By Chris Nenzani
RACISM is one of the biggest and most dangerous scourges to afflict the world in the history of mankind. It can be defeated neither on the battlefields nor through financial might. It can only be overcome by winning the hearts and minds of every human being.
At times like these, it is always beneficial to reflect on the thoughts and words of the revered founding father of our young nation, our beloved Madiba. In his words to the United Nations General Assembly shortly after his election as our first President in 1994, he said: “We must ensure that colour, race and gender become only a God-given gift to each one of us and not an indelible mark or attribute that accords a special status to any.”
The story of one of cricket’s greatest broadcasters, John Arlott, on the occasion of his first and only visit to South Africa to report on the England tour of 1948/49 is also worth recalling. This tour took place shortly after the apartheid government had come to power. When Arlott was required at Johannesburg Airport to fill in an immigration form that inter alia asked a question as to his race – giving him the choice of white, coloured, black and Asian as answers – he crossed them all out and wrote ‘HUMAN RACE’ in the space provided.
This story had its expected ending when the immigration official crossed out his answer and ticked the white box on his behalf.
Arlott never visited South Africa again, such was his abhorrence of the system in place. He went on to play a major role in making Basil d’Oliveira’s move to England and the development of his cricket career to a wonderful climax. This became more than a dream for Basil.
But Arlott’s message is very clear: We all belong to the same human race.
This is the message that we must all strive to drive into the minds of everybody who crosses our path. We have all been blessed with a multitude of talents and we must make sure that we use them for the purpose for which they were created.
At Cricket South Africa, we are blessed with a wonderful diversity of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities across our entire system. We have always regarded this diversity as one of our strengths. Our mens’ and womens’ national teams will be playing a major role in driving home the messages of the Anti-Racism Week campaign during their double-header T20 International matches against Australia and the West Indies.
The vivid memories that Ahmed Kathrada passed on to our players at their Proteas Cultural Identity Camp several years ago of his own experiences in the dark days of apartheid and his time on Robben Island made such an impact on them, that they will never forget the camp.
Diversity remains one of the key principles of our transformation agenda and we will not achieve our vision of making cricket accessible to all and of making it a truly national sport if we do not embrace all our people in our country. That means that, to use cricket parlance, we must all be batting on the same side.
I was deeply encouraged by the way our entire cricket constituency embraced our Transformation Indaba in 2013 with the result that we were able to formulate and execute a number of wide-ranging resolutions that were unanimously adopted.
Cricket South Africa is committed to taking our state of heart and mind onto a much bigger and more important stage. Let us all join the challenge to destroy this scourge of racism as one humanity.
*Chris Nenzani is the President of Cricket South Africa.
– Anti-Racism week takes place from March 14-21, and launches on March 6 at the Wanderers Stadium T20 match between South Africa and Australia. The campaign encourages all South Africans to #TakeOnRacism by learning and talking about it, and speaking and acting against it. For more information, visit www.arnsa.org.za