As the Springboks celebrated their astounding World Cup win on Saturday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa made sure he was standing alongside Siya Kolisi when the captain hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup.
A few moments later, Ramaphosa held one side of the trophy and then grabbed both – holding it aloft, like one of the jubilant players.
As the camera panned up and over the mob of excited Springboks in that Paris stadium, the man who engineered it was standing quietly at the back. From installing Kolisi as the country’s first black Springbok captain, to winning the World Cup in Japan in 2019, the British & Irish Lions series, and now a historic back-to-back rugby win – it was all because of Rassie Erasmus.
There he was at the back, out of the limelight, rightly letting the players bask in the glory. Not so much our non-practising president, who held a family meeting on Monday night which was more of an ANC election manifesto than the Springbok congratulations it was billed as.
“We are making progress in the fight against corruption, including bringing those responsible for State Capture to justice,” Ramaphosa said after delivering the usual platitudes about the “determination and resilience of our teams” giving “credence to Madiba’s words that sport unites the nation”.
Ramaphosa crowed that the NPA’s Investigating Directorate has taken 34 State Capture and corruption cases to court.
And yet, in Stade de France, standing next to the president throughout that historic World Cup final, was Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa – a man who the Zondo Commission said should be sacked for his unethical conduct with former EOH executive, Jehan Mackay.
“The commission accordingly recommends that the president considers the position of Mr Kodwa as deputy minister of state security, having regard to the fact that Mr Kodwa appears to find himself in a position where he is beholden to Mr Jehan Mackay,” Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wrote in his report.
“Mr Kodwa is beholden to Mr Jehan Mackay to whom he owes more than R1.7m. On his own version, this is a debt which he cannot immediately repay.”
So much for Ramaphosa holding his ANC inner circle to account.
What that tells South Africa, is that you can take a nearly R2m “loan” from a controversial “friend” trying to score government contracts and still be rewarded with a position in the Cabinet. Other perks included a business class trip to Paris, five-star hotel accommodation that you and I paid for and, no doubt, a lot of Champagne.
Like most sporting events, the Rugby World Cup – and the concurrent cricket competition – has reminded us why Twitter/X is still a useful and relevant social platform. The person who seems to have clocked this out the most is Rassie Erasmus himself. Part of the genius strategy to win back-to-back finals has been to tone down his criticism of referees – which he clearly succeeded in doing.
How else would the world have discovered that England flanker Tom Curry isn’t a “white c**t”, but merely can’t understand one of our languages? A Twitter sleuth found the exact moment that Bongi Mbonambi screams the Afrikaans words, “wyd kant” (wide side).
Curry’s sour grapes – and arguably arrogance to think Mbonambi would take the time in the heat of a frantic World Cup semifinal to insult the flank – prompted a glorious embrace of this humble Afrikaans word. If only Carly Simon was around to write an updated version of, “You’re so vain, you probably think this Afrikaans word is about you…”
Even Ramaphosa’s office found its funny bone, concluding the government’s congratulatory statement by saying that the famous “Webb Ellis [Cup] is in South Africa’s kant!!”
If only politicians worked as hard as our sports heroes instead of trying to hog the credit and the limelight. That’s the kantry we need. DM