Johannesburg – Michael Holding told the Social Justice and Nation Building hearing that the act of kneeling is to show recognition for the fact that, historically black people around the world have been oppressed and that legacies of that oppression remain prevalent today and need to change.
The West Indies fast bowling great who played 60 Tests, and recently retired from a stellar career as a commentator, was asked to appear as a special guest at the hearings, which concluded on Friday.
The SJN chairman, Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza said while introducing Holding, that he had been so moved while reading Holding’s new book, ‘Why we kneel, How we rise,’ that he felt compelled to invite him to speak.
“It is so important for people to understand why we kneel, and for people to understand that it is not an aggressive move,” Holding, speaking from his home in the United States, said.
“People need to understand that gesture. It is the worldwide accepted gesture of realising and supporting the fact that things have not been right and we need to set them right.”.
“Kneeling is not any racist or Marxist or political movement. It is a human movement that we need to recognise and to accept. We need to kneel to show, and then we hopefully all rise together.”
Holding’s presence on Friday is especially relevant given the controversy of the last week, when Quinton de Kock, chose not to play for the Proteas in their T20 World Cup match against the West Indies.
De Kock, said he was upset about a directive issued to the national team by Cricket SA’s Board, demanding the players provide a united display and all take the knee before matches. Until Tuesday, most of the white players in the side had stood - some with their right fists raised, and a few including De Kock, with their hands behind their back.
“We are not asking people to say that their race is bad, we are not asking anything like that, it is for people to learn, why we kneel and also understand that we can rise,” said Holding.
“When I say ‘we’ I’m not just talking about people of colour, ‘we’ is in respect of humankind. I have seen a Swedish women's football team take the knee. There’s no problem of race relations and colour in Sweden but they can identify with the fact that things have not been right and things need to change. ‘We’ is not just people of colour, the ‘we’ is humankind, kneeling and rising together.”
Holding’s book was referenced by Ntsebeza and his assistant, Sandile July when asking questions. The book was inspired by the many athletes who contacted him after his powerful monologue about the Black Lives Matter movement on SkySports last year.
Among the athletes he talks to in the book is Makhaya Ntini, with Holding telling the SJN that he was motivated to ask Ntini to be in the book because of the quota system. “I have heard (quota system) used on so many occasions when referring to South African cricketers of colour. They are never given full credit for their abilities,” Holding commented.
Holding said that as far back as 2003, he felt that it was an “unnecessary burden,” for people of colour in South Africa to carry. “When you pick someone just because you think you have to have certain boxes ticked, whether that person is good or not, they are carrying an extra burden, because there will always be people that will be saying, ‘he or she is only there because regulations say they have to be there.’ That is a burden Makhaya Ntini carried throughout his career.”
Holding said he understood initially why there was a need for the quota system. “South Africa wants to see a team, and wants to see a society that represents all of South Africa. I suspect that people think that if it is not regulated that it will happen very, very very slowly and they want to see it happen quicker than it is happening.
“I hope that eventually it will not be necessary to stipulate or regulate things like that,” said Holding.
Returning to the importance of kneeling, Holding explained that unlike the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, where it was predominantly black people who demonstrated, following George Floyd’s murder In Minnesota last year, the was amuch broader range of races demonstrating now. “People are coming together and recognising that the world needs fixing,” he said.
Ntsebeza’s final report will be submitted to Cricket SA’s Board of Directors next month.