THE cricket boycott is over. A white South African team had a triumphal welcome in India and even managed to win a match. Everyone in India, it seems, loves South African cricketers. Even Mother Theresa was wheeled out to give the tour saintly approval, just in case you think the whole thing was about money and prestige. A new hero was discovered: Ali Bacher, saviour of South African cricket, who according to the press returned us to normality after twenty years.
Certainly normal business carried on in South Africa in his absence: townships hit by random terror and targeted assassinations; the imposition of value added tax undermining the health and basic needs of the poor; and of course rule by a government lacking any shred of legitimacy.
Is this what the non-racial sports movement fought to achieve through years of struggle and harassment? It certainly aimed for sports unity, but unity in a country based on democracy. In the cricket world apartheid is forgotten, yet the people who ran the game during the years of repression are still in charge. Apartheid was just a mistake, they say, an unfortunate historical error. Now white South Africa can get back to normal, thankful that no real change has taken place and pleased that all it has taken is a few black faces on committees to provide the necessary decoration.
People openly admit that cricket unity was forced through from the top. There was no widespread debate, nor democratic decision-making: the process was as legitimate as old-style apartheid. Even more sinister has been the role of the ANC. The genial Steve Tshwete is seen everywhere sacrificing the boycott in the interests of making political friends for the ANC as it pushes for power. The ANC wants votes and it needs as much support as possible from influential whites. Sacrificing the sports struggle is a small price to pay.
There is nothing about South Africa today to justify lifting the boycott. Where are the laws that start to build social and economic justice in South Africa? Where are the structures to achieve this? When there has been a transfer of political and economic power and a start has been made to the abolition of the injustices of the past, then there will be a case for lifting boycotts. Why has a struggle been thrown away before its objectives have been reached?
This article was first published in New Dawn on 27 November 1991 and entitled ‘Cricket boycott’.