Springboks are a perfect metaphor for SA

2013-09-29 14:00

I recently found myself cheering for the All Blacks in a match against the Springboks. The bad refereeing that cost the Boks the game was merely poetic justice and karma.

If one has a sense of history and justice, the offending spectacle of a white team representing a black nation is too much to bear.

In that sense, my disloyalty to the Springboks is a loyalty to transformation. For the record, I don’t actually dislike the players and administrators per se, but the fact that our rugby team is the perfect metaphor for South Africa – a white nation managed by blacks to perpetuate white privilege.

That 20 years later we have a white team is not an indictment on whites, but on blacks who have been given a mandate to transform South Africa from its racist antiblack past to a nation we all can be proud of.

The ANC as the governing party has surrendered the mission of transformation to the very beneficiaries of injustice. This is unfair to white people.

It must be remembered that the self-perception of whites is overly shaped by the lie of white supremacy – the belief that the wealth, comfort and security they enjoy today is out of their own hard work and intelligence.

White people genuinely believe in the myth of their superiority to black people, a myth created by colonialism and apartheid.

They exist in the bubble of white ignorance and lies. To ask such a group to transform into a different society is to place an impossible and cruel responsibility on them. They simply wouldn’t know what to do and how.

This means, then, that the responsibility of transformation rests squarely on the shoulders of black people, whom the ANC has rendered a powerless voting majority.

The link between sports and society is deep.

We must not forget that sports and cultural boycotts were key pillars of the anti-apartheid struggle. We may have forgotten John Harris, the first and perhaps only white person to be hanged by the apartheid regime for his bombing activities that killed a white person and harmed many.

Harris had been moved by how apartheid manifested on the playground.

Dennis Brutus spent time on Robben Island, breaking rocks with Nelson Mandela because of his activism against apartheid, having chosen sports as the battlefield to fight white supremacy.

We may also have forgotten, and our history may be silent on, the events of 1960 when the world agreed on a sports boycott of South Africa.

We could go back in time to marvel at the creative spirit of resistance, and witness how progressive nations pressurised the UN and Britain, including by threatening to boycott the Commonwealth Games.

We must remember the likes of Arthur Ashe, the former US tennis player and world number one, who was among the first sportsmen to denounce apartheid and support sports boycotts.

France, Britain, the US and New Zealand were the only major sporting nations that continued to engage in sporting activities with apartheid South Africa.

The slogan of the time was “no normal sport in an abnormal society”. As long as our sporting codes reflect the apartheid lie of “white is good”, we cannot be patriotic.

We have to ask: can our sporting codes be transformed in an untransformed society? The job of transformation is not on the field of play but in the economy and social development that must end inequality and redress past injustices.

Only then shall the playing field genuinely reflect a transformed society. Until then, each time the Springboks run on to the field, it’s a reminder of the terrible betrayal of the ideals of transformation.

»?Mngxitama is the author of Biko Lives!

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