“We want to be relevant to the people of our country, continent and the rest of the world, and we want to make a meaningful contribution that will take humanity forward. And sport is part of this vision.”
This is according to Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU) who took part in a panel discussion at the ISPS Sports Values Summit-Special Edition in Japan this week.
De Villiers and the SU Choir were invited by His Excellency Dr Haruhisa Handa, a renowned international philanthropist who is known for his longstanding commitment and contributions to public service and charities across the world, to take part in the summit.
The summit brought together sporting legends Dan Carter (former All Black rugby player), Nacho Figueras (one of the world’s greatest polo players) and Steve James (Royal Australian Navy veteran and Invictus gold medallist). They were in conversation as panellists alongside Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, who attended as the co‑founder and patron of Sentebale to discuss ways in which the power of sport can change lives and the impact of sports for philanthropy on the global stage.
De Villiers said that the University “shares some of its values with that of the Olympic and Paralympic family including Excellence, Respect and Equity.”
SU considers sport as a strategic asset and as an important part of the University’s value proposition – offering 31 sporting codes, supported by a diverse human resource team and world-class facilities.
Social impact is one of the strategic themes of the University, supported by Maties Sport – to aid in advancing knowledge whilst being of service to society – especially in surrounding communities, added De Villiers. Initiatives include school holiday programmes, sports clinics and equipping learners with life skills like resilience, determination, courage and self-belief.
With Maties Sport having a long history of sporting excellence in disability and parasport, producing many household names, learners are also exposed to sport for persons with disabilities.
Dr Haruhisa Handa
Handa’s support of various causes over several decades spans the arts and education, access to healthcare, disaster relief, empowerment of disabled individuals through sports, HIV/Aids education in Africa, promotion of democracy, religious tolerance and many other fields.
Notably, Handa serves as the co-founder and chancellor of the University of Cambodia with His Excellency Dr Kao Kim Hourn, the incumbent Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Handa has also been a major supporter of multiple universities in the UK, China, the US, Australia, Japan and South Africa. Handa’s International Sport Promotion Society (ISPS Handa) will be hosting the ISPS Sports Values Summit-Special Edition 2023.
Earlier this week, De Villiers said that the invitation from the founder and chairman of ISPS to participate in the summit gives SU the opportunity to make meaningful connections, and to contribute to the discussions with other distinguished participants at the summit.
“Stellenbosch University is committed to achieve excellence and to advance knowledge in service of society, and I believe we share a common vision with Dr Handa in making a positive impact on society.”
SU Choir bringing hope
SU Choir conductor André van der Merwe said they were honoured to receive the invitation. “It is interesting how choral singing speaks to an international audience like this. I believe it is the diversity of our choir that inspires people. The choir is a microcosmos of the South African community and they have a unique energy. It is wonderful that they are getting recognition on this level and that we have the opportunity to bring hope to people.”
The SU Choir has been ranked the leading mixed amateur choir in the world for the past 11 years by Interkultur, organisers of the World Choir Games.
The SU Choir also shared a light-hearted moment with Prince Harry when he met with them backstage. He encouraged them to “keep sharing the love”. Van der Merwe thanked him for sharing some time with them after which they engaged in a group hug upon Prince Harry’s request.
Earlier this week, SU representatives met with Mr Noriyuki Tanaka, Group Leader at Toyota Tsusho and Project General Manager for Africa, and his team at their head office in Tokyo, Japan.
Here, De Villiers spoke about the significance of arts and culture and detailed how many SU projects have received support from Toyota over time. Members of the choir joined the lunch meeting and gave a performance as an expression of the University’s gratitude.
Tanaka welcomed the representatives at Toyota’s head office and confirmed the company’s support of the Toyota US Woordfees. Ms Saartjie Botha, Director, presented Tanaka with the Woordfees festival book, and suggested that he might want to visit SU when he next travels to South Africa.
- Photo: Prof Wim De Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Haruhisa Handa, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, Mr Andre van der Merwe, conductor of the SU Choir, and choir members