Growing Pains: Time to play ball if you want to have a say

2013-10-14 10:00

When I was in my early teens, I was bitten by the basketball bug like most of the urban youngsters I knew.

Maybe it was the hip-hop music we loved or the stellar ambassadorship of Michael Jordan; or maybe Nike just did it, but, either way, wherever you went in my Hillbrow surrounds, “young cats were playing ball”.

The world was quickly split into those who could ball well and those who should go and buy themselves a basketball.

If you were good at the game, you didn’t have to come to the courts with anything, you could even leave your sneakers at home – someone would provide just for the honour of having you on their team.

But if you weren’t good, the only thing you could hope for was someone’s favour, someone’s misfortune through injury, or everyone needing to use your ball – then you could play.

Overnight, terrible players found themselves in the company of great players.

And glory. And so they were usually very mouthy.

One day, a bad, loud-mouthed player wasn’t getting the passes and defensive support he’d hoped for.

So he walked off the court with his ball in hand. Game over.

We all called him spoilt, but not to his face.

When he came back a few days later, there were many more balls on the court, brought by players who were not as good as he was.

They got game time and he got aloof glances. And a tag.

He hadn’t just lost his cool the previous week, he also lost our respect.

My mind flashed to this chap when, a few weeks ago, I read an article by a writer I’m always excited to hear from.

In a compelling read, TO Molefe implores us to “spoil” our votes because our politics are about whose voice counts more than anyone else’s and because business interests lobby to influence government decisions.

While I agree that all is not well in our state, I can’t help but feel that Molefe, and many of us who are similarly disillusioned, have the wrong idea.

Just like the spoilt basketball player who stalked off with his ball, stalking off with your vote isn’t going to change the rules of the game.

Of course, the rules are changed by the players through consensus.

The strong players, the ones who know the rules, the referees and those who hold the ball all have an opportunity to influence how we play the game each day, but it’s not an absolute power for each.

South Africa, as JP Landman writes in his latest book, is one such place where all the rules are up for changing.

That’s what makes our politics so exciting.

But if you’re really hoping for the political dynamics of South Africa to change, then you’re going to have to get stuck in and do it yourself.

I found it ironic this week how many young women were cheesed off after hearing that the president of the ANC Women’s League doesn’t think any of our roughly 13?million adult women are worthy of becoming state president.

It’s ironic because many of these young women wouldn’t dare join the league because of that darn ugly uniform.

Pride before a fall?

Perhaps if the league’s executive was mindful of the burgeoning middle class twitterati membership it had, it would have been more circumspect.

Or look at the wonderfully racist Red October.

With just 399 other okes and some balloons, Steve Hofmeyr thrust himself into our national psyche and had us wondering about the plight of white people.

Again, like when the Nats took power.

And, of course, there’s yesterday’s latest act of exploitation in Marikana, where a number of the ANC Youth League’s policies were read out and further popularised. Thanks guys.

You see, you don’t have to agree with the politics of the day.

But if you’re not getting stuck in, then you’re really not having a say.

It’s time to expunge the underlying myth that we are powerless as well as the myth that we can have it easy, vote and someone will do it all for us.

That time is over. If you can’t give your time to the future, why should your future leaders give you the time of day?

»?Follow me on Twitter @ShakaSisulu

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