By Zukile Majova
I played rugby for over a decade in the Eastern Cape and participated in local rugby leagues against teams from Tsolo, Lusikisiki, Port St Johns, Ntlaza, Mthatha, Ngqeleni, Ngqamakhwe and others.
A lot of my free tours around the province back in ‘97 to 2005 were thanks to local rugby teams roping me in at the last minute.
Players and coaches knew me from the school competitions where I played for teams from Matatiele, Kokstad and Umzimkhulu, now part of KwaZulu-Natal.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming to have been a great rugby player. I was just another boy at Zibokwana Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca.
During the holidays we played for the fun of it. Sometimes we played for a fattened lamb to add to the village’s Christmas lunch.
What joy those encounters brought to our lives.
I played almost all my games totally ignorant of the race politics attached to the sport. In some Eastern Cape high schools, there were more rugby teams than soccer teams.
So rugby was definitely not the sport of the oppressor that the ANC kept telling us it was.
It was also one of the cheapest sports to get into. All you needed was a pair of old rugby boots and there were always “uncles” from the mines in Johannesburg who were more than happy to pass on their rugby toks.
Due to my body mass, I played prop and was a great fan of Kobus Wiese and the late Hannes Strydom, legends of the Springbok 1995 squad.
You can imagine then my dismay at the ANC, the government and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s opportunistic hijacking of the latest Springbok victory for political expediency. It was bad at the beginning of the tournament, but in the week of our victory it’s been truly shameless.
Even the victory celebrations this week seemed engineered, politically controlled and lacked the genuine common touch of the ordinary man.
The Union Buildings, for instance, robbed the people of Soweto of at least two or three hours with the Boks; they arrived almost at sundown because of some PR stunt by the president and Minister of Sport, Zizi Kodwa.
Kodwa, who normally throws money at sporting personalities who return victorious from global competitions, is happy to shower himself in the glory of the Springboks but not interested in showering them with cash.
For the past 30 years, SA Rugby has proven that we can dominate the sport. But where is the government’s investment in rugby development? Billions of rands have been allocated to the sports department over the years; how much has gone to black rugby development?
This week, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula had to revisit one of his old speeches to prove to the nation that he didn’t support the quota system.
Ramaphosa embarrassingly admitted that he had to memorise the names of the team members to mimic Nelson Mandela, who knew all the players in the 1995 squad by name.
He was so eager to remake the “Madiba moment” that he demanded captain Siya Kolisi hand over the Webb Ellis trophy to him before any other player had lifted it.
The desperation is telling; the ANC is about to face its most difficult election with millions of young voters walking away from it.
The two million people who voted for the EFF in the last election are traditional ANC voters. There is an open rebellion in TVET colleges and universities, with students rejecting the ANC-aligned Sasco in SRC elections.
So don’t be fooled by the sudden embrace of unity. The ANC has long walked away from the ideals of nation building that were embraced by our beloved Madiba all those years ago.
Pictured above: President Cyril Ramaphosa hosting the Springboks at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.