The row surrounding the racial make-up of the Resolution South Africa men’s hockey team for August’s Olympic Games in Beijing has shown no signs of letting up at the time of writing.
Comments made in Parliament early November last year by Minister of Sport Makhenkesi Stofile and a few days later by President Thabo Mbeki clearly spelt out that the time for quotas in national sports teams was over.
At just about the same time, Tubby Reddy, the high performance manager of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), asked SA women’s captain Marsha Marescia and SA men’s captain Bruce Jacobs how many players of colour would make the respective Olympic teams on merit.
Incidentally, both are players of colour, and their replies were five women and six men. A Sascoc letter of intent was then signed by the SA Hockey Association (Saha) agreeing to the following:
•Men: the final 16 in the men’s team will have at least six to eight players of colour selected on merit.
•Women: the final 16 in the women’s team will have at least five to eight players of colour selected on merit.
Saha president Dave Carr discussed this agreement with the respective coaches and selection convenors of the teams. This quartet addressed the Saha executive, where they indicated they would be able to select the teams with a minimum of six players of colour on merit.
Taking this into account, Saha’s executive ruled by a majority vote that a minimum of six in each side must be selected.
Consequently, Saha received a letter from a concerned hockey group (CHG) within the country that they were not pleased and stated Saha had violated its own transformation policy, which requires a 50-50 split (eight players of colour and eight whites) for the Olympics. To test the sentiment expressed by CHG, Saha sent a letter to its council — the provincial bodies — letting them know of the executive decision and pledging to hold a special council meeting to discuss the “minimum six” issue if they were not in favour of it. Responding provinces were unanimously in favour of “minimum six”.
Thwarted, the CHG took their grievance to Members of Parliament. Carr and certain members of the Saha executive were hauled before, and grilled by, Parliament’s Sports Portfolio Committee under loose-lipped chairman Butana Komphela in Cape Town last week — and the result was that the older brother of 2007 AmaGluglug (SA U23) soccer coach Steve Komphela said he would ask Stofile to force the hockey teams to be split 50-50.
This flies in the face of everything said in Parliament six months ago by Stofile and Mbeki, and the memorandum of understanding between SA Olympic governing body Sascoc and Saha. It also flouts the Olympic Charter and the statutes of hockey’s world governing body the FIH and the South African Constitution.
Pre-Rugby World Cup 2007, Komphela threatened to prevent the selected Springbok team from going to France unless there were more non-whites in the team. He was laughed out of town. In an elegant opinion piece in Thursday’s Witness, Professor of applied ethics Martin Prozesky laid out the perils of Komphela’s hockey argument.
One can almost picture the country’s top legal minds waiting for the phone call from an enraged parent or player that will grant them licence to unleash the dogs of litigious war on Komphela and company.