Peter Robinson

Komphela unlikely to go away

2005-03-01 07:40

It is possible to overlook ignorance. Arrogance, too, may be excused even if it is more difficult to stomach.

In some folk, however, the two qualities combine, in which case the temptation is simply to file them away under the heading "stupidity" and try to forget about them.

Sadly, ANC MP Butana Komphela is unlikely to go away. Not content with accusing Archbishop Desmond Tutu of treason last week because Tutu disagreed with the way the transformation of sport is being handled, Komphela stuck the boot into white coaches at the weekend, accusing all of them, Ray Jennings and Jake White included, of "deliberately putting black players aside".

Komphela's views emerged in a question and answer feature published in the Sunday Times at the weekend. Aside from trashing the coaches, Komphela dismisses cricket's development programme as being non-existent, states, with some pride it seems, that he knows nothing about sport and refers to a conspiracy to keep "top" cricketers and rugby players out of teams on fabricated medical grounds.

Komphela's take on the state of South African sport is so ill-informed and misguided that it almost defies criticism, but it seems worthwhile to put the record straight on at least a couple of matters.

According to Komphela, "The mistake people make is to equate Makhaya Ntini with transformation. He comes from an elite school, he's not a development player".

Cricket's efforts not without criticism

A different version of the early part of Ntini's career is contained in Andre Odendaal's The Story of an African Game: "Ntini was first spotted playing at Mdingi village near King Williams Town, on a bumpy outfield with cows grazing, before the United Cricket Board gave him a bursary to attend Dale College with its equally long but different sports tradition."

Komphela is dismissed of the UCB's development programme. "They don't have a development programme," he says, dismissing an initiative that goes back some 20 years.

Cricket's efforts to produce black cricketers are not without criticism. Over those 20 years a good deal of money and effort has been wasted in trying to sell cricket to communities with little interest in the game.

The target now is to concentrate on those areas with long traditions of cricket such as the Eastern and Western Cape.

But cricket had to start somewhere and if the programme made mistakes, the mistakes were made with the best intentions.

Komphela also appears to be scornful of what he refers to as "elite" and "exclusive" schools. Presumably he means schools such as Dale, Queen's College and Selborne College, the three great sporting nurseries of the Border.

Quite why he should have a problem with Ntini being sent to be groomed at Dale is difficult to fathom, but it would seem self-evident that the most efficient way of producing international sportsmen and women is to send them to institutions with the facilities and expertise to bring the best out of them.

The Member of Parliament betrays himself when he says that he will not be happy that transformation has taken place until there is a majority of black players in all sports teams.

The day will surely come, and sooner, perhaps, than anyone thinks, when South Africa fields a cricket or rugby team that is exclusively black. That in itself, however, will not signal transformation.

Real transformation will have arrived when no one notices the colour of players. You rather doubt that people like Komphela will have played any part in this process.

Send your comments to Peter or discuss this column now in our debating forum.

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