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Being champions, the drug is powerful but also very-very temporal

Springboks. Picture: Supplied

Springboks. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 4, 2023


South Africa are once again the holders of the Rugby World Cup.

The Stade de France match was not a spectacle of glory by rugby standards, but more a scrambling streetfight to be the last man standing. Each of the final 28 players on the field tried desperately to ward off a final knock-out blow by the other, while millions of supporters on stadium seats and couches sought the euphoria of “We did it again!“

The Springboks are the world’s greatest rugby team. They deserve the title, and they deserve to be celebrated.

When we triumph in sports, the champion drug is very powerful but also very temporal. Songs of unity, shouts of greatness and smiles of satisfaction all create the false notion of what a great nation we are.

Yes, our rugby team is the best in the world. But as a country we are failing on most other important metrics. When we say, “If we can do it on the sports field, then we can also do it in our country“then it’s the euphoria drug speaking.

I don’t know which sporting events Singapore, Finland or Iceland are world champions in, but they seem to be doing something in politics, economics and human rights a lot better than South Africa, despite their lack of sporting prowess.

I am sceptical of the temporary euphoria we constantly seek to live with and the clichés we regurgitate at times like this. No, make that tired. I am tired of them. South Africans have been boasting that we are that “world in union“since 1995, but also fight like hell to remain a country divided by race, privilege and, well, the excrement of a bull.

When Ernst Roets posts a picture of the Limpopo Province on Twitter and titles it “Noord Transvaal“a day before the rugby final, then we know that 30 years and four rugby world cups have not accelerated the necessary transformation South Africa needs.

In rugby stadiums across the world, we hug, kiss, sing and cry together. Once back home, we fight like hell to have separate neighbourhoods, schools and rugby teams.

While South African politicians will milk this victory for their own narcissistic interests and consultants will make money out of their newly designed “How the leadership principles of the Springboks can transform your business“PowerPoint presentations, our transformation into a more equitable democracy and a safe country remains in the sewer.

In 2023, we are less diverse and inclusive in our political leadership and public service institutions. The failure of the human resource development components under BEE in both public and private sectors is on display in the “one race and class“dominance of our various political parties and institutions.

I won’t buy the euphoria drug again. When the whistle blew on Saturday at the Stade de France to start the game, I was hoping silently, whilst cheering the Boks on, that they would lose. That would have been a more accurate reflection of our deeply fractured society. For the next few weeks, we will drug our poverty and our sorrows with the euphoria drug. We have been doing it since 1994.

South Africa's rugby win reminded me of a time when I was a child in the ‘60s and my dad would take us Christmas shopping in Salt River for “Christmas clothes“and my mother cashed in her “meat stamps“at the butcher for us to have a great Christmas lunch.

For the rest of the year, the clothes would hang in the cupboard because we did not have any special occasions to wear them to, and the lunch would be over by 3pm. On that Christmas day, we were rich. For the other 364 days, we lived with our poverty. But we refused to admit it to ourselves.

It is time South Africa admitted certain truths about South Africa to itself.

* Lorenzo A. Davids

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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