Guest speaker at the Maties Sports Awards (14/10/2015)
Chief Director of Maties Sport, Wiaan Groenewald
Events Co-ordinatior, Cindy van der Merwe
Athletes (Stars of the Night)
Ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to thank the leadership of Maties sports for inviting me to speak at the awards. The last time I attended the awards I was a nominee, in some cricket category. All I remember is I walked away inspired, given the quality and caliber of athletes that were present that night.
To all the athletes who will walk away winners, I commend your hard work. Enjoy the success you have achieved. All the athletes here tonight recognize that sport is of short term importance, but through it we lay the foundations of valuing a healthy and fit body, having fun in physical pursuits, learning about healthy competition and fair play, teamwork and hard work for non-material rewards.
In his book Beyond a Boundary CLR James argues that cricket has been immersed in politics more than any other sport. In particular, the politics, race, class and empire. To all my cricket friends here tonight, cricket has plunged you into politics long before you were aware of it. Given the issues that have emerged in recent times at the University, let me share with you my experience at the University. And this will hopefully shed light on an array of issues facing students at the University, particularly black students.
The following are things that made my time at the University enjoyable and I think these still require our urgent attention:
1). Access to student housing. State of the art Metanoia was my home.
2). I had tutors and lectures who took an active interest in my academic development. It is no coincidence that I pursued post graduate studies in philosophy and economics. However, this would not have happened without adequate housing and financial support.
3). A full bursary eased the financial burden on my family. I could fully cast my mind on the task at hand.
4). We often hear how kids engaged in sport stay away from crime and drugs. University sport, I believe, unconsciously shielded me from the challenges experienced by black students on campus. By virtue of leading the Maties cricket XI, I was a privileged black person and became part of the establishment.
A more salient feature that helped me navigate myself through this terrain was the quality of schooling I received before attending Stellies. I attended St. John’s college (SJC) in Johannesburg. SJC is a private school that not only provides quality schooling but enthuses young men with confidence. A characteristic the most of our public schools rob young men of. Upon reflection, confidence is arguably one of the most important qualities required to attain a university degree. Let me read you the charge read to matriculants when leaving the college:
“Men of St. John’s, the true gold of Africa, shining hope of the future. May God’s light guide you, May his life energize you, May his love enfold you. Lux Vita Caritas — God’s light, life and love. That is everything you need for your journey. Dare to do something great with your life”.
This charge reveals what the school has been attempting to instill in you for your duration there. How can one walk away to inspired to do something significant with their lives.
What hindered my development at the University?
I am Setswana first language speaker. Second English. Afrikaans didn’t even exist in my world when I arrived.
What is to be done?
Assuming that we agree that the interest of the country and continent come before our own or positions we might hold, this will necessarily mean that we have to engage in debates about which choices serve to advance or impede the interest of the country and continent. Does the language policy serve the interest of the country. How are we going to tackle racism. Moreover, going back to the reason we are all here tonight, how do we efficiently and effectively transform university and university sport.
To remain relevant to itself and the wider society, Stellenbosch University will have to take a principled position on these issues among others. This will require organized and bold leadership that is willing to stand by and be loyal to principle and to defend it even when the consequences are personal vilifications. A leadership of this nature will come to appreciate the words of Frederick Douglas: “ The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there’s no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men and women who want crops without ploughing up the ground, they want rain without the thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters”.
I thank you for your attention.