Seg­re­ga­tion in sports and play­ing fields

Vol­ume 2 of four-part se­ries ex­plores the his­tory of SA cricket from day one in 1795 to the present

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

WHILE the rest of the cricket world in­creas­ingly rubbed out old di­vid­ing lines af­ter 1920, South Africa re­in­forced them.

Cricket came to re­sem­ble an ethno-re­li­gious chess­board with a “white” men’s South Africa ( SACA), a “white” women’s South Africa (SARWCA), a “coloured” Chris­tian South Africa (SACCA), a “Malay” or “coloured” Mus­lim South Africa ( SACCB/ SAMCB), a “Bantu” ( or ‘black African’) South Africa (SABCB), an “In­dian” South Africa ( SAICU), and – in a slight vari­a­tion of th­ese – an “in­ter-race” South Africa (SACBOC).

In this way, cricket came to re­flect the mad­ness of in­sti­tu­tion­alised apart­ness as logic and law were used to struc­ture sport and so­ci­ety on the ba­sis of tor­tur­ously de­fined racial cat­e­gories.

The emer­gence of the South African Bantu Cricket Board in 1932 (and its rugby and foot­ball coun­ter­parts) was an ex­am­ple of the grow­ing seg­re­ga­tion from the 1920s on­wards. The Na­tives Ur­ban Ar­eas Act of 1923 set aside sep­a­rate sta­te­owned res­i­den­tial “lo­ca­tions” in the cities for Africans and em­pow­ered lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to or­der Africans to live in them.

As res­i­den­tial seg­re­ga­tion in the cities be­came the norm, the geo­graphic sep­a­ra­tion of sports peo­ple in­ten­si­fied. Mines started spon­sor­ing African crick­eters and pre­sented the Na­tive Re­cruit­ing Com­pany Tro­phy for the Bantu Board’s new in­ter-provin­cial com­pe­ti­tion, to go along­side SACA’s Cur­rie Cup, SACCB’s Bar­nato Me­mo­rial Tro­phy and the SAICCB’s Sir David Har­ris Tro­phy.

Par­tic­u­larly af­ter 1915, when the Wit­wa­ter­srand Na­tive Cricket Union was formed, the mines and mu­nic­i­pal­ity to­gether started tak­ing an ac­tive in­ter­est in pro­mot­ing cricket for minework­ers and the Jo­han­nes­burg mid­dle classes. They saw this as an in­surance pol­icy against rad­i­cal­ism and the un­con­trolled so­cial life of the rapidly grow­ing work­force in the city.

A good cricket in­fra­struc­ture, solid leagues and even a stra­tum of semi-pro­fes­sional play­ers emerged, which was un­usual for that time out­side the es­tab­lish­ment SACA, with its tra­di­tion of em­ploy­ing English county play­ers as pro­fes­sional coaches dur­ing the Bri­tish win­ters.

The mines did not only spon­sor the lo­cal league for the Man­gena Cup and the new in­ter-provin­cial com­pe­ti­tions. Al­most the en­tire top ech­e­lon of the SABCB and its Transvaal af­fil­i­ate, as well as many lead­ing play­ers, were em­ployed by the mines. Among them was Philip Vundla, a later leader of the African Minework­ers’ Union and the Transvaal ANC, who found em­ploy­ment at Crown Mines as a clerk in the 1920s be­cause he was a good crick­eter.

More­over, Umteteli wa Bantu, the news­pa­per fi­nanced by the Cham­ber of Mines, acted as one of the ma­jor mouth­pieces for the SABCB, to­gether with the re­silient 50-year- old Imvo Za­bantsundu, based in King Wil­liam’s Town.

Cricket re­ports from through­out the coun­try were promi­nently placed in Umteteli next to the lat­est ruc­tions in the ANC (where a con­ser­va­tive Dr Seme was be­ing chal­lenged by younger op­po­nents) and safety ad­ver­tise­ments aimed at “mine boys”.

Be­cause of the in­vest­ment by the mines and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the qual­ity of cricket was high, and the leagues in Jo­han­nes­burg by the 1930s were im­pres­sively large and well run. Fix­ture lists, printed in the news­pa­pers, showed that there were no fewer than 24 league games in­volv­ing 48 teams on Sun­day, Novem­ber 20, 1932. They in­volved mainly mine teams and were played mostly at the dif­fer­ent mines such as Geduld, Mod­der Bee, Sim­mer and Jack, ERPM, Van Ryn Deep, Nigel, Wits Deep and State Mines.

Twelve teams played in the first league for the Man­gena Cup, while there was also a se­cond league with the Wit­wa­ter­srand Cup at stake.

By 1937 there were “50 to 100 clubs play­ing to­day from Rand­fontein to Nigel”. In 1939, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sources, Jo­han­nes­burg’s black pop­u­la­tion of 230 000 sup­ported 60 cricket teams.

The first SABCB tour­na­ment took place at the com­plex of the brand-new Bantu Sports Club, opened in 1932. Sit­u­ated on old min­ing land just south of the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, the BSC com­prised nine acres of land, with soc­cer and cricket fields, ten­nis courts, a club­house and an em­bank­ment that could seat 5 000 spec­ta­tors. The open­ing was cel­e­brated by a cricket match be­tween Africans and whites watched by 15 000 peo­ple. The same kind of crowds at­tended its soc­cer matches.

One of the few “un­re­stricted” African meet­ing places in the city, the Bantu Sports Club was much “more than a sports club”. “Pic­nics, socials, mu­sic shows, mu­si­cal com­pe­ti­tions, choirs, jazz evenings and dances were or­gan­ised. On Sun­days mem­bers [of which there were over one thou­sand] could lis­ten and dance to ‘ra­dio­gram mu­sic’ on the Club ve­ran­dah”. The BSC also ran a night school and its fa­cil­i­ties were rented out for so­cial func­tions.

The Bantu Sports Club and the more ex­clu­sive Bantu Men’s So­cial Cen­tre in Eloff Street ex­ten­sion – both started with funds raised by lo­cal mis­sion­ar­ies and lib­er­als, work­ing with the City Coun­cil and min­ing groups – were the main so­cial fa­cil­i­ties for the Jo­han­nes­burg black lead­er­ship in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the bi­og­ra­phy of Wal­ter and Al­bertina Sisulu, In Our Life­time, there is a de­scrip­tion of the cou­ple’s “glit­ter­ing” wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion at the BMSC in the early 1940s. The Merry Black­birds jazz band pro­vided the en­ter­tain­ment and the guests in­cluded the ANC pres­i­dent, Dr A.B. Xuma, Nel­son Man­dela and Youth League founder An­ton Lem­bede.

The Merry Black­birds was one of the bands that in­spired ur­ban jazz and swing in South Africa and it reg­u­larly un­der­took na­tional tours. Todd Mat­shik­iza was one of the many artists who made their de­buts in it af­ter com­ing to the big city.

The full-time man­ager of the Bantu Sports Club from 1934 was the “the­atri­cal” Dan Twala, a nephew of Richard Msi­mang, one of the lawyers who helped found the ANC. Twala be­came leg­endary in Jo­han­nes­burg as a soc­cer of­fi­cial and com­mu­nity worker.

Thus, while the foun­tain­head of cricket and the con­cen­tra­tion of play­ers were in the Eastern Cape, the first SABCB of­fi­cials came from the big cen­tres of Jo­han­nes­burg, Kim­ber­ley and Cape Town. This ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion be­came a fixed pat­tern in the next few decades. Even if it was still Eastern Cape old boys lead­ing, the whole lo­cus of African sport shifted to Jo­han­nes­burg and the Transvaal prov­ince, which was by now firmly es­tab­lished as both the eco­nomic pow­er­house of 20th- cen­tury South Africa and the in­cu­ba­tor of a mod­ern African na­tion­al­ist pol­i­tics.

Edited ex­cerpts from A. Oden­daal, K, Reddy and C Mer­rett, Di­vided Coun­try, The His­tory of South African Re­told, Vol. 2, 1914-1950s (Pub­lished by BestRed, and im­print of HSRC Press)


SA BANTU TEAM 1951. Back row: B Malamba, M Sokopo, S Nt­shek­isa, J Ma­han­jana, F Roro (Capt), W Ximiya, G Sulupha, G Langa. Front row: L Ma­fon­gosi, C Msikinya, C Scott. The team played in the 1951 SACBOC In­ter-Race na­tional tour­na­ment at Natal­spruit, Jo­han­nes­burg.

Press cut­ting from ‘Di­vided Coun­try’.

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