Media Statement: Cultural Affairs and Sport: foundation of nation building
As we celebrate the centenary of Tata Madiba we are reminded of his strong belief that “our human compassion binds us, the one to the other, not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”. Through his actions and legacy, he taught of the invaluable role Cultural Affairs and Sport had and continues to have in our reconciliation as we continue to build a once divided nation.
Since the beginning of this auspicious centennial year, we have seen an increase in media coverage on cultural affairs, but perhaps also more cultural clashes than Madiba envisioned.
Taking centre stage recently was the contentious renaming of Cape Town International Airport last week. Prior to that we had the Ashwyn Willemse/Nick Mallet/Naas Botha incident and, locally in the Western Cape, the Siqalo stand-off which the media reported as clashes between two racial groups. Social media was awash with racialised bickering, and it often seemed that headlines and sensationalism were taking precedence over reasoned debate and sustainable solutions. One could’ve been forgiven for thinking that our societal centre would no longer hold, and that things were about to fall apart, to borrow a phrase from Chinua Achebe.
But as so often happens, South African society can swing like a pendulum – from the brink of disaster to hope. Before we knew it, we were once again swept up in pride and unity, as the new A-team of Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus led the boks to victory at that most special stadium – Ellis Park – and the Blitzbokke staged a superb win to be crowned HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Champions. Banyana Banyana also added to the light of hope with their 6-0 victory against Lesotho, and deservedly qualified for the CAF Women Nations Cup finals scheduled for Ghana in November this year.
While victories in sport do not magically change the many problems our society faces, it does lift the national mood, and remains an important vehicle for social cohesion. It is in our DNA as South Africans and we need to leverage this unifying force for all its worth, including as a pathway to opportunity for our youth.
This is why we come to work each day at the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. Our goal is to create an enabling environment for young sportsmen and women, because we know that diversity begins at grassroots. We are committed to pushing for the social inclusion of all.
In budgetary terms, cultural affairs and sport portfolios are far from the front of National Treasury’s queue. Given the true impact of sport on our society, perhaps it is time this changed?
Each time sport has shown that it can - as Madiba so eloquently said - “create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination”.
In the spirit of Madiba, let us recommit to our nation-building project, using some of the best tools with which our nation was originally forged – sport, goodwill, and unity in our diversity.