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Chris Nicholson PDF Print E-mail

Chris Nicholson (1945 - ) was born on a farm near Richmond in KwaZulu Natal. He was educated at Michaelhouse in the Midlands and then the University of Natal (currently The University of KwaZuluNatal) where he studied law. He is also a former cricketer who represented South African Universities.

He was among the founders of the Aurora Cricket Club in 1973 which was a mixed race club that applied for affiliation to the Mariztburg Cricket Union and for inclusion in the all-white local cricket league. The inclusion to the league was supported by the Natal Cricket League and they refused to be intimidated by the police, despite tactics such as taking down the names of the players and supporters after each match.

In 1979, he founded the Durban chapter of the Legal Resource Centre which aimed to assist those who could not afford legal advice or representation. He used his legal knowledge to challenge the various laws imposed by the apartheid government. He then took a lecturing post at The University of Natal.

He was appointed to the bench in 1995, one of the first in post-apartheid South Africa. He later was appointed to the Labour Appeal Court and became a senior judge on the Natal bench.


Selected Text:

From Papwa Sewgolum – From Pariah to Legend (2005)

The seven-year-old boy jumped to one side to avoid the slithering snake in the dense coastal bush. Nervously he examined his right foot for a bite mark and was relieved to see a large thorn, which he pulled out before he carried on walking. His mother has sent him to look for mangoes and guavas to augment the family’s diet, but his quest was being frustrated – whenever he found the right trees they had already have been raided. His steps took him further north, and suddenly he heard voices. He crept forward in the bushes and peered curiously at the two white men holding sticks who were standing around two small white balls resting on a semi-circular piece of green lawn. Near the men, two Indian boys, not much older than the watcher, held bags that contained other sticks. A third boy held a long, thin, stick with a flag at the top, planted in a small hole sunk into the lawn.

Papwa, for that was the boy’s name, gazed as the men deliberated over the balls for a long time. They sat on their haunches and held up one of the shortest sticks to measure the correct angle. One vantage point was reckoned insufficient and he watched as they walked to the opposite side of the lawn and measured again with the same care and precision. Eventually, one of the men struck the ball towards the hole, and then followed its path with an intensity that astounded Papwa. What intrigued him even more was the outburst that erupted from the man as the ball failed to reach the hole from which the flag has been removed. The second man struck the ball with similar results – both balls were now lying innocently a few feet from the hole. With scarcely reduced measurements and slightly fewer exclamations the balls finally dropped out of sight into the hole. At last there were smiles, and the flag was replaced.

After the men had achieved their objective they walked over to a large point some distance away and took out longer sticks from the bags held by the Indian boys. One took out a card and wrote down something that he checked with the other player. Then he put away the card and, in turn, the two round up and swung the longer sticks as they crashed the small white ball out of sight.

Papwa watched, entranced, as other groups of men came past and the same strokes were re-enacted, accompanied by similar verbal outbursts. As he was preparing to leave some two hours later he heard a rustling in the bushes and looked around in fright. One of the white balls had landed next to him. He picked it up quickly, placed it in his pocket, and rushed into the furthest part of the surrounding greenery.

When the men had finally passed, Papwa raced home and told his parents all about the strange ritual that he had witnessed. His father laughed at his son’s quaint description of the game and promised to make him a golf club from a branch of a guava tree. That Sunday he took the first step that was to set his seven-year-old son on the path to fame and glory, and ultimately, to destruction. His father led Papwa into the thick bush that flanked the Umgeni River, selected a branch with a crook at the end, and hacked it down.

Back at the family’s home Papwa’s father chipped and pared the stick until it resembled a putter. It became Papwa’s prized possession and every night he placed it and the old golf ball he had acquired under the eaves of their modest home. He buried an old tin can in the yard and smoothed the sand around it with a spade. Every day he putted over this ‘green’. Hour after hour he hit the small golf ball from every angle, feeling a sharp sense of triumph when it disappeared into the can. He did not play ‘golf’ with the other neighbourhood boys for the simple reason that when he beat them, they hit him.

On one occasion his mother called his father to look out of the small window. Papwa was crouching on his haunches, holding up his club to gauge the angle of his putt. After he had completed the meticulous measurement he walked to the other side of the hole and repeated the procedure. Eventually he putted the ball and as it skimmed past the hole, he held his forehead with disappointment and echoed one of the exclamations that he had heard the golfers using.

The place where Papwa witnessed golf for the first time was less than a kilometre from where he and his family lived. His inquisitive young eyes had taken in the sporting efforts of members of the Beachwood Golf Club at the most southern green of the course. That club was to see his first golfing successes, and be integrally linking to his career. It was also, some 43 years later, the venue for the most heated discussion on his merits as a golfer and on the effects which politics had on his life.


2004. Permanent Removal: Who Killed the Cradock Four? Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

2005. Papwa Sewgolum: From Pariah to Legend. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

2007. Richard and Adolf: Did Richard Wagner Incite Adolf Hitler to Commit the Holocaust?. Jerusalem & New York: Gefen Publishing House.

2013. One Hand Washes the Other. Edmunds: Arena Books.

2014. No Sacred Cows. Cape Town Modjaji Books.