Anti-Apartheid Sport Struggles Helped Post-Apartheid Rugby’s Black Players By Cheryl Roberts

28 Oct

dan-qeqe

When oppressed communities were left under-resourced and deprived of recreational spaces and facilities dring the horrendous apartheid era, anti-apartheid sports administrators didn’t allow this lack of provision and scarcity of sports resources in the townships to impact negatively on black people’s participation in sport.
Black sports people were creative. They made football goals posts out of spare tyres, cemented and painted their own makeshift tennis playing areas, mapped out and created their own rugby field.
In Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, when the apartheid supporting municipality refusd to provide rugby fields for the townships’ rugby clubs and players, an anti-apartheid sports official stepped in and stepped up with the building of Zwide township’s first rugby field. Together with support and backing from the rugby playing communities in Port Elizabeth’s townships, Dan Dumile Qeqe gathered the forces, got a piece of unused land and set about erecting what would become Zwide township’s first rugby playing facility, owned by community and for the community.

To be known later as the Dan Qeqe stadium, this community built and supported sports facility went on to provide a home for oppressed black rugby players and clubs. It was also the headquarters of Kwazekhele Rugby Union, a rugby region that chose to be members of the anti-apartheid South African Rugby Union (SARU).
Rugby grew into the Eastern Cape’s most favoured sport amongst oppressed blacks. Although facilities and fields were scarce and sometimes non-existent, patches of grounds were fund and used to play rugby. Out of these community rugby spaces, surfaced much rugby talent who went on to become icons and legendary players in their communities.
Sports administrator Dan Dumile Qeqe was a cricket and rugby player. Born and living in Fort Beaufort, Dan Dumile Qeqe played cricket for the Fort Beaufort cricket club, in the 1940’s and 1950’s before moving to New Brighton in Port Elizabeth. Startled by the lack of rugby grounds in the townships, Dan Dumile Qeqe was adamant that apartheid’s municipalities would not strangle black rugby in the townships. That’s why Dan Qeqe got a whole community backing his idea nad initaitive and together they set about creating the community’s own rugby stadium.
Dan Dumile Qeqe was a visionary. He was solid in his sports commitment and chose to be involved in anti-apartheid sport. At the advent of sports unity in South Africa, in the early 90’s, the anti-aparthied South African Rugby Union unified rugby in SA with apartheid’s rugby structure and one rugby controlling federation was born.
There was much debate and opinions about this road to rugby unity and subsequent unified rugby structure. There was also much debate about whether the Springboks should be supported because white men still controlled Springbok selection.
I recall sitting in Dan Dumile Qeqe home in New Brighton, on enight in the early 90’s not far from where his petrol garage stood. I was working with a British producer on a BBC production about rugby in SA. And that night Dan, the documentary producer, Mrs Qeqe, herself very much involved in rugby as a supporter and club member, and myself had a conversation about sport in SA, at that juncture; about sport in a country on the cusp of a new dawn. And we got onto talking about Springbok support. Mrs Qeqe and myself relayed how we didn’t support the Springboks. Dan Qeqe told us honestly that he supported the Springboks, as SA’s national rugby team, as they represented a unified rugby body. The producer just listened to our interaction.
The creator of Zwide’s community-owned rugby stadium, Dan Dumile Qeqe never gave up on the community rugby facility, despite having a new era of rugby birthed. Zwide’s Dan Qeqe stadium battled the odds with maintenance costs and upkeep of the stadium but it was always there for township rugby players to use, even if the grass was long.
Born in the early 90’s was a baby born that would grown into a child loving rugby. The child lived in Zwide in challenging family conditions but he participated in rugby. And the rugby field where he played and improved his grassroots rugby skills was the Dan Qeqe stadium. The boy rugby player quickly became recognised as a talented player. Then came the recogntion from a private resourced school for the boy rugby player from Zwide who invited him to join the school.

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Today, that boy rugby player from Zwide, who first played stadium rugby at the Dan Qeqe community owned stadium, is captaining South Africa at a men’s rugby world cup. He is Siya Kolisi from Zwide in Port Elizabeth in the Easten Cape.
A community built and self-funded sports facility from the apartheid era, provided the boy rugby player Siya Kolisi with a rugby playing stadium so that he could know that opportunities were also there for township playing rugby boys.
Dan Qeqe has passed on, some years ago, in 2005. He was still activley involved with his rugby club, the legendary Spring Rose. I know Dan Qeqe would have been proud of Siya Kolisi. Being the humble sports official he was, Dan Dumile Qeqe wouldn’t have boasted about his efforts of providing a rugby stadium and helping black boys to know they can also play rugby. He would have smiled with admiration and allowed his heart to consume it all, knowing that his life’s happiness had been achieved.

Photographs: Found online. Credited to Vabaza Sports Consultancy

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