Guest Column

Mbalula 'made the right decision'

2016-05-04 13:54

A 26-year-old man from Cape Town has commended Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and the government on the decision to ban any bid for a major rugby tournament until the transformation quotas are hit. This after a racist Facebook post by Matthew Theunissen went viral and made news headlines. Read the column below and share your thoughts with us and GET PUBLISHED!

So as most of you know I am a passionate rugby fan. After an entire Saturday of coaching, playing and watching the wonderful game, my girlfriend may, quite accurately suggest "obsessed". I also hardly ever go to social media to voice my opinions, but the issues that this article confronts are both close to my heart and forms part of a greater discussion trending in our country.

The discussion I nervously enter in is centred around race and the inescapable repercussions of over 300 years of racial oppression. Rightly the discussion has been dominated by far more pressing issues of economic exclusion in education, unequal access to basic human rights and the debilitating effects of a racially segregated society. Now I would like to delve into the boerie and beer dominated dominion of rugby in South Africa.

I would like to commend Fikile Mbalula and the government (not a popular position at the moment) on the decision to ban any bid for a major rugby tournament until the transformation quotas are hit. I acknowledge that this will marginalise many of our most talented players and may exasperate the mass exodus of players leaving for greener pastures. BUT it is a necessary move as Mbalula touched on during his announcement yesterday: “It is the right thing to do, considering the grave injustices of the past, but there is also the reality that 84% of the country’s under-18 population is black African. To ignore this from a sustainability perspective alone will be suicidal.”

Rugby in South Africa has been dominated by the elite and is seen as a "white" sport because of institutionalised racism in the past. It remains this way due to white privilege. Now before everyone gets their hackles up and starts pointing out that implementing a quota system based on race is itself institutionalised racism and punishes players that had nothing to do with apartheid, colonialism or slavery. I challenge them to consider. If all South Africans had equal access to balanced nutrition, exposure to rugby (watching our best perform in stadiums and on TV), quality coaching, equipment and a stable supportive household would top level rugby still be dominated by white players?

I think not!

White privilege is as real in rugby as it is in all aspects our society. We have to acknowledge this as the evidence is clear (simply drive through Langa and then Camps Bay or go to Saturday school derby and count the black faces). I am product of white privilege, I went a great school that nurtured a love for rugby and provided me opportunities that many black South Africans dream of. I have this advantage not because I asked/worked for it or because my black counterpart did not ask/work but simply I was lucky enough to be born into a particular demographic and he was not. Sound fair?

I think not!

The quota system may not be the most eloquent method in redressing the inequality in rugby and I concede that development at a grass roots level is far more effective in creating a fully representative Bok team. But at the moment I believe it is necessary to get the 84% of young South Africans invested and passionate about the Boks. If you don't agree with this then "yeah, well... that's just like your opinion man". I also note that supporting the quota system seriously decreases my chances of ever kicking the winning drop goal for the Boks in a world cup final, but those who have seen me kick will agree that this will always be a pipe dream at best!:-)

Now for the extremely talented and dedicated white players with a real shot at the bok jersey I am sorry that there is yet another barrier for you to overcome in achieving your dreams. It’s kak!
For the extremely talented and dedicated black players with a real shot at the Bok jersey, I am sorry that your inclusion will now be marred with controversy and that what should be a joyous fulfilment of a lifetime of hard work will be tainted by the never ending racial debate. It’s kak!

But I implore both sides of this kak (but necessary) move to focus on the bigger picture. You are part of a sport which has in the past brought South Africans together. You now have the opportunity to cement rugby in all South Africans folklore and culture. The players picked under the quota system, play harder than ever, you do not only represent our countries national rugby team but our hope for a fully inclusive society (a better prize than the Webb Ellis). Let that be your motivation as it was for the team of ‘95 and perhaps the determined underdogs will once again cause an upset and galvanise a country in support not because the team is 60% black or white, but rather because you all go onto the field and fight through blood, sweat and tears and earn your place in South Africa’s history books.

Haha an afterthought, perhaps to beat the All Blacks the Boks will have to embrace becoming "all black".

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