- Should a national athletic team or a rugby team have racial quotas to reflect the nation's racial composition? Political activists in South Africa are launching protests when a sports team becomes "too white", causing the white-dominated opposition to talk about a "race obsession" among certain ruling party members.
There are reports from South Africa that the makeup of the Springbok rugby team for Saturday's game was changed on the grounds that it featured too many white athletes. This allegedly occurred after a protest about the team's selection from activists of the Youth League of the ruling ANC party.
The reports further indicate that Breyton Paulse, who supposedly had been left out for tactical reasons, was subsequently put in to increase the number of black players. The alleged incident has caused the traditionally white-dominated Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party to protest what it calls racism.
- If correct, this is absurd, said Donald Lee, the DA's spokesman on Sport and Recreation. "Breyton Paulse has played 50 tests for his country. Race is not keeping him out of the team. What this means is that questions will hang over the game and detract from its role as a unifier of South African sport," Mr Lee added.
The opposition also mentions a second recent incident, concerning allegations by Athletics South Africa (ASA) President Leonard Chuene that certain top athletes are in his words, "rebelling against transformation". According to indications by the DA's spokesman, the ASA leader is trying to fade out white-dominated sports from his organisation.
Mr Lee alleges that the ASA President is aiming at doing off with road running in South Africa. "Road running is a lucrative contributor to ASA and we can only guess at what is really going on," the DA spokesman comments.
- If race is the only thing that counts, then values like hard work, talent and merit will not count, Mr Lee warns. "Our sport will deteriorate, both in terms of results and because sport no longer has any credibility as an activity that brings out the best."
The DA spokesman more than indicates that there is a "race obsession" in the ruling ANC party's sports policy, although he only can point to alleged acts by the ANC Youth League. "The ANC is showing it is obsessed with race rather than with sporting excellence or sporting unity," Mr Lee alleges, claiming "this will backfire and ensure that our sport never escapes the shadow of race."
During the age of white minority rule, where also the predecessors of the DA plaid an important role, the apartheid system prevented non-white athletes from representing South African colours. Apartheid South Africa was consequently excluded from international sports associations and events.
At this stage, however, the DA favours a non-racial approach to sports and other sectors of society, totally rejecting racial quotas. This non-racial ideology also is followed in sectors where South Africa's majority population was disadvantaged or totally excluded during the apartheid era.
- Transformation is vital to make up for the injustices of the past and to allow us to realise our true potential as a sporting nation, admits the DA spokesman. "But transformation should mean more resources and opportunities for development. It should not mean quotas or changes to selection based on angry statements from the ANC Youth league," he holds.
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