SA sport racially divided: study

Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - South African sport remains divided by race 20 years after the end of apartheid, with the target of black-white equality in cricket and rugby still a long way off, according to a study released Tuesday.

"The processes to change the face of sport over the past 20 years have been largely ineffective," said Willie Basson, a member of the sport ministry's panel that oversees racial transformation.

The report marking two decades of democracy found that the number of blacks in rugby and cricket teams still had to increase threefold to reach the target of 50 percent representation.

A development plan for 2030 has the goal of making teams more representative of national demographics - over 80 percent of South Africans are black, while under 10 percent are white.

Cricket and rugby remain pillars of the white South African identity, and whites often argue that team selection should be merit-based.

South Africa, which hosted the Cricket World Cup in 2003, is currently ranked the world's top Test side.

In rugby, South Africa has won two World Cups, including a hugely symbolic triumph on home soil in 1995.

South Africa's white captain Francois Pienaar receiving the trophy from anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela was a powerful image of the promise of racial reconciliation.

But a top official of the sport and recreation ministry, Alec Moemi, on Tuesday said that discrimination was still at work.

"There are still selectors who are racist, who will not select a talented black player just because he is black," he said, launching the report.

Football has the reverse problem, with white players virtually absent from major teams, the sport ministry noted, with no sign that hosting the 2010 World Cup helped popularise the sport among non-blacks.

Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula - in hot water recently for threatening to up the quotas to 60 percent before May 7 polls - toned down talk of targets on Tuesday.

"We are not imposing any solution," he said, stressing that authorities had a "bottom-up" approach aimed at helping young players develop.

"We must talk about infrastructure and the question of facilities," he said, calling for a "levelling of the playing field" between impoverished black schools and rich, formerly whites-only schools.

"Until each and every school gets a trainer that focuses on sport development, we will not be able to make the progress that we want."

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