Fikile Mbalula, the Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC), sparked controversy by implying that he played a pivotal role in the success of the Springboks by doing away with rugby quotas during his tenure as sports minister.
On the 31st of October, a Twitter (X) user, @Tabile_Zukile, attributed the selection of players based on merit rather than the colour of their skin to the arrival of Rassie Erasmus, the former head coach who now serves as rugby director. The user commended Erasmus and said he “deserves all the recognition.”
Those who followed rugby will know the struggles black players faced, being called quota players. But arrival of Rassie Erasmus made sure that if you are good enough you get selected regardless of the colour of your skin. He deserves all the recognition. #SpringboksRWC pic.twitter.com/WB4sqxh95B
— Madiba waseQamata (@Tabile_Zukile) October 31, 2023
In response, Fikile Mbalula asserted that it wasn’t Erasmus who eliminated quotas but himself. He expressed the view that quotas had proven to be counterproductive.
And that’s exactly why this clip of Ashwin Willemse hurt so many people who understand the history of South African rugby.
You can hear Ashwin’s voice breaking.
— Sdudla Mafehlefeezy♥ (@lulu_luwela) October 31, 2023
This statement from Mbalula prompted critical responses from several users, with one user pointing out that while Mbalula may have eliminated quotas, he failed to enhance other aspects of national pride, specifically the railways. The sentiment was summed up with the remark, “Sit down Fikile!”
Other users also raised valid points. One questioned why quotas were implemented in the first place if the ANC disagreed with them, while another stressed that true leaders often allow their achievements to speak for themselves without needing to boast.
Fikile Mbalula served as the Minister of Sport from 2010 to 2017. Then, he served as the Minister of Police from 2017 to 2018. Currently, he is the Minister of Transport since 2019. He holds the position of Secretary-General for the ANC.
Notably, in 2016, Mbalula openly stated his opposition to quotas in rugby. He viewed the selection of quota players as an insult. He highlighted the importance of players earning their spots on merit. Mbalula stressed that the transformation goal should not be achieved through quotas but rather through a process that reflects the integrated society South Africa aspires to be.
However, in April of the same year, Mbalula revoked SA Rugby’s right to host and bid for international tournaments after failing to meet transformation targets.
Picture: X / MbalulaFikile
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