South Africa will bask for a while in the Springboks’ triumph in the Rugby World Cup. As politicians know only too well, national sporting success can bring a huge feel-good factor into which they will shamelessly try to tap. Yet for SA Rugby and the Nation, this may be the calm before the storm.

For some time now the African National Congress (ANC) has been on rugby’s case. They want, under the guise of rationalizing the National Sporting Brand, to force South African Rugby to drops its talismanic and dynamic ‘Springboks’ name and logo and adopt instead the somewhat neutered Protea (already used by SA Cricket for its team and by others). But more importantly enormous pressure is being brought upon the rugby authorities by Government and elsewhere to make the national rugby team ‘more representative’ of the ethnic mix of the country.

Even a casual observer will have noted that this year’s winning team was overwhelmingly white, indeed Afrikaans. This somehow offends some who believe the team should more closely reflect the racial make-up of the nation as a whole. Already there has been strong evidence of the coach, Jake White, being bullied into picking non-whites who would not, in any other country, cut the mustard.

He, not being prone to bending the knee to such bullying and being determined to pick on merit (and therefore to give himself and the team the best shot at winning) has strongly resisted such pressure, something which has gone down none too well with those who would have matters otherwise. As a result South Africa may have won a world cup this weekend but White’s contract has at the same time come to an end and he has been told that he must reapply for his job.

White is a proud man (and he now has much of which to be proud) and rightly finds such as something of an insult and has indicated that he is not minded to reapply. South Africa’s loss will be someone else’s gain as he will not find it hard to pick up the post of coach to a national squad or a major European club. Meanwhile whoever takes over will find himself hamstrung, in all likelihood, by a requirement to pick not on merit but on the basis of the colour and the ethnicity of the player.

It is true that more needs to be done to build up the game in black and coloured communities (and if anyone is offended by my use of the old Apartheid classifications, it is because I do so in the same sense as I would ‘Scots’ or ‘Welsh’ and not in any demeaning sense) but that takes time and money: there is plenty of the former but not so much of the latter, though the weekend’s win will remedy that to some extent, provided the windfall is wisely used.

The idea that there will be an rapid change in the demographic make up of the side fills many with horror as well it might. The most probable result will be, if teams are not to be picked on merit, a long period of exclusion from the top flight. In addition Afrikaners denied the chance to represent their country because they are white will soon learn to ship off to Europe, Australia and New Zealand and do their five years residency qualification where they will then proceed to grace the teams of their grateful hosts. Of this tendency Pieter de Villiers (France), Mike Catt and Matt Stevens (England) are but the harbingers.

Other more difficult questions are raised. Firstly there is the little matter of picking on the basis of race being, on the face of it, unlawful in terms of the South African constitution, which provides:

Article 1

The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:

a. Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

b. Non-racialism and non-sexism

Article 9

(1)Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

(2)Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.

There is, however, a sting in the tail of Article 9(2):

To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

In other words there can be legislative measures which promote positive discrimination.

The last three paragraphs of Article 9 provide the weaselly get-out from paragraph 9(1):

(3)The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

(4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.

(5)Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.

This creates the notion, which may well be unique in the world, of ‘fair discrimination’, as unsavoury an oxymoron as you could wish. Since, as I have noted above, the Constitution already contemplates legislation that permits positive discrimination, it is but a short step from there to holding that discriminating on the grounds of race (or any of the other categories adumbrated) can be ‘fair’ discrimination.

Thus whites will be discriminated against when it comes to reconfiguring the national rugby team in the Rainbow Nation’s image because of their race and it will be perfectly legal, provided it is ‘fair’. And what Judge will want to buck this particular trend if he is keen on his pension? Of this particularly Orwellian piece of legislation old Hendrik Verwoerd himself would be justly jealous.

It also throws up the delicious irony that someone may have, one day, to decide to which race a particular player belongs and whether he should therefore be a beneficiary of ‘fair discrimination’ and that in turn raises the spectre of the State once more deciding who is and who is not ‘African’ or ‘Coloured’ or ‘White’: how is that to de done and who is to do it? The Ghost of the Racial Classification Board shimmers in the wings.

In effect we may yet see South Africa return de facto or, more shamefully yet, de jure, to the days of Apartheid with merely the cast of characters reversed.

I would have thought that discriminating against someone one the grounds of his or her colour is simply wrong in any circumstance and the concept of ‘fair’ discrimination drives a coach-and-four through the notion of all citizens being equal before the law and having the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.


The worst feature of this tendency is that it may utterly alienate the Afrikaners from the compromise that has been carefully constructed to allow all to participate in the New South Africa. Take away his rugby and you take away his soul, his culture. Nothing could be more calculated to disaffect him from the new dispensation and thus any such plan can only prove to be short-sighted in the extreme.


Events elsewhere may yet dictate that this comes to pass, however, as South Africa heads towards presidential Elections. Thabo Mbeki, who made a pitiful attempt to emulate Nelson Mandela’s Springbok jersey trick on Saturday night, cannot stand again for the Presidency but may try to retain his presidency of the ANC to ensure his continuing influence. In his place we may yet see one Jacob Zuma who was dismissed by Mbeki from the government over allegations of serious sexual offences and corruption. Of the former he was acquitted whilst revealing himself to be an amoral sexual brute.


As to the latter he managed to dodge a trial when the Prosecution in circumstances of some considerable mystery and controversy dropped proceedings, notwithstanding that in a related trial evidence had been led that showed beyond much of a peradventure that Zuma was as bent as a nine shilling note.


Zuma is a nasty piece of work who plays the populist card as hard and as often as he can. He has an unhealthy dependency upon the South African Communist party, a parasite that bores industriously away within the body politic of both the ANC and the State. His pronouncements have a tendency to suggest he would as President make a swift deviation from the more consensual politics that has helped keep South Africa in a state of equilibrium. Business plainly cares not a fig for him and whenever the markets worry about him becoming President, the Rand takes a dive.


Later I shall deal with some other issues that suggest that there is something rotten in the state of South Africa, from riots in the townships, the arrest of the leader of the opposition, shenanigans in high places, to signs of intolerance to opposition from the press.

UPDATE: This from the Scotsman sheds a little further light on the issue.

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