Obtaining justice by looking at political, sporting lies in the eye
LIES come in different shapes and at different times. When respected former finance minister Trevor Manuel addressed the South African Statistics Association (Sasa) in 2004, he correctly asserted that apartheid was a grand lie that masqueraded as the truth.
Former soccer star and Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) employee Johnny Masegela once also said South Africa would never make it in big-league soccer such as the World Cup if it “indulges in lies”. Masegela was referring to lies about players’ ages.
He said South Africa needed to start making children interested in measurement by applying soccer skills – thus came Soccer for Statistics in 2007, driven by the legendary Masegela.
I embraced the programme wholeheartedly and saw how it could negate the fear that South African children had for measurement and mathematics. I suddenly had an answer to Manuel’s question about how we could rid ourselves of the apartheid lie.
There are also national lies in sports. I myself participated in one.
In 1977, a club at the National University of Lesotho – Rovers the Reds – was hot and was to qualify for the Africa University Student Cup Games in Kenya. It was also going to take part in the World University Student Cup Games in Mexico in 1978. This was a matter of pride that gripped the entire university community and the Basotho nation.
The rules were clear: any participant had to be a registered university student aged below the age of 25. Brains Mchunu and Mangena Mokitimi were students at the university, but were way past the cut-off age. Yet they were red-hot and very effective cup winners at Rovers. Something had to be done. Mchunu, a South African, had to be issued with a Lesotho passport and his age reduced. Mokitimi’s age also had to be reduced.
We went further to enlist a few Basotho nationals who were not enrolled at the university to beef up the national pride.
As you can see, many people – the vice-chancellor, the registrar, home affairs and myself, as the treasurer of Rovers and its Student Representative Council (SRC) – became wrapped up in a lie for the sake of people and country.
Did the mighty Rovers not make us proud? Kuleile (Bomber) Thekiso, Motale (Sugar Baby) Phirwa, Teboho (Papa) Masia, Tseliso (Frisco) Khomari and many others who were within the required age were there and played their hearts out.
As they brought the bronze medal to the nation, the streets of Maseru up to Roma were filled with the joy of this lie.
National lies are difficult artefacts of society and we should learn to rid ourselves of them.
Apartheid is one, and lying to ourselves for that long that state capture was a lie is a severe miscarriage of justice to society. Masegela pointed to where a lie in sports would land us as a nation.
We should heed his call and answer Manuel’s profound injunction on lies.