AN open letter to Professor Derrick Swartz: Vice-Chancellor Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University:
I am writing this letter in the hope that it may in some way contribute to the current discussion over the role of universities as platforms for the total transformation of racist rugby in South Africa.
What we need within South African sport and in this case, SA rugby, is the willingness to transform, to embrace democracy, and discard the practices of the past.
There is a total lack of respect for rugby culture and heritage that exists in the black (coloured/African) communities.
The problem as it regards the current setup can be traced to the 20th century history of "white" racist rugby which is closely intertwined with the emergence of Afrikaner tribalism.
Through the 1930s and '40s, racist white South African rugby was deliberately and systematically integrated and became part of a conglomeration of cultural symbols, which were systematically infused within the resurgent Afrikaner tribalism.
It is about challenging the stereotypes; what SA rugby is saying today is the same as what was said by former Springbok Uli Schmidt when he remarked that rugby is not a natural game for blacks, "its not their culture. They should play soccer".
Rugby equity is about fairness in rugby and is concerned with ensuring that opportunities in rugby exist for everybody, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, and age.
It is about recognising the inequalities that exist in rugby and taking action to overcome them and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate – and Varsity Cup/Currie Cup/Springboks are no exception.
Township/rural schools/clubs, universities are vehicles for our African/ coloured players through which they can exhibit their talent.
Unfortunately, SA rugby has no meaningful and effective programme in those areas, and racist sponsorships are only interested in white schools and universities.
Given the above, the central purpose of this open letter, is to initiate and lay the foundation for what I hope will be a continuing dialogue concerning racism in rugby in our country invoked by the continuing presence of racism in Madibaz Rugby.
Why is NMMU's rugby team fielding a lily-white team? Where are the black players? They just don't exist in the Varsity Cup. It may appear therefore that there is an unwritten agreement in the major historically white rugby universities, effectively banning blacks from representing teams of these large universities.
The question we should be asking ourselves is: Why is this happening?
A closer look at NMMU's Sport Administration Department projected an existence of wonderful transformation policies. Therefore, one can conclude that the problem lies in the implementation of those policies.
Prof, you are an organic product of the struggles of the Eastern Cape and greater Port Elizabeth in particular. You know very well the background of our non-racial sport struggles and you were a political activist and a leader in our struggles against apartheid. As vice- chancellor you are the custodian of Vision 2020 at the operational level, whilst the university council is the supreme authority. The unfortunate modus operandi of the Madibaz is in conflict with this espoused and bold vision as adopted by the university, but the institution is sadly refusing to be led out of this ugly past.
We urge the progressive forces of this university to refuse to be undermined by their rugby club. The head coach and the rugby administrators of the Madibaz should be taken to task and be encouraged to comply with all university policies – especially those that promote transformation and empowerment of historically disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Bantwini Matika, Head Coach: Young Collegians RFC, writing in his personal capacity