A long walk be­neath the rain­bow awaits

CityPress - - Sport - S’Bu­siso Mse­leku sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Sbu_Mse­leku

What touched the world were pic­tures of Papwa re­ceiv­ing his tro­phy out­doors in the rain

It never ceases to amaze me how shal­lowly (or lit­tle) you have to scratch for the so-called rain­bow na­tion of Nel­son Man­dela to show its true colours.

Just a lit­tle scratch­ing and you know that terms such as “When you shoot a ze­bra in the black stripe, the white dies too” are just some form of win­dow dress­ing.

In hon­esty, South Africa is still as di­vided along colour lines as ever. No apolo­gies for gen­er­al­i­sa­tion.

Take Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula’s re­lease of the 2014/15 Em­i­nent Per­sons Group Trans­for­ma­tion Sta­tus Re­port on Mon­day.

No sooner had he an­nounced that the rights of four sports fed­er­a­tions, Cricket SA, the SA Rugby Union, Net­ball SA and Ath­let­ics SA, to host in­ter­na­tional events had been with­drawn than dif­fer­ent peo­ple’s true colours emerged.

Some com­men­ta­tors fell just short of call­ing him a racist, and sim­ply made in­nu­en­dos to that ef­fect.

A cho­rus of protests emerged, mainly from the white sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, while the op­po­site be­came the or­der of the day from the black side.

This got me ask­ing: Why are we still so di­vided 22 years into democ­racy?

I still haven’t found an an­swer but do feel that there are just too many un­der­ly­ing is­sues that we, as a na­tion, just pa­pered over in­stead of ad­dress­ing head-on to come up with solutions, no mat­ter how painful.

One of these is “priv­i­lege”, which is oft de­scribed as “a spe­cial right, ad­van­tage or im­mu­nity granted or avail­able only to a par­tic­u­lar per­son or group”.

I still find that some of those who ben­e­fited from be­ing priv­i­leged by the sys­tem that reigned supreme in this coun­try prior to 1994 find it hard to ac­cept this fact.

So it was that a tweet from Edris Hlong­wane, in which I was tagged, which read “@edr­ish­long­wane How trans­formed is SA Golf? @gary­player heads team to #Rio2016 but #Mbalula is silent,” got me think­ing.

It took me back to the story of South African golfer Sew­sunker “Papwa” Sew­golum (1930-1978, may his soul rest in peace).

His story, af­ter be­com­ing “the first golfer of colour” to win the Natal Open tour­na­ment at the Dur­ban Coun­try Club in 1963, touched the whole world. But wait for it! It was not his achieve­ment or his un­usual style of play­ing the game with a back-handed grip – with his hands po­si­tioned the op­po­site way to the tra­di­tional grip – or the fact that he beat 103 white golfers, that made him fa­mous or pop­u­lar.

What touched the world were pic­tures of him re­ceiv­ing his tro­phy out­doors in the rain, be­cause, due to apartheid laws, he was not al­lowed to en­ter the club­house – which was packed with the white golfers he had beaten – even to re­ceive his tro­phy.

It is part of his­tory that Sew­golum, born of a blind mother, be­came a sym­bol of the sports-boy­cott move­ment and went on to beat Player to claim his se­cond ti­tle in the same event in 1965.

With all the re­stric­tions of that time, Papwa went on to win the Dutch Open in 1959, 1960 and 1964, as well as the Cock of the North tour­na­ment in Zam­bia in the same year.

His­tory also in­forms us that he “won a num­ber of non­white golf­ing cham­pi­onships in South Africa”.

Who can ar­gue against the be­lief that, with all things be­ing equal, Sew­golum would have gone on to be­come a golf icon just like Player, if not even bet­ter?

But thanks to this coun­try’s laws at the time, which were de­clared a crime against hu­man­ity by the UN, his achieve­ments were lim­ited.

So the is­sue of priv­i­lege does need to be ad­dressed and ac­knowl­edged.

It is also clear that many black South Africans still bear scars that bleed at the soft­est touch when the race and trans­for­ma­tion is­sues come to the sur­face.

Just re­cently, I ob­served a group of white com­pa­tri­ots squirm­ing and show­ing a lot of dis­com­fort when I re­told sto­ries of how one of my rel­a­tives was made to ad­dress his white boss as “Baas” and his wife as “Miesies”, with their chil­dren get­ting the ti­tles “Klein­baas” and “Klein­miesies”.

So you can’t blame me for be­ing scep­ti­cal when Mbalula tells me: “We should not be ne­go­ti­at­ing trans­for­ma­tion at this stage – it should be hap­pen­ing au­to­mat­i­cally.”

We do need to ex­or­cise the demons of the past for at­ti­tudes to change be­fore we reach a trans­for­ma­tion utopia.

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