“Who’s going to stop me holding a Sports Awards evening for millions of rands? The Democratic Alliance? Keep an eye on the invitations. The Razzmatazz is about to become a Humdinger. Bring your party shoes, nicest suits and dresses and rock up at the door.” Sports minister Fikile Mbalula announcing the R65 million Sports Awards banquet last year.
On Sunday 20 April, Hogarth was at its acerbic – nay excoriating – best. The subject was South Africa’s most fervent Beyoncé fan, the bonking-like-a- rabbit-on-steroids, spendthrift sports minister, that epitome of gentlemanly grace and gravitas, Fikile Mbalula.
As background to Hogarth’s eloquent epistle let me remind you that the tribute to the young warrior was headed ‘The lion that clucked’ and read:
“They obviously don’t make young lions roar like they used to. The minister of sport and former ANC Youth League president, Fikile Mbalula, would like us to believe that he is the bravest young lion since the days of Peter(Kill the Boer) Mokaba.
“But the not-so-young anymore Mbalula proved himself to be more of a chicken than a lion when he pulled out, at the last minute, from a debate on sports transformation on Al Jazeera.
“According to reports the firebrand minister who wants to see all our national teams boasting 60% black players, suddenly got cold feet when he realised that he was to debate the issue with former cricket star Clive Rice and self-styled boerevolk leader, Kallie Kriel.
“Instead of continuing the debate as scheduled, Mbalula stormed out – leaving political analyst Somadoda Fikeni to fight his corner alone. When the going gets tough, Mbalula chickens out.”
As background let me remind you that the alleged public broadcaster was granted special permission (satire) by Luthuli House – given the importance of the matter – to allow Mbalula, rather than Number One to lead the DStv Channel 404 7 pm SABC TV news bulletin on 6 April. In a venomous tirade which took up much of the main section of the bulletin, Mbalula was allowed – without interruption or question – to state, in contravention of the Olympic charter, that from then on all national sports teams must have 60% black players.
(Mbalula was secure in the knowledge that when it comes to laving the nether ends of politicians, the SABC has an array of talent which rivals even the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation – as an inimitable 2003 cartoon by Zapiro shows.)
However, after a meeting in Johannesburg on 16 April with representatives of the various sports codes, Mbalula suddenly went quiet – no doubt after his officials pointed out to him that his demand was untenable on any and every ground and contravened departmental policies not to mention the Olympic Charter. Unsurprisingly, the alleged public broadcaster did not seek him out for a follow up interview – and neither did he request one.
`Must ask question”
In television news, because time is the constraint, we talk about the ‘must ask question’. Politicians, on the other hand, refer to realpolitik and, as Hogarth and his colleague Chris Barron will concede, reconciling the two is difficult and consensus is rarely achieved.
The frequent flyer minister would instantly have realised that he faced a range of ‘must ask’ questions and that would have prompted his high dudgeon and raised-middle-finger departure from the Al Jazeera studio.
Among them might have been:
Al Jazeera panel chairperson: “Mr Minister, how to you reconcile your demand for race-based sports quotas with Article 6 of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism which states that ‘Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.’ ?
Kallie Kriel: “Given that your sports quota demand does not differ in principle from the use of ethnic demographics by Adolph Hitler to restrict the admission of Jews to German universities how do you reconcile it with the concluding sentence in the statement by Nelson Mandela from the dock in the Rivonia trial: ‘During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’?”
Clive Rice: “Race-based sports policies drove Basil D’Oliveira into exile during the apartheid era and Kevin Pietersen into exile after we became a democracy in 1994. In what way does this Diaspora benefit South African sport and do you agree with the recent statement by Enoch Godongwana, chairman of the ANC’s transformation committee: ‘Verwoerd used the quota system, therefore we should too! We unashamedly say we will use quotas.’?”
Furthermore, the Lion that Clucked would point out that his hasty exit from the Al Jazeera studio is not without illustrious ANC precedent and that the highly-esteemed president of our ‘Rainboo Nation’ turned down an interview request from TIME magazine contributor Alex Perry when he visited Mangaung to write an article on the ANC’s centenary on 8 January, 2012.
In the article, which hardly flatters Zuma and the ANC because there is so much to criticise, Perry specifically says: “South African President Jacob Zuma declined to be interviewed for this article…”
Reading a subsequent article by Perry, you realise that President Zuma had nothing to gain and everything to lose by agreeing to an interview with the magazine before the ANC celebrated its centenary.
Politicians who have nothing to hide jostle for coverage by TIME and Al Jazeera but not Jacob Zuma and Fikile Mbalula. They choose the obsequious calm and the venerating tranquillity of the SABC studios in Auckland Park or at parliament in Cape Town.
They know that the SABC’s stentorian boast in its largely advertisement-free TV news bulletins – “We dig dip (sic), we probe, we investigate!” does not apply to ANC corruption in general and Nkandla in particular – ask Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Jimi Matthews, Themba Mthembu and Special Assignment’s Ashraf Garda – they’ll confirm that. Should you require proof of the latter go to the Special Assignment website and type “Nkandla” and/ or “ANC corruption” into the search bar and the predictable result is: “No results.”
You don’t want TIME or Al Jazeera asking why.