86. Non-racial sport

From the book: A Documentary History of Indian South Africans edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

The South African Cricket Board (SACB), which is affiliated to the South African Council on Sport (SACOS), submitted a long memorandum to the International Cricket Conference in June 1979. The SACB maintains, like SACOS, that normal cricket cannot be played in an abnormal society. Sports is not 'an end in itself, completely unrelated to other facets of [our] existence'. Apartheid, it argues, must go before there can be such a thing as normal sport. Here we have included portions of the 22-page document. Source: Copy supplied by Mr. C. Docrat.

THE DEMANDS FOR NON-RACIAL SPORT

Non-racial sport implies that none of the ... restrictions [embodied for example in the Group Areas Act] should hamper the administration of sport and that sportsmen should be completely free to organise sport in the best interests of all concerned. Non-racial sport demands the following:

(a)All clubs must have open membership. Where exclusion clauses are incorporated in club constitutions, these must be removed.

(b)All clubs must participate in competitions organised by single non-racial controlling bodies at local, regional or provincial levels.

(c)A single national non-racial body must control the sport nationally and represent the country internationally.

(d)All sportsmen and sportswomen must have equal opportunities in private and public life.

(e)Sponsorship must be utilised in such a way that all sportsmen benefit equally.

(f) There must be no restrictions placed on clubs or other sports organisations in the acquisition of private sports grounds and club facilities, and all such facilities must be open.

(g)Sports facilities must be provided to all sportsmen without discrimination and on an equal basis.

(h)Selection must be based solely on merit in the composition of representative teams.

(i) South Africa must be represented internationally by a single team selected on merit.

(j) All schoolchildren must be free to attend the schools of their choice and school sports must be free from-any restrictions based on race or other abnormal considerations.

As far as cricket is concerned, the South African Cricket Union has argued that, in terms of the Government's sports policy, cricket under its jurisdiction is completely non-racial. While it is true that the policy allows cricketers a certain amount of freedom to mix on the social side, it is equally true that most of the above conditions have not been met.

It is also true that policy is not law and that, while the sports policy has been shifting about as circumstances demanded, the law has remained significantly unaltered. If, therefore, it has been the policy of the South African Government not to act against sportsmen for violating its laws, it is only because it serves the interests of white sports.

Members of the South African Cricket Union have remained insensitive to the realities of an apartheid society, of which they form a part; they prefer to see cricket as an end in itself, completely unrelated to other facets of their existence; non-racialism to them means the mere physical presence of cricketers of different races and colours on the cricket field. They have been motivated not by a sincere desire to organise cricket on a non-racial basis, but by the desire to return to international cricket.

Non-racialism to the South African Cricket Board, however, means that only a non-racial society can create the conditions in which true non-racial organisations can exist and grow. Cricket cannot exist in a vacuum. The present cricket situation in South Africa is indeed the product of historical, social, economic and political factors which have shaped society over its entire history.

The modern world of sport finds the South African model unacceptable, the system of apartheid abhorrent and an affront to human dignity, and has demonstrated the seriousness with which it views the whole question of apartheid in sport by debarring, expelling or suspending South Africa from all major international sports organisations, until such time as apartheid has been abolished. South Africa for its part has shown little interest in complying with international demands. When non-racial sports organisations echo and endorse international demands for a non-racial society, they are sharing the concern of the international community of sportsmen for the future of South African sport.

The International Cricket Conference has contributed its part in this international effort. In its 1974 statement on South African cricket it reaffirmed the two major requirements set by the Cricket Council in 1970, namely:

(1)that cricket must be controlled by a single national non-racial body;

(2)that cricket at all levels must be ‘multi-racial'.

The South African Cricket Union claims that they have complied with these requirements. In the light of the above we say that such a claim is not only dishonest and insincere, but also grossly opportunistic and motivated only by a desire to see South Africa back in international competition. If our interpretation of the ICC statement is correct, then the SACU will have to explain at least:

(a)the existence of the South African Cricket Board;

(b)the absence of the schools from their new deal with the South African Government....

THE HISTORY OF NON-RACIAL CRICKET ORGANISATIONS

As a direct product of South African society, non-racial sports organisations were established in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Committed to reunite the disintegrated ranks of the blacks at least on the sportsfield, these organisations found themselves faced with a 'race-consciousness' and the full onslaught of the pro-white mass media. Ironically enough, non-racial bodies found that they were of necessity composed of 'racial' units by the very nature of the society.

As far as non-racial cricket was concerned, the first moves were made in the Western Province where the 'African', 'Coloured', 'Malay' and 'Indian' sections formed the first non-racial cricket organisation in South Africa in 1959 ”” the Western Province Cricket Board. At the time the white Western Province Cricket Union had an exclusion clause in its constitution which made it impossible for a black to become a member of that body. Other non-racial provincial boards soon followed and in the 1961-2 season the South African Cricket Board of Control (SACBOC), until then an inter-race board with national units for 'Coloureds', 'Africans', 'Indians' and 'Malays' as members, changed its constitution to become a reorganized body composed of non-racial provincial units. SACBOC was the first non-racial national cricket body in South Africa, and continued to organise cricket on a non-racial basis up to 1976. The cancellation of the 1968 tour of the MCC to South Africa and the 1970 tour of SACA to England and the stipulation by the Cricket Council in 1970 of two essential preconditions for South Africa's reacceptance into international cricket placed a new urgency on the formation of a single non-racial controlling body incorporating the white section as well. Strictly in terms of Government policy at the time, the South African Cricket Association (white) proposed the formation of an 'umbrella' body consisting of the three national controlling bodies, namely the South African Cricket Association, South African Cricket Board and South African Cricket Board of Control. SACBOC rejected the idea because it was in direct conflict with its definition of non-racialism.

However, in 1972 the SACA and SAACB formed the Cricket Council of South Africa. Since then SAACB has been given every assistance from SACA by way of financial aid, coaching-clinics, equipment, etc.

The formation of this body obviously meant little without SACBOC's participation. The primary task for the Council was to work out a scheme with the help of the Government whereby SACBOC could be accommodated.

After unsuccessful attempts by SACBOC in 1974, and again in 1975, to obtain membership of theICC, the former realised that a truly representative body had to be formed. On 18 January 1976 all three national bodies were once again around the conference table. It was agreed in principle that a single controlling body would be formed and that all cricket would be 'normalised'. The mechanics of how to go about the formation of such a body was to be worked out by a special committee of nine, consisting of three representatives of each of the three national bodies. The agreement to play 'normalised' cricket implied that cricketers would confront the legal restrictions in the way of non-racial cricket.

The events of June-August 1976 and the handling by the authorities of the grievances of black school children against separate educational systems clearly illustrated that the State was in no mood for confrontation. 'Normalised' cricket implied confrontation cricket. Realising this all too clearly the SACA tried desperately to keep the dialogue going by ostensibly securing assurances from the Minister of Sport that the obstructing legal strictures would be removed.

The sports policy announced in September 1976 was a disappointment to non-racial cricketers, but the nine-man committee applauded the new sports policy as the breakthrough for which all cricketers had been waiting, and they claimed that there was nothing more that stood in the way of 'normalised' cricket. All the provincial units of SACBOC, except the Western Province Cricket Board, joined the new body represented by the nine-man committee.

The season 1976-7 was one of complete cricket confusion. SACBOC units were split into two camps ”” those who wanted to continue with the 'normalising' exercise, and those who felt that they had been betrayed by their leadership into accepting the new deal. By the beginning of the 1977-8 season the major portion of SACBOC had withdrawn from the exercise. With the exception of the Transvaal Cricket Federation, only one or two clubs from each SACBOC provincial unit remained with the by then South African Cricket Union, which had been officially formed on 18 January 1977.

Predictably, the true non-racial sections of SACBOC formed themselves into a new cricket body, the South African Cricket Board, in October 1977. Today the SACB is about as strong as SACBOC was in 1976-7, and SACBOC is considerably weaker now than they were at the beginning of that season.

A Documentary History of South african Indians