South Africans in general, black and white, appear to have an allergic reaction to change. While we all recognise and acknowledge the need to transform public institutions in whatever form to be reflective of the society they represent, we are quick to oppose attempts to move towards that particular ideal. The ushering of democracy necessitated that we rid ourselves of painful reminders of the past and all material things that continued to represent the brutality that apartheid represented.
The eradication of relics of apartheid is unfairly seen as an affront on the heritage of certain sections of our society, which is determined to preserve all that is offensive to the majority of this country. Perhaps historians would bemoan the lack of preservation of certain vestiges of apartheid; that future generations may be denied the opportunity to learn and observe something of our painful past. History books preserve a lot of that which some would want us to continue to honour by allowing them a place in the sun.
It was necessary that unpopular changes be affected in order that the country can move forward. The presence of statues of apartheid thugs at the Union Buildings would have offended those that sacrificed their lives in the struggle for liberation of our people; and those whose brothers and sisters, father and mothers, gave their lives in order that we are free today. To continue to honour apartheid brutes was to offend our democratic dispensation. It was necessary that offensive names such as “kafferskraal” be eradicated from existence and replaced with acceptable names; and the same applies to street names, town names and names of public institutions.
But while we all agree that there was a need at the beginning to free ourselves of burden of the past, I suppose we all agree that this change has now been taken a bit too far! For example, the change of name of Jan Smuts International Airport to Johannesburg International Airport was largely accepted, as consensus existed that Smuts was a racist that deserved no continued honour, although I was uncertain who this “Johannes” was whom we were honouring. But the further change from Johannesburg International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport was an indication of a problem of indecisiveness and poor leadership on the part of Pallo Jordaan who is responsible for these name changes. The decision to change the name of the airport to OR Tambo should have been taken when the airport name was still Jan Smuts.
Butana Komphela, the controversial chairperson of the sports portfolio committee, has now decided, 14 years after our democracy, that the national rugby emblem of the Springbok be changed. Perhaps if that debate was opened shortly after 1994, the overwhelming majority of our people would have with one voice expressed their disgust at continued use of a symbol of apartheid to represent the national team. But a lot has since happened. In 1995 the country united as one behind the Springboks on their victorious return to the international rugby state. The Springboks were not representing whites only but all the rest of us, black and white. The same applies to the victory at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Nothing that represented oppression in this country is more transformed than that Springbok emblem.
Komphela appears to have an itch to continuously exaggerate his importance by making controversial, irresponsible and divisive statements, which are not helping to advance true transformation and nation building. Equally disgusting are people like Dan Roodt who is a self-appointed spokesperson of the Afrikaner community; who believes the Springbok is a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism; that Luke Watson’s alleged and unfortunate utterances were “the subsistence of age-old colonial hatred that significant number of the English people still harbour towards Afrikaners.” Roodt claims that Watson wanted to puke on the Springbok because it is Afrikaans. It is the position of imbeciles such as Roodt that serve to strengthen the absurd resolve of the likes of Komphela to do away with the Springbok emblem.
The majority of South Africans couldn’t care less about what the Springbok emblem used to represent but are encouraged by what it represents now and would continue to represent in future. The debate about the Springbok emblem is a diversion from the real issues that the Sports Portfolio Committee should be concerned with. The national soccer team is in a dismal state with only a few months before the Fifa World Cup; and that is what Komphela should be directing all his energy towards. The Olympic Team was pathetic in Beijing and Komphela should be focusing on what programs the government is intending to implement in preparation for the London Olympics.
Why the ANC continues to have Komphela as chair of the sports portfolio committee is mind-boggling. We can only conclude that his utterances are representative of the ANC’s views on these matters he makes preposterous pronouncements on.