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Boks prove South Africans can work together across race, class and ideological lines

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Nobuntu Hlazo-Webster is Founder of the South African Women’s Commission and Deputy Leader of Build One South Africa (Bosa).

The EFF seeks to divide South Africans as a strategy for its own narrow and self-serving political gains. Yet the Springboks have broken their narrative with their empirical evidence of success.

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

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  • Louise Louise says:

    A really thoughtful and lovely article, thank you Nobuntu. Sport is a wonderful, harmonious and community-driven activity which crosses every type of race, colour, religion. It proves that humans can work together to achieve a goal. It’s time to get rid of the divisive policies and politicians and let people find their own levels. Racism is perpetuated BECAUSE of politicians. Yes, there will always be a few people who hold grudges and prejudices, but in reality 99.9% of people simply want to be free to live their own lives and pursue their own journey. Everyone has a different journey but we are united in our love for family, children, peace, sunshine, harmony, good music, good food, joyous times, honesty and courage. The common law doctrine of “cause no loss, harm or injury” should be a slogan for all humans.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Yes! Better, together!

    What an inspiring message, it truly brings hope.

    We should all be doing everything we can to break down barriers and uplift all our people.

    A suggestion – learn a new South African language to better communicate with others, and encourage your kids to!

  • Vas K says:

    It’s refreshing to read a positive and inspirational article for a change. I just wish that Nobuntu will write a similar one focused on the evil of the ANC’s neo-apartheid racial policies. After these policies failing for the past thirty years, all they have achieved is creating the divisions between various population groups. In case there are still some people believing in some merit of BEE and its offsprings, let me remind them: racism is racism by any other name. The founders of ANC would be disgusted.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Thankyou Nobuntu,you have more vision than the whole goverment

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