Long wait over as Beukes receives recognition at last
Blocked by apartheid, tennis player finally represents SA
HAVING not had the opportunity to progress to the highest level as a tennis player during apartheid because she was classified as “coloured”, 47-year-old Zaida Beukes will now set things right, travelling to Florida in the US next year as part of the South African national tennis team, for the first time.
But the long-awaited “honour”, says Western Province Tennis president Beukes, will also be a personal tribute to her father, Martin Mally, who died four months ago, at 79.
“He taught me the game and he competed only as part of the national team at the age of 75 in Australia. He had a hip replacement and eventually died of a heart attack.”
At eight, she was practically “forced into” tennis, as her parents played league matches and wanted her to start playing when they had to field a junior team. Despite excelling, she could only attain a certain level under the-then sports governing body, the SA Council on Sport ( Sacos), which was a non-racial sports federation established in 1973.
Former director of the UN Centre against Apartheid Enuga Sreenivasulu Reddy wrote in a 2004 tribute to Sacos founding member Sam Ramsamy – archived at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – that the body was “uncompromising” on apartheid, and said there could be “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.
“Leaders of Sacos suffered persecution, but refused to be intimidated.”
Reddy said Ramsamy worked to establish relations between other sports federations, which also lobbied for the equal rights of non-white sportsmen and -women.
Beukes, who coaches children from disadvantaged backgrounds parttime, says that while black people now had the freedom to compete at any level, underprivileged youngsters with huge potential often lost out because of a lack of exposure and money.
“There has been huge growth at the development hubs where I coach, especially Mitchells Plain, and there’re so many talented kids in townships, but they can’t afford to progress to a professional level.” The hubs aim to offer them financial assistance, with entry fees even at junior level starting at R150.
Now her journey with the sporting code will see her fly to Florida in April, after receiving an official notification to compete as part of the national tennis side.
She will compete at the International Tennis Federation Seniors World Team Championships and the ITF Individual Championships, which is hosted at the Palm Beach Gardens from April 19 to May 4.
To qualify for the national tennis team, players must have participated in a certain number of ranked tournaments, national games and interprovincial events.
Beukes is now trying to raise funds for her overseas trip, which will cost around R30 000.
Beukes, a former school teacher, works at Pollsmoor’s rehabilitation workshop at the Adult Basic Education and Training section, where she teaches inmates to read and write. She also teaches tennis to inmates, and wardens and their children who live on the prison grounds.
Despite the long hours spent coaching, Beukes says training children remains the most rewarding part of her tennis career.
REWARDING: Western Province Tennis president Zaida Beukes coaches youngsters at Pollsmoor Prison.