Archive | September, 2016

Where Is The People’s Support For Student Struggles In SA? By Cheryl Roberts

28 Sep

South Africa’s students are on the frontline of battle, engaging with university management and administrators of the country they live in, contesting and challenging the exhorbitant and ridiculously high cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

Except for pockets of voices besides the student ones, here and there, much of the country is seemingly in denial, unsupportive, yet critical of the student resistance and challenge.

Why is this happening? Why this silence when it comes to supporting legitimate demands and grievances of the students, most of whom can barely afford the extravagant costs to attain a tertiary education.

One would think that the student struggle is isolated; there exist no other struggles, no need to challenge government provision and management of an unequal society.

Very much correctly described and saluted as brave, fearless, fierce and sharp, the current era of student struggle and battle underway in South Africa tares at the core network of our society; that of a severely harsh, fragmented and unequal society that favours and supports elite, wealthy, middle class, rich, urban factions of society while suffocating and strangling the existence of the working class and those who have little to survive an indeed hard  life.

But where are the black voices, those who were oppressed just over 20 years ago, who were revolutionaries and on the frontline of resistance against the apartheid regime? Yes, today, you are nicely placed in that vacillating middle class group, nicely taken up with salary, house and middle class comforts.

Why are you seemingly quiet, some of you popping up here and there on social media, never quite indicating whether you support the student struggles. Why are you neither here nor there? Where do you stand in times of battle against government and management and administrators, those who earn very, very high salaries while mostly black students, those of parents and families oppressed during apartheid and with no money or wealthy inheritance from apartheid, struggle to survive?

Why do middle class voices only speak when they want to condemn the violence and make as if the violence is what student struggles are all about? Why do you act as if your life is liberated, that you have ‘freedom’?

Are you satisfied with your government, with neo-liberalism, with capitalist and white capital control of the economy, with white privilege and white ownership of the land? And what about the state of the working class? All of this says NO you are not satisfied and can’t accept this state of rule in South Africa, that you want to challenge and resist. So the students have found their voice, because they have had enough.

It was Martin Luther King who said ‘there comes a time when your silence is betrayal’. And that is how best the SA middle class, rich and wealthy can best be described. The revolution was never over when we got our chance to vote in 1994. No, it was still ongoing. Fierce, bigger, more challenging and demanding.

The student struggles are not isolated from all other struggles in our country South Africa, a society dominated and propped up by capitalism, patriarchy, and male-domination and supported actively by the partners of white wealth and privilege, by abusers and rapists, an accepting middle class and a crushing, brutal security apparatus.

The students are young, most of them not older than 25 but they are battling police and security brutality. Yes, there are horrific moments, emanating from anger like buildings on fire and torching of buildings and tertiary institution property and books. Never forget that the great leader, most people admire and respect Nelson Mandela also became impatient with the pace of struggle demands and also looked at armed struggle.

Out on the frontline, voicing their demands are the students with their student issues and struggle. Civil society has much struggle to engage in, demands to publicise. We should be together in struggle with the students, calling out unemployment, capitalism, neo- liberalism, ruling party corruption, white ownership of the land, white privilege and its inherited apartheid wealth, abuse, rape and patriarchy. But no, we are not doing this. Instead the most we do is talk about ‘the violence’, about the disruptive and violent students, especially those who disrupt lectures. And this is mostly done on social media, as we take up our armchair seats and start with our viewpoints.

Where is the revolutionary fervour of just over 20 years ago? Why have we allowed it to be crushed? Was it not the young learners and young students who protested and boycotted apartheid education, taking us nearer to freedom? Why are we not out there on the streets, in our neighbourhoods and communities, on the factory floor, organising and demonstrating about all that is wrong with our unequal society?

These fierce student struggles have given all who believe in freedom, all the at-one-time oppressed people, a chance to again find their voice and protest. No, the student struggles are not single or isolated struggles. They are interlinked with and part of all other struggles; they are very much aimed at disrupting the elite, male hegemonic and patriarchal, capitalist control of South Africa.

Supporting our student struggles will help us regain our revolutionary voice and will take us forward to that juncture where we unpack, dismantle, disrupt and eliminate all that we don’t want in the society we want to live in.

Stop condemning student resistance and galvanise yourselves into action!



Student Resistance In South Africa. (I sourced this photograph online; don’t know who the photographer is but I do acknowledge the photographer).

New Developments On the Horizon For Women’s Football In South Africa? By Cheryl Roberts

28 Sep

In South Africa girls and women’s participation in football, is growing at a fast pace. Custodians of women’s football, South African Football Association (SAFA) understands that with this growth comes the need to develop and advance women’s football and to enable women’s football to grow with the support.

I asked SAFA women’s football co-ordinator, Nomsa Mahlangu, where is women’s football at and Ms Mahlangu said: ‘We are growing. We need to move from where we are with just having regional leagues and the premier Sasol league in all the provinces. We must introduce new competitions to motivate the women footballers. It’s about time we find and host another league/s and competitions to take women’s football to another level’.

Does this mean SAFA could be introducing a professional women’s football league? Ms Mahlangu would not say no or yes to this question. What she did emphasise was that SAFA understood the need to look at women’s football and offer something new for the women footballers. While nothing could be mentioned now, an announcement is expected soon, towards end of 2016.

SAFA recently appeared before the RSA’s parliamentary portfolio on sport and recreation where the state of women’s football was discussed. SAFA are under pressure, amidst criticism they are not developing and assisting growth of women’s football in SA, t deliver a stricture professional league where women footballers can play the game full-time and as professionals. This should enable the women footballers to compete better with their foreign competition.

‘We are definitely working on something for women’s football,’ says Ms Mahlangu. ‘SAFA is looking at adding on some new competitions, perhaps an interprovincial competition involving all the provinces. We want to see developing and emerging talent throughout the country not just in one or two regions and provinces.

The reality of not qualifying for the under 17, under 20 and women’s world cups has hit home at SAFA that ‘something is not right with women’s and girls football’. SAFA is now intervening, with its limited funds and resources, according to SAFA, to implement some changes which will hopefully improve the standard of women’s football.

‘We are not doing enough. We must intensify our junior league programmes.  Seemingly something is not happening at LFA or regional levels, the cradle of our girl’s football development. It’s a wake up call for SAFA to look at the situation and act so we improve the state of women’s football in our country and SA gets to qualify for women’s world cups’.

Asked about the disappointing performances emanating from the R6million a year high performance center in Pretoria, where South Africa’s youth women footballers are based full-time, Ms Mahlangu agreed that it needed ‘scrutiny, assessment and possible overhauling so the high performance programme reaps the results we want.

‘We can do better. What we getting out should be much better

We have regressed, not progressed much. At this moment, women’s football is not looking too good and healthy. Before someone else tells you something is wrong, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to know what is wrong, and then we can implement change. As a start we must begin to change mindsets’, said Ms Mahlangu.

Asked about what I term a cabal controlling women’s football

In SAFA, Ms Mahlangu said she ‘didn’t want to raise this in a publication but would be raising some concerns about this within SAFA’.


Why Are South Africa’s Black Sports Heroines Ignored? By Cheryl Roberts

23 Sep

South Africa thrives on its sports achievements; this being mostly male prowess in the sports of cricket, football, rugby. Sportswomen are celebrated, but not on the same level of sportsmen.

Given the massive sports media accorded to men in sport in SA’s broadcasting and print media, It’s no wonder that a small percentage of South Africans are aware of the sports achievements of the exceptional black sportswomen, Noni Tenge, Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ.

Women in sport struggle and battle for what is deservedly their share of media attention and publicity. While sports content has improved to include some content on sportswomen, women in sport are still not given the media space they should have. White sportswomen participate in much more sports than black women and get to achieve much more than black sportswomen which sees white sportswomen getting a higher percentage of sports media content.

I mention this because we must know how black women in sport are short changed, how black sportswomen are maginalised and mostly ignored in sports media, being remembered sometimes and mentioned in a few lines now and then.

Gender and colour inequalities and discrepancies in South Africa’s sports network have been analysed and broken down. Post-apartheid participation in sport has seen increasing opportunities opened up for black girls and women in sport. Through these opportunities, sports talent of black girls has surfaced and black women in sport have achieved from community sports levels, to provincial and national achievement.

Amazingly, despite their chains and the constraints which negatively impact on their participation in sport, some black sportswomen have attained phenomenal results like world class status, world champion titles and Olympic and Paralympic medals.

This being an Olympic and Paralympic year, the sports prowess of the awesome athlete Caster Semenya, aged 25 years, just couldn’t be ignored. Semenya’s athletics achievements in 2016 saw her becoming South Africa, African Olympic and Diamond Series champion, a feat no other South African woman athlete has ever claimed.

Paralympian champion, Zanele Situ, aged 45 years was already champion at the Sydney Paralympics but wasn’t given the media publicity her Paralympics triumphs earned. Its only during this Paralympic year that more South Africans have gotten to now about the sports prowess of black woman disabled athlete Zanele Situ who also won the bronze medal in her fifth consecutive Paralympics.

Then there’s the phenomenal boxing prowess of black woman Noni Tenge, 35 years old who is holding five world belts; a boxing feat attained by no other South African. Tenge has won world titles and successfully defended several world titles.

Caster Semenya, Zanele Situ and Noni Tenge have not only participated in club sport, on provincial and national sports stages and continental and world platforms, they have also achieved sports feats which today see them as Olympic medalists and world champions.

So why are Semenya, Situ and Tenge not the most adored, most publicised, most sponsored sports people in South Africa? Why have corporates not sponsored these amazing black women athletes with money, products and endorsements?

Prior to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, Semenya and Situ were getting by on monthly stipends from SASCOC; these stipends are not much, just helping the athlete to get through the month with their training needs. Tenge depends on a promoter giving her fights; she has no monthly income from SASCOC. Situ and Tenge are virtually penniless, surviving on a monthly stipend and payments from occasional fights. They are nowhere near being a millionaire unlike sportsmen that have achieved far less and nothing much but still get corporate endorsements and financial incentives.

But then the fabulous Semenya has been in devastating form and has earned the lucrative payouts on the international athletics circuit. Semenya is a black sportswoman millionaire, for sure. But despite, her Olympic success and international achievements, corporates and businesses are not seeing Caster Semenya, the black woman athlete as a lucrative and deserving sponsored athlete. Why hasn’t Semenya been awarded some cars and houses or signed some lucrative sponsorship deals?

The answers are not difficult to understand. We are talking about women here and nit about about sportsmen. But these are not white sportswomen who are little more favoured by white content media and corporates. Semenya, Situ and Tenge are black women and black women in sport don’t dominate content of white-owned media (which is what most of media in South Africa is about) and don’t get sponsorship deals with corporates who think they get little returns from investing in black sportswomen.

Although they are highly achieving women in sport, these women are black, not fair-skinned. They are queer and disabled, not feminine and heterosexual.

Media and corporates have yet to respond to the phenomenal sports prowess and subsequent world achievements, triumphs and feats of black, non-feminine, queer women in sport.

Until now, these black sportswomen have been marginalised and not celebrated as they deservingly should. Their sports feats have earned their accolades. Why are they not being applauded regularly in the media and endorsed by corporates? It’s definitely got something to do with them not being white, feminine and heterosexual.south-african-sports-woman-october-2016-1

Who Will Coach South Africa’s National Women’s Football Team Banyana Banyana? By Cheryl Roberts

15 Sep

Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s national women’s football team needs a head coach and assistants to be appointed. Banyana’s first woman coach was the foreigner, the Dutch coach Vera Pauw. She resigned after the team’s 2016 Rio Olympics participation.

SAFA hasn’t made any attempts to ask Pauw to reconsider and stay on as head coach of Banyana. Who will SAFA appoint to coach South Africa’s national women’s football team?

That a head coach must be appointed is not disputed. The timing is imperative. Should a caretaker coach be appointed in the interim to guide Banyana through participation in CAF’s African women’s football championship or should a permanent full-time head coach be appointed, so the new era starts now?

To get Banyana Banyana onto the road again, a full-time head coach, entrusted with the coaching and management of Banyana should be done now. There should be no delays. Let’s take our cue from champions, 2016 Olympic champions, Germany wasted no time in announcing their head coach, soon after winning the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Does gender and colour matter? Should Banyana’s head coach be woman or man, black or black African or white?

SAFA took the correct and bold decision to appoint the first woman coach for Banyana Banyana when they appointed Vera Pauw. Let this continue; that is, a woman coaching the national women’s team.

SAFA must not only develop, encourage and support women coaches in football; they must also show confidence in women football coaches and appoint them. So a woman coach must serve as head coach of Banyana Banyana.

Who should this coach be? Does it matter that she’s South African, African or a foreign coach? Yes, it does matter. While foreign coaches may be very experienced and have already achieved internationally with attractive credentials in coaching women’s football, SAFA has got to start believing in South Africa’s home grown, home brewed women football coaches. Our women football coaches have played the game, done the coaching course, got the coaching certificate and are waiting patiently in the wings. Now they must be supported and valued. Give a South African woman the head coach position because we must not only develop elite women coaches in sport through coaching courses; we must appoint women as national head coaches. Why should South Africa rely on foreign women coaches when we have our own women waiting for opportunities?

Who should that South African woman coach be appointed to guide Banyana Banyana? SAFA has several highly qualified women football coaches. SAFA must look at the Black African women coaches; there are many of them capable of coaching Banyana.

In an earlier opinion article, in trying to get some thought going on Banyana’s next coach, I put out there the name of SAFA’s first highest woman coach, Sheryl Botes. It appears that Botes is not in the running for the Banyana appointment. Botes’ tenure at SAFA’s high performance youth training centre, coaching girls and young women footballers at an expense of R6million a year, has not yielded the desired results. Many are questioning Botes’ abilities and capabilities given that she had resources and a fulltime appointment but couldn’t get SA to the u17 girls and u20 women world cups.

What about Desiree Ellis, Banyana’s assistant coach, under coach Vera Pauw? In a news report by award winning journalist, Busisiwe Mokwena, it was pointed out that ‘some Banyana players were happy to see Pauw resign as Banyana coach’. The article went on to say that Banyana players ‘didn’t think Desiree Ellis should be appointed Banyana head coach.’

In starting a new era for Banyana Banyana SAFA has to guard against retaining those before ‘who were part of the Banyana mess’, says an official within SAFA. Will the players be satisfied with the appointment of Desiree Ellis as Banyana coach? Only time will indicate this!

Who else should be considered? There’s qualified coaches, Maud Khumalo and Anna Monate, who have been undeservedly overlooked for national coaching positions of Banyana Banyana. They are also black African women football coaches. There’s also qualified CAF A license coach, Marion February who has successfully won the SA u19 girls football championship. And then there’s rising star, Thinasonke Mbuli, coach of the SA tertiary women’s football team that has coached on international football stages and achieved positive results. Mbuli will come in with no baggage from the Vera Pauw era and will proceed under starter’s orders on her own terms.

So how about appointing Thinasonke Mbuli as Banyana Banyana’s head coach and Marion Febraury as Banyana’s assistant coach? Both have no baggage from the Vera Pauw era. Both Mbuli and February are winning coaches. Put them in charge of banyana Banyana!

Banyana Banyana starts a new era. This must be a time when Banyana matures and wins African championships and improves significantly their world ranking. It’s also a time when Banyana must play much higher ranked ranked international opponents outside of Africa. The women football coaches are there; they exist, waiting to be appointed.

Give a South African black woman a chance to coach Banyana Banyana. Also ensure she and her national team has all the support necessary to try and achieve. At this juncture, SAFA doesn’t know which particular woman football coach will turn around Banyana’s winning and goal scoring fortunes. What SAFA does know is that there are women football coaches who must be given the opportunity and be supported to achieve. A lot will also depend on Banyana Banyana’s passion to succeed and win.


Amidst Dusty Sand Surroundings, A Netball Dream Is Born On the Cape Flats By Cheryl Roberts

12 Sep

At a time when South Africa celebrates the world and global triumphs of her phenomenally achieving sports people, exists the community dreams of working class people to enjoy and participate in recreation and sport.

With no corporate funding, no NGO support, no local government assistance, a community sports ambition sprung up in Delft, a residential space located on the outside borders of what constitutes the rich and wealthy city of Cape Town, existing mostly for the privileged middle class and elite.

It was Viwe Nete’s dream. It emerged because of her love for netball and her desire to ‘do something for the girls and women in the community’.

Viwe is a black working class woman, working at a restaurant and living in the lower working class community of Delft in Cape Town.

Delft is that living/residential space where the city of Cape Town places people who have no choices and not much money to choose their living space. Delft is where the struggling working class img_8577live and hustle together. Delft is about lots of people living in blocks of flats and small houses acting as living space across a large ground of sand. The sand spaces around the flats and houses haven’t been grassed or tarred; you can imagine what the people experience when the wind hits Cape Town.

Delft is also a severely depressed, under-reourced residential area. Lots of house dwellings; family types mostly occupying the living spaces. It has some schools and some sports spaces. Not much, though. And undoubtedly not advantaged and resourced as schools and sports amenities existing in Cape Town’s suburban areas, where the privileged live.

But there was the dream. The passion, too. The yearning to ‘do something’. And there was Viwe, straight outta Delft.



Viwe Nete, founder of Red Tigers netball club in Delft in cape Town (pic by cheryl roberts)


Thinking outside of her barriers, Viwe took occupation of a small tarred parking space deep in the heartland of Delft, amongst the houses where the people live. She got two netball posts, painted the netball markings and there she had it created. Her dream became reality and the Delft community had a netball court, albeit a makeshift one.

The netball project began six years ago, with no money; just a heart and desire to do something in the community for the community. Girls and young women mostly, gather to play netball throughout the week, to use the netball playing area to practice and to play social friendly netball matches.

On a Saturday out and about in Cape Town, stopping over at various sports fields, documenting girls and women in sport, I found myself changing direction and going to a netball toimg_8547urnament in Delft. I was immediately awed by what I saw.

I could see the community effort in creating their own sports space, from ground up. I saw the netball passion, happiness and love. I also saw what can be achieved with limited resources. In a country like South Africa where billions of money is given to sports-related events and activities and so little money given to community sport, this netball project started by Viwe Nete is magical.

Viwe founded the Red Tigers netball club in Delft. The club plays in the Cape Town netball league, based in Belville. To encourage growth of other netball clubs and players, Viwe has her club Red Tigers firmly rooted on the ground and in the community. New teams have emerged; though not district or city affiliated, they participate in the netball activities arranged by Red Tigers netball club. These activities include weekly friendly netball games and the occasional friendly tournaments.

‘I’m so happy to see what I started here in Delft growing in numbers and netball teams. It’s a struggle to keep this going, but the struggles are worth it, especially when you see the happiness it brings to the girls playing netball,’ says Viwe.





Out of this selfless netball project have already emerged national players like Noluyo and Thandiwe who were called up for regional and then provincial selection trials.

This is what makes Viwe smile. While talking to Viwe I am told about the star player emerging. She is 10 year old Yamkela, who plays at center and has already received several ‘player of the tournament’ awards.

There’s the emerging young black women leaders in sport, blossoming beautifully like Thoko the club captain and Olwethu, a university education student who is also the club secretary. They help and assist Viwe with preparations for league matches and friendly games.

Transport is the club’s biggest challenge as the girl and women netballers need to be transported to matches. Most times, Viwe uses her wages to help fund the transport of the Red Tigers netball team.

On match days, the surrounding residents come out to watch and support the netballers. As this is a makeshift netball playing court, there are no benches to seat spectators. But residents bring out benches from their houses and sit and watch the netball. The players have to sit on the sand surrounding the tarred parking space, in between play.




There’s no aggressive supporters, no parents bullying the ref, no ambitious parent screaming out for their child. All the players are supported and encouraged.

It is here in Delft, amongst the people and amongst the houses, where a working class community has come together and created the sports life they want and its here where a sports dream has become reality and where netball dreams are being realised.img_8504