Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The unbearable whiteness of being 2

"I am one of you". Nelson Mandela signified by wearing the number 6 Springbok jersey.

Today the message is much different.

Mhambi is sad. I read a troubling story on the web today.

How does one unpack - in a positive way - the meaning of the announcement that the government will step in to ensure that the Springbok rugby team will have at least 10 black players in the starting line-up in 2008? The team will be "Africanised" it is said.

Originally uploaded by rogan.w.

How does one spin this positive? Add another layer of Rainbow Nation gloss? Have Hunt Lascaris make another multi-racial beautiful people ad where South Africans down Lions at a braai?

Is this a move to restore the racial imbalances of the past? Is it a move to ensure that deserving black players who are not being chosen for the national team are selected?

Apparently not the later, because the designated new 'black' coach, Pieter de Villiers has already indicated that South Africa will have to experience a bit of rugby 'pain' in the name of this 'transformation'. So the team will not necessary be the best, but it will be black. (What black means in South Africa is a moving target. If suits a political aim it appears that it can mean African.)

Will it address the imbalance, the vast gap in education, skills, and money between white and black South Africans? Err no.

So why then?

To Mhambi this reeks of the new racist identity politics that Van Zyl Slabbert already has had a whiff of for a while now. He warned of the creeping racial ideology amongst key members of the government.

At a talk at Wits he reiterated that South Africa’s struggle past was being selectively used to establish a racially exclusive Africanism as “the new dominant ideology”.

It seems that for some very significant South Africans in government, it is better for the country to under achieve at an important sports event, than to have a succesful team that is too white. That is naked racism.

And in South Africa rugby does matter. Especially to Afrikaners. A student of history will tell you that rugby was central in rebuilding Afrikaner identity and reconciliation with English South Africans after the Boer War. It also helped our post apartheid reconciliation, when the country united behind the World Cup victory of 1995.

If these forces are put in reverse? How destructive could they be?

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