The Springbok victory in the Rugby World Cup was both glorious and symbolic. We overcame criticism, cynicism and smear campaigns against our nation to emerge victorious against formidable rivals.
As citizens, we have had the pleasure of sharing the joy of victory and appreciation of how we can use diversity to work for us. We have been collectively reminded of the hope and potential of South Africa beyond the sports field. This is what Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela referred to as the rainbow nation – united in our diversity.
While many South Africans were celebrating that victory and coming together to meet the players on the streets of Langa, Soweto, Mdantsane and KwaMashu, there were political organisations working hard to find something to complain about – working tirelessly to construct distorted narratives that would take us away from a place of unity into a culture and/or race war.
Fans of rugby around the world do not look at the rugby jersey and think of supremacist ideas or images. The springbok emblem is not the apartheid flag, it is not a swastika, it is not Die Stem.
There are political parties which have historically raised complaints about rugby and tried to divide rugby fans on the basis of race. The EFF has once again entered the discussion after being frustrated by the collective joy of many South Africans. They have taken exception to the brand identity of the Springboks, the moniker, the emblem and even the colours. They have proposed a new moniker, a new colour scheme and a new emblem.
The timing of this statement by the EFF is opportunistic, disingenuous and divisive. The party is extremely frustrated to see South Africans enjoying a victory, united as a nation. They dislike the fact that the team has diverse representation and heroes who are black, white, coloured and Indian.
The unity and success of the Springboks frustrate them because they disprove their key philosophy of division and anger and show that South Africans can be united and work together across race, class and ideological lines. The EFF seeks to divide South Africans as a strategy for its own narrow and self-serving political gains. Yet the Springboks have broken that narrative with their empirical evidence of success.
We challenge the EFF to come up with policies that can expand the reach of rugby to rural and township schools which may still be excluded from the sport.
Build One South Africa maintains that some images and symbols can and have been reclaimed. The identity of the national team in the present day resonates with South Africans differently to how it resonated with people in 1948. Fans of rugby around the world do not look at the rugby jersey and think of supremacist ideas or images. The springbok emblem is not the apartheid flag, it is not a swastika, it is not Die Stem.
We find it ironic that while the EFF calls for a change in the Springbok jersey, the leaders of the EFF drive German cars. It is an historic truth that some car manufacturers during World War 2 supplied the Nazi regime, however it is understood that they do not hold those ideals and values today. If the EFF MPs can drive expensive German-made cars, then surely they can recognise that not all symbols are stuck in the rigid confines of the historical intent of their founders.
The South African Rugby Union has done tremendous work to make the game of rugby inclusive and we have seen many players from diverse backgrounds play. The coaching staff and administration have made progressive steps to defend players who were attacked by racists locally and internationally. The players have embraced their roles as role models to young people and worked hard to achieve unity as a team.
Rather than attacking sports team colours, names and emblems, let us pursue new ideas and methods to solve the underperformance of the soccer team.
These are the Springboks who many South Africans know. They do not know it exclusively through the prism of history, they know it through their lived experiences with the brand and they know it through their relationships with the players. The EFF is attempting to erase the work that has been done in the rugby community and the nation at large to make the Springboks an inclusive brand for all South Africans.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The backfiring of the EFF’s attempt to rain on the Boks’ – and SA’s – parade
We challenge the EFF to come up with policies that can expand the reach of rugby to rural and township schools which may still be excluded from the sport. The people of South Africa need solutions, not rhetoric and division.
We challenge the EFF to discuss issues affecting the sport of soccer which has a much bigger fan base in South Africa than rugby. There is a need for policies that will ensure that more funding is given to grassroots sports development. There is a need for oversight of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
There is a need for change in leadership in the South African Football Association, which has been mired in controversy. Rather than attacking sports team colours, names and emblems, let us pursue new ideas and methods to solve the underperformance of the soccer team.
Our role is to break down these barriers and build one South Africa using all our country’s resources for the benefit of all citizens. The example set by the Springbok rugby team exemplifies what Bosa is seeking to build.
It is to create the environment in which the talents of a black child from Zwide, a white child from Kempton Park and a coloured child from Humansdorp can work together to thrive, build and in some cases conquer the world.
Surely if it can be achieved on the sports field, it can be achieved in our education system and in our economy. DM