An open letter to Fikile Mbalula

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

Dear Fikile,

I would like to firstly state that as a non-white South African citizen, I am 100% enthusiastic about all non-whites getting equal and fair opportunities. Also, by logic, in no way do I feel or imply that non-whites are inferior and weaken our sports teams, being a person of colour myself. Hashim Amla, Tendai Mtawarira and Bryan Habana are my favourite athletes. Furthermore, being neither a generic black nor white person, it goes without saying that my views can only be taken objectively. As a freelance sports writer, I have written way too manypieces on this topic and am quite frankly tired of doing so but your latest acts have provoked me into penning once more. Transformation needs to be done the correct way!

I was deeply saddened and upset to hear your decision to revoke the privileges of four major sports federations – ASA, CSA, NSA and SARU – to host or bid for any major sporting event simply because they are too white. This is unethical and unacceptable! Your personal desires and implications are far worse than the Penny Sparrow and Gareth Cliff controversies in the media recently. You are supposed to be a role model.

How narrow-minded, short-sighted and indeed racist can one be? To make hasty decisions in the name of race is what tore our country apart in the first place. You tweeted that six codes including football and gymnastics have exceeded the set 60% charter generic black African target. The fact that you are blatantly serving the interests and supporting one specific race without any thought or regard for the other three main races of the country is astonishing and mind-boggling in this day and age! Do deserving white, Indian and coloured athletes not warrant any respect and opportunities as well? Must they be pushed aside simply to please statisticians?

I fully understand the demographic statistics of the country but that does not necessarily mean that every sporting team can, will or must adhere to this to a tee in terms of resource representation. It is not a very realistic goal. This dictatorial type of stance does not bode well for South African sport as a whole and will do more harm than good in terms of actual transformation.

By banning the various bodies from bidding and hosting major events, how will this serve the young generation of non-white athletes and harness their interest? How will grass-roots development be truly successful without the showcasing of superstars on our shores? How will these children feel knowing that they could be in a team simply because of the colour of their skin? You have openly threatened to withdraw government funding, withdrawing government’s recognition of the said federations, withdrawing the said federation’s opportunity to be awarded national colours via SASCOC to players who participate under the auspices of a federation in order to represent the Republic, withdrawing endorsements/sponsorships and terminating relationships with these bodies. Can you not see the negative that this will do, especially to generic black and non-white athletes? The implications are far-reaching and I cannot even fathom the above mentioned statements.

You state that you wish to “reconstruct the fragmented and deeply discriminatory sport and recreation landscape by establishing a unified sports system that is underpinned by the principles of democracy, equity, transparency, demographic representation, access and increased participation”. These are your very own words and correct me if I am wrong! Your latest actions simply offer the antithesis of the above statements. How do you plan on achieving equity, demographic representation et al when you are so vehemently opposed to whites in our teams? How can we reconstruct our sporting landscape when you are doing everything in your power to divide us along racial lines? You mention the term ‘discriminatory sport’ but are doing everything in your power to ensure this aspect remains within South African sporting echelons! Our national football team is made up of one race but SAFA were passed as a ‘successfully transformed federation’. I think you need to look up the term ‘transformation’ in the dictionary sir. Where is the equal representation among races in this team? I think this is called double standards. It is of no use showing disrespect and banning a body such as SARU (a federation that has brought us World Cups and enormous pride) and then wishing them well at Sandton Square on the eve of a World Cup!

I have a suggestion for you. How about you promote the future of transformation by bringing rugby, cricket and soccer to the SABC! How do you expect young non-white children from townships and rural areas to be interested in those sports if it is only available to the wealthy who can afford DSTV? Also, how about you focus on aspects of sport that demand attention? I hear there is an Olympic Games coming up . How about you put a plan in place to bring home some medals? How about you focus on ensuring pride in our sports by implementing winning strategies so that we can compete at World Cups? Instead of picking on how white our teams are. What next, will you ban Chad Le Clos from the Olympic 100m butterfly final and replace him with a random non-white swimmer? Where is the line drawn?

You are heading in the opposite direction of where the late great Nelson Mandela wanted the nation to go. To paraphrase, he stated that no man should be judged or picked on because of the colour of his skin and this is what you are doing currently. This is the very reason we were banned from the sporting world in the first place and I sincerely hope it happens again and that fans boycott matches. Kindly take a look at our national anthem which states “and united we shall stand” – you are simply dividing and no one man should have such power. 


Dhirshan Gobind and all upset South African sports fans

Dhirshan Gobind is a 30-something freelance sports columnist/writer and a UKZN alumnus with a degree in Marketing Management. He also has a tri-weekly column in ‘The Post’.

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