Ob­tain­ing jus­tice by look­ing at po­lit­i­cal, sport­ing lies in the eye

The Sunday Independent - - BUSINESS - PALI LEHOHLA Dr Pali Lehohla is the for­mer Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral of South Africa and the for­mer head of Sta­tis­tics South Africa.

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.

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