Mandela the boxer inspires new South African generation

Updated 05 July 2013
0

Mandela the boxer inspires new South African generation

In a sweaty township gym where Nelson Mandela once trained as a young boxer, athletes are still pumping iron today, inspired by the peace icon’s example as he fights for his life in hospital. Things haven’t changed much since the early 1950s, when a youthful Mandela worked out on week nights at the Donaldson Orlando Community Center, or the “D.O.” as it’s still affectionately known.
Spartan and slightly run down, the walls ooze with the intermingled history of sport, community life and the decades-long fight against apartheid oppression.
It was here that Mandela came to lose himself in sport to take his mind off liberation politics.
Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s largest township just south of Johannesburg, the community center was also where famous African songbirds like Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie first performed.
The 1976 riots against the imposition of the Afrikaans language in black schools were planned from the D.O. as Mandela and other leaders languished in apartheid jails. “Here, look, these are the very same weights Madiba used for training,” proud gym instructor Sinki Langa, 49, told a visiting AFP reporter, using Mandela’s clan name.
“They have lasted all these years,” he said as he added another set to a bar his fellow trainee Simon Mzizi, 30, was using to furiously bench-press, sweat dripping down his face.
Nearby, other fitness enthusiasts worked out to the tune of soothing music — which unusually for a gym included opera.
The D.O. — or Soweto YMCA as it is called today — opened its doors in 1948, the same year the apartheid white nationalist government came to power.
Built with funds donated by Col. James Donaldson, a self-made entrepreneur and staunch supporter of the now governing African National Congress (ANC), the D.O. center includes a hall, and several sparsely furnished smaller rooms like the one where Mandela sparred as a young man.
Today the gym is housed in an adjacent hall, which was the original building on the grounds erected in 1932.
Mandela joined the D.O. in around 1950, often taking his oldest 10-year-old son Thembi with him.
In a letter to his daughter Zinzi, while on Robben Island where he spent 18 of his 27 years in jail, Mandela recalled his days at the gym.
“The walls... of the DOCC are drenched with the sweet memories that will delight me for years,” he wrote in the letter, published in his 2010 book “Conversations with Myself.”
“When we trained in the early 50s the club included amateur and professional boxers as well as wrestlers,” Mandela wrote to his daughter, who never received the letter because it was snatched by his goalers.
Training at the D.O. was tough and included sparring, weight-lifting, road-running and push-ups.
“We used to train for four days, from Monday to Thursday and then break off,” Mandela told journalist Richard Stengel in the early 1990s, while writing his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”
When he was handed a life sentence in 1964, Mandela kept up the harsh regime of his training to stay fit and healthy.
“I was very fit, and in prison, I felt very fit indeed. So I used to train in prison... just as I did outside,” Mandela said in a transcript of his conversation with Stengel, given to AFP by the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory.
Mandela was eventually released from jail in 1990 and in 1994, he was elected South Africa’s first black president.


French priest suspended after slapping baby during baptism

Video shows priest slapping crying baby.
Updated 23 June 2018
0

French priest suspended after slapping baby during baptism

  • The baby’s parents, visibly shocked, eventually manage to extricate the child from the priest’s grip
  • The child was bawling and I needed to turn his head so I could pour the water

PARIS: A French Catholic priest was suspended Friday after a video of him smacking a crying baby during a baptism ceremony went viral, drawing widespread condemnation on social media.
In footage posted on Twitter on Thursday, gasps can be heard when the 89-year-old priest, after ordering the infant he is holding to “be quiet,” sharply slaps his cheek.
A few seconds later he smacks him again.
The baby’s parents, visibly shocked, eventually manage to extricate the child from the priest’s grip during the ceremony in Champeaux, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Paris.
“This loss of self-control can be attributed to the fatigue of an elderly priest, but that doesn’t excuse it,” the diocese of Meaux, which includes the town, said in a statement.
It said the priest would no longer be leading baptisms and weddings nor holding mass until further notice.
“The child was bawling and I needed to turn his head so I could pour the water. I was saying ‘be quiet’ but he wouldn’t calm down,” the priest told France Info radio on Friday.
“It was something between a caress and a little slap,” he said. “I was trying to calm him down, I didn’t really know what to do.”