afrikaner regime for what they did to us. I can’t forget,” he said.
His family was compensated to an amount of R2000 for the houses, one of which ironically was being let to white tenants – this after being given only three months to find alternative accommodation.
“The evil of apartheid destroyed everything we had worked for. Our (the community) life was turned upside down because of the Group Areas Act. Our cultural and sports activity were completely broken up,” recalls Londt.
The Group areas Act was passed in 1950 by the white National Party government of Danie Malan. The Act assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid.
Where he had lived in Elsie’s River, the government of the day changed the name Elsie’s River to Vrijzee – (bordering Goodwood).
Londt’s scrapbook and other information pieces such as athletics programmes and diplomas attest to his ability as a top-notch sportsman.
He has in his possession some of his 1946 Northern Schools’ Sports Union diplomas, a 1959 souvenir athletics programme in which he points out the names of Aljy Winn, Leslie Titus, Kenny de Bruyn, Nicholas January, Georgie Capito, Norman Stoffberg, Sam de Wet, Peter Forbes and Kenny Maggott.
Londt also refers to Rosie Schaffers, Rosie Oliphant, Katherine Diedericks and Marilyn Welch as being exceptional 100 yard athletes of their time.
Londt himself excelled in the long jump, high jump and 100 yards events.
The 1959 souvenir athletics programme indicates that the meeting was held over three days at the Kings Park Stadium in Durban, culminating in the marathon. The quality of the programme also suggests that the organisation of the meeting was first class.
There are too many achievements to mention from the versatile sportsman Londt.
Londt, who played cricket for Ridgeville (based in the Walmer Estate and Woodstock area) once took six wickets for 16 runs and blasted a whirlwind 69, including seven sixes. He also took five wickets in one over, including a hat trick in a match played against Albions at Cape District in Wynberg far removed from where he had played cricket before in Elsie’s River! (newspaper cutting December 4, 1965).
He played flyhalf for the rugby club Richmond Rangers based in Elsie’s River (now called Vrijzee) and remembers Winston Kloppers (the retired head of sport at UWC) having played lock forward for the club.
“We had a family of rugby. Our family was rugby fanatics, my dad of course, and my brothers, I was the baby. We were five brothers and three sisters”, he says.
Dressing room tents
“In 1960, I got an offer to play rugby for Wigan. The scout called me to Sea Point. I turned it down and told him I am alone with my mother, dammit.”
Louis Newman, Goolam Abed and another rugby player by the surname of Schroeder were recruited to Wigan by the scout Ronnie Collins.
Admittedly, he has more rugby cuttings than athletics. In one such rugby cutting, the story reports about his magnificent game for the Parow and District Rugby Union in which he starred against South Western Districts in winning the South African Federation Gold Cup in 1960. The article points out his 40-metre kick for touch, and the fact that he twice broke the line to put Willy Pick and himself over for a try and a conversion. Pick is the father of the former Spes Bona flyer Walton Pick (1978). Pick senior is a medical doctor and an honorary professor. A young Cecil Blows had to beat Pick in the senior men’s 100 yards to become the new sprint champion in the 1960s.
The rugby field used to be where the Ajax Cape Town Football Club headquarters are in Parow.
“I also played rugby against City and Suburban at the Old City Park Stadium. There were no change rooms and stand at the time. Tents had been used as dressings rooms,” says Londt.
*Part two of his story will appear next week.