Quo­tas don’t be­long in top level sport

Rugby’s au­thor­i­ties should not sit on their hands as South Africa pro­ceeds with dan­ger­ous pol­icy

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - NEIL FRAN­CIS

IWATCHED two doc­u­men­taries re­cently which brought into stark fo­cus how the world has changed. RTÉ’s se­ries of pro­grammes, Reel­ing in the Years, is ex­cel­lent and ‘1970’ was par­tic­u­larly so. The other was the com­pelling film, Mu­gabe and The White

African by An­drew Thompson and Lucy Bai­ley, which re­ceived a BAFTA nom­i­na­tion for Best Doc­u­men­tary. It’s a chill­ing and de­press­ing film about life as a white farmer in Mu­gabe’s Zim­babwe.

In Reel­ing in the Years, they gave promi­nence to the Spring­bok tour to Ire­land in 1970. There were wide­spread protests be­fore and dur­ing the game. The trade union move­ment in this country or­gan­ised and co-or­di­nated the protests, and on the day of the match 10,000 marched and the protest turned vi­o­lent and got out of con­trol. All this for a game of rugby?

Ten years pre­vi­ously, 69 black peo­ple were mur­dered in the 1960 Sharpeville Mas­sacre, which still res­onated in the mind a decade later. Events of that na­ture can­not be let go eas­ily. My view is that the Spring­boks should not have been in­vited or al­lowed to play at the time.

Bai­ley and Thompson’s doc­u­men­tary tells the story of Michael Campbell, a white Zim­bab­wean farmer who pro­duced man­gos. From 2000 on­wards, Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment brought in in­di­geni­sa­tion or land re­form, which was the sys­tem­atic seizure of land owned by white farm­ers. In the last 15 years, thousands of white farm­ers have been mur­dered or thrown off their farms. Butchered in their droves. The doc­u­men­tary fea­tures chill­ing footage of mur­der and in­tim­i­da­tion, eth­nic cleans­ing and geno­cide. In the racism spec­trum, there is name-call­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and then there is mur­der.

Most of the footage is covert, and the con­fronta­tions with farm­ers and Mu­gabe’s goons are espe­cially dif­fi­cult to watch. The racial ha­tred is dis­turb­ing — one scene with a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter from Zanu PF is sick­en­ing.

A few months after all of them were beaten to within an inch of their lives, the Camp­bells win a case in in­ter­na­tional law al­low­ing them to keep the farm. The le­gal win is ig­nored be­cause a year later their farm is burnt to the ground. It is clear that Mu­gabe wants the whites out or dead.

When Mu­gabe came to power in the early 1980s he still had the prob­lem of deal­ing with his ri­val, Joshua Nkomo. In 1982 he had his 5th bri­gade trained by those nice peo­ple in North Korea. In 1983 they went to work in Nkomo’s strong­hold, Mata­bele­land. The Nde­bele peo­ple are black African peo­ple but they have a dif­fer­ent di­alect, dif­fer­ent cul­ture and cus­toms to the rest of Zim­babwe. Mu­gabe’s bri­gade butchered 20,000 Nde­bele peo­ple in a short space of time. Women and chil­dren were hacked to death with ma­chetes — un­speak­able crimes against hu­man­ity.

Eight years later I played against Zim­babwe in the 1991 World Cup in Lans­downe Road. Not one per­son showed up out­side or in­side the ground to protest that mas­sacre. How do you rec­on­cile that?

Ten years after the Sharpeville Mas­sacre and the mem­ory of that aw­ful day is too much for some peo­ple’s con­science to al­low South Africa into our country, but eight years after a slaugh­ter the mag­ni­tude of which is far more vile in scale and vi­cious­ness, no­body says a word.

Since Mu­gabe has turned his mur­der­ous hand to the white man, his cricket team have played matches on this is­land in 2000 and 2004. No protests. As re­cently as 2015 the Ire­land men’s cricket team played a se­ries of matches in Zim­babwe, and this year the women’s team did the same.

Back in 1981 the Ir­ish rugby team had to skulk out of the country amid re­crim­i­na­tion and deep di­vi­sion. The rea­son? The evil of Apartheid, the dis­crim­i­na­tion, seg­re­ga­tion and naked racial ha­tred — all en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion in South Africa.

Yet what is on the statute books and in the hearts of a size­able number of peo­ple in Zim­babwe now is no bet­ter than Apartheid South Africa. We know what is going on in that country, but be­cause the racial ha­tred has been black on black, or more re­cently black on white, it does not seem to strike the same chord or carry the same op­pro­brium as white on black. How is that? Where are the pro­test­ers now? Where is the Ir­ish anti-Apartheid move­ment now?

We look across the bor­der to South Africa and we see that al­ready there are warn­ing signs of things to come. A friend of mine from South Africa told me after I en­quired how his visit was: “Not good.” “Why?”

“Be­cause we are 10 years behind Zim­babwe, but we are in the fast lane.”

Land re­dis­tri­bu­tion, na­tion­al­i­sa­tion and trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes are plough­ing ahead with­out much thought for the con­se­quences and un­in­tended con­se­quences. South Africa, it seems, has spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion for a lot of its po­lit­i­cal re­dress and mis­ad­ven­tures, which brings us to the ker­nel of the is­sue.

Sev­eral years ago, sports min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula de­creed that as part of the post-Apartheid process, trans­for­ma­tion of the country would take place. Among the many mea­sures which have been pro­posed and sanc­tioned is the pro­posal to in­tro­duce racial quo­tas in practically ev­ery sport in the country.

This will have the big­gest im­pact on the Spring­boks, who up to this point have not com­plied with the new laws; nei­ther have the Su­per Rugby fran­chises nor the Cur­rie Cup sides. This will change in 2018. From the new season on­wards, the Spring­boks and all se­nior pro­vin­cial sides must have a team where 50 per cent of play­ers are “generic black South Africans”. ‘Coloureds’ or ‘Cape coloureds’ don’t count. These play­ers must have black skin. These play­ers are to be in­cluded ir­re­spec­tive of abil­ity, merit or po­ten­tial. The penal­ties for non-com­pli­ance are se­vere. With­drawal of all gov­ern­ment fund­ing is one, while an­other key penalty was “re­vok­ing the priv­i­lege of a fed­er­a­tion to host or bid for ma­jor tour­na­ments”. The lat­ter was re­laxed so that South Africa would be able to bid for the 2023 World Cup.

In the free world, the West, the open mar­ket econ­omy, the in­con­gruity of any quota, while not re­pug­nant or wholly un­nec­es­sary, doesn’t sit with me as a concept. Aca­demic quo­tas, agri­cul­tural quo­tas or racial quo­tas.

But still, even al­low­ing for quo­tas where they seek to re­dress ar­ti­fi­cial im­bal­ances in so­ci­ety, merit and abil­ity are the cor­ner­stones of sport when it comes to se­lec­tion. So, quite apart from the fact that this law in South Africa breaks the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of top level sport — that of picking the best play­ers avail­able to play for their country or prov­ince or club — it is also a fla­grant breach of practically ev­ery law on dis­crim­i­na­tion.

World Rugby is caught in an in­vid­i­ous sit­u­a­tion here. By-law 3F states that the ob­jec­tives and func­tions of World Rugby are “to pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion of any kind against a country, pri­vate per­son or groups of peo­ple on ac­count of eth­nic ori­gin, gen­der, lan­guage, re­li­gion, pol­i­tics or any other rea­son”.

Reg­u­la­tion 20, Mis­con­duct and code of con­duct 20c: “. . . acts or state­ments that are, or con­duct that is, dis­crim­i­na­tory by rea­son of re­li­gion, race, sex, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, dis­abil­ity, colour or na­tional or eth­nic ori­gin.”

What is happening now in South Africa and what will be law in 2018 is a clear breach of World Rugby rules. World Rugby can’t slap a ban or a fine on South Africa be­cause it sim­ply has no ju­ris­dic­tion over South Africa. They can’t ban them from in­ter­na­tional sport be­cause they have tra­di­tion­ally been a world power and sec­ond only to New Zealand. They are in a heap at the mo­ment and will strug­gle to re­cover to any­thing like their former glory, but if you im­pose sanc­tions or even a ban you would se­ri­ously weaken the struc­ture of the game of rugby in­ter­na­tion­ally. In this in­stance they can do ab­so­lutely nothing ex­cept adopt their favourite po­si­tion, sit­ting on their hands.

South Africa’s na­tional team may get away with it, but the pro­vin­cial sides may not. The Chee­tahs and South­ern Kings have joined the PRO14, a Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion which has its head­quar­ters in Dublin and is sub­ject to Ir­ish and EU law. It’s hard to see teams that are forced by gov­ern­ment to select their play­ers along race lines get past EU anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law.

In Su­per Rugby, the Aus­tralian, New Zealand and Ar­gen­tine leg­isla­tives may find that a team picked on racial quo­tas is also re­pug­nant to their anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

Maybe the EU and south­ern hemi­sphere na­tions could act in con­cert — their gov­ern­ments and their rugby unions — to co­erce South Africa into drop­ping this leg­is­la­tion. Does that sound fa­mil­iar?

Things are going to get a whole lot worse in South Africa in the next 10 to 20 years. The evil of Apartheid ended 24 years ago, even if its legacy didn’t end, and the strug­gle for re­dress and bal­ance con­tin­ues. But if you go down the route of racial quo­tas in an area like sport, the pen­du­lum swings and you ask the ques­tion, how much bet­ter or worse are they than they were un­der Apartheid? Racism works both ways and is still very much alive in Africa. Racial quo­tas are part of its com­mand­ments.

Will there be any­one protest­ing out­side the Aviva when the Boks ar­rive next month?


IN my col­umn last week, un­der the head­line ‘An ex­cep­tion to all the rules — an ex­cep­tional man’, I made ref­er­ence to my former team-mate Daragh Coak­ley. I’m afraid my char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of him was un­fair and I re­gret mak­ing it. I’m sorry for the of­fence caused to him, which was not in­tended.

Merit and abil­ity are the cor­ner­stones of sport when it comes to se­lec­tion

Franco Mostert misses a li­ne­out ball dur­ing yes­ter­day’s clash be­tween the Spring­boks and Australia. South Africa’s na­tional team may get away with­out ad­her­ing to quo­tas, but the pro­vin­cial sides may not.

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