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Let’s think about our children

The story of Rego Modise of Rustenburg has me worried about the future of our kids, black and white, in South Africa.

Rego is a 17-year-old black school girl who loves playing hockey as a sport. She sees herself as a professional hockey player one day, perhaps even representing South Africa in future Olympic games.

When we were growing up, hockey was not known as the sport for us black people. We only played soccer, netball and perhaps rugby (for those in the coast). Resources offered to black children didn’t allow us to explore any other sporting codes.

Not much has changed for village children, and someone like Rego probably still lives in those kind of areas. But it seems like her parents want what’s best for her and managed to enroll her in a multiracial school, Wagpos Hoërskool in Brits, where she learnt how to play hockey.

When Rego heard of the Bokkie Week hockey trials happening in Rustenburg she was excited, knowing that lots of provincial and national scouts would probably be there – this could be her chance to be spotted and realise her dream.

She went to Hoërskool Grenswag where the trials were being held, but was denied entry – not because she wasn’t good at hockey, but because she was black.

We’re 18 years into our democracy and it’s sad that we still have situations like this in our country.

South Africa is currently grappling with a wave of racism and racist attacks and counter attacks: if it’s not someone calling a shopper a k***** on Twitter or Facebook, it’s some Afrikaner in Potgietersrus who still wants to be called baas calling a domestic or farm worker a baboon. And if it’s not someone spitting at a black member of a gym in some northern suburb of Johannesburg or Pretoria, it’s a would-be model who dreams of nothing but the ghost of Peter Mokaba coming back to chase all the white people into the sea.

What makes Rego’s sad tale even more worrying is that she was born after 1994, which means she probably wasn’t exposed to the serious racism of apartheid days, and that this incident happened in front of other white children her age.

What impact will this have on these white kids?

Will they love and coexist with Rego when they are adults, or are they being taught that white people can only live and play with whites – no one else?

I will draw parallels to a recent racial incident which sent shock waves throughout South Africa, starring model Jessica Leandra dos Santos. She’s only 20. She was only two years old when our country moved into multi-democracy, when a dream of non-racialism was born in 1994. And she didn’t know the difference between black and white then, she couldn’t have been able to utter the word “k*****” unless she was born talking.

So, one wonders: how did she learn to hate, and to use hateful words against black people?

Then when Rego’s story was published, I started to realise that teachers and, more importantly, parents have something to do with how these kids are raised. They are to blame.

The kids that Rego was planning to join at the Bokkie Week trials are her age and many of them probably see her just as a teammate, playmate or another of God’s creations who is just like them. They don’t see her being black and them being white. They don’t see her as inferior to them.

But the two white pupils who were in line with Rego as she registered, paid the R30 entrance fee and went to meet the coach Louis Koen, are probably wondering why she wasn’t allowed in.

They probably heard Koen asking Rego who sent her, and: “Didn’t they tell you anything else? Unfortunately this is open only for white children, sorry.”

That’s pathetic. How do you feel as a parent when you see the sadness in your kid’s eyes because she was turned away due to the pigment in her skin?

And will you be outraged in five years’ time when kids behave like Jessica and call Rego the K-word, or spit on her at a gym in Pretoria or refuse to share a room with her at a national hockey team camp?

It’s about time parents and teachers own up. We cannot go around teaching kids to hate. No kid was born hating. Koen and teachers at Hoërskool Grenswag should hang their heads in shame for failing their own children – the future of this country.

It’s the same as the Mpumalanga-based rightwing Afrikaner camp, Kommandokorps, where boys as young as 13 were taught that the black population in South Africa is the enemy, the “most under-developed, barbaric member[s] of the human race”.

According to the Mail & Guardian, camp leader Franz Jooste, 57, told the children in the camp that they were going to be real men and that blacks were inferior to whites and were unable to govern. “Who is my enemy in South Africa? Who murders, robs and rapes? Who are these creatures? The blacks,” Jooste proclaimed.

This would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

Integration and racial tolerance, just like any other subject lesson, should start in schools. Actually, it should start with parents at home. No race grows up hating another race. No person grows up hating another person. Hate is taught, and anger is a state of mind. What happened in Rego’s case was a wasted opportunity to show those white kids that blacks and whites can coexist and play together.

News24‘s Essie Moses wrote a post earlier in the week highlighting this problem. Responses were even more racist than what her post was trying to condemn. Most of the commenters started shifting the topic to BEE and EE. Others talked of organisations such as the Black Lawyers Association, Black Business Council etc which, I believe, are irrelevant in the case of white children being taught how to hate, or a 17-year-old being taught that she’s inferior to whites and can’t play with them.

Affirmative action policies are an attempt to right the wrongs of the past. The inequality between whites and blacks has been, and still is, huge. No white person can deny that blacks are trying to catch up, hence the introduction of these policies. Whether they are working or not, they cannot justify us brainwashing our kids to hate one another.

It cannot be right to teach your child to hate. How about teaching them true humanity, and love?

They are just kids for heaven’s sake …

We are failing as parents if we raise more Jessicas.

My dream is to see my children grow up in an equal-opportunity South Africa, where they can coexist with whites, Indians and coloureds, and do what they want without any reference to colour, race or status. Wouldn’t you love that for your children? Wouldn’t we all be happy to see Rego and those children from Hoërskool Grenswag waving the South African flag in unity and with pride, playing hockey in one team at the next Olympics in 2018?

It’s not too late to help them realise that dream.


  • Isaac Mangena is a Chapter Nine Communicator slash activist. He has spent much of the past ten years of his life in a newsroom. He is a former TV and Newspaper journalist who focuses on African and international news. He previously worked for Media24 and Agence France-Presse. Isaac holds a BA Psychology degree from the University of the North (now Limpopo). He reads, writes and critique – a lot.


  1. Rich Brauer Rich Brauer 11 May 2012

    You’re probably a good deal nicer than me, Isaac.

    But I have to disagree with some of your adjectives: I don’t find these things “sad” or “pathetic.” Infuriating, awful, and inhuman come to mind.

    This comment has been edited.

  2. J J 11 May 2012

    Yebo! Isaac your article should be on the front page, this is what everyone should be reading, something positive and encouraging.

  3. Stephen Browne Stephen Browne 11 May 2012

    I think Rego’s grandkids are probably going to be the first generation to grow up in a society with virtually no racism. Unfortunately this vile, diluted form of discrimination is going to be passed on for awhile still.

  4. MLH MLH 12 May 2012

    Without making excuses for anyone, rebellious teenagers don’t need to learn from parents and teachers…they have the comments sections of online news media for that. Some of our government supposed role models do little better.
    However I think that Louis Koen should be taken to task by Sports SA and sacked if he indeed was to blame (on account of this being hearsay for me) for this incident.

  5. Charmaine Charmaine 12 May 2012

    I think we need to acknowledge many things first before we can address these inhumane; sad; pathetic and infuriating mindsets. Firstly we all carry some racism/prejudice in us; its human nature. Lets stop pretending that we are all unsulllied or unblighted by these thoughts and actions. Alcoholics first have to acknowledge there is a problem before they can change it.
    Secondly we need to acknowledge that whites may have a perception that they are suffering from a reverse racism due o quote systems; AA and the like. Whether these policies are correct to align the imblance that was created in apartheid times is doing its job; or the right strategy is another debate; but we havent stopped to find out whether Post ’94 babies perceive SA as a country which was saved from an inhumane political racial regime; ir whether they feel like they are shunned in some way due to their historical privilege (which they would not have experienced directly).
    And let’s please consider the hypothesis that there is still much healing required before we can consider ourselves cleansed of apartheid. Healing across our nation (everyone) still needs to be addressed; but first lets acknowledge the woundedness of our nation; and feel compassion for those who still inflict such deep racial hatred; they are missing out on the joy of meaningful real interactions with every South African who lives here!

  6. gert gert 12 May 2012

    There’s so much that can be said for your opinion piece, but then my comment will
    Be rejected (not because its factually incorrect, but politically incorrect- have to appease
    The new masters, you know). Your whole piece falls flat on its face with its par-for-the-course
    biased blanket condoning of black racism and
    Condemning of white racism. Unfortunately it will always be so in ‘mzansi discourse’
    That blacks have a very reasonable and justifiable cause for racism, and everyone
    Else… Well they’re just born hateful. Has the black pondered his possible contribution
    To the status quo? Or is Neo-apartheid too cushy too interrogate?

  7. Pieter Pretorius Pieter Pretorius 12 May 2012

    I agree that what happened is pathetic and you are quite right, Isaac, children se these attitudes in their parents. It was the grown-ups that organised this hockey meet and decided it must be for whites only. Franz Jooste is teaching those teenage boys racism.
    There is however something nobody realises, it seems me. Behind these attitudes there is something else that is not about the pigmentation of our skin. Until we acknowledge this we will keep on making the same mistakes.
    You will be well aware of the labeling in townships of Africans living in the suburbs as “coconuts”. Here are people with same skin pigmentation showing intolerance (it seems) towards those they perceive to be different, hence the label.
    What is the cause of this label? Why make these kind of distinctions between people of the same pigmentaton? I have my own view on this, but I leave it to you to write us another post explaining it to us. Please do.

  8. Marianne Marianne 12 May 2012

    Isaac Mangena uses strongly emotive language and I agree with him that this kind of racism must be condemned absolutely. However, what he has not mentioned, or perhaps is not aware of, is that this ‘bokkie week’ event is a cultural event restricted to children of Afrikaner heritage. It is by invitation only, and I may be wrong on this point but I don’t think white English speaking children were invited either. It is a sports event organised by the Afrikaner Volkseie Sport (AVS), a cultural body, for Afrikaner children to celebrate their cultural heritage. Possibly Rego Modise’s coach is at fault here for not checking beforehand and thus saving her the hurt and embarrassment. Having said that, although it is described as an “Afrikaner cultural event”, my concern is that culture may be used as a proxy for race.

  9. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 12 May 2012

    @Issac, I waiting for you to write a column on blacks becoming entrepreneurs such as; making consumers goods for the African market., growing food and processing it and starting a services industry. I would like to see the Mangena brand jam or coffee that you put on the market. I am using you as an example of what I am talking about. Even better your brand of butter or cheese sold in the supermarkets and this is real transforming.

  10. Guinnessholic Guinnessholic 12 May 2012

    I have to admit to always being somewhat skeptical of alleged blatant white racism as reported in The New South Africa. Ever since one Ziningi Shibambo conjured up an imaginary accostment at a rugby match, with no evidence – not even a bruised wrist – ever produced, I am rather slow to accept the words of those who scream ‘racism’. In fact, white racism is so thin on the present day NuSAns ground that it makes headline news when it does allegedly rear it’s ugly head.

    I HIGHLY doubt Rego was turned away because she was black. She may have been the only black girl attempting to push her way onto the field without going through the proper channels every other girl had to go through, but that would mean she was turned away because of administrative and tardiness reasons, not racial ones.

    But of course the race-pimps out there are not done with the hyperbole and go as far as suggesting she was Olympic material, and the class of Mandela’s magical moppets. They’ve even hinted at her being part-Rosa-Parks, who steadfastly wouldn’t be moved from the previously Afrikaans school! The fantasies are actually quite ludicrous, really.

    A black girl calls for the genocide of white SAns, and it’s overlooked by all and sundry this week. Another black girl forgot to submit some paperwork, and we suddenly have fainting fits from the usual bruise-easy, chiaroscuro political hand-wringers.

    Life in The New (unimproved) South Africa I suppose. It’s all quite exhausting.

  11. Jack Sparrow Jack Sparrow 13 May 2012

    Pretty sad Isaac. I hope you squeal as loudly every time a white kid gets passed over in a sports team or at an educational institution so that racial quota’s can be met. Or when the cheapest tender is rejected in favour of one from a tenderpreneur, who either sub contracts it back to the lowest or bungles the work, being carried along by the state entity so that the job takes longer, costs more and is of inferiro quality. (please don’t say I’m talking rubbish as I work in this field).

    You don’t otherwise you’d squeal all the time.

    It’s things like this that can make “born frees” racist and result in a feeble backlash (whites are less than 10% of the population). I don’t condone it but understand it. From apartheid to affirmative action, laws based on race are wrong in principal. Finish and klaar.

    As for your dream – don’t make me laugh. You just want race based law that will benefit you.

  12. nguni nguni 14 May 2012

    So this was an invitation-only hockey event for Afrikaner girls.
    Someone please teach her / her coach to read.. Yet what a blessing it was for so-called journalists to take cheap shots! ‘So-called’ because they CAN read. Which makes this selective, biased reporting, deliberately ignoring the facts to make a point.

    @ Guinnessholic Agree 100%

  13. rmr rmr 14 May 2012

    I am an Afrikaner and I cannot fathom by one would want to organise a sporting event to the exclusion of other South Africans. We live in one country now where we cannot and do not want to conduct sport in isolation. One surely weakens oneself by limiting the pool of competition. I fail to understand how incidents of black racism detract from this point.

  14. Marianne Marianne 14 May 2012

    Winston Rabotapi, DA Shadow Minister of Sport & Recreation, has written a letter to the Afrikaner Volkseie Sport organisation requesting clarification on the requirements of attendance at the Bokkie Week trials, as well as an explanation of their decision to send Rego Modise home. Should he not receive a satisfactory reply by 13 May 2012 he will report them to the Human Rights Commission.

  15. Theunis Pienaar Theunis Pienaar 14 May 2012

    Excellent article, Isaac. Prof Jonathan Jansen’s book ‘Knowledge in the Blood’ sheds a lot of light on this. ‘Tolerance’, for me, is an issue. I would hope that, in our inter-action, you did not experience ‘tolerance’. That would be a cheap. I sometimes ‘tolerate’ an itirtating co-worker. We need to move past ‘tolerance’ to a place where race just isn’t an issue. The incidents you site, a recent death in our own city – these all point to a different reality. This speaks of a world which is still very shattered. We need a dream, I think. A collective dream, which discovers what we value.

  16. the Critical Cynic the Critical Cynic 15 May 2012

    Isaac, you are absolutely correct in pointing out that a 20 year old must have learned racist behaviour. My 18 year old daughter and 21 year old son are in a similar boat, and they too have learned a certain degree of racist behaviour.

    Unfortunately, despite our many efforts to redress the past and raise them to be as colour blind as possible, they have experienced numerous racist attacks over the years from their fellow black students (many because, can you believe it, they merely happen to be white, shock!), a sufficient number of attacks in fact to fully convince them that being racist has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. Being told that you don’t belong in the country of your birth, that it’s ‘our’ turn now, and having to take flak for their white parents defending apartheid when it was their parents generation that overwhelmingly voted to remove it, is hardly the kind of nation building Madiba was urging South Africans to engage in.

    Yes, we too aspire to the non-racist society you describe as the ideal. Why do black people find it so difficult to admit that they too were tarred by the same apartheid brush as the whites and that they are also racist at times? We all have a responsibility to raise our children to be as non-racist as possible, irrespective of our race. This is not the responsibility of white parents alone.

  17. Marianne Marianne 15 May 2012

    Amongst all this feel good talk about wanting a truly non-racial society, I would like to know Isaac Mangena’s opinion on the recently launched Cool & Black: The Directory. This is a directory that features only black individuals, including coloured and Indian achievers, involved in entertainment, sports, media, arts, lifestyle, fashion, TV etc. Unlike organizations such as the Black Management Forum which white people are free to join, whites are specifically excluded from this publication, and the Editor/MD of Black & Cool, Lerumo Maisela explains this as follows:

    “I am promoting a certain sector and culture. Yes, it is about black achievers, but the publication is for anyone”.

    At the launch of the directory, Sandile Mumela, Chief Director of the Dept of Arts & Culture remarked in her speech:

    “Cool & Black creative intellectuals are a formidable force that possess incredible spiritual resilience, talent and prophetic visions that comes from their African DNA”.

    Must I now believe that there are indeed genetic differences in intellect between the races, when all my life I have believed that race is purely a social construct and that under the skin we are all the same?

    I hate hypocrisy. If we are to condemn events such as Bokkie Week (which is for Afrikaner self determination), then publications such as Black & Cool must also be condemned because it serves the same purpose (Black self determination). Only then can we aspire to a truly non-racial colour…

  18. Nokusa Nokusa 24 May 2012

    Isaac yebo ngisatsho; Racism wont be the thing of the past if we entertain it. As hard as it is we have to let go whites will never like us nor indians nor coloureds vice versa. that is why God separated us. that is why we have whites, indians, boeres, coloureds, africans. The Almighty new that we were not supposed to even talk the same language. Impi yamaJuda started way way way back and it cannot be solved by anyone only GOD will solve it

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