Archive | April, 2016

Minister Of Sport Fikile Mbalula Got It Wrong! Should Have Banned All International Sport In And Out Of South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

26 Apr

It’s intrinsically significant that 60 years after apartheid legislation impacted on sport in South Africa and international sports linkages with apartheid SA began to be challenged and disrupted, that democratic South Africa’s Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula should resort to use of international sport bans to correct apartheid’s legacies.

Seemingly concerned about what he terms the ‘lack of transformation in sport’ in SA, Mbalula, on Monday released another money wasting ‘transformation report’ which has been compiled by his appointed eminent person’s group – most of them, I’m sure don’t even know what is happening at grassroots sport.

Under his ministerial responsibility, Mbalula knows the state of sport in South Africa. He must know; after all; he’s the person in charge and who must give leadership and direction. But then I don’t understand why Mr Mbalula doesn’t interview and speak to grassroots sports clubs and volunteer sports officials who sustain and maintain the foundation of SA’s sports pyramid, which is the community foundation, and let the community sports officials tell him how community sport is struggling to survive.

Mbalula responds by calling out a few sports federations who have seemingly ‘not transformed’ by taking away their privilege of bidding for and hosting international sports events.

Despite sports unification before the advent of SA’s historic democratic elections in 1994, democratic South Africa inherited an unequal and socially disparate sports apparatus with sports privilege remaining in the power grip of the white minority, the elite and wealthy.

Mbalula has got it wrong again! Either he doesn’t understand what transformation should mean and what should be implemented to transform the inequalities and vestiges of apartheid sport or he insists on doing it his way, which is to respond on an ad hoc basis and problem by problem, instead of confronting and tackling the entire flawed and unequal sports system.

When is Mr Mbalula going to acknowledge that the entire SA sports system and sports apparatus must be re-deployed and undergo critical, revolutionary change? Releasing transformation reports about five sports and adding what he sees as punitive measures, does not critically address sport in SA! What it does it put a plaster on a sore which needs critical attention, not a plaster.

Transformation must be understood as a disruption and subsequent redeployment of the sports system; in South Africa’s case, this means a total overhaul of an unequal sports network which largely benefits the privileged whites, the elite, black middle class, wealthy and rich.

Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula should have started off first with a ban on his previous responses to ‘lack of transformation’ by throwing them out of his mind, out of his department of sport and out of South African sport.

Next, he should have called out the unequal and corporate controlled sports system which assists the moneyed people to have access to and participate in sport but at the same time strangles working class participation in sport. Then he should have implemented a total ban on international sport, into SA and out of SA. And to get transformation under way, he was to issue the plan of how sport South African sport should be transformed.

How dare Mbalula look at only five sports, namely, football, netball, cricket, rugby and athletics? What about all other sports, most of them for the elite and white-dominated? What about sports like swimming which will be sending another all white able bodied swim team to the Olympics? What about hockey which isn’t organising and developing hockey in working class communities and schools? What about provincial sports codes in the Western Cape which have sports committees dominated by white and coloured people and have no black African officials?

And we must call out the neglect, marginalisation and struggles of black and working class girls in sport. Gender disparaty in SA sport is rife. What is Mbalula’s plan and objective to eliminate gender inequalities in sport, to ensure that black and working class girls and women stay in sport and are assisted on their sports journey?

How are sports federations expected to develop sport in working class communities when the sports budget is largely consumed by corporate sports of rugby, football and cricket?

Funding and financial assistance allocated by Mbalula’s department of sports and recreation is small and minimal; sports federations are presented with huge challenges to make this nominal funding work for sports development.

How about scrapping the non-performing provincial departments of sport? Provincial and club sport is struggling for money to exist and grow yet provincial departments of sport give them small handouts while the sports budget is spent on lucrative salaries and keeping people in offices and in front of commuters, compiling reports.

By reviewing just five sports and subsequently announcing what he terms ‘punitive measures’ like a ban on hosting and bidding for international sports events, Mbalula has seemingly scored some political points.

What Mbalula has actually done is left SA sport in the same delirious, unequal, transformed, unchallenged state that it’s been in for some time. Mbalula has not taken sport forward after the release of the ‘transformation report’, but has allowed SA sport to continue as they do and that is making sport available to the moneyed, rich and middle class while killing off grassroots sports in working class communities and schools.


Students Say Its A Woman’s Time Against Rape Culture By Cheryl Roberts

21 Apr

If 1956 was known as the year that oppressed South African women marched for human rights and against apartheid’s horrendous pass laws, then 60 years later, motivated by the fierce battles which oppressed black women engaged in to get their rights,  the year 2016 is going down as  ‘A Woman’s Time Against Rape Culture’ at tertiary institutions.

Our South African society has been demanding that rape and sexual abuse of women and girls and children be eliminated; that men stop abusing women’s bodies. There have been pockets of protest here and there; there’s also much social media activism, usually from the same voices consistently raising awareness against rape and calling for its end.

The students at Rhodes University reached breaking point. Although they faced the might of security ammunition, they have demonstrated they are using their young women’s power, determined to break rape culture and out those, at the tertiary institution, guilty of misogyny, sexual abuse and rape.

Anti-rape protesting students at Rhodes University have our praise and commitment; that is those of those women and people who never tire of calling out the scourge of the negative that is rape and sexual assault. The young protestors are brave, fierce, confident; most importantly; they have had enough of men thinking they have ownership of women’s bodies.

The young students are putting it out there; laying their lives on the front line of battle. They know that sexual abuse and assault of women has been there since generations ago. They have heard the whispers, they know some of the truths within their own families. And now, they experience it at what is supposed to not only be a place of learning and acquiring information, but should also be a safe place to personally occupy and thrive within.

The students have had enough! They know of one to many rapes, they have experienced sexism and misogyny, they are also aware of sexual abuse. Students, academics, tertiary staff are all guilty at the tertiary institutions.

Get this! Thug rapists and sexual abusers are everywhere! They are in families, in sport, in schools and tertiary institutions, at work places, in neighbourhoods, public spaces. They are all over, all day and every day and night.

University executives and management are seemingly more concerned about their academic ratings and salary increases than being willing to spearhead any action to eliminate rape culture at a tertiary institution.

The images of Rhodes University Vice Chancellor, Dr Mabizela standing between protesting anti-rape students and aggressive ammunition shooting police may be seen as heroic. But this heroism is uncalled for and not needed if rape and sexual assault and abuse of women and girls didn’t occur in our rape-riddled South African society.

Protecting brave protesting students from the security machinery of a ‘democratic’ country which employs force and violence to curb dissent and protest for sure needs lots of courage and is commended. Its the young people protesting rape culture who are heroic; it’s those who remain silent who allow and perpetuate rape culture by allowing it to exist.

However, it shouldn’t come down to this about students having to protest against rape to bring an awareness about rape and sexual assault which they confront on campuses of tertiary institutions.

Why are men especially, quiet about rape and assault of women at tertiary institutions and in society? Its men who are the aggressors, who are claiming to own women’s bodies, who are doing the raping and sexual aggression. Its your brothers, men friends, husbands, boyfriends, men neighbours, men colleagues, sons and fellow countrymen who are committing sexual violence which has probably occurred within your family but your family victim and survivor is silent about it because she fears facing the aggressor and confronting all its negatives.

‘Rape engulfs our society. Rape must be spoken about if we are to create the tools to begin to eliminate this horrific brutality,’ write feminist and black woman academic Pumla Gqolo in her book ‘Rape Is a South African Nightmare’.

‘Why are rich and powerful men protected when they commit rape? Why are national treasures like sportsmen, always assured they won’t get the years they deserve when they are guilty of rape’, are the questions asked by Pumla Gqolo, in her writings.

Rape isn’t just a South African nightmare. It is every woman’s worst fear. And it should be every man’s concern and objective to have sexual abuse and rape eliminated.




photo image: Reneilwe Mathibe

pic acknowledgement: reneilwe mathibe

UWC Sport ‘Riding Crest Of A Wave’ By Cheryl Roberts

20 Apr

Participation in student sport at the Cape Town – based University of the Western Cape is showing vast improvement scales and subsequent results from participation in student sports events are showing UWC as a winning tertiary institution.
Director of UWC Sport, Mandla Gagayi believes UWC is ‘riding the crest of a wave’ with ‘everything we touch turning to gold’.
Well, not exactly when it comes to the UWC men’s rugby team. Mr Gagayi feels strongly that UWC’s rugby team should be participating in the Varsity Cup and not the Varsity Shield. During April, in a play off with University of Cape Town, UWC rugby lost the match. This means UWC will again be playing in the Varsity shield.
UWC Sport is proud of both their women and men sports people with both genders bringing in the trophies and titles. ‘UWC women’s football teams are the 2016 USSA champions, UWC men’s cricket team lost in the final, UWC beach volleyball and men’s football are the Varsity Sports champions’.
Mr Gagayi is two years into the position, having left Rhodes University to take up a position at a bigger university. To what does he attribute this UWC confidence? ‘When I arrived at UWC, there was the prevalence thinking of UWC always comparing their sport to university of Stellenbosch (Maties) and University of Cape Town, with UWC perhaps feeling a little inferior and disadvantaged to the two well-resourced and well-financed universities. So I told our sports people let’s stop comparing ourselves to these two institutions. Our desire and passion must be to be better than them’, explains, Mr Gagayi.
I asked Mr Gagayi if UWC offers attractive and lucrative sports scholarships to attract the best young sports talent to the tertiary institution? ‘No, we have not been able to offer lucrative sports scholarships, especially in the past two years. Our biggest scholarships amount to R30K, a far cry compared to former white universities. What we have happening at UWC is the belief students have in the institution. You must remember that UWC has a rich tradition and heritage, steeped in community respect. Students are lured to UWC because of its reputation and because students feel they can be happy here,’ said Mr Gagayi.
Mr Gagayi says the one change he implemented immediately was to ‘make everyone know and understand their responsibility and to own their space within the tertiary institution’s sport corridors and playing fields. We are all UWC Sport, we are all accountable and responsible and that includes the coaches, sports officials, athletes, managers.
‘What we also have at UWC is a Vice Chancellor who loves and respects student sport. VC Professor Pretorius is always ready to give support to our athletes, to talk to them and encourage them. We don’t have to wait months to meet with and interact with our VC; when needed Professor Pretorius is one with UWC Sport.’
Mr Gagayi has only praise for the recently introduced Varsity Sport and Varsity Cup events. ‘These events have brought a new era to tertiary sport. UWC Sport has increasing numbers participating in student sport because of Varsity Sport. This is healthy and positive for tertiary sport.
‘And with this increased interest in student sport comes the sponsors; those who want to be associated with tertiary sport and its winning teams and brands. Already, UWC’s football is sponsored by Lion of Africa and our athletics team is sponsored by BestMed Insurance.
‘At UWC Sport, we are happy with our progress; we are also constantly assessing our weaknesses. Yes, we are disappointed with our men’s rugby placing and feature in the varsity Shield. But we are UWC and we are strong-minded, Together with our passion and confidence, we will soon be playing Varsity Cup rugby.’ UWC-Banner-soccer

Appointment Of SA Rugby’s Black Coaches Couldn’t Be Stopped! By Cheryl Roberts

13 Apr

allister coetzee

The appointment of Allister Coetzee as head coach of the men’s Springbok team and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick represents a significant anti-white privilege turning point for South African Rugby. The mindset of believing in the coaching potential and prowess only of white coaches, has now hopefully been eliminated. It has taken some tumultous moments to prove that only white coaches are not the best rugby coaches, in South Africa. SA Rugby officialdom, no doubt pushed by black voices calling for white privilege to be removed from rugby, has been forced to recognise the coaching prowess of coaches such as Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick.

Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee represents the dignity of generations of oppressed sportspeople and oppressed sports fans who played sport for freedom. Coetzee holds high the oppressed sports people who sacrificed playing international sport, so apartheid could be destroyed and freedom could arrive.

Allister Coetzee was an exceptional rugby talent. He would have been a Springbok player had he had the opportunity to play for and represent his country. Being an oppressed South African, he chose to play anti-apartheid, non-racial rugby. Through coach Allister Coetzee, we are reminded of the phenomenal black rugby talent who played sport for freedom, during the horrendous apartheid era,  from oppression and from apartheid.

Whiteness and white privilege have been dominating rugby in South Africa with white players and coaches given unfair starts ahead of talented black rugby players and coaches. This focus on and belief in white rugby players and coaches, has seen young black rugby players finding it difficult to break through the rugby pyramid. There were always arguments about how small black rugby players were; how they wouldn’t make it at international level. But then some black players forced their way through, with ball in hand they broke barriers to ensure they couldn’t be not recognised.

Rugby unification of two disparate and opposing rugby structures was supposed to have ushered in a brave and bold new era for rugby in South Africa. However, it was a new journey, not for both rugby bodies, but primarily for the white dominated South African rugby Board (SARB), which was led by Danie Craven.

In the post-unity phase, the talent and potential of black rugby players was easily discarded; in fact, it wasn’t even considered. Fierce and heated debates of opinion dominated selection members as the lone black selectors, often out-voiced and and left on their own to fight for black players, had to battle white privilege and white racist mindsets and opinions.

This battle to have black players noticed and selected is evident from selection of SA’s 1995 world cup rugby squad. Anti-apartheid activist and freedom fighter, Bill Jardine took on the might of apartheid’s support and beneficiaries when he fought and challenged white domination of SA’s 1995 world cup rugby team. Jardine mounted a strong attack to argue for the inclusion of Chester Williams in the Springbok team, and after threats to not support a white Springbok world cup team, a black player in Chester Williams got selected.

In subsequent years, particularly the first decade of rugby unity in SA, black players were given a bad deal. White selectors and coaches didn’t believe in black talent and easily selected mediocre white players ahead of a black player with potential. When a black player got selected at elite provincial level, he wouldn’t start the match but would, if lucky enough get a few minutes game times and in those few minutes he had to prove himself and score tries.

I refer to this period in SA Rugby’s existence as black rugby genocide. Yes, it was genocide! How else do you explain the non-selection of black players? The anti-apartheid, non-racial South African Rugby Union came to rugby unity with thousands of rugby players, who played in competitive junior and senior competitions. The elite players were highly skilled; they just needed opportunities to perform and prove their abilities at international level.

Why were these players not selected for rugby’s Currie Cup provincial teams and for the Springbok team, in the years leading up to 2005? Black public pressure was mounted on SA Rugby’s leaders and officials, white selectors and coaches were called out. Black voices demanded change, for black rugby players to be part of SA Rugby and not left outside of the selection and player realm.

Then, at school boy and youth level, teenage boys started getting noticed. One such talent was Gcobani Bobo who not only got selected for the SA u19 world cup team, but also got to captain the team. But black players were still being kept out of provincial Currie Cup teams and the Springbok squad with the ocassional ‘Coloured’ player chosen to represent Western Province rugby.

South Africans with a critical and social justice consciousness, especially those who supported anti-apartheid rugby called for black player talent to be identified and selected. But black rugby players still remained left out. As SA Rugby was forced to implement a quota of black rugby players at youth level, black rugby talent couldn’t anymore go unrecognised or unnoticed, as the players were performing. These young black players got selected into academy teams, the objective being to groom and harness their development so they develop into provincial playing senior players.

Through the years we called out the dismissal of black rugby players, the white privilege selection of white players and the apartheid mindset of selectors and coaches.

There’s much black rugby talent in South Africa. Springbok coaches Coetzee and Stick must utilise their black gaze in selecting player potential and talent. Most importantly, they must be brave and bold to select a black-dominated Springbok squad and team. The talent amongst black rugby players exists.


South Africa’s Black Women Athletes Don’t Get The Recognition They Deserve? By Cheryl Roberts

7 Apr

Despite their international sports achievements, South Africa’s elite black sportswomen are still confronted with the challenges of gender, class and colour oppression and prejudice. Through challenging terrain and overcoming difficulties, black sportswomen have become world and Paralympian sports champions. But these women are not celebrated and applauded or even supported as they should be, in the country they represent! The sportswomen are still struggling to stay top of their game, battling and hoping to attract sponsors.

South Africa’s black sportswomen have to fight hard, battle the odds, challenge adversity to own their space and claim their place as black women in sport. And then, when the black sportswomen achieve world and Paralympian gold medals and titles and become world class, invisibility and marginalisation of the black elite sportswomen further contributes to the non-recognition which achieving black sportswomen deserve.

You could be forgiven for thinking that South Africa’s black sportswomen are still emerging. You won’t be ruled off side altogether should you ask where are SA’s elite black sportswomen champions. South Africa has produced at least three black women world and Paralympian champions in Zanele Situ (Paralymian athlete), Noni Tenge (boxing), Caster Semenya (athletics), together with many world class black sportswomen like Mandisa Williams (rugby), Shabnim Ismail (cricket), Marsha Marescia (hockey), Janice Josephs (athletics).

Why are SA’s black sportswomen not given the same adoration, publicity and recognition as that thrust upon our sportswomen? Average and sometimes mediocre sportsmen get more attention and publicity than achieving black sportswomen.

This is not to say that women in sport and black sportswomen don’t get, or barely get spoken about and written about. Honestly, media attention and recognition of women in sport and their achievements and prowess has improved; this after much battle and challenge and calls for sportswomen to be recognised.

Both print and electronic media (radio and broadcasting) have increased their documentation and coverage of women in sport. Yet, its still the sportsmen and sports boys who dominate the sports pages, sports reels and sports content.

World and Paralympian champions, Noni Tenge, Zanele Situ and Caster Semenya should be publicised and recognised way ahead and much, much more than most football, cricket and rugby players whose national teams haven’t won continental and world titles in a long time.

Former world 800m champion, Caster Semenya does get mentioned in the media; this being done because of media more curious about Semenya’s love life and gender status than about the athletics prowess of the phenomenal woman athlete.

Black women in sport and elite black sportswomen are victims of a racially defined media which places emphasis on everyone else who is not a black woman in sport. Black women in sport are not viewed, by commercial media as being able to attract media advertisers or consumer sales, so black women are rarely featured on magazine and newspapers covers or the sports pages. Very often, out of 5 or 6 sports pages, daily newspapers will carry no content about women in sport; all the pages will be about sportsmen and boys in sport.

Its not only the media that continues to make invisible and marginalise the black sportswomen. Its also corporates and sponsors! These advertisers won’t use a black sportswoman who doesn’t fit their heterosexual, feminine, light skinned profile.

Paralympian Zanele Situ won Olympic gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Why is Situ not a recognisable athlete? Why has Situ not adorned the sports pages so we could admire and appreciate our Paralympian champion? That’s because Zanele Situ is wheelchair bound and has to face the prejudices of colour, class and gender and disabled body.

The sportswomen are known within their sports federations but even within the sports federartion, the achievements of the sportswomen are overshadowed by the sportsmen. Some corporates and advertisers, when producing a sport-themed commercial or advert won’t use an achieving black sportswoman, preferring to use a white woman or light skinned model.

SA’s minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula has tried to raise awareness and the profile of women in sport, especially black women. However, these efforts are once off events, are not sustained because they don’t have long term implementation. What is needed is for focus throughout the country, to be centred on sportswomen and sports girls, for a media quota to be implemented and have women in sport being allocated their rightful percentage of sports media content.

SA’s black sportswomen are achieving without our country knowing this and being proud of our sportswomen. Sports girls and girls must be aware of these role models, so they can be inspired to achieve. If sportswomen content is increased in the media, that should assist our elite black sportswomen to be recognisable and admired.IMG_4289

Resistance Fighter, John Harris Served Anti-Apartheid Sport By Cheryl Roberts

1 Apr

This day (1 April 1965), 51 years ago is the day that resistance fighter, John Harris was executed by the apartheid regime, under Nationalist rule. A white man and Johannesburg schoolteacher, John Harris would remain the only white man ever executed by the Nationalist government during its apartheid reign.

Harris was a member of the all-white African Resistance Movement (ARM); sabotage was his crime according to the apartheid regime. Despite a psychiatrist testifying under oath that Johan Harris was challenged with mental health problems, his execution went ahead, despite the man being young and just 27 years old.

Johan Harris was also an anti-apartheid sports official. Prior to his arrest for sabotage, he had been to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland where he led evidence against apartheid sport and advanced the cause of anti-apartheid sport organised by the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee. (SANROC).

Harris represented SANROC at the IOC, where SANROC called for the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from the IOC and international sport.

The first half of the 1960’s are best described as restless, fierce, challenging and brave as anti-apartheid sport stepped up its agenda to disrupt and resist apartheid and white-dominated sport. Anti-apartheid sport leaders such as Dennis Brutus, Reg Hlongwane, Chris de Broglio, MN Pather, George Singh and John Harris, and the wives and families of all these men sports officals, worked tirelessly at internationally exposing apartheid sport.

These sports leaders were banned, house arrested with their passports confiscated and imprisoned on Robben Island. One sports leader, John Harris was eventually executed by the horrendous apartheid regime. Harris stepped into the leadership of SANROC when Dennis Brutus was arrested and later imprisoned; this prevented him from traveling to the IOC in Switzerland, and speaking out against apartheid in sport.

It was the young, fearless, brave Johan Harris, just 27 years old with a young family, who took on the might of apartheid sport and its supporter, the apartheid regime and gave evidence to the IOC calling for the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from international sport.

Dennis Brutus had earlier been shot while attempting escape from apartheid’s security police, Reg Hlongane had fled into exile fearing security harassment and other leaders were confined to their homes. All this being done by the apartheid regime, to break the leadership of anti-apartheid sport, so apartheid sport couldn’t be exposed and expelled from international sport.

On his return to Johannesburg from Switzerland, John Harris was arrested. The charge was sabotage and planting a bomb. He went on trial; was found guilty and sentenced to death. John Harris was executed on 1 April 1965, leaving a family of his wife Anne and two small children.

However, Harris’ fearless journey to the IOC was not in vain. In 1964, the IOC announced that apartheid South Africa was suspended from the IOC. Four years later, in 1968, came the total blow. Apartheid South Africa was expelled from the IOC and victory was won for anti-apartheid sport.

This was no easy victory. It took bannings, security harassment, confiscation of passports, arrests and imprisonment, execution, exile journeys, for the world to see the horror of operations by the vicious apartheid regime. Anti-apartheid sport was decimated; its leadership left in disarray and in exile. The apartheid regime took lives but the victory was won by the oppressed.

Such was the strength and resilience of anti-apartheid sport that SANROC emerged in exile and worked vigorously at exposing apartheid sport. This is how the 1968 IOC expulsion came about. Meanwhile, back in South Africa, anti-apartheid forces were again agitating and gathering. This would lad to the formation of the anti-apartheid and non-racial South African Council on Sport (SACOS).

Although the vehement, adamant and disruptive organisation around anti-apartheid sport seems a ‘long time ago’, the era and commitment of people to disrupt and unsettle apartheid sport can never be and will never be forgotten. John Harris has a forever place in the anti-apartheid sports gallery and no one will ever diminish him from the Roll of Honour reserved for those who fought so bravely and resisted so strongly, to expose the apartheid regime and apartheid sport.

 1John Harris