Mbeki magic' at Presidents Cup
Alec Hogg

Although nearly a billion people saw it on TV, you had to be there to really appreciate the moment when South African President Thabo Mbeki spontaneously handed his place of honour to the last of his white predecessors, former president FW de Klerk.

Mbeki had been called upon to officially close the hugely successful 2003 Presidents Cup, where the world's leading golfers (outside Europe) took on the best from the US.

For a time, Mbeki was all human being, no hint of the politician. And the gesture did more for global perceptions of the progress in our Rainbow Nation than any advertising campaign.

Instead of grabbing the podium, he personaly went to collect De Klerk from four rows back and handed over the microphone to the man he described as having started the South African miracle. De Klerk did his bit by joking about having a lower golf handicap than his successor, and ended his few words by issuing the challenge to "keep the miracle alive".

De Klerk received a standing ovation. But it was the relaxed, confident Mbeki whose magnanimity really captured the crowd's hearts. It was lump-in-the-throat stuff to witness a sporting crowd cheering the SA President with Mexican waves and rousing "Ole's".

To make it all the more special, this happened at the closing ceremony of what in terms of global interest was probably the biggest sporting event yet hosted by the country.