Politician joins the vomiting

Date published: October 16 2008

Anti-Springbok crusader Butana Komphela is at it again, saying that he too feels like vomiting on the Springbok rugby jersey.

Anti-Springbok crusader Butana Komphela is at it again, saying that he too feels like vomiting on the Springbok rugby jersey.

The National Assembly's controversial Sports Committee chair is typically unapologetic about his views over the future of the Springbok as the symbol of South Africa rugby.

Komphela was reacting to a video clip which shows apartheid-era rugby boss, Danie Craven, questioned about whether a multi-racial side would also be called the Springboks.

“We, as the Springbok team, would not like to lose our identity, because the Springboks have always been associated with whites, the leopard, again, has been associated with the blacks. No one wants to lose his identity,” Craven replied.

Komphela said this was why he believed that the Springbok was a symbol of “white supremacy” and should be done away with – for good.

He added that Craven's infamous comment, and some of the messages posted on websites in favour of the retention of the Springbok emblem, were enough to make him want to back controversial flanker Luke Watson's strong feelings of disgust.

“I also feel like I want to vomit on the Springbok jersey,” Komphela told the Cape Times.

Komphela said he was prepared to wear a Springbok jersey at last year's World Cup, where he addressed the South African squad, because “as a leader of the country you can't demoralise and rubbish [a South African team abroad]”.

He however maintained that the Springbok remained a legacy of apartheid, calling it a divisive symbol that needed to be replaced by the Protea.

Komphela is conveniently overlooking the fact that the Protea itself was used a symbol of division in sport during the apartheid era.

Under apartheid the Protea was the badge of a national rugby team that was reserved exclusively for people categorised as “coloureds”. They were not representative of the coloured people per se but of an organisation called the SA Rugby Federation. This in turn was affiliated to the SA Rugby Board whose national team was called the Springboks that was reserved for whites.

Also affiliated to the Board was the SA Rugby Association. Its team was called the Leopards and was reserved for “blacks”, or indigenous Africans.

In the realm of “non-racial rugby” embraced by the then SA Rugby Union, both the coloured SA Rugby Federation and the black SA Rugby Association were “sellouts” because they were prepared to associate with the white SA Rugby Board and thus entrench the racial divisions of apartheid South Africa.

Moss Mashishi, the head of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), wrote to Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile this week requesting a copy of the resolution passed a recent sports indaba that the Springbok should go by the year-end rugby tour and asked for direction on how to handle the issue.

Komphela added that he believed Watson was the victim of a witch-hunt and had already been tried and judged in the media.

SA Rugby's head of legal affairs Christo Ferreira has told television and radio reporters that, if found guilty of breaching SA Rugby Union's code of conduct, Watson he could face a wide range of sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a fine of ZAR100,000 (approx US$ 12,500).

Komphela said such comments were an example of how Watson's case could not receive a fair hearing, given that he is yet to be charged and that he had complained to Ferreira, SA Rugby CEO Johan Prinsloo, rugby boss Oregan Hoskins and Judge Lex Mpati, who chairs the union's National Judicial Committee.