In my view, a fabulous World Cup Rugby final was wrecked the moment an overweight, billionaire, political opportunist by the name of Cyril Ramaphosa waddled with all possible speed into the limelight, snatched the Webb Ellis Trophy from the intended recipients and brandished it aloft as if he alone had earned it.
Someone has described this behaviour as akin to ‘an arsonist celebrating with the firefighters!’ It’s at times like this I find myself envious of people like the South African president, who are so clearly inured to feeling any sense of shame or embarrassment that they have the gall to do this. Is it because they lack basic intellect, is it unbridled narcissism or do some people simply not have that sort of emotion in their DNA? If I had done as much as this man has done to obliterate hope for so many millions of his countrymen and women, I would have been running for cover or groveling on my knees asking for forgiveness.
The fact is the country he governs is on the brink of becoming a failed state because he insists on doing precisely what Springbok rugby management refused to do; select a team on racial criteria alone. Of course in the case of the ANC it goes beyond race; political allegiance is an additional factor in deciding who has access to the vital levers of power that have been so horribly abused.
As a result of institutional racism orchestrated by the ANC we heard the lamentations of the team leadership at the press conferences. These included:
“SA is a beautiful country with a lot of problems.”
“There is not a lot of things going right in our country.”
“People who are not from SA don’t understand what this means for our country … our country goes through such a lot….”
Unsurprisingly, Rassie Erasmus, the man who had every right to have been at the fore basking in the glory of the victory-flourish was nowhere to be seen; he has always said he was out there for his country, not himself, and he proved it yet again.
His words in the course of one of the press conferences struck me. When asked about stress and the many challenges faced by the Springbok squad on their lengthy tour, his response was poignant and powerful. He pointed out the players were there because they wanted to be and they embraced what came at them as part of the job; real stress and hardship, he explained, was being experienced every day by millions of South African who were poor, did not have a job, and little chance of getting one, and the multitude who had lost relatives to crime and continued to live in environs bereft of any security with lawlessness rising.
The thoughts and words of an empathetic individual the likes of which we do not hear from the political leadership. What a pity this man, because he is a white Afrikaner, is banished to political purgatory. If he were to take the political plunge there can be little doubt he would be quickly condemned as a racist relic from the age of Apartheid.
What makes this World Cup triumph even more remarkable, is the fact that this team has won, in spite of, not because of the country’s leadership. The fact is hundreds, if not thousands, of promising sportsmen and women, in every discipline have fled the country simply because they have been excluded from performing in their homeland because they are white.
We are constantly reminded by President Ramaphosa and the ANC that Apartheid was a crime against humanity and we who happen to be of European ancestry can never do enough to atone for the sins of our forebears.
This may be so but let it be remembered that while there was indeed segregation in sport under the previous regime, the emphasis was on teams competing under separate identities and symbols. Nobody was discouraged from participating; indeed state subsidies were available to encourage the country’s youth to play sports, but today, if you happen to be white, you simply cannot compete, because you are ineligible for selection. Whereas, in times gone by, Indians, Coloureds and Blacks were encouraged to form their own teams and forge their own identities, this option is today denied young white South Africans. Despite being told they will be denied selection on the basis of skin colour, they are flatly denied the right to accept their exclusion and build a team picked from this pariah group. The message is you cannot play with us; and you also cannot play without us; so these young men and women have only one option open to them is they have sporting ambitions and that is to leave the country.
Somehow rugby has survived the purge of white talent, unfortunately the country has not. And that is why it hovers on the brink of catastrophic failure.