Pressing Issues: Without a changed mind-set, transformation will remain a swear word

2015-04-06 10:00

‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This passage is found in Romans 12, verse 2 of the Bible. The emphasis on transformed is mine.

I thought about this as the Vernon Philander saga unfolded, giving rise to the transformation debate that has gripped the sporting community this week.

Without delving too much into whether there was or wasn’t an SMS sent from Cricket SA CEO Haroon Lorgat (who has denied it) to coach Russell Domingo to drop Kyle Abbott and field Philander in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, I felt pity for the poor player. I also felt a searing pain for Abbott.

I doubt the two young men ever thought they would find themselves pawns in a political debate when they took a conscious decision to pursue their God-given talent and polish it as best they could to reach the pinnacle of representing their country.

It is the ultimate dream for every budding sportsperson to represent his or her country in a World Cup tournament.

What made me feel even more for Philander, though, was that, when you followed the debate closely, you realised that the subtext was that he should not have been played.

There were even suggestions that he should not have been selected in the first place.

“He is a good player and deserves his place in the national team but he was not fully fit following an injury,” the typical apologist’s argument went.

To me, what was being said though, was that Philander was “not the right colour” to be in the Proteas.

And this feeds into the stereotype that a black man is always a suspect, while white is always right.

So if bigots spewing such vitriol were to be believed, the Proteas would have won the semifinal had Abbott played.

Even Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was drawn into this ugly spat and had to issue a statement distancing himself from “meddling in the selection of Team South Africa” at the cricket World Cup.

“The minister of sport and recreation of South Africa, Fikile Mbalula, rejects allegations that he interfered in the selection of Team South Africa for the Cricket World Cup.

“Team selection for any of our national teams has nothing to do with the minister and the minister had no space to make calls of who must be selected and who should not be selected,” read the short but strongly worded missive.

A look at the transformation package carried in today’s City Press (Pages 20 and 21) will show that a great effort is being made by different South African sports federations to address the inequalities of the past.

The SA Rugby Union (Saru) is working closely with the sports department as well as an eminent persons group to ensure that they meet the set transformation targets.

CSA has a clear-cut transformation charter, which they are implementing.

Just last weekend, Safa held an extraordinary congress in Mbombela where some major resolutions, aimed at transforming soccer in this country were adopted.

Among them was a drastic decision that, at the next election, one of the four vice-presidents had to be a woman.

The organisation already has four women serving in its national executive committee.

Major strides have been taken to move this country forward (to borrow a line from one of our banking institutions, not to mention the political party) from looking at sport through colour-tinted glasses that see some sports as white and others as black.

We are, after all, Madiba’s rainbow nation, and this should not be only when it suits some sections of the population.

But unless we heed St Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will always be divided and miss the advantages of the strength that comes from unity.

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