The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)


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From Union to Isolation

Inside South Africa, it required consolidation of national non-racial organisations and entering into negotiations with white controlling bodies. It was hoped that, faced with the prospect of international isolation, the white bodies would agree to end the enforcement of racial discrimination. But the persistent efforts of Dennis Brutus and other officials of SASA did not produce any meaningful response on the part of the white organisations.

By the end of , the South African Olympic Games Association SAOGA , which practised apartheid, was still a member of the ICC and there were no indications that it would agree to an end to racial discrimination in sport under its control. The SAOGA officials, however, saw the dangers inherent in the growing frustration of non-white sportsmen and the likelihood of international isolation.

They devised elaborate methods to prevent mixed sport within South Africa and encouraged non-white sportsmen to join subservient non-white bodies in order to be considered for selection. This would mean that if any non-white sportsman wished to participate in international sport, he had to accept racial separation before having an opportunity for selection.

Even if selected, he would have to participate internationally as an 'individual' and not as a member of the national team. Sportsmen all over the world realise that it is only in open competition that they are able to attain high standards. It is vital to have good facilities: in South Africa non-whites usually have virtually no facilities or wholly inadequate ones. They are also from the majority section of the population that works hardest for the lowest pay and as a result have very little time for recreation and little finance to purchase equipment. They are allowed membership only in inferior sports bodies.

Then, in separate trials, if they happen to record better times than white athletes, they may be permitted to participate in international sport. These conditions make a travesty of the fundamental principles of all truly representative sport. Since trials have to be separate and along racial lines, how can the best representative be selected? For example, how is the best boxer determined between a white and a non-white contender? And even in the case of athletics, separate trials at separate times and different tracks mean competition under unequal conditions.

Every athlete knows that it is by competition with others in his class that he can record better times.

As if this system is not sufficiently objectionable, there is still no guarantee that even if a non-white athlete records better time than a white competitor he will be selected. The white controlling bodies cannot be trusted even to behave according to racial rules of their own making. In , a South African team had to be selected for a tournament in Lourenco Marques. By this time one of the two athletic bodies with non-white members had decided to affiliate to the white controlling body, while the other refused to accept subservient status. The affiliated South African Amateur Athletics and Cycling Association was given an assurance that if any of its members recorded better performances than whites, then they would be selected.

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The white trials were held at Queenstown and special African trials were arranged for the following week at Welkom. As it turned out, two African athletes succeeded in bettering the times of white athletes. Bennet Makgamathe returned a time of The other, Humphrey Khosi, ran the half-mile one-tenth of a second faster than the best white half-miler. A few days later the president of the controlling body announced that the two African athletes would not be included in the South African team.

The official reason given was that Makgamathe's time had been beaten by a white athlete at a gathering a week after the official white trials and that Khosi did not have a good enough record to deserve selection. A few weeks later it was revealed that the selectors had in fact chosen the African athletes, but that the executive committee of the white South African Amateur Athletics Union had refused to approve the decision. Even white journalists condemned this decision, since it had been agreed at the beginning that selection would be based on timing at the two official trials.

An African journalist wrote in the Johannesburg Star of May 12, If this was not the case, why then was the verdict of the stopwatch not upheld? The truth is that the white controlling bodies have always voluntarily practised racial discrimination. The complicated formulas proposed by white bodies to give the impression of some progress to non-racial sport is at best tokenism designed to stave off international isolation. But, even if the system of separate sport is implemented honestly, it amounts to a further refinement of apartheid rather than its elimination.

By it became clear to SASA that no further progress was possible by making representations to the white controlling bodies. This decision caused considerable reaction within South Africa. White sportsmen and sports-loving public realised that unless real progress was made quickly, South Africa would be excluded from the Olympic Games. Even organisations such as the white Athletics Union, which had earlier violated its own rules by excluding African athletes, were now passing resolutions to demonstrate their fitness for international sport.

At one of its meetings held in Pretoria in January , the Union decided that if any non-white athletes reached the required standard of performance, they would be selected for the Olympic Games, in which case South Africa would not compete on a team basis, but on the basis of individual competition. Other controlling bodies adopted similar resolutions. The Government had made it clear that no mixed team would be permitted to represent South Africa abroad; hence the reference to participation as individuals rather than as members of a national team.

The case of the SAOGA was that the white controlling body had to obey the laws of the country which prohibited mixed sport. But this was clearly not true. Mary Draper of the South African Institute of Race Relations, in an article entitled, "Custom and policy - not law - bar mixed sport", in the Johannesburg Star of January 31, , summarised the position in the following way:.

However, persons of one racial group may not enter club buildings in an area zoned for persons of a different colour. That is why, in , the Indian golfer, Sewsunker Papwa Sewgolum was awarded his prize for winning the South African Open Golf competition in pouring rain outside the club-house while the white competitors celebrated inside. In October , the Natal Supreme Court ruled that it was not illegal for persons of different races to play football together.

In other words, the provision excluding mixing across the colour-line did not extend to the playing fields themselves. As Mary Draper concluded in her article:. There is, however, a big distinction between law and policy. Laws have to be observed, and are enforceable by the courts. Compliance with policy is a matter for choice on the part of individual citizens and organisations. An examination of South African sports history shows clearly that the official controlling bodies in each branch of sport have voluntarily practised racial discrimination over the years.

Several of them, including the white Football Association, even had colour-bar clauses in their constitutions. In this particular case the all-white body deleted this clause in when representatives of FIFA visited South Africa, but maintained that they would continue to follow the laws and customs of South Africa. Brutus is at present in prison after having been shot. Harris is now unable to leave South Africa as he was detained by the South African police and his passport was withdrawn.

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A new element had also entered the debate by Since early , the British Anti-Apartheid Movement had taken a keen interest in working for the elimination of apartheid sport from the Olympic Games. Its annual report for stated:. The interest of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement was evidence of the growing international concern at the practice of racialism in sport. This concern was not limited to sportsmen alone, for persons from all walks of life supported the AAM representations. It pleaded that it would need to go on practising racial discrimination inside South Africa, as well as in selecting participants for international competitions, as this was Government policy.

Voting Results

It offered that non-whites of merit would be selected, but without any direct competition with white candidates. Even if separate trials for athletes of different racial groups were acceptable, how would one select the best representative, if two athletes of different colour achieved the same times? This will exclude the possibility of racial discrimination completely and ensure that merit alone counts.

Tests by "physiological and psychological capacity" conducted by a medical laboratory were to be used as a substitute for allowing sportsmen of different races to vie in competition with one another for selection! South Africa enjoyed extensive support among representatives of most Western countries. It was only by the coordination of the efforts of the Afro-Asian representatives, supported by the Socialist countries and one or two officials from Western Europe, that apartheid sport was excluded from the Olympic Games.

The Afro-Asian national Olympic committees made it clear that they would not feel able to participate in Olympic sport if one of the IOC members practised racial discrimination.

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It was this firm stand that led the IOC to adopt the following resolution:. It must also obtain from its Government, before December 31, , modification of its policy of racial discrimination in sport and competitions on its territory, failing which the South African NOC will be forced to withdraw from the Olympic Games. This was the first major victory against apartheid sport. But it had been achieved at some considerable cost. Dennis Brutus, one of the most persistent campaigners against racialism in sport, became a special target of the South African regime.

From the early days when SASA was formed he was closely watched by the security police. In , when a state of emergency was declared following the Sharpeville killings, security officials raided the homes of SASA officials and took away all the documents they could find. None were returned. Dennis Brutus was placed under severe personal restriction.

Sport in South Africa

Banning orders served on him prevented him from attending gatherings of more than two persons. Anything he said or wrote could not be printed, published or distributed. He was also banned from teaching and journalism, which deprived him of the means of earning a livelihood. Despite these restrictions, Dennis Brutus still carried on his work. The meeting was interrupted by security officers who entered the offices of the white Olympic Committee and arrested Mr. Brutus allegedly for violating the terms of his banning order by attending a gathering of more than two persons. He was detained by the Portuguese security police in Mozambique and secretly handed over to the South African Government.

When outside Johannesburg police headquarters, he attempted to escape in order to draw attention to his whereabouts. He feared for his life if the world at large did not know of his arrest and detention. At point-blank range a police officer shot him in the stomach in a busy Johannesburg street. After recovering partially in the prison hospital, he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for contravening the terms of his banning order. When he completed his term of imprisonment, Dennis Brutus left South Africa on an "exit permit", which prohibits his return to his country.

At no point did any of the white sports officials or organisations protest to the Government at the victimisation of Mr. Indeed the arrest inside the office of the white Olympic Committee did not provoke even the mildest criticism, with the result that many non-white South Africans felt that the Committee was itself involved. The case of Dennis Brutus is just one example of Government action to intimidate and silence sportsmen who work for non-racial sport. South Africa's friends did not rest after the adoption of the resolution. They almost succeeded in having the suspension withdrawn and enabling South Africa to take part in the Mexico Games.

It became clear that as long as South Africa remained a member of the IOC it could move from suspension to membership and vice versa depending on whether South Africa's friends happened to be in the majority present at any particular meeting. Once again it was the action of the Afro-Asian countries which resulted in the Mexican organising committee not inviting South Africa rather than face a boycott from a large number of national Olympic committees. So far we have examined the battle against racial discrimination at the level of international sports organisations.

But this is not the only level at which international opposition to racialism in sport has been expressed. The white Commonwealth countries and France have sports bodies which continue to exchange visits with apartheid teams. It is in these countries that individual citizens have organised national campaigns against maintaining links with white South Africa which only serve to strengthen racialism in sport. Rugby and cricket teams from Australia, New Zealand and Britain have continued to exchange tours with white South African teams.

So have rugby teams from France and Ireland. Over the past few years opposition to these tours in Australia and New Zealand has led to the establishment of national bodies of protest which have extended their area of concern to the apartheid situation as a whole. Massive campaigns have been organised on a nation-wide basis when white South African teams have visited these countries and before their national teams have gone to South Africa to play under apartheid conditions.

In the Scandinavian countries there has been extensive opposition to holding tennis competitions with white South Africans. These events have had to take place at secret venues because of the strength of public reaction. But it is Britain that has the closest links with apartheid sport and it is there that the most significant victory so far has been achieved by the cancellation of the all-white South African cricket tour. This did not, however, produce any change in the attitude of the MCC towards racist cricket.

Representations by the non-racial Cricket Board of Control were met with the advice that they develop a separate "all-coloured" cricket organisation! For over a decade the Anti-Apartheid Movement has been campaigning for an end to British links with apartheid sports bodies.

Because of the long historical links between the two countries, it was always difficult to obtain publicity via the media for information on the operation of racialism in South African sport. Many looked upon the AAM campaigns as being solely motivated at isolating South Africa on political grounds and argued that politics should not be introduced into sport. But this argument was effective only because the public did not know about the operation of racialism in sport in South Africa. Because of the persistent efforts of the AAM to educate public opinion, more and more people learnt the facts and joined the battle against apartheid sport.

In , when a South African white team toured England, the English Test cricketer, the Reverend David Sheppard, refused to play against the tourists. He said at the time:. There are 20, non-white cricketers in South Africa. Because they are non-white, they will have no opportunity of playing in a club side, in a province side or in a Test match. I believe at this moment that cricket is touching on the most important single issue in the world. And I believe that as a cricketer and a Christian, I would be wrong to keep silent.

In , when a white South African team toured England, demonstrations were held in many centres where the tourists played and the public was asked to boycott the games. The Queen was asked not to attend the Test match at Lords, particularly since, as Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty should not be seen to be supporting apartheid cricket. She stayed away, but this was ignored by the press. The Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, also responded to the AAM call. This was the first time in cricketing history that the Crown and the Prime Minister had stayed away from a cricket Test match.

Thousands of leaflets were distributed outside the cricket grounds as well as in shopping areas in cities which staged the matches with the apartheid team. But it was not until that the public at large had the problem of apartheid in cricket brought home to it in a dramatic way over the "D'Oliveira affair". Basil D'Oliveira is an outstanding South African all-rounder, who could never hope to play representative cricket for his country of birth because he is Coloured.

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He left South Africa in and played in English county cricket; he was first selected for English Test matches in An English cricket team was to be chosen in for a tour of South Africa and there was considerable speculation as to whether the team would be permitted to enter South Africa if Basil D'Oliveira were a member. As early as January , over Members of Parliament had called on the MCC to cancel its proposed tour of South Africa, since South Africa's Interior Minister, Piet le Roux, had been reported as saying that the Coloured cricketer would not be allowed into the country.

The MCC, however, insisted on going ahead with the tour. When the touring party was announced at the end of the English cricketing season in , Basil D'oliveira was omitted and this provoked one of the sharpest controversies in the history of English cricket. His outstanding performance against Australia at the close of the season was more than adequate to win selection for an English touring team. Most people believed that he was dropped because the MCC did not wish to embarrass the South African authorities by selecting him. A public opinion poll published in the London Daily Mail of September 12, revealed that two out of every three people deplored the omission of D'Oliveira and believed that he was dropped because he was Coloured.

The MCC was completely taken aback at the uproar that followed their decision. Dennis Howell, and saw him on 12 September. As the delegation - composed of Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, M. Abdul S. Nothing before had been so effective in getting across to the British public the full implications of exchanging sports tours with apartheid teams. The weight of public opinion was strong enough to force several leading defenders of South Africa to condemn the two decisions. It became clear that if the MCC proceeded with its invitation to the all-white South African Cricket Association to tour England in , that tour would be actively opposed by people all over the country.

But the cricketing authorities at Lords remained adamant and went ahead with their plans for the tour. The British public had scarcely recovered from the D'Oliveira affair when the all-white South African ruby tour of Britain and Ireland began in This provided an opportunity to people in Britain to show their disapproval of invitations to racialist teams. The Rugby Board had ignored the many requests for the cancellation of the tour. There was no choice but to organise nation-wide protests and demonstrations at every match. The Anti-Apartheid Movement mobilised its branches, members and supporters all over the country and printed thousands of leaflets and posters for the campaign.

The Stop-the-Seventy-Tour Committee, which was established in September to protest at the forthcoming cricket tour, began by mobilising support against the rugby tour. Peter Hain led the new Committee as its Chairman. The first game was due to be played at Oxford, but because of the strength of opposition from all sections of the local community, including staff and students at the university, it was switched to Twickenham and the venue was only announced on the day of the match.

Well over a thousand people turned up at Twickenham to protest outside the ground despite the short notice. From then onwards the movement of protest began to develop its own momentum. The AAM organised demonstrations outside rugby grounds, while STST asked its supporters to enter the grounds and, if necessary, disrupt the game.

Virtually every match thereafter was played in an atmosphere of siege; large numbers of police had to be summoned to protect the grounds and rows of policemen encircled the playing fields to prevent demonstrators from invading them. Barbed wire fences were erected inside and outside the grounds and police dogs were brought in and held in reserve at strategic points.


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Clashes between the police and demonstrators took place at several matches, the worst at Swansea where almost young demonstrators claimed to have been beaten by rugby vigilantes and the police. The national press calculated that at least 50, people took part in the demonstrations held at every match that was played. The white South African team could never feel at ease throughout the tour.

Sociology of Sport: South Africa

On the field matches were interrupted; off the field demonstrators protested outside their hotels. One student almost succeeded in driving away the coach full of white South African players, as they were about to set off from their hotel for a match. When the white team reached Dublin, they met with even more widespread opposition. Corrie Bornmann, manager of the white rugby team, admitted at the end of the tour that he had thought of calling it off as a result of the protests in Ireland.

The Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement obtained massive support for its campaign against the visit of the white ruby team to their country. Large numbers of rugby fans boycotted the game, which had a very small attendance for an international match. As a result of the new public interest, anti-apartheid groups emerged in areas where there were none before and plans were made for even greater demonstrations during the cricket tour. The prestige and honour is breath-taking. However, access to playing these sports has traditionally been skewed in favour of previously advantaged, White individuals.

The vast majority, include the generic composition of Black, Coloured and Indian historically disadvantaged individuals were excluded. It is not to say that these persons did not, or could not, play these sports, but they were confined to playing these sports in inferior conditions, with poor facilities.

Since change has been slow. The ongoing saga was firmly placed onto the national, and to some extent, the international agenda, in April , when the government announced its decision to withdraw its support for the rugby, cricket netball and athletics federations bidding to host international events.

Predictably, the reaction was emotional and divided. Some decried the announcement by the Minister of Sport and Recreation, by suggesting that the government should not interfere with the federations, whilst others felt that the announcement was long overdue. It is worth noting that in terms of the EPG report, SAFA were reprimanded for failing to roll-out soccer in former model C and private schools, as well as in suburban areas, where white South African talent may be found. The first yardstick relates to whether the measure targets persons or categories of persons who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination; the second is whether the measure is designed to protect or advance such persons or categories of persons; and the third requirement is whether the measure promotes the achievement of equality.

However, it is imperative, that the measures taken are rational, and linked to a legitimate governmental objective. In advancing employment equity and transformation, flexibility and inclusiveness is required. Remedial measures must operate in a progressive manner assisting those who, in the past, were deprived of the opportunity to access the relevant requirements necessary to enter the insolvency profession, but such remedial measures must not trump the rights of previously advantaged insolvency practitioners. Transformation, including in South African sport, is supported by the constitution, and a body of judicial weight.

As long as the measures taken are pursuant to a well thought out plan, that is rational, and linked to a legitimate governmental objective, the measures taken would survive judicial scrutiny. It is imperative that our sporting teams reflect the demographics of our country. To this end, access to playing these sports must be fair, and transparent. Greater funding ought to be provided at the appropriate levels, both by the public and private sector, if we are to truly achieve our aim to be a winning nation.

There have been many success stories over the years, who have come though as historically disadvantaged players, and not as part of a quota system, but rather, strictly, on merit.


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  • Given the background that most HDIs come from, the search needs to continue to find future generations of stars that all South Africans can identify with. This argument is flawed, in that unlike with historically disadvantaged individuals in rugby and cricket, white South Africans were never excluded from the professional ranks in South African football. There were many white South Africans who played in the apartheid years for professional clubs in South Africa, including those clubs whose home grounds were in black townships.

    These players were admired by many South African soccer fans, as they played with and against people of all races, in defiance of the apartheid laws of the time. There is therefore no previous exclusion that needs to be cured.

    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)
    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)
    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)
    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)
    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)
    The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society) The Politics of South African Cricket (Sport in the Global Society)

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