Last Tuesday, Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani confirmed that they had made the decision to introduce targets for all national teams for selection of players of colour.
Whilst the specifics of the policy are yet to be determined, CSA has already introduced racial quotas for their domestic competitions, requiring teams to field six “coloured” players including three black Africans.
“In the past, we had never set targets in our national teams, but with changing circumstances, we felt it necessary to move with the times,” said Nenzani.
“The precise targets will depend on…what is realistic and sustainable.”
“We will aim to achieve our targets over the course of the year, not on a match by match basis”.
This is a monumental decision that drastically affects a good deal of the natural justice afforded by sport - a field of life that rewards only the hardest workers.
From this decision, two things are immediately evident. The first being that high achievement in sport for white athletes has now largely been taken out of their hands and placed in the care of legislative bodies.
These same legislative bodies have now made it clear that they do not have the best interests of the athletes at heart, and are more concerned with making their next “face saving” or “do good-ing” move.
The near perfect meritocracy that is sport has now been disappointingly interfered with by the CSA, as well as the Ministry of Sport, who earlier this year banned national federations from bidding on international competitions until “transformation guidelines” were met.
Not the least of the problems is that the national teams will also likely suffer. Obviously, picking an agenda based team that sooths the soul of legislative bodies will prevent the true best xi picked in cricket or best xv picked in rugby.
This could also potentially lead to a slide in standards by black Africans. Black professional cricketers for example will need only worry about being in the six or seven best of their race rather than the 11 best of the entire country.
The second point immediately evident from this decision is that this is the shifting of a problem. A failure of the Ministry of Sport, and subsequently, the CSA, to do their job.
Logic says that naturally, a national sporting team should somewhat represent the population demographics of the country it represents. In a country such as South Africa where 80% of the population is black, 80% of a national team (or thereabouts) should also be black.
However, this should not be because selectors are told to pick that way. It should be able to take course that way naturally.
Whilst there has been a recent spike in participation of blacks in sport at a junior level, it is the failure of the governing bodies of sport in South Africa, and no doubt the Ministry also, for failing to involve the overwhelming ethnic majority of the country in sport outside of football.
But Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula was not having a bar of that. He shamed rugby, cricket, netball and athletics for not meeting their targets, and insisted that the problem lay with them.
It is much easier for Mbalula and the Ministry to name a quota or target such as “60% coloured in a national team” and get on with it, rather than helping each federation address their own participation numbers at a youth level.
A little less “quick fix” and a little more hard work at a grassroots level makes these goals absolutely within reach of occurring naturally, but it must be noted that it may be 10 to 20 years before tangible results are evident at the elite level.
In Australia, this is best represented in rugby league and Australian rules. In the latter code, indigenous Australians are represented at 10% in the professional ranks, which far eclipses sub-3% representation they have in the general population.
In rugby league, the numbers are perhaps even better. While raw participation numbers are only 6% for Aboriginals, that is still double the rate at which they are represented in Australia.
At NRL level, they represent 12% of players at the 16 clubs, at State of Origin it is 21%, and in the national team it is a whopping 35%.
For comparison, if 35% of the Australian population were indigenous Australians, they would number 8,400,000.
This shows that with the right focus and hard work at a youth level, natural results for black participation are capable of producing themselves, as opposed to manufacturing them via political influence.
However, as mentioned, it will take time. Aboriginals in Australia were not enfranchised until 1962, and 20 years later, indigenous Australians were still few and far between in the major professional sports.
In South Africa, the year of suffrage was 1994 – 32 years after Australia. Does this mean they are 32 years behind us in terms of black representation in sport? Maybe.
But it will take proper action from the South African Ministry of Sport and the governing bodies, such as the CSA, for real action and results to come about, as opposed to the false ones being currently being forced through.
Hopefully, they will start to focus on the real problems, rather than creating a new one and “fixing” it.