Sports Politics: ANC asks a high price for consent

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The Independent Online
WHEN the Celtic and Rangers of South African rugby, Transvaal and Northern Transvaal, meet in a Currie Cup match in Pretoria this Saturday, Nelson Mandela's African National Congress will expect all the players to wear stickers reading 'Peace and Democracy'.

This, at any rate, is the price they will have to pay if the country's rugby authorities want the eagerly anticipated All Black and Wallaby tours in August to go ahead without complication.

In a gesture of unexpected magnanimity, the ANC announced yesterday they were giving the go- ahead to all scheduled South African participation in international sports events, including the Olympics. The condition, however, was that all sports bodies should effectively become instruments of the ANC's propaganda machine.

In the cases of cricket, football and the various Olympic sports, the condition has been accepted. At a press conference at the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg yesterday afternoon, South Africa's top sporting administrators sat alongside senior officials of the ANC and gave their blessing to a proposal for sportsmen and women openly to assist in ridding the country of 'the criminal system of apartheid'.

However, Rugby Board officials did not participate either at the press conference or at an earlier meeting with the ANC executive. But it was made clear by Mluleki George, president of the National and Olympic Sports Congress, that if South African rugby did not play by the new 'liberation' rules, the forthcoming tours would be called off.

Among the pro-ANC - and, by extension, anti-government - publicity stunts to which the sports bodies have committed themselves will be the wearing of 'Peace and Democracy' stickers or armbands by all 'sportspersons' at all sports events and functions; newspaper advertisements condemning violence and calling for democracy; leaflets expressing concern at the present political impasse; pro-peace material on display at all major fixtures; and political statements issued by individual sports personalities.

These commitments were made at the ANC press conference yesterday by Sam Ramsamy, president of the National Olympic Committee, on behalf of all sports bodies.

In addition - and here the ANC bias is most transparently conveyed - the sports bodies would 'voice their unqualified support for a democratically elected constitution-making body'. The government of F W de Klerk has agreed in principle to the establishment of such a body, but categorically not to one elected along the democratic lines proposed by the ANC.

Also, Mr Ramsamy said, all international touring teams would pay a visit to Boipatong, the township where 42 men, women and children were massacred by the ANC's most fierce political opponents, the Inkatha Zulus, two weeks ago.

This means that Crystal Palace will also be joining the ANC propaganda circus upon their arrival in South Africa for a tour two weeks from now. The South African Football Association confirmed yesterday that Palace would have Boipatong on their itinerary. The same goes for the Cameroon national team, whose ground- breaking tour starting this weekend was confirmed yesterday.

Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board, confirmed too that a match at Lord's two weeks from now between the Transvaal provincial team and an MCC XI would go ahead. As a participant at yesterday's ANC press conference, he declared that the South African players would indeed be wearing 'Peace and Democracy' stickers at the match.

But for all the pious hopes of Dr Bacher and the other sporting worthies gathered at ANC headquarters yesterday, it is hard to visualise Adolf Malan, Drikus Hattingh, Uli Schmidt, Pote Fourie and others in Northern Transvaal's 'Blue Bulls' pack doing likewise on Saturday.