My Dear Fellow South Africans and also Rugby Lovers World-wide (all protocol observed):
First I apologize unreservedly – for absolutely everything of course – including going to the local spa for a pedicure, drinking at the Saxonwold shebeen, and above all for skinny-dipping in the Nkandla fire pool with you-know-who – but specifically for my choice of greeting, with its echo of one often used by American presidents.
But now that the White House will soon be occupied by a person who, as a real estate mogul, clearly comprehends the true needs of the oppressed (“no land, no freedom”) and who would also understand what the Struggle Hero Frantz Fanon might have called, were he in a jovial mood, “black skin and white (egg-shaped) balls” – now that this is happening, I believe there is nothing shameful in having borrowed such a salutation.
On Saturday evening, there was in our beloved country a palpable, terrible air of depression. Even worse, many people, such as myself, received mocking emails from overseas, from people who should know better (to use the words of a murdered Palestinian activist) than to cast stones – at us generally, at our national rugby team (which unfortunately still has a colonized name, the Springboks), and at our national rugby coaches and players.
To give you an idea of just how malicious and uncomprehending such people are, let me share with you a personal anecdote. Distraught as I was (until reflection helped me see the light), I wrote to a friend (Roy) who lives in a fascist “country” that he calls Israel but that we know is really Palestine. “I just don’t f----- believe that we have just lost 18-20 to Italy,” I wrote. “Not since the legions of Titus, aided by that dastardly impimpi Tiberius Julius Alexander, burnt Jerusalem to the ground in 70CE, have I been so angry and hurt.
“Thank God,” I continued, “that at the moment I’m not talking to Joel [my brother, who also lives in Palestine]. He would rib me unmercifully.” Roy responded: “Surprised you’re still speaking to anyone. I'd be too embarrassed. Don’t tell me [Allister] Coetzee is going to survive this.” And then he added: “F--- me. The Boks would lose to the Hebrew U these days.”
Let me explain. As a young man, I was bullied by my father – who claimed he did not want me to do military service in the SADF and also didn’t care to see me languishing in an apartheid jail (but we now better understand my Zionist running-dog of a father’s motives, don’t we?) – Yes, he coerced me into not studying at Wits and dispatched me (in manacles and escorted by a gauleiter from the Zionist Federation) to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Palestine.
Still young, only 17, and uncertain about the road to the National Democratic Revolution, I multiplied my sins by playing rugby in the then fledgling Israeli rugby union and by becoming captain of the Hebrew U’s 1st XV (and, if I may say so, by becoming, until the arrival of Bismarck du Plessis, one of the meanest and most mobile hookers ever to grace the modern game). So you see what was going on yesterday? Roy, jealous that he never made the cut 44 years ago, delivered the unkindest cut of all.
But, by the early hours of Sunday morning, having gone through my own Kamp Staaldraad of the soul (cf. La noche oscura del alma by colonialist poet, Saint John of the Cross), I realized the errors of my thinking and what people such as Roy simply don’t understand.
We South Africans simply reject the game of international rugby, its rules, origins, and the forces of monopoly capital it represents. Playing international rugby is simply and clearly a facet of colonialization.
As Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, remarked in a slightly different context, this business of foreign teams scoring more than we do is at best merely about point scoring, but at worst, is characteristic of the abhorrent ploys by rugby’s global empire and their hoodlums, such as the All Blacks’ back line or the Italians’ eighth man and captain, Sergio Parisse.
If I might paraphrase Business Day journalist Franny Rabkin a little: I didn’t care too much when students burned those paintings at the University of Cape Town, and I was jubilant when the statue of Cecil John Rhodes was pulled down. But in my mind, rugby is different – almost sacred. I was raised on the story that, no matter how busy he was, even if he was in Angola, Comrade Ronnie Kasrils always found the time to watch rugby games. (And didn’t President Nelson R Mandela attend one of our greatest games ever? Even former President Thabo Mbeki and our incumbent President Jacob G Zuma have attended important matches.) But, since the Bok loss to Italy on Saturday evening, I have begun to accept that their performance was, in a way, a rational and understandable step.
Why do I say this? Well, before I explain, let me remind you – to borrow the words of leading journalist Fred Khumalo – that our country (and our rugby) is still dazed by more than 200 years of colonialism and apartheid and that we all (especially whites) need to “vomit out the poison of the past, because it is that venom [in our spiritual stomachs, in our scrums?] that gives us the gall to think [we] are so grand and special” and that we can actually play rugby on an international level.
This being the case, the advice offered recently by Wits vice-chancellor Adam “Habibi” Habib regarding a rape complaint is COMPLETELY WRONG. He said people need to deal with the issue “in a way that is truthful, measured and engaged”.
No, no, no, Sir. You do not understand that the only way to deal with the fallout of colonialization is to maintain the clear call for a Free, Decolonized, and Afrocentric approach. And the only way to do this – it’s obvious – is to eradicate the western imperialist, colonial, capitalist patriarchal culture. And the only way to do this, I submit, is to reject, as I have said, international rugby, its rules, origins, and everything that goes with it.
What, for example, is this nonsense about trying to out-score the other team and thereby “beat” them? This practice smacks appallingly of “competition” – which is a capitalist and colonialist construct. It is not something to be pursued by the peace-loving and gentle people of the Rainbow Nation.
What is this arrant rubbish about passing backwards only and not bringing down a line-out jumper who is in the air, and all those other rules? We know where rugby originated – it was developed at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, in the so-called 19th century.
Duh! Rugby is and was an imperialist, colonial construct, and was brought here by the very people who committed genocide against our people at The Battle of Isandhlwana and other places. (Clearly, it was their unconscious feelings of social inferiority – in short, creeping and corrosive colonialism – that caused our Afrikaner brothers to embrace the sport and make it their own.)
What is this codswallop about having experienced and clever coaches to instruct properly our national players? Putting so-called competent people “in charge of others” smacks of militarism and even fascism – and runs counter to our local philosophy of cadre deployment and nepotism, which keep the wheels of our society well-lubricated. As for discipline ...hah, discipline is for Economic Freedom Fighter hooligans and school children, not for adults and university students.
As UCT Fallist Mickey Moyo so wisely said: “Western modernity is the problem that decolonization directly deals with. It’s to say that we are going to decolonize by having knowledge that is produced by us‚ that speaks to us, and that is able to accommodate knowledge from our perspective.”
In short, my friends, we did not “lose” any of the recent international rugby games, and certainly not the game against Italy on Saturday. This belief is a mistake and a fantasy.
What simply happened was that it has dawned on our players and coaches that playing so-called rugby according to the foreign and colonialist rules and mores is unacceptable – and we are not going to do it.
As the playwright, William Mandla-Shakespeare, wrote in the Tragedy of Coriolanus Mabuza: “There is a world elsewhere.” Or, as erstwhile Eskom chief Brian Molefe would have said (if people had only given him a chance), “Springbok rugby? Pah! I’d rather be in Saxonwold.”
Sincerely, Jeremy F Gordin.