Sam Ramsamy (1938 - )
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Sam Ramsamy
Sam Ramsamy was born on 27 January 1938 where the KwaZulu-Natal High Court buildings now stand. It was then called Magazine Barracks, a location for Indian municipal workers in the coastal city of Durban. He grew up in a highly politicised environment with his father being a trade unionist. He and his four siblings attended Depot Road Primary School and matriculated at Sastri College, the first high school for Indians. The college produced many Indian leaders.
From an early age, Ramsamy learnt the importance of equality and non-racialism. It is a value that has spurred him on to fight for equality in sport. From a very tender age, he had been interested in sport, beginning his career as an educator and an avid sportsman. An injury that cut short his athletic career pushed Ramsamy to find other ways of involvement in sport. He explored a career in coaching. Later, Ramsamy became a Physical Education lecturer and a primary school teacher.
He was the founder member of the South African Council on Sport, established in 1973. In 1976, he became chairperson of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (Sanroc) and shortly after joined the organisation. By 1978, Ramsamy had become the executive chairperson of Sanroc. The two sports organisations were united in their purpose of pursuing an international sports ban on South Africa’s athletes and by so doing, fostered greater global support for the resistance against apartheid.
Following the Soweto uprisings in 1976, Ramsamy petitioned countries to formalise a boycott of South African sports, which culminated in the Gleneagles Agreement of 1977. Ramsamy, who up to this point was still employed as a teacher at a school in London, left his employment in 1978 and became a consultant to the United Nations (UN).
His core responsibility at the UN was to ensure the drafting of an international convention against apartheid sport that would make for punitive measures to be placed against those countries who continued to engage South Africa in sporting activities. The convention was finally drawn up and signed by various countries in 1985.
In 1980, the UN Special Committee against Apartheid initiated the Register of Sports Contacts with South Africa, which was designed to report sports bodies that maintained ties with South Africa so as to face possible action. Ramsamy was an important informant and provided information to those overseeing the register.
He took over running, managing and providing impetus to the sports boycott from the late 1970s onward. The sports boycott was important in spreading awareness of the evils of apartheid to the rest of the world.
Ramsamy’s contribution to sport did not end with apartheid. During the transition to democracy, he encouraged international support for the black sports body, the National Olympic Committee of South Africa, and became its head in 1991. He led the first non-racial South African team to the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992.
He has spent most of his adult life fighting for the eradication of the colour bar in sport and towards creating unity in the sporting arena where selection for teams is based on merit and where athletes of all races are given an equal chance to participate.
For his excellence in and dedication to the struggle for freedom through his work on the sports boycott, and for his continued efforts in equalising the playing fields across all sporting activities, Sam Ramsamy has contributed to the birth of a new South Africa.