Siya missed his cue on transformation

The Spring­bok cap­tain should have ad­dressed the in­jus­tices of the past, and the lip-ser­vice paid by the au­thor­i­ties around ev­ery World Cup

Saturday Star - - SPORT - KAYA MALOTANA

I THINK Siya Kolisi is mis­in­formed in terms of what Nel­son Man­dela stood for when it comes to op­por­tu­nity and fair­ness in the work space.

Man­dela was a big ad­vo­cate of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion and the quota sys­tem in sport, be­cause if peo­ple can’t trans­form to the level where op­por­tu­ni­ties are equal to ev­ery­body re­gard­less of colour, then the is­sue must be forced one way or the other.

And in rugby, un­for­tu­nately the is­sue of num­bers on the field – rep­re­sen­ta­tive num­bers – was the way to go.

It was sup­posed to be a path­way to a last­ing so­lu­tion on play­ers be­ing se­lected on abil­ity re­gard­less of the colour of their skin.

But un­for­tu­nately when the sys­tem was in­tro­duced, ev­ery­thing was done to make sure it stayed that way – se­lec­tion on race cri­te­ria and not se­lec­tion on the cri­te­ria of skill and abil­ity.

We are now 25 years down the line and it is still all talk.

We lived the quota sys­tem where it ques­tions your own self-be­lief and con­fi­dence.

We were in­volved in a team, and we were only sup­posed to be four non­whites in this team, re­ally!

So some were say­ing there should have been four whites who should have been here, yet they couldn’t be.

Now that starts play­ers ques­tion­ing their own abil­ity – is there some­body bet­ter out there who should be play­ing here?

We lived that life and it is a life that – 25 years down the line – we were hop­ing that our lit­tle broth­ers like Siya didn’t have to live.

I can un­der­stand Siya be­ing against the quota sys­tem be­cause it ques­tions his own self-be­lief and merit of be­ing in the team.

Even worse, to have that self-doubt when you are in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion is even worse – so I can cer­tainly feel for him.

I also think he wasn’t prepped on the line of ques­tion­ing, so he would have thought deeper into it, and to how he was go­ing to re­spond.

It may have been some­thing he was caught cold with, and he had to think on his feet... and un­for­tu­nately the pres­sure of hav­ing to bal­ance his re­spon­si­bil­ity as Spring­bok cap­tain with where you have to bal­ance things on both sides of the fence.

Siya is there as the first black Spring­bok cap­tain and he serves black peo­ple and he serves white peo­ple.

And those in­ter­ests should be equal on both sides for him.

To be caught hav­ing to think on your feet try­ing to bal­ance both sides is tough.

Firstly he tries to bal­ance the is­sue of the quota in a man­ner that sat­is­fies the white side of the equa­tion, in terms of why is it that peo­ple are not se­lected on merit – and ev­ery­body wants to be se­lected on merit.

That in it­self then says we will go back to a “ma­jor­ity of white peo­ple should be in a team” if we are talk­ing merit.

And then he tries to back­track when he re­alises, hav­ing in­cluded Nel­son Man­dela’s name, that Madiba wouldn’t have sup­ported it be­cause log­i­cally, by try­ing to bal­ance this side of the fence, a leader like Nel­son Man­dela would see the un­fair­ness in forc­ing peo­ple to be part of some­thing “they are not good enough to be part of”.

Then Siya back­tracks again and ad­dresses transformation in a man­ner that it should be hap­pen­ing in town­ships, and that fa­cil­i­ties need to be put in town­ships – but that is still not ad­dress­ing transformation. Transformation starts in the mind. How do I see some­one as they sit in front of me?

Do I see you as a hu­man be­ing who has a skill set which can de­liver on what I re­quire?

Or do I first see you as black with the skills that I re­quire for you to do the job?

Un­for­tu­nately in rugby, be­cause of the sys­tem, a black player is al­ways go­ing to be looked at be­cause he is black, and if his skill will not weaken the team, there­fore his is in­cluded in the po­si­tion.

There is al­ways that bal­anc­ing act of a black player who has what it takes to up­hold the stan­dard that we are look­ing for.

It is never “that player” ac­tu­ally has skills to be the best in the world, “and by the way he is black” – it is al­ways the other way around.

That is the kind of ‘transformation’ we need to be ad­dress­ing.

The other thing we need to ad­dress with transformation is the fact we have these heated ar­gu­ments ev­ery World Cup year.

Un­til we are in a stage in South African rugby where ev­ery­body has been of­fered equal op­por­tu­ni­ties re­gard­less of what they look like, we can never stop hav­ing the de­bate.

But this needs to move past the de­bat­ing stage to the ac­tion stage.

This topic has been there ever since I made it to the na­tional team, and noth­ing has hap­pened in all the years since

Some­where, some­how, there is a per­son who needs to stand on the podium and say “now we are go­ing to move in this di­rec­tion”.

I feel the re­spon­si­bil­ity falls into the hands of the govern­ment, as peo­ple en­trusted to lead a coun­try for­ward.

They should be stand­ing up and say­ing “no more will we have teams rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try, only rep­re­sented by four play­ers of colour on the field, it needs to change.

“No more will we have coach­ing struc­tures that rep­re­sent the coun­try at var­i­ous lev­els, that are not trans­formed as they are in this sport of rugby.”

Specif­i­cally in rugby, govern­ment need to be more bold in the de­ci­sions they take in mov­ing the sport for­ward.

Rugby and the way that it is run and the way it’s stuck on mov­ing on transformation is the same as the econ­omy.

It is stuck.

It doesn’t move from cer­tain hands to em­power the rest and those in the pound seats are con­stantly man­u­fac­tur­ing new ways of hold­ing on to that, so not ev­ery­body has equal op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Rugby is ex­actly the same.

Peo­ple are hold­ing on to the sta­tus quo and prom­ises are made ev­ery World Cup year.

Now the prom­ise is, when they build new schools, they’ll make sure there are fa­cil­i­ties in the town­ships so kids don’t have to go to town to get into a gym.

They prom­ise to im­ple­ment nu­tri­tional pro­grammes, but where are they?

They never hap­pen be­cause after the World Cup, all that stuff was swept un­der the car­pet be­fore the World Cup ... well, that car­pet never gets lifted.

In­stead new dirt gets a new car­pet to be swept un­der, and those things need to be changed, and I’m look­ing to the lead­er­ship of the coun­try to be the first to say so.

The lead­ers of SA Rugby past and present have proven them­selves un­will­ing to fa­cil­i­tate the change in this be­cause they are the big­gest par­tic­i­pants in say­ing what is go­ing to hap­pen, yet it never hap­pens.

Ev­ery year there is a new idea of how we are go­ing to fast-track transformation and some­how it never de­liv­ers to a sat­is­fac­tory level the kind of trans­formed Spring­bok team we are look­ing for.

It is get­ting to a stage where it is re­ally tir­ing to be hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion ev­ery four years – govern­ment needs to act.

We can’t blame Siya for what he said, he is mis­in­formed in some ways, and in other ways he is caught in a sys­tem where he needs to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect in what he says be­cause it is his liveli­hood, he can’t run like an open tap of wa­ter in his deep be­liefs of what should be the sta­tus quo.

He has to be guarded in what he says and I can un­der­stand hav­ing to bal­ance that.

We’ve lived that life and it is a life that is not fair for our kids to be liv­ing.

We should have moved on by now.

KAYA Malotana dur­ing a Spring­bok train­ing ses­sion in Glas­gow ahead of their 1999 World Cup clash against Uruguay.| ELECTRONIC IM­AGE

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