When AfriForum talks about ‘merit’ in sport, it means ‘whites’

Ideas

When AfriForum talks about ‘merit’ in sport, it means ‘whites’

AfriForum and Solidarity are staging a political 'last stand' in SA’s formerly white-dominated sports - but they won't win

Journalist


It may have been penned elsewhere but Wednesday’s Labour Court proceedings further reinforced my already strong opinions that Solidarity and AfriForum are either sadly or deliberately out of touch.
The court proceedings were emotive and took on a quasi-legal and racial battle.
I was left in no doubt that for all their worth, these two organisations don’t have the nation-building agenda at heart, and that’s okay.
If they feel that taking on-field and boardroom transformation to court is in their best interest for their constituency, they’re fine.
In the long run, this isn't a battle they're going to win but if their resources allow them to pursue what's clearly a regressive agenda, it's their money after all.
It felt like the Solidarity and AfriForum people, whom I view as backwards and at times (AfriForum in particular) as borderline right-wing, girded themselves for a battle which they feel is just.
In theory, it may come across as two groups defending the rights of a minority that enjoys the largesse of an apartheid fruit that’s still not available to the majority.
Yet in reality, they’re staging a political “last stand at the Alamo” to seemingly prevent inclusivity and equity from prevailing in SA’s formerly white-dominated sports.
If it’s relevance that they’re looking for, they’ll find it among those who think merit is a byword for packing teams with white players.
In the real SA world, they’re viewed as protectors of a bygone yet omnipresent world that still thinks white is right.
Their use of that irritatingly misused and subjective term “merit” is simply not applicable in the current SA sporting context.
This is the same “merit” that saw only a handful of black players breaking through the international gap in the late 1990s and 2000s.
This is the same “merit” that’s used by coaches and administrators to overlook black players and coaches.
The noun “merit” – which is “the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward” – is loosely applicable in SA sports and in rugby in particular.
Is this the same “merit” that sees only one black head coach and four other black head coaches spread among six Super Rugby and Pro14 franchises?
Is this the same “merit” that sees Super Rugby coaches struggle to pick 11 out of 23 black players week in, week out?
I’ve said this now and I’ll say this again: Solidarity and AfriForum either have no recognition or don’t want to recognise the advantages the apartheid system gave white players in terms of advancing in the rugby world in particular.
Cricket SA have done their bit for transformation but they also understand that transformation is a neverending process and not an event.
SA’s best athletes are black and so are some of the country’s budding netball players.
Their use of the word “quotas” is also misleading because SA’s federations use the word “targets”.
They may have the right of opinion to ask why targets still have to be in place in this day.
However, the bigger picture of coaches not wanting to move out of their comfort zones to pick players who aren’t from their same cultural and racial circle still exists.
The more they want to fight transformation, the more they come across as bulwarks against inclusiveness.
As a trade union, Solidarity, with its “civil rights movement” sister body AfriForum, should be educating their members about the need to transform their work, social and sporting spaces for the betterment of SA’s future.
The make-up of the legal teams was telling.
The sports ministry’s group was led by Norman Arendse and had two black women while Solidarity’s was headed by Greta Engelbrecht and a white counterpart.
That itself told the story of SA’s unending struggle between black and white for the soul of SA’s sport.
To partially quote the dastardly apartheid enforcer PW Botha: “It’s either you transform, or die.”
It’s a message these organisations would do well to heed.

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