Cape Argus

Proteas had chance to send world a signal – Hain


ICONIC anti-apartheid activist Peter Hain is appalled that 50 years after putting the wheels in motion for the boycott of the 1969/70 England cricket tour to South Africa, the “attitudes among some of the white cricketers haven’t changed”.

Hain, who aged just 19 was the chairperso­n of the “Stop the Seventies tour” campaign further lambasted the current Proteas Men’s team’s refusal to take a knee in support of systematic racial injustice in their recent England series.

Sports teams all around the world along with numerous highprofil­e athletes like NBA superstar LeBron James and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton have placed the spotlight firmly on racial inequality since the rise of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which gained prominence in the wake of American police killing George Floyd on May 25 this year.

Hain also stressed that it was the former apartheid government that intertwine­d politics and sport and not the other way around.

“I started off as an activist combating the argument that sport and politics should not mix because my argument was that apartheid infested sport in terms of politics like no other system in the country did. When the Springboks toured it was not South Africa but white South Africa. They injected politics into sport,” Hain said.

CSA have expressed their support for racial equality through banners at Newlands during the recent T20I series and the players have expressed their sentiments through a public statement. However, the Proteas men’s team have not taken the symbolic knee which has angered large parts of the country, which Hain sympathise­s with.

“Yes, I am (disappoint­ed), to be frank. Because I would have thought, of all countries in the world, given the history of apartheid and the legacy of apartheid that still is with us (they would take a knee).

“Siya Kolisi only became the Springbok captain (who led his team to World Cup glory in 2019) because he went to Grey (High School). He was plucked out of the township and poverty where he wasn’t getting a decent meal a day to become one of the best internatio­nals in the world.

“So the legacy is still there, and I would have thought the one set of sports people in the world who should have been taking the knee was in South Africa, to send a signal to the world that SA actually understood its apartheid history.

“What’s struck me about the contempora­ry debate, especially around cricket, is that attitudes among some of the white cricketers haven’t changed. Viewed from outside, it’s as if people simply haven’t imbibed the nature of change,” Hain said.

SA cricket has traditiona­lly faced strong opposition in its bid to transform the game in the country, with the latest reports that the Proteas’ Men’s team’s target of seven black players, which includes a mandatory three Black Africans in the starting XI by 2022-23, causing an outcry on social media.

Professor Andre Odendaal, who co-authored the book Pitch Battles with Hain, believes this is the right way to go as CSA has a responsibi­lity to the youth in South Africa.

“I think the bottom line is that without targeted plans for change to bring about a reordering of the sporting infrastruc­ture system in South Africa it won’t happen on its own,” said Odendaal, who is on CSA’s interim board.

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Peter Hain

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