Elections, fears of violence still featured at S African IPL

April 19th, 2009 - 9:29 am ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Cape Town, April 19 (IANS) The uniting spirit of sport was highlighted in a rather unique way at the opening ceremony of the Indian Premier League (IPL II) here Saturday evening.

As the festivities and entertainment got under way after the two opening games before a packed Sahara Newlands Stadium here, the IPL brought together onto one stage political adversaries who would probably never have been seen sharing the same platform at the same time just four days before the general election here.

South African President and ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Western Cape Provincial Premier Lynn Brown, also from the ANC, and Helen Zille, leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance and also the Mayor of Cape Town, all appeared on stage together, even as their respective parties were hosting separate final rallies this weekend all over the country.

Showing a great spirit of camaraderie, the political foes lauded each other and all the other speakers on the dias, especially IPL Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi when he commended South Africa for the support in putting together IPL II in less than a month.

There was a slight irony to the themes of election and fears of violence, which had caused the Indian Premier League (IPL) II to be shifted to South Africa, still featuring prominently in another guise at the official opening ceremony.

President Motlanthe, reaffirming the shared political history of India and South Africa, made a plea to all those present to cast their votes in the ballot for national and provincial leaders on Wednesday peacefully, without engaging in violence. Ironically, it was exactly the threat of violence and the inability of the Indian government to guarantee security for the IPL while elections are held there this month that resulted in South Africa becoming the new venue.

To signify this commitment to peace even further, the president, assisted by the head of the Independent Electoral Commission in the Western Cape Province, Cedric Sampson, lit a torch of peace to mark the historic occasion.

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