Friday, February 18, 2005

The role of Chris de Broglio in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle

The role of Chris de Broglio in the struggle for Non-Racial Sport in South Africa

Chris de Broglio was one of the founder members of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee, SAN-ROC, in 1962.
Dennis Brutus, who had been the prime mover in the formation of SAN-ROC, was elected President at the inaugural meeting in Johannesburg.
Chris de Broglio did not hold an official position in order to avoid the attention of the Security Police. Dennis Brutus attempted to leave South Africa by crossing the border into Moçambique, in order to attend the meeting of the IOC in Baden-Baden. He was arrested by the Portuguese Security police and handed over to the South African Security Police. When attempting to escape in Johannesburg he was shot twice in the stomach at point blank range and was sentenced to two years in prison for leaving the country illegally, although he was in possession of a British Rhodesian passport at the time of his arrest!
Chris de Broglio, who worked for an international airline, was able to arrange for the Chairman, John Harris, to leave the country without the knowledge of the Security Police to attend the meeting of the IOC. His mission was successful as South Africa was excluded from the Tokyo Olympics., which was the first real blow to the Apartheid State.
Chris de Broglio was born in Mauritius and migrated to South Africa in 1948 to study Accountancy in Durban. He worked as an Auditor until 1958 when he joined UTA French Airlines as Administrative Manager for Southern Africa.
Right from the start he came into conflict with the Apartheid system, which ruled every facet of life in SA. From 1950 to 1962 he was South African Weightlifting Champion and competed in the World Championships in Sweden in 1958 and Vienna in 1961. At the same time he was involved in sports administration as Secretary and then Chairman of the Natal and Transvaal Weightlifting Associations. Although being classified as white in South Africa he was involved in the Non-Racial weightlifting organisations and organised a Non-Racial Championship in Durban in 1954, in which four white South African champions took part. The reaction of the S.A. Weightlifting Federation was to threaten him with expulsion. Nevertheless he continued his collaboration with the Non-Racial sports bodies and when he attended the World Championships in Stockholm and Vienna , he was asked by Dennis Brutus, to make preliminary contacts with officials to explain the South African racist situation.
When SAN-ROC started scoring victories against Apartheid South Africa in 1963, with their suspension from World football and the Olympics, the Security Police started a campaign of harassment against all those involved with SAN-ROC. The Secretary, Reg Hlongwane , who worked at UTA with Chris, was officially warned by a Magistrate under the Suppression of Communism Act. Whilst collaborating with SAN-ROC, Chris de Broglio was also involved with the ANC underground movement. When the Leaders of the ANC were arrested at Rivonia in 1963, the Security Police kept a close watch on Chris de Broglio, having him followed permanently, putting pressure on his employers, tapping his phone and finally forcing UTA to transfer him out of SA.
When Dennis Brutus was released from Robben Island in 1966, Chris managed to get his agreement for the creation of a SAN-ROC committee in exile, based in London.

It had been reported in the press that South Africa was likely to be invited to the 1968 Mexico Olympics and the matter was to be discussed at the IOC Meeting in Rome in April 1966. Chris contacted Cannon Collins, President of Defence & Aid Fund, who agreed to pay for a ticket and the hotel for him to travel to Rome. Chris didn’t know any of the IOC members and had to start from scratch. At the Excelsior Hotel, where the IOC members stayed, Chris was recognised by Fred Labuscagne, a reporter for the SA Sunday Times, who sent a Headline story to his newspaper that SAN-ROC was back in action and would be a real problem for South Africa’s bid to rejoin the Olympic Games. When the news reached the township where Dennis Brutus lived, there was great excitement and Dennis was greeted with the victory salute in the street. At that meeting the foundation was laid for future SAN-ROC activities. Chris met Jean-Claude Ganga, Secretary of the African Games, who introduced him to all other African IOC members and other members from Asia and Latin America who would support our fight against Apartheid.
Chris tried to have a discussion with Avery Brundage, President of the IOC, but when SAN-ROC was mentioned he brushed Chris aside and said he had no time for that organisation. A statement he was to regret when he was forced to announce the withdrawal of South Africa from the 1968 Olympics, in which SAN-ROC was directly involved.
In August 1966 Dennis Brutus was allowed to leave South Africa on an Exit Permit and joined Chris de Broglio in London. Together with Reg Hlongwane, their three men team intensified their action. SAN-ROC met with FIFA delegates in London, travelled to the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, attended the IAAF congress in Budapest, the Weightlifting Congress in Berlin, Inaugural meeting of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) at Bamako, the IOC meeting in Teheran in 1967. At that meeting it was decided to send a three-man delegation to South Africa. This Commission composed of Lord Killanin, Judge Ademola of Nigeria and Reg Alexander of Kenya. Their report which was presented to the 1968 IOC meeting in Grenoble was very confusing. It neither condemned Apartheid nor cleared SA of racism in sport. On the basis of that report and organising a postal vote from absent members (which was unconstitutional) SA was invited to the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
When the decision was announced SAN-ROC, in close cooperation with the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa, organised a massive boycott of the Games if SA was allowed to participate. Most African and Asian countries joined the boycott which forced the IOC to withdraw the invitation. That was the most important victory of SAN-ROC which led to the final expulsion of Apartheid SA from the Olympic Movement at Amsterdam in 1970.
This decision was a great blow to the friends of Apartheid South Africa at the IOC and International Federations. After massive demonstrations organised by SAN-ROC (with Peter Hain as Chairman of Stop the Seventy Tour) in opposition to the 1969-70 Rugby tour of Britain, Rugby tours to and from SA were cancelled. The cancellation of the 1970 Cricket tour of England followed. SAN-ROC amplified its activities in close collaboration with the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa, the Anti-Apartheid movements in Australia, New-Zealand, France, Holland, the US etc. which led to the expulsion of South Africa from most international sport.
In 1974 Sam Ramsamy joined the SAN-ROC Committee and was later to be made Chairman, with Chris as Secretary General and the following Committee members; Isaiah Stein, Omar Cassem, Jasmat Dhiraj, . Dennis Brutus who had been the great motivator of SAN-ROC since 1962 had moved to the US as Professor at NorthWestern Uiversity. Chris formed a new team with Sam Ramsamy to increase SAN-ROC’s international contacts, especially with the UN’s Special Committee Against Apartheid and the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa and International Sports Federations. SAN-ROC, represented by Chris de Broglio and Isaiah Stein, was recognised as a full member of the SCSA at its Rabat Congress, at which SAN-ROC called for two-minute silence for Nelson Mandela, who had been at Robben Island since 1965.
With SAN-ROC as a member of the Supreme Council, the fate of Apartheid sport was sealed. South Africa’s participation in International Sport was subject to the approval of the SCSA and SAN-ROC.
In 1987 Chris de Broglio was involved with IDASA in the organisation of the historic meeting between ANC Officials and 60 leading Afrikaners which was held at Dakar under the Auspices of President Abou Diouf and Madame Daniele Mitterand. That Meeting contributed greatly to the dramatic changes which followed leading to the final defeat of Apartheid and the creation of the New South Africa.
Chris de Broglio was awarded the Olympic Order in 1997 in recognition of his action against Racism in Sport and in defence of the Olympic Charter


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Blogger Janot said...

Chris I'd love to re-connect - meeting you in London as a teenager has surely influenced the course of my life! In addition to working for agency and inclusion in participative governance around equitably shared natural resource systems (see "Ensuring Survival" policy brief at, i'm also working to establish a national Race Amity Day in the Are you still in Mauritious? warm regards, Janot (Mendler de Suarez :)

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