George Singh (1930 - 1984)
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of George Singh
George Singh was born in 1930 in Durban to parents of Indian descent. As a teenager, he participated in the Indian Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946 to 1948. In 1948, he enrolled for a law degree at Fort Hare University. There he was drawn to the student politics of the day and associated with the likes of fellow students Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, both of whom influenced his outlook profoundly.
After he graduated, Singh returned to Durban where he developed a successful legal practice specialising in conveyancing. Yet he was a sportsman at heart and dedicated himself to soccer. He played soccer for the South African Indian national team and formed his own amateur soccer club, Stellar FC.
Singh's keen sense of injustice at the apartheid policy of discrimination and segregation in sport led him to see the need to fight for non-racial sport in the country. He was elected to serve as the general-secretary of the South African Indian Football Association. Later, he became the general secretary of the non-racial South African Soccer Federation (SASF). Singh worked alongside others such as Dennis Brutus in his quest to see all South African sportspersons playing together.
In 1955, Singh led a SASF delegation to the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) to argue for recognition on the basis that the SASF had more than twice the membership of the then recognised whites only Football Association of South Africa (Fasa). Although it was a long struggle, Fifa became the first international sports organisation to suspend an apartheid sports body in 1961.
Despite the harassment that he had to endure by the notorious Special Branch both at his work and at home, Singh used all means to attack racism in sport. He was instrumental in getting the Davis Cup tennis event stopped from being staged in South Africa. He also helped to obtain a Natal Supreme Court ruling that it was not illegal for persons of different race groups to play sports together.
However, it was a period in which the Government was determined to pursue their apartheid goals at any cost and whatever the obstacles. This was amply demonstrated a year later when Papwa Sewgolum, the legendary golfer and descendent of Indian indentured labourers, won the Natal Open. While his fellow players were warmly ensconced inside the Durban Country Club, he was presented with his trophy through a window while standing in the pouring rain outside.
In 1964, a member of the then recently formed South African Non-Racial Olympics Committee (Sanroc), Singh was slapped with banning orders and put under a 12-hour-a-day house arrest. This move was a temporary setback for the movement but did not deter the resolute Singh and his comrades from fighting for justice and equal rights for all.
Driven by its commitment to the International Olympic Committee's Charter, which read that: 'No discrimination is allowed against any country or person on grounds of race, religion or political affiliation', Sanroc was revived as an exile movement two years later and would eventually succeed in having South Africa expelled from the Olympics in 1970.
Over many decades, Singh was at the forefront of struggles to isolate apartheid sport in the international arena. It was successes here that served as the forerunner for other more political campaigns which eventually led to the negotiations process that gave birth to our new democracy.
George Singh fought against and withstood apartheid laws and harassment in the knowledge that justice would finally prevail. His life, dedicated to the noble goals of sport in its true spirit, contributed immensely to the creation of a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. The principles of this pioneering visionary are enshrined in our democratic constitution.
Singh succumbed to a lung infection in 1984. He is survived by his wife, Surya Kumarie Singh, who still lives in Durban. His son, Dr TG Singh, runs a medical practice in Durban.