More than 70% of black South Africans do not believe that sport teams should be picked based on transformation goals, but rather purely on merit.
This is according to a 2016 national survey by the SA Institute of Race Relations, which asked South Africans for their opinion regarding merit-based selections of sports teams.
A total of 77% of all South Africans were in favour of teams picked based on merit, without any use of racial quotas. Of the black people who took part in the survey, 74.2% agreed.
For the rest of the population, 87% of coloureds, 94.9% of Asians, and 84.3% of whites were in favour of merit-based selection.
The survey involved 2 245 people from all nine provinces, of whom 1 757 were black.
Trade union Solidarity and the civil rights organisation AfriForum intended using these results in their Labour Court bid to have the SA Rugby Union (SARU’s) strategic transformation plan and the transformation charter for South African sport set aside.
“Sport in South Africa is regulated by the National Sport and Recreation Act. This Act prohibits the minister from interfering when it comes to the selection of sports teams,” Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann told reporters in Pretoria.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula announced in April that he had banned SARU, Athletics SA, Cricket SA, and Netball SA from bidding for, or hosting, any major international tournaments as they had failed to achieve their transformation targets.
“By no manner of means do the Employment Equity Act and the National Sport and Recreation Act make provision for government interference in the selection of players for teams. This is exactly what the minister is now doing, and as civil society we simply cannot allow this to happen,” he said.
‘If the minister says jump, they ask how high’
According to the transformation charter, it was not government policy to promote the racial composition of sports teams or to prescribe to sports federations how to select their teams, Hermann argued.
International sporting codes stipulated that governments may not interfere in sport, he said.
AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said South African sporting federations had become spineless.
“If the minister says jump, they ask how high,” Kriel said referring to the sporting federations and Cabinet accepting the charter.
Quotas in sport affected athletes’ careers and infringed on people’s dignity. It was insulting to a black player to get picked based on his or her race, and likewise for a white athlete to be left out based on their race, he said.
“We know certain players weren’t picked during the 2015 Rugby World Cup because of race and we also had the incident during the Cricket World Cup where an SMS was sent stating that certain players should be left out.”
Kriel said many schools still did not have sporting facilities and that some sporting federations were not making any efforts in this regard.
“SARU is not making effort to promote rugby in areas like Atteridgeville and Mamelodi, but they would rather recruit players of colour from the Cape,” he said.