It’s an event that’s etched into the mind of any South African cricket lover. Vernon Philander making his way onto the park instead of Kyle Abbott in the 2015 Cricket World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand in Auckland. And it must be said that Abbott was the team’s form bowler through the tournament, while Philander was injured for most of it. Government said the decision wasn’t quota related but captain at the time AB de Villiers confirmed what most already knew in his newly released autobiography. But what does this all mean? A recent visit to the United Nations brought these sorry scenes back to the surface, coupled with Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s threat to not host the 2023 Rugby World Cup if transformation targets aren’t met. The United Nations rejects such conditions, and sees it as ‘reverse apartheid’. One wonders if the next step may be sanctions against SA sport. Another nail in the coffin of an already dwindling supporter base. Ed Herbst puts it all together in another well crafted contribution. – Stuart Lowman
By Ed Herbst*
How the worm turns. Where once the ANC argued that South Africa’s international sporting privileges should be revoked because the country advocated racial exclusionism, now an ANC government is threatening to withdraw the international credentials of its own teams because it demands racial quotas. You couldn’t make this stuff up. – Gareth van Onselen Is the ANC now the party of Hendrik Verwoerd? Business Day 8/4/2016
“If you want to help people, it should be done on the basis of need and poverty and not on the basis of skin colour. This Convention wants to eradicate racism. The notion of representivity goes against the Convention. It could lead to a system similar to the former apartheid system.” – Baron Marc Bossuyt, President-Emeritus of the Belgian Constitutional Court and a member of the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 8/8/2016
On the first day of spring the front page of Die Burger was dominated by a large photograph of Protea caption A B de Villiers and the translated headline reads: A B’s quota bombshell – captain confirms interference at World Cup.
The article is about de Villiers’ recently published book AB: The Autobiography and in it he confirms what has long been common cause – that the “Verwoerdian Quotas”, proudly and constantly advocated by Enoch (Canyon Springs) Gondongwana and supported by the ANC, had been central to the selection by Cricket South Africa of Vernon Philander in preference to Kyle Abbott and the eventual elimination of the South African side from the tournament.
There is nothing new here – Kevin Pietersen has written about how he and his father visited Ali Bacher almost two decades ago only to be told that affirmative action was going to play a central role in the selection of national cricket teams and that he should sacrifice his ambitions for the greater good.
Rather than face exclusion on the basis of his ethnicity – official ANC policy -Pietersen chose to leave the country of his birth and was subsequently lost to international cricket for four years. He played county cricket in England until he qualified to play for England and went on to be described by The Guardian as “England’s greatest modern batsman” and The Times as “the most complete batsman in cricket”.
Given his potential loss of earnings as a consequence of the ANC’s quota system, hammering sixes off the Protea bowling must have rewarded him with a cathartic and justified sense of schadenfreude.
All the world’s leading sporting nations are meritocracies and subscribe to the edicts of the Olympic Charter which dictate that ethnicity cannot play any role in the selection of national teams. South Africa does not subscribe to such ideals however. This was confirmed not only by Enoch Godongwana but by President Thabo Mbeki prior to the 2007 Rugby World Cup tournament when he made the ANC position clear – that it would be preferable to select a “transformation” team rather than to aim for victory. It will be remembered that, at the time, Butana Komphela, ANC-chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on sport, threatened to expropriate private property – rugby stadiums – and to prevent the Springbok team from traveling to France by withdrawing their passports unless the team, met ‘transformation standards’ i.e. unless its composition exactly matched the racial demographic of the country as demanded by the ANC’s “National Democratic Revolution”.
In backing up his threat, Khompela is reported to have said:
Some racists do not want anybody to tamper with a protected area they have been enjoying for all these years … It is like when we wanted to achieve freedom, they said let us stock food underground because these kaffirs will mess up the country.
His threat was meaningless however because the only justification for withdrawing a passport is a criminal record and, despite his ethnic harassment, the Springboks went on to win the tournament.
Fast forward to 8 August this year and John Jeffery, South Africa’s deputy minister of justice and constitutional development appears before the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
If you read the ANC’s version of what happened there you might be persuaded that it was yet another resounding success in the party’s vanguard march to the nirvana contemplated by the glorious National Democratic Revolution.
The press release does not lie, it simply evades the truth, the normal ANC tactic of censorship by omission.
— SA Sports Fan (@SASportsFan1) September 2, 2016
I was alerted to what really happened by an article in Die Burger on 16 August by its foreign correspondent Dr Leopold Scholtz and to give South Africans a better understanding of what really transpired at the UN, I have translated the original article into English:
Leopold Scholtz: South Africa is no longer everyone’s darling
The ANC is slowly moving towards the position internationally that the National Party found itself in before 1990, namely that of the polecat of the world.
This observation is based on two things.
The first is the comments in the international media after the ANC received a hiding in the local elections this month. The other is the reception John Jeffery, deputy minister of justice and constitutional development, and Dr Dirk Hermann, chief executive of Solidarity, received last week at the UN committee’s session for the elimination of racial discrimination in Geneva.
The statement in the first paragraph might be a tad exaggerated, but not by much. In apartheid times South Africa regularly featured prominently in the news media. These days it is only now and then that one will see and hear something about the country. From time to time there are articles about President Zuma and the ANC. News about Zuma and Nkandla, about the millions he has to pay back and about his many wives. All these sporadic news articles have one thing in common: They are all, without exception, negative. The one more negative than the other, but none of them casts a positive light on Zuma.
When the ANC is spoken about, it is nearly always in the paradigm of a movement that once had integrity, having freed South Africa from the apartheid system, but which lost its moral compass. A party that surrendered to corruption and self-enrichment that no longer cares for the people who put it into power.
The local elections received significant international coverage, with many news media carrying articles on South Africa shortly before and just after Election Day.
And all focused their attention on the huge gulf between the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the ANC leaders and what their poor followers in the townships experience. On Zuma’s incompetence, the dark cloud of corruption hanging over his head and the way in which the ANC is protecting him at all cost.
Yes, sometimes the commentators are a bit off the mark. One can see that they are following South Africa from a distance and only from time to time, because sometimes the ignorance and misconceptions are evident. But, right or wrong, this is how the ANC is currently seen by the world: increasingly as just another sinking African government where the leaders are sucking the country dry to benefit their own pockets.
Jeffery and Hermann’s reception in Geneva confirmed this truth, albeit in a different way. Jeffery had to report, on behalf of the South African government, on how human rights and discrimination are being dealt with. He received a proper hiding – firstly because the report was an astonishing eight years late and, furthermore because of the many anomalies it contained.
His defence of the rigid manner in which the ANC has been enforcing affirmative action was not met with much sympathy by committee members. Even representatives from Africa were sharp in their criticism and made Jeffery sweat.
The common denominator in their criticism was that the rigid quota system employed by the ANC comes down to racial discrimination. Their message was that it does not help to simply replace one type of apartheid with another.
Hermann was accompanied by two victims of the ANC’s neo-apartheid system – Renate Barnard and Freddie Engelbrecht – which enabled the committee members to meet the people who have been discriminated against. This worked well.
For Jeffery, Geneva was most probably a rude awakening.
The ANC is no longer the darling of the world
Solidarity’s press release also gives a more balanced version of the United Nations meeting than the official government version.
The sentiment expressed in the anchor quote to this article by Baron Marc Bossuyt – that the ANC’s “Verwoerdian quota system” as articulated and advocated by Enoch Godongwana and the ANC is a reversion to the apartheid of old, is hardly new.
Here is how the ANC’s quota guidelines were summarised by the man who did away with the old apartheid system, former President F W de Klerk.
“The ultimate goal is a society in which land, jobs, power and wealth will be allocated according to racial compositions of the population. The lives of citizens will once again be determined by race not merit.”
And here, in a sports context is how it was expressed in the book Sport: Race, Ethnicity and Identity: Building a Global Understanding by Darryl Adair.
In the South African case, the strongest arguments against quotas is that they are not about redress and transformation, but rather about reinforcing the political dominance of a national government dominated by a black political elite. This has meant nationalist politicians looking for quick-fix glory on the international sports field are opportunistic ideologues: they want largely black teams to represent the country and win trophies that represent the ascendancy of black athletes representing the ‘new’ South Africa.
Yet the whole notion of race is an ideologically powerful social construct previously employed for nefarious socio-political engineering purposes that had a disastrous effect on the South African nation.
Its use now is no more justified than it was in the apartheid era. Indeed there is good reason to accuse those who play the race card of wanting to introduce a form of neo-apartheid simply as a means to acquire power and opportunity for themselves.
The liberation movement contained its fair share of those who were, or emerged as, opportunists and who have not been shy to behave in ways reminiscent of the white regime. Butana Khompela accused the national Olympic committee of being ‘full of Indians and whites’ who know nothing about transformation. At other times he threatened to withdraw the passports of the national rugby team and expropriate stadiums if selection did not meet his favour.
This agenda has nothing in common with emergent liberal democracy. South African communities struggled, suffered and even died for the principle of non-racialism and a modern society. What sort of memorial to them are racial quotas in sports teams?
In sport, where one thousandth of second can make the difference between victory and defeat, a positive mindset is often the determinant.
In his new book, de Villiers examines how being seen as a “quota player” can detrimentally affect performance. This is not what the ANC wants you to know, still less reflect on.
The National Party had Piet “Promises” Koornhof as sports minister and the ANC says, “Anything you can do, we can do better” and responds with Fikile “Razzmatazz” Mbalula who, as Gareth van Onselen points out has spent R110m on awards ceremonies in two years while the three-year budget for the Rio Olympics was R25m.
Should you ask the obvious question – Where do they find these people?- the riposte from Luthuli House would be instant:
“We are spoilt for choice.”
The bottom line however is that the United Nations rejects the pretext upon which Razzmatazz Mbalula is seeking to prevent this country from hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the ANC would rather you did not know that.
- Ed Herbst is a pensioner and former reporter who writes in his own capacity.