If we consider what is very topical at the moment in South Africa, we can’t look past the public’s dismay at the current political situation in the country. Saffers, as we are affectionately known in England, regardless of colour, age and ethnicity want the president to resign with immediate affect but the reality is that the cabinet has a number of ministers who have quite frankly failed to deliver and because Grit Sport is a sports platform our focus is squarely on our current minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula, commonly known in public spaces as Razzmatazz. It’s hardly a name synonymous with sports, more easily associated with entertainment.
Fikile Mbalula divides opinion there’s no doubt about that because of the persona he has in the digital world and seemingly has an affinity to the finer things in life. We can’t hate Mbalula for his love of the limelight, glitz and glamour, he has had the most notable profile of all our sports ministers. Ngconde Balfour was solid, certainly showed more passion than Mbalula but perhaps lacked the public profile that Mbalula has enjoyed. Makhenkesi Stofile was controversial and stayed in the position for 6 years and had the sporting background to carry some clout. He played scrumhalf and wing for the Border Rugby team and was often seen as the custodian of transformation in SA sports, especially rugby and cricket. He essentially put pressure on CSA to select Thami Tsolekile ahead of Mark Boucher in the Proteas side on the tour of Indian in 2004. How we have needed someone like Makhenkesi over the past few years as the transformation agenda, written in the sports ministries mandate and reinforced by the National Development Plan but if we critically analyse his reign as sports minister there have been very few instances of tangible transformation across the main sporting codes in South Africa.
Transformation is a hot topic in South Africa, especially in the build up to the Rugby and Cricket World Cup in 2015. By my own account I can admit that initially I didn’t realise how bad it’s been, I was the guy who would joke at braai’s and at pubs that our rightful positions were wing and the bench. Tongue in cheek of course, but there was some truth to it. Players of colour were almost exclusively found on the wing, where they can’t really influence the game. Our rightful position in cricket is one of the fast bowlers. That’s where we were guaranteed a spot in the team, don’t you dare think about being a batsman it’s not for us. But the more I listened at these braai’s and pubs where you would meet people with similar passion for sport the more I started to notice that subconsciously I had been brainwashed into believing these stereotypes. It is the job of the Ministry of Sport to ensure that these stereotypes are abolished once and for all. It is the job of the Ministry of Sport to regulate unions to ensure that they are meeting their transformation mandate. It is also most importantly the job of the Ministry of Sport to ensure that every sportsman from South Africa is provided with equal opportunity. So in this consciousness and awareness phase I started to understand the difference between a quota and transformation
The quota system forced the participating unions to play players of colour, regardless of their ability. Let’s just try to show the world that apartheid really did end. But in reality the quota system set sportsman of colour back even further back than the apartheid regulations and its’ taken the government even longer to see it. Transformation is and should be applied in a different way. It’s about creating an even platform for all to flourish. A classic example is Tsolekile who was given 4 Tests to prove he had what it takes to play at international level. Jaques Kallis was averaging 8 after his first 10 tests but his talent was clear for all to see and the selectors were prepared to give him as many chances as he needed. We ended up with the greatest all-rounder the world has ever seen. It’s very simple, if Kallis was black his career would never have taken off. So the question then becomes, where has our minister of sport been all this time? Fikile Mbalula is far too busy to worry about lack of transformation in sport. More concerned about which pop, rnb, movie star will be the guest speaker at the SA Sports Awards. More concerned about bringing Floyd Mayweather to the country for a one hour interview, SA Boxing has never been as mediocre as it is now and the man is known for billing for his time – this was not a courtesy visit. He didn’t even travel to the home of local boxing, Mdantsane so what was the point of his visit if he won’t touch down in the Eastern Cape. More concerned about getting time with Kevin Hart on his world tour. Critically one has to ask themselves what Beyonce, Vivica A Fox, Kevin Hart have to do with sport and recreation. Is this man the sports minister or the minister of arts and culture, I’m very confused and so are many others who have a deep passion for sport and equal opportunities in sport.
As a group of people with similar interests we’ve attempted to engage the sports minister on the topic of transformation during the build up to the Rugby World Cup especially after going into a Test Match for the first time since 1995 with just one player of colour!! Heyneke Meyer had no time for transformation and clearly neither did Mbalula as he continued to reject our cries. We took the conversation to his favourite domain, Twitter. It was here that we faced Razzmatazz at his best as he continued to pour cold water over what we believe are warranted cries for change. He basically said we are bloated and the mandate was still progressing in the right direction. How can that be when in 2015 the Springboks field a team with 1 player of colour on the wing like they did in the 1995 World Cup Final. To really compound matters, our rightful place on the wing was given to a white player – this was the last straw for me personally, we were no longer good enough to play even on the wing. But as has become standard protocol now with our government genuine cries for change were brushed aside – on Twitter!! Sound familiar, yes because it is what the ANC government is all about.
This paved the way for Mbalula to do what he does best, talk. “Moer hulle” he screamed at the Springbok farewell event in a show of unyielding support while the number of black Springbok supporters dwindled with each team selection. He laughed and joked with Schalk Burger and Willem Alberts. As 2016 has shown, black people in this country are fed-up with the injustices of the past and the unwillingness of certain sectors of the population to acknowledge their struggles and encourage change but if the minister is more interested in meeting Kevin Hart, rubbing shoulders with “The Money Team”, attending boxing events in Las Vegas and not locally, trying to entice Beyonce to attend our local sports awards than he is in ensuring that our national teams are representative of the country’s population we will never be free from the chains of oppression.
I’ll leave you with this as food for thought – Australia, France, England and New Zealand all had more players of colour than we did. But transformation is apparently still a priority but 20 years after the first democratic election we still field a team with one player of colour on the wing. That’s change delivered in ANC style.
“Andile Qokweni is hoping to be a regular contributor on the GritSports blog, he is an expert on arm-chair criticism and spends most of his free time watching sport on his couch and forcing his opinions on others.”