Mayor of Worcester calls for Freedom of the City for cricket legend Basil D'Oliveira

The Freedom of the City of Worcester could be posthumously awarded to local cricketing legend Basil D'Oliveira CBE, 50 years on from the so-called D'Oliveira Affair, which prompted a sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa.

The Mayor, Cllr Jabba Riaz, will propose the award – the highest that Worcester City Council can bestow – at an extraordinary meeting of the City Council on July 17

Cllr Riaz said: “Basil D’Oliveira is a Worcestershire cricket legend and also a pivotal figure in the story of the struggle against apartheid. Millions of people around the world owe him a debt of gratitude and it will be a genuine honour to propose the motion that he be awarded the Freedom of the City of Worcester.”

Basil D’Oliveira was of Indian-Portugese descent and was born into a Catholic family in South Africa in 1931. A keen cricketer from an early age, he played in South Africa’s national non-white team before emigrating to England in 1960. He joined Worcestershire County Cricket Club in 1964 and was first selected for the England team in 1966.

In 1968 the England team was due to play in a tour of South Africa. D’Oliveira was initially not selected because of South Africa’s apartheid rules. However, there was national outrage in the British press and D’Oliveira was then called up to the England squad. South Africa responded by cancelling the tour.

The D'Oliveira Affair was a watershed in the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa. It led to a dramatic turn in international opinion against the South African regime and is credited as being a landmark on the road to the eventual fall of apartheid in the early 1990s.

Worcester City Council will hold the extraordinary meeting in the city’s historic Guildhall at 7pm on Tuesday, July 17.

Cllr Riaz, who has pursued the idea of the posthumous award with Cllr Andy Roberts, will call on his fellow councillors to award the Freedom “in recognition of the significance of the D’Oliveira Affair in turning international opinion against the apartheid regime in South Africa, leading to significant changes in South African sport and society.”

At least two thirds of the Council’s members will need to support the motion for the Freedom of the City to be awarded.

If the motion is passed, a Freedom Certificate will be presented to Basil D’Oliveira’s family at a civic reception in September and his name will be inscribed on the Honorary Freeman Panel in the Guildhall.

The Council is also looking at further steps to commemorate Basil D’Oliveira. More details are expected to be revealed later in the year.


Sarah Dawes