There are no mir­a­cles in ba­boons’ but­tocks

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­

Agood and conscious brother, Chris, tweeted his re­sponse to one of my pre­vi­ous col­umns, “To save SA we must learn to fly” (March 19 2017). Among the beau­ti­ful things he said was this sen­tence: “I as­sume a level play­ing field.”

Chris, my brother, the field is never level. It is al­ways built on a slope.

I once saw chil­dren in Mum­bai play­ing cricket on a slop­ing street. It left me won­der­ing if that was not the rea­son In­dia pro­duced some of the world’s best play­ers.

Back to Chris. His com­ment re­minded me of a soc­cer field near Tlakula High School, sit­u­ated in KwaThema town­ship in Gaut­eng.

The pitch was re­luc­tantly run by the de­part­ment of bantu af­fairs and de­spite var­i­ous set­backs, it con­trib­uted tremen­dously to the golden age of lo­cal soc­cer as this is where some of South Africa’s finest foot­ballers, in­clud­ing Nel­son “Teenage” Dladla, were shaped.

When it rained, the field re­tained wa­ter in the cen­tre, cre­at­ing shin-deep pud­dles.

When the wa­ter had dried, it ex­posed a knee-high wa­ter pipe that ran across the field, which the star play­ers used as a prop to drib­ble against their op­po­nents.

They would run to­wards the pipe, kick the ball against it and trap it on the re­bound. Poor op­pos­ing de­fender, he would not know what to do, con­fused by the jeers of the ju­bi­lant crowds.

And then the foot­ball wiz­ard would hook it above the de­fender’s head and jump the pipe, to the crowd’s wild ap­plause.

By that time, the field was about 25% smaller as the fron­tline fans had stepped on the touch­line, with those be­hind push­ing to try to get a glimpse of the ac­tion.

When Tlakula High chal­lenged the Mamelodi High team – then the ti­tans of soc­cer in Pre­to­ria – and hu­mil­i­ated them in their own back­yard, ri­ots erupted in Mamelodi town­ship.

It was a ques­tion of time be­fore KwaThema pro­duced its own soc­cer team, Pilk­ing­ton United Broth­ers, named af­ter a lo­cal spon­sor.

One year, the team reached the semi­fi­nals in a com­pe­ti­tion which had two legs to it. The venue was Soweto’s Or­lando Sta­dium, at the time foot­ball’s most iconic venue. Pilk­ing­ton lost the first leg. The next day, dis­cus­sions were not about which play­ers to field and which strat­egy to ap­ply, but which witch doc­tor to con­sult. It was a toss-up be­tween an old man who lived in White City – I for­get his name – and Bab’ Mabaso, who resided in High­land.

The White City doc­tor gave the Pilk­ing­ton team ta­ble salt to sprin­kle on the pitch at Or­lando Sta­dium, along with in­struc­tions to uri­nate on the goal posts just be­fore the start of the match to ex­pel any evil spir­its.

Bab’ Mabaso had a dif­fer­ent idea. He re­quired the but­tocks of a ba­boon. This would en­tail his hav­ing to go and hunt for the an­i­mal, kill it, singe it, skin it, cut out the but­tocks, cook them and then get the play­ers to spread the re­main­ing oil on their faces like Vase­line. This, he said, would make them net the goals.

The prob­lem was, there were no known ba­boons in KwaThema. Pilk­ing­ton lost, and the demise of the team be­gan.

That is what hap­pens when team lead­ers have no vi­sion – and that is what is hap­pen­ing to South Africa right now.

When a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter says: “When the rand falls, we will pick it up,” and they do not say how they will do so, then you know they have no vi­sion. They are seek­ing the but­tocks of a ba­boon to per­form mir­a­cles.

Chris, my brother, know that a leader’s job is to in­spire his fol­low­ers to pre­vail over the most chal­leng­ing and un­fair of cir­cum­stances.

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