The Congress of South African Trade Unions this week expressed support for the imposition of race quotas in soccer, pointing to the absence of white players in the national team as a grave social injustice.

On the paleface of it, what a breakthrough this is for minorities. Bafana Bafana – The Boys, The Boys – will presumably have a permanently reserved place for one white player, as well as another for a coloured player. But since coloureds appear to have been statistically over-represented in the team since 1994, every fourth year the coloured player will have to give up his place for an Indian player.

Talent scouts will roam the schoolyards, seeking out promising minority players, who will receive special grooming at footballing academies to bring them up to scratch. Contenders for the white spot on the team will be subject to the old pencil test, to ensure that they are not, in fact, coloured players trying to steal a march. So at last that infamous apartheid invention to determine ethnicity, utilising hair-curl elasticity as a proxy for race, will be put to progressive use.

But before whiteys get too excited about finally being beneficiaries of the national obsession for demographic correctness, after 20 years out in the cold, they should reflect on Bafana Bafana’s status in world football. Not only did the team not make it to Brazil for the World Cup, they didn’t even make the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

This is the team that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier this year described as “a disgrace to the nation … a useless bunch of losers … a generation of players best forgotten”. As a summation he added that their performances were representative of “a crisis of monumental mediocrity” in the national game.

Mbalula was roundly condemned for slagging off the team, which as it happens is, aside from one coloured player, entirely black in composition. Perhaps that is when it became apparent to the governing tripartite alliance that it was time to share the burden of mediocrity.

So while Bafana Bafana players of black descent will continue to aspire to be strikers or goalies, or stars in the midfield, the role of the white player will be that of designated scapegoat. When the team loses, as it mostly does, it will be the role of the white player manfully to shoulder the blame.

That is, except when it for the sake of variation, defeat is attributed to being the legacy of apartheid, which malevolently and with malice aforethought ensured that all the little boertjies played rugby. Only effete English-speaking whiteys were allowed to play the sissy game of soccer, the National Party knowing full well that should they became any good they could be trusted to emigrate, so as to play for Liverpool.

It is time now to correct past injustices and “level the playing fields”, in the parlance loved by Cosatu. As Cosatu’s Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich put it: “[All] the national teams must represent the demographics of the whole country.”

Cosatu believed, he explained further, that race quotas were also necessary in rugby. The union federation had been approached by some black rugby players “to speak on behalf of their particular interests” since “the players” clearly represent the majority of white players and speak mainly in the interest of these white players.

Ehrenreich said also that there was a “racist cabal” trying to defend the generational advantage of white players. The only reasons that strict quotas were not being applied already was that “administrators have allowed coaches to make decisions outside of the national interest”. The national interest is apparently not actually to win games but to field a demographically accurate squad.

As aspirant white footballers – The Okes, The Okes – fire off, in the national interest, their applications to Mr Ehrenreich, we should reflect upon the wonderful service that Cosatu has rendered the nation. Until now demographic tinkering has focused on the over-representation of whites in various categories of South African life. As Cosatu points out it is now high time that the under-representation of mlungus be interrogated and rectified by the judicious application of quotas, wherever necessary.

Suddenly new vistas open up for the ANC’s social engineers. Just off the top of one’s head: basketball is a fast growing sport but there’s nary a set of pasty coloured knock-knees to be seen on the courts; in the transport sector there are virtually no white drivers of minibus taxis; and, in medicine, whites are woefully under-represented as traditional healers and circumcision school managers.

Ehrenreich is correct. These generational advantages that black South Africans have had, need to be corrected pronto. By the way, he points out that in order to be considered for a position, mlungu applicant circumcision school managers will be required to have their own complete set of rusty assegais with which to do the deed.

Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye


  • This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day. Follow @TheJaundicedEye.


William Saunderson-Meyer

This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day....

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