Swimming in the transformation maelstrom
n a week when Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula clamped down on four of South Africa’s sports federations – the SA Rugby Union, Cricket SA (CSA), Athletics SA and Netball SA – for their failure to enforce government’s transformation agenda, there has been much hot air blowing from the direction of the cricketing quarter.
Soon after his announcement – dubbed a “political storm” by some foreign media outlets – legendary Proteas all-rounder Jacques Kallis entered the fray with a tweet that could taint his otherwise sterling reputation. “So sad that i [sic] find myself embarrassed to call myself a South African so often these days #no place for politics in sport,” he wrote on the microblogging site to a flurry of reactions from others, who pointed out the obvious deficiencies in his reasoning.
As a side note, I always find it odd that Twitter users are more concerned with calling out popular figures for their stances on issues rather than pointing out the obvious – that, in most cases, their English grammar leaves much to be desired and says a lot about how they think (or perhaps do not think) about the world around them.
Meanwhile, later on Monday evening, comfortable in his retirement from a more or less mediocre cricketing career, from his cosy cottage on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast, Pat Symcox (remember him?) tweeted: “I’m wondering how swimming and golf escaped the sports ban…” Now even though that 61-character jab may pass grammatically, I found it disconcerting, considering that the issue of transformation in South African sports cuts to the core of the biggest challenge facing our society.
The previous political dispensation created and normalised a world where privilege (indeed, the privilege to swim and play golf ) was determined purely by skin colour. If Kallis or Symcox cast their minds back just 20 years, they would do well to remember that they found themselves in the pound seats when it came to being given opportunities to showcase their talents – opportunities that were politically afforded.
So for Kallis, as a direct beneficiary of racist political meddling in sports, to think that more egalitarian politics have no place in sports, reflects his lack of depth in thinking. And by mentioning the sporting symbols of privilege – implying that major sports such as cricket, rugby and athletics should be overlooked in the transformation agenda – Symcox trivialised the issue in a snide and underhanded way (this became obvious from responses he received to that tweet from some of his braindead followers. Birds of a feather, I suppose).
Whichever way privilege seeks to judge Mbalula, the fact is that these four federations are signatories to the Transformation Charter for SA Sport. This binds them to whatever measures are needed to address transformation and seek redress for the human rights violations of the past. The only consolation for the CSA, if there ever is one when it comes to racism, is that it fell just 5% short of its quota for the senior men’s team. Hopefully, by next year it will realise the potential of meaningful transformation.