newritings

June 27, 2009

The Role of Sports in Society

Filed under: manifesto,sports,testimonies — newritings @ 6:13 pm

IN this series we continue our focus on sports and society. We reproduce a paper by the former president of the Anti Apartheid Sports movement because we believe that it is of immense interest to the global community concerned about the role of sports as part of society, and seeking answers whether sports can contribute to questions of personal liberation, expanded democracy and personal and societal development.

This piece by FRANK A VAN DER FRANK A VAN DER HORST written for a conference in 2005 can be read in full on this site, but we reproduce the concluding section here to broaden the debate.

I am and was an avid supporter of the organizing slogan that one cannot have normal sport in an abnormal society, but as a trade unionist, activist with a left orientation, I have equally believed that leisure time and recreation was critical for working people, to enjoy not for continued exploitation, but to reflect and strengthen ourselves to resists control by corporations and capital in general.

Betrand Russel in his essay, In praise of Idleness, has pointed out that “The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion. “

So I guess when we discuss the role of sports we should not only focus on its mobilising impact, which I think refers more to players and associations being supporters of a particular cause or line, but they equally give free expression – both mental and physical – to human beings to explore their full potentialities. If this is the perspective, we may have to adopt a less harsh line on the new reality of non racial – multi racial sports being played in South Africa, and push for radical reform at every effort, for each player (female, disabled and Black especially) denied the right to play.

It does mean that the opposition will be not outside but inside and protracted, a daily struggle. It is here that the sports movement can learn something from the trade union movement. The struggles are continuous, involving negotiation, action and consolidation and again another hurdle forward. If we do not adopt a new approach to how we push for continued radical transformation of the various sporting codes we could be rejecting our children, brothers and sisters who today still make progress against great odds. We have to use the success of the Brian Habana’s and the few Black coaches to push for more and sustained transformation that will free us not only from Apartheid control and its legacy but the new corporate take over of global sports.

If our children do not pursue their dreams we will be failing in our goals of full human liberation and, what is worse, the elites -new black elite and the traditional elite – (the leisure classes) will continue to enjoy their lives whilst the vast majority continues to serve them. Pushing for full and equal participation without corporate control is long and hard but it is our only option. Opting out is not a real choice today.

In solidarity

Hass

THE SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL ON SPORT:THE SPORTS WING OF THE LIBERATION MOVEMENT
DEVELOPMENT OF NON-RACIAL SPORT

SACOS: RESPONSE OF OPPRESSED SPORTS BODIES
The South African Council on Sport (SACOS) was founded on 17 March 1973 as the response of black oppressed sports bodies to the inhuman oppressive apartheid system of white minority rule, its policy of white domination in the political, social, sporting and economic arena, its expropriation of the country’s wealth, and its system of black subjugation and denial of human rights. These policies were brutally enforced through racial discriminatory laws, racist institutions and a powerful repressive police force, secret service and army. The rich privileged ruling class ‘whites-only’ sports bodies which represented South Africa in international sports federations, test matches and the Olympic Games systematically excluded blacks.

BOLD NEW REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGIES NEEDED
Bold, new, integrated and revolutionary strategies are needed to build an egalitarian society that will require determined political will-power and purposefulness to fundamentally change society and urgently deliver quality results within strict time frames. Some are listed below.
1. Although the policy of white domination has been rejected and all racial laws abolished, the glaring social, sporting and economic (class) inequalities still persist and are visibly worsening for the vast majority of people except for a growing black middle class. This self-seeking middle class does not uplift the poor but merely acts as a social buffer to protect rich big business from the poor exploited working class. Real economic power and most of the county’s wealth is still in the hands of big (white) business in spite a small black empowerment elite that is mostly beholden to big capital.27 Almost 50% of the population live below the poverty line. The dominant ideas in society are still those of the capitalist exploitative ruling class. The unequal distribution or control of wealth must be radically changed to eliminate the massive power of big capital corporations and to build an egalitarian non-exploitative democracy. Correct the huge chasm between rich and poor and abolish the associated social and economic class barriers that perpetuate privilege and inequalities in society.
2. Most of the prime land whether choice residential, fertile agricultural, mining, industrial and commercial areas are still controlled by the same cartels albeit with a black empowerment component and land restitution is mainly for poor subsistence farming. Solve the agrarian problem and land hunger by effectively providing viable redistribution or equitable social control of land. Introduce modern sustainable mechanized agricultural farming methods, education or training to improve crop quality, productivity and ecological awareness to preserve our resources for future generations. Prosperous farming communities will then enjoy better quality of life and improve sport in their leisure time.
3. The migratory (essentially cheap, black surplus) labour system is still operative. Introduce a stable settled educated work-force with rapid competitive job creation in manufacturing, commerce or computer based service industries to eliminate unemployment and poverty. Introduce global-quality skills training with continuously improving competitive standards, improved production levels, income, standard of living and sporting achievements.
4. Public education (as opposed to expensive private schools), is in a virtual state of collapse, especially the teaching of science, mathematics and modern technological skills (compared to global standards).28 A free compulsory modern top class education system with well trained and qualified teachers are essential for highly competitive management and production systems that power economic, social and sporting development in global competitions.
5. Local municipalities have (at present) only 8% of the requisite skills or experienced staff and are collapsing in the face of basic service delivery, rapid changes of former ghettoes and essential forward planning for required new economic growth and social development. Rapid people-orientated skills training (with sustained mentoring and supervision), education of engineers and other professional or technical staff is required and must become a national priority for improved country-wide municipal service delivery.
6. The grave existing housing shortage is growing exponentially as fewer houses are built annually relative to the yearly family formation or growing demand.29 Adequate durable quality housing stock must be rapidly built conforming strictly to National Building Regulations like health, fire, safety, long-life and structural requirements and serve as a kick-start for economic growth and job creation for the entire population.
7. The provision of health, sports and civic amenities in former black areas remain poor, as hospital and clinic services have limited budgets, overworked staff or lack modern equipment.30 Provide adequate affordable well equipped fully staffed health services (with well-funded research to cure AIDS and other diseases), civic amenities and sports facilities.
8. The high ethical standards, voluntary service, transparent accountable governance and sound moral values of the SACOS era have been destroyed with open mercenary greed, fraud, numerous corruption scandals, cronyism in job appointments and even bribed referees. Many public sports and public administration officials pay themselves unjustified astronomical salaries, rich bonus awards (in cash-strapped bodies), travel or entertainment perks or give contracts to pals. Administrative chaos and scandals abound over take-over bids as competing groups of elites fight over the financial spoils. This mindset is merely a cancerous continuation of the corrupt ways of the previous regime that is damaging the bonds of civil society. Ruthless measures are required to drastically eliminate all forms of corruption and greed from all government, public, private, business and sports bodies coupled with the promotion of exemplary sound democratic governance.
9. The aspiring mandarins and fat-cats forget about performance management or quality service delivery. Poor administration is aggravated by rapid firing of coaches, outdated training methods (Staaldraad), old-style prejudices or values and racially skewed selection of representative teams. The malaise is reflected by poor and declining performances against international competition in rugby, soccer, cricket and particularly, the Olympic Games. High ethical standards of governance, public accountability and people- orientated development must be developed and even enforced.
(10)The high rate of formal unemployment (41%),31 job losses and poverty, coupled with social insecurity, violence, rapes, murders, increasing suicides, gangsterism, growing influence of druglords and overcrowded prisons (a training centre for gangs) alienate people and undermines social well- being. More than half of the population are marginalised from ever excelling in economic growth or sporting progress. Eradicate fear, violence, gangsterism, drug abuse and associated social problems in a decisive way so that the entire population own and drive the development processes, experience tangible social and economic prosperity and develop as enthusiastic interested stakeholders.
(11)Modern fully equipped sports facilities and top class sports developmentacademies should have been provided at provincial and national levels. Young talent must be identified, nurtured, trained and provided withintensive modern specialised training and coaching to world-class standards.
(12) Break down privilege, prejudice, class and economic barriers to build a prosperous, mutually co-operative, non-racial, cohesive united democratic nation. Create a sense of caring, sharing, people-centred development that promote friendliness, confidence, individual and social well being, visible change, prosperity, progress and patriotism in the entire population
The huge and growing chasm of economic and social inequality, poverty, class division, lack of continuous improvement, service delivery and socio-economic development in South Africa has resulted in increasing unrest, bigger demonstrations and deepening chaos in sport and society. Under these appalling conditions, the old SACOS motto of “NO NORMAL SPORT IN AN ABNORMAL SOCIETY” still rings particularly true and meaningful, in the quest for social and sporting justice.
FRANK A VAN DER HORST B.Sc. B.Sc.(Civil Engineer). Sec Teachers Dipl. Property Dev. Dipl. (All U.C.T.). B.Admin. (Hons) School of Government. M.Comm. (All U.W.C.).
Delegate from South African Hockey Board to SACOS: 1973-77.
Vice President: SACOS 1977-82.
President: SACOS 1982-88.
Chairperson: WESTERN PROVINCE COUNCIL OF SPORT 1970-82.
Convenor: SACOS NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVALS 1982 and 1988
Director: SACOSPORT AND LIBERATION CONFERENCE 1983
Secretary: SOUTH AFRICAN HOCKEY BOARD 1970-89

(more…)

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June 18, 2009

Piensa el ladrón que todos són de su condición

Filed under: opinion article,sports — newritings @ 1:19 pm

Marta Garrich

During the opening match of the Confederations Cup, between South Africa and Iraq, the majority of Spanish media (such as El Pais or Telecinco – the TV Channel that has the rights to broadcast the FIFA Confederations Cup matches) reported and even  criticised South African spectators for booing Matthew  Booth, one of the most popular players of the South African selection.

Everytime the 6ft 2 inches South African defender (the tallest player in the tournament) got the ball, the stadium was abuzz with the  crowd screaming “Boooooooth”. This is a tradition amongst the fans as many have witnessed. We recall a time when  Mark Fish (who played in England) the call would ring throughout the stadium and the neighbourhood…“Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh”. So too did the legendary John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu (who played in Turkey too). The crowd would greet every great pass, dribble or goal with loud chorus of “Shoeeeeeeeees”. The question I pose is why did our media (print and audiovisual) so quickly jump to the conclusion implicitly that this was the first  “…booooooth” was an act of racism by the spectators, whereas, as I have shown this is a tradition amongst die hard fans?

Simply put, because Mathew Booth happens to be the only white player in this current Bafana Bafana (the boys) – the national football team of South Africa.

It saddens me that the media in Spain and those published in Catalunya so wrongly judges a people (the non-whites, according to the label of the previous regime) that have  suffered and made many compromises to a South Africa where divisions of race and gender are eliminated. This long road to freedom, as their former leader Nelson Mandela wrote in his book and demonstrated in his life, has been truly hard. Madiba spent almost a third of his life in prison for fighting for social  justice, and showed his magnimanity by not being vindictive to his former oppressors, even accepting  to share the Nobel Peace Prize with the last white president (FW de Klerk) of such inhuman regime. It saddens me that the quality of journalism appeared to be so low: they seem not to have asked the fans nor Booth himself  about what had transpired. If they had spent a little more effort they would have quickly learned of their error and not have written the insulting piece.

In any case, in the light of such conclusions given and accepted so quickly and easily, the question that seems to follow is: where is racism, in them or in our eyes?

Ps. After writing to many of these papers and even calling one of the biggest papers in Spain about the error of their ways in this article, none of them have had the courage to correct it yet.

This article first appeared o the blog girafas se escribe con J

* From the Spanish expression literally meaning “the thief thinks that everybody is a thief as well”.

June 11, 2009

The nasty side of the beautiful game: fascism

Filed under: opinion article,sports — newritings @ 6:20 pm

Hernan Cortés

When Barça won the Champions League and Pep Guardiola dedicated the cup to the legendary Italian defender Maldini, he showed that he was a progressive and supported an equally progressive fellow footballer. Yes, as a Barça fan the month of May will always be unforgettable. We  won the Cup, the League and the Champions League, the trophy that gives prestige and fame to a football the world over. But the most interesting point about the three-peat is that we’ve done it whilst displaying our soul to the fans (and enemies alike) – the world at large  – that: We’re not just a club, We are more than that! I like what José Sámano wrote  in EL País “we’ve showed everyone what Barça means. We’ve got Lakers, Ferrari, Honda… and now Barça.”

But not everything in the world football is fair play and  happiness as I will explain. For those of us who love football above the game have lived two moments that need deep reflection.  I am talking of two players  “born” from the same soil but with different outlooks. The one, an excellent player (also an Italian defender), decides to retire, after over two decades of top level playing, and instead of being recognised and rewarded for his services he gets booed. I am talking here of AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini. The other player who has just returned to Juve from Real Madrid FC is Fabio Cannavaro. Both Madrid and AC Milan have won more Champions League titles than many other teams.

Maldini “Il Capitano”, who has won 5 Champions, 7 Scudetto, etc. has decided to retire after more than 20 years playing in San Siro. Of course, he was the captain, and an outspoken captain on issues that he believed were  fair or good for the club. So when he retired, the Milan tiffossi, known by their neofascist ideology, decided to “destroy” his last day as a player. I know that there are many out there who reject the fascists, and the racists and love to see the values of friendship and solidarity thrive, not hate. Check the link: http://www.marca.com/2009/05/25/futbol/futbol_internacional/calcio/1243271331.html

By the way in Chamartín, Fabio Cannavaro, who has only played 3 years in Real Madrid  decided to return to  Turin. However our Fabio, who is well-known by his sympathy with right-wing parties, was acclaimed by Real Madrid’s fans and mainly by the hooligans, Ultra Sur. Ultra Sur always have showed and flown fascist flags at Black /non-white players, and have answered every  Cannavaro tackle with their right arm to the sky  and calling him Duce, the name associated with Benito Mussolini as Caudillo with Franco or Führer with Hitler.

These two Calcio stories, as Enric Gonzalez says, show us how far a game like football has come for good or bad things. Of course for those that whistled at Paolo are those who yearn for yester year… the thirties, but they are  just a minority. It however does  demonstrate to us the impunity that these groups enjoy. They receive good media coverage as well.  I know is not easy to eradicate these groups from a stadium, but a reflection is needed in order to think if these groups can cast a shadow over part of the history of a team, a society or even a game. The presidents and owners of the team should focus on young people and not on these groups who have many facilities for whatever they want. I love football because of its universal values and, as far as I know, these values not include fascism for the simple reason fascism excludes the majority of us.

To read more about it:

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/Abbiati/solo/elpepudep/20081006elpepidep_21/Tes

Do not only blame isolation in sports only for our lack of excellence

Filed under: sports — newritings @ 3:04 pm

Whenever I am embarrassingly adding to my carbon footprint, I inevitably look out for a copy of the Financial Times, and especially Simon Kuper’s Sporting Life, which does not disappoint. His recent column (Financial Times, 6/7 June 2009) “Isolationist mindset keeps South Africa playing ticky –tacky” raises some criticisms that are valid, but slightly dated. This was the view about 10 years ago, and I think he be-labours the point of isolation, blaming it for our lack of football pedigree.

Kuper is simplistic especially when he argues that “South African rugby and cricket had suffered isolation too. But they were mostly white sports. The country’s whites were so rich that even during apartheid they remained connected to global networks. After apartheid fell, they quickly learned that new best practice in their sports. By contrast, South African football stayed quite isolated. When the Bafana Bafana traveled to their first World Cup in 1998, many South Africans imagined they would win it by playing ticky-tacky. This did not happen.”

I will not write about the fact that playing ticky-tacky or ziggy-zaggy is not in itself bad if it plays to your players strengths, suffice it to say that Brazil and Argentina, for example, won many World Cups playing on their skills, which included dribbling, and short passes! Kuper by implication suggests that non isolation breeds success. This is not true if you look at various other codes of sports in our country such as athletics and even swimming; both codes of sports went into decline after brief periods of success. When using this analogy for the football, one will imagine that the likes of England would be a roaring success, however, readers of this FT will know very well that they did not even qualify for their European Nations Cup, and have only won one World Cup in 1966- may be blamed for over exposure to world football. The brilliant tiny country, the Netherland, with all the football pedigree and exposure have had no real World Cup success, and limited success at European level! (We must not even begin to talk of Europe’s over-representation in the world cup slots, which gives them this exposure, but that is for another longer fight).

If Kuper wants to say that our football has of recent times been on a bit of a decline, than I agree with him, but this is not what he is saying. He simply suggests that our football is a failure. True, since our reincorporation into world football, our standing on the FIFA ranking has been irregular, but he omits to mention that we did win the African Cup of Nations in 1996, with the likes of Chippa Masinga, Lucas Rhoo Radeba (both Leeds United FC), Doc Khumalo with Mark Williams scoring two goals in that African final. Whilst not anti national styles of play, I must say that play did not strike me as being ticky-tacky. In the same year our team was recognized as the team making the most progress for that year.

Kuper fails to mention that Bafana Bafana lost in the 1998 AFCON finals, and ended in the 1999 AFCON third. Of South Africa’s World Cup record it is equally patchy: we qualified for the first opportunity world cup in 1998, as well as 2002, but failed to qualify in the World Cup of 2006.

IN our short history, I can conclude that there is room for improvement, but there is no obsession with playing shibobo or tsamaya or ticky-tacky, but we have to play to our strengths. Like Barca players, most South Africans are small and have more to learn from FC Barcelona, Brazil, Argentina than the fight ball of the English league.

We must remember that rugby was the National Party at play as the Dutch reform was the NP at prayer. The more serious explanations lay in poor management and the lack of club management and football development strategy, and funds (sponsorship) to all clubs as existed in rugby and cricket before and after apartheid. The sponsorship of football is for elite sports and at that, concentrated within big clubs.

Isolation had other results too, it brought about democracy to a reluctant and self-serving elite that had and has to be challenged at all times to make the sports they rule be more representative by including Black (Indian, Coloured and African players). They have resisted this on the grounds that the teams will be weakened – a racist ploy that has been exposed with the success of players such as Gibbs, Ntini, Amla and others in cricket and with the likes of Bryan Habana, Januarie, Ralepelle and others in rugby – and it bears testimony to the ongoing need to fight for fundamental change in sports and society.

Finally, with a free South Africa, a product of a global isolation campaign, gave impetus for the first World Cup to be held on African soil: the 2010 World Cup. This is an African World Cup and I pray one or more African team: Eqypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Ivory Coast… do us proud by reaching the semi finals or even taking it.

June 5, 2009

MAKEBA, how we miss you

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 12:23 pm

In this posting we feature the story of one genius musician that like so many of us was a victim of racism. What is sad, as musician Gavin Poonan writes, is that many of the media have ignored to remember him, even in passing, when Africa’s lady of song, Miriam Makeba died. They were married once, although I do not think women or men for that matter should be remembered for whom they married. But this was not the point, as Gus tells, that this may have to do more with bad journalism than active prejudice amongst us Black people. Sonny was a South African of Indian origin.

A glance at some obituaries fascinated by her marriages is revealing. Take the one of the Mail and Guardian: “Makeba’s song of truth” (November 14, 2008) for example: it was in part a marrialogy (to coin a phrase), (she did indeed marry a few times and one wonders if men who marry a few times get obituaries written like this?) but having gone down that road forgot to mention some of the husbands by name and character.

When apartheid was introduced to South Africa in 1948, Makeba was old enough to grasp the consequences and to see the limitations placed on the career of her mentor, Dolly Rathebe, her senior by four years. Makeba gave birth to her daughter Bongi at the age of 17 and was then diagnosed with breast cancer, which was treated unconventionally, but successfully, by her mother. The first of her five husbands left her shortly after.

A second marriage, in 1959, proved short-lived. In 1964 Hugh Masekela became her third husband and she went to perform in Algeria and at the OAU conference in Accra, Ghana. Backstage at a show in San Francisco, a Kenyan student taught her a song that would become part of her standard repertoire. Called Malaika, it is a Swahili love song that she was wrongly informed was a traditional composition. In 1966 she earned a Grammy award with Belafonte.

Increasingly involved in, and identified with, black consciousness, Miriam became associated with radical activity not just against apartheid but also in the civil rights movement and then black power. In 1967, while in Guinea, she met the Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, who became her next husband the following year.

Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Toure and she returned with him to his own place of exile in Guinea, the West African Marxist state whose leader, Sekou Toure, gave sanctuary to enemies of the capitalist West.

After that fourth marriage ended in divorce in 1978, she turned down a proposal by the president, but two years later married an airline executive and moved to Brussels.

And the Washington Post

She was married five times, including once to Masekela. A daughter from her first marriage died in 1985, and she had trouble paying expenses for a coffin, according to Agence France-Presse. She said she had signed away royalties on her greatest hit, “Pata Pata.”

“My life has been like a yo-yo,” she told Salon in 2000. “One minute I’m dining with presidents and emperors, the next I’m hitchhiking. I’ve accepted it. I say, ‘Hey, maybe that’s the way it was written, and it has to be.’ And that maybe there’s a reason why I’m still here.”

I was surprised that even the progressives did little better on the gender front. See an example:

She was married several times and her husbands included the American black activist Stokely Carmichael, with whom she lived in Guinea, and the jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who also spent many years in exile.

In the United States she became a star, touring with Harry Belafonte in the 1960s and winning a Grammy award with him in 1965. Such was her following and fame that she sang in 1962 at the birthday party of President John F. Kennedy. She also performed with Paul Simon on his Graceland concert in Zimbabwe in 1987.

But she fell afoul of the U.S. music industry because of her marriage to Mr. Carmichael and her decision to live in Guinea.

In 2006, one blog ran this about Miriam and Sonny:

http://arcmusic.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/miriam-makeba/

Makeba recorded many 78s with the Manhattan Brothers for Gallotone. along with her first headlining effort, “Lakutshona Ilanga.” This Xhosa song of lost-love became a hit, and to reach an American audience an English language version, “You Tell Such Lovely Lies,” with lesser lyrics was penned. Even though it was illegal for a Black to sing in English, Makeba recorded this version at the insistence of her record company. Gaining experience and skills, and a new found interest in local music, in 1956 Makeba released her first composition, “Pata, Pata” (Touch-Touch). The song was also a hit and part of a major dance craze in South Africa.

While loosely still with the Manhattans, around 1956 Makeba sang with a similar style all-female ensemble put together by Gallotone called the Skylarks. The group featured three other remarkable voices, Abigail Kubheka (Kebeka) and the sisters, Mary and Mamie Rabotapa. She also began extensive touring with promoter Alf Herberts’, ‘African Jazz and Variety’. This was a very popular review, with Makeba, her idol and chief singing rival in the day, Dorothy Masuka, and two future husbands, Sonny Pillay and Hugh Masekela. In general the female singers still mimicked American pop-jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald. This was the sophisticated direction Makeba was taking. Later she would offer a prime example when she scat sang Ellington’s, “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” (on the collection, Something New From Africa , 1959).

So there you have it: women of song, struggling in life as she is in death? She lived a full life, learned and lived for the oppressed and Africa in particular. She broke barriers of race, class and gender. long live Miriam.

H

————–

MIRIAM MAKEBA, by Gavin (Gus) Poonan

I miss your beautiful face, I miss you Mama Afrika, I miss your smile and I will miss your inspiration. You inspired my mother who was an excellent pianist and a great singer who in turn inspired me to sell my soul to the Music Gods and become a slave to the rhythm. My mother in turn was inspired (and taught to play the piano) by her brother Sonny Pillay who settled overseas and sang in opera houses all over Europe.(Not the same Sonny Pillay who married Mama Africa) I believe that most South African musos are missing her too.

How is it that in all of the obituaries written except one our writers MISSED mentioning her marriage to Sonny Pillay pianist and also a singer .There are lengthy stories written about our Mama Africa and the ommission is glaring as if it is irrelevant – a piece of useless information – not noteworthy, newsworthy, or being reported.

‘Insignificant’ comes to mind but then again her first ‘abusive husband’ was a policeman is mentioned in some of herstories told. Insignificant again when one of our prominent writers and commentators writes : “That skinny Indian fellow on stage by the name of Sonny Pillay” that was all that was mentioned in a lengthy feature about bygone artists as captured by Drum magazine. the Durban Post, etc. (an article I am sure we can get our hands on – featured in Lifestyle magazine Sunday Times about a year or two ago)

When Ma Brrr (Brenda Fassie -this is incredible weekend special is playing as I am writing this) was being paid tribute to on SABC. There were rolling credits and tributes paid to all the muso,s that had passed on in South Africa. There were names like Bles Bridges being mentioned but no tribute to Lionel Pillay one of the greatest piano players in his time in South Africa ironically I think composed music for the SABC as well.

A whole book could be written on this musical giant, a most sought-after session musician, who played on practically everyone’s records in South Africa. He recorded an album called “Deeper in Black” which can be reviewed now, which I believe would still be relevant in this day and age. The Shayennes, The Flames , Madi and the Goldfingers, Ivan Ross, Marsala (was not a good singer but sold a good few hundred albums “let me into your life”) are names that have a history and a place in South Africa it is homegrown. My heart pains at this exclusion, I keep crying: WHY Not even a MENTION?

The reader must note that I take the political self definition Black to include all peoples that are exploited and oppressed by Apartheid and racism in general. But I also believe that we must have this debate amongst Black people in particular and South Africans in general about who is included or excluded when we talk Black or the nation.

The big question thrown up in part by the Makeba story and also my life as a musician and activist is this: Are South Africans of Indian descent being deliberately written out of our history books. The participation of so called Indians or South Africans of Indian descent (or however you want to define it) in any arts or sports is always met with suprise, shock and suspicion.

The polarisation in our country has contributed to the stereotypical perception that other groups in South Africa have of the Indian. We are now 15 years into our democracy and still have these issues to deal with, most of which is downright disgusting.One can be forgiven for the history we have been fed by the apartheid clowns the kind of history where everthing was in favour of how the white man (was the most superior being) and only he achieved greatness. But how can our historians, writers (young people too) ignore in their scholastic research all the information available to make an honest appraisal of the participation – true picture of equal participation in all the arts forms in the country.

Do we do quality research or are are not qualified enough or are we simply biased? This is a shame when one consider that half the writers-journalists, grew up in relatively privileged circumstances and were not exposed to blatant racism and prejudice compared to the what the unsung heroes that I write about were indeed exposed to.

Something that I would like to share with you, something that unsettled me for many years when I was guitarist and co band leader in the group called OZILA. We were relatively successful and popular thanks to a hit record “Lifesaver I’m Suffering” which became synonymous with the struggle, and the song had a distinct handclap that was easily identifiable.

On touring most of the country we always were well received, however being the only member of Indian descent I received ‘special treatment’. some could not believe that I could really play, and on occassion, someone will oome up to me and stroke the strings of my guitar and also tap my microphone to see if it was on like I was faking it. I think this guy could not believe that a Black of Indian descent could be that talented sing and play guitar solos, etc. I’s not suppossed to be, it is just not cricket, cry foul!!!

The reluctance to accept that I was there on talent and talent only -no affirmative action ,was difficult to swallow even among some muso’s. I have been inspired by Kenny Mathaba my fellow guitarist and we saw pass all of the prejudice that I had to face and made a succes of our time together.

What I write about is not fiction but true life experiences. To conclude I say I am a true African and no biased fucking fellow black South African will deny me or my fellow South Africans our place in history. So if you do not like it why don’t you ..F…!!!

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