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2008-07-22 00:00

THE over-the-top utterances of Butana Komphela, chairman of the parliamentary sports’ portfolio committee, have earned him a justifiable notoriety. At best he has shown himself to be a crass loudmouth; at worst, an unredeemed racist.

He has got away with it for a long time, but his recent description in an interview with the Mail & Guardian of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) as being “full of whites and Indians who don’t understand transformation and lack vision” has been too much for Sascoc chairman, Moss Mashishi. While himself committed to transformation, Mashishi realises that slandering whites and Indians is not the way to go about it and announced that under the current circumstances Sascoc is not prepared to work with Komphela’s committee any further.

Indeed, boorish behaviour such as Komphela’s is counterproductive; it actually hinders transformation. Quotas, in fact, are a prime example of the law of unintended consequences. When players are selected, not on merit, but because of the colour of their skin, to meet a quota that is set arbitrarily, both the players and the fans know it. Hence the honourable refusal, for instance, of Charl Langeveldt to accept selection for the Proteas ahead of André Nel simply in order to increase the ratio of players of colour in the side. Conversely, when such individuals — the Ashwell Princes, the Makhaya Ntinis, the Brian Habanas — are selected on merit, they receive as much support and applause as anyone else.

Mashishi sees the bigger picture. Transformation is about a lot more than gerrymandering selection for the Springbok or Protea teams. It starts at the bottom, not at the top. What, for instance, asks Mashishi, are municipalities doing about providing sports facilities for those who do not have them? How is the money from the national Lottery — R500 million every year given to sport — being spent? What about players who excel at school level and then disappear into limbo? Why are they not being attracted and nurtured into senior sport?

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