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  • Beyond Apartheid:race, transformation and governance in KwaZulu-Natal cricket1
  • Goolam Vahed (bio), Vishnu Padayachee (bio), and Ashwin Desai (bio)


In February 1990 South African President FW de Klerk unbanned the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Pan African Congress (PAC), allowing these organisations to return to 'normal' and active politics within the country after an absence of almost three decades. Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk were the leading figures in the protracted and complicated negotiations of the early 1990s. South Africa's first non-racial government was elected when the ANC won a landslide victory in April 1994. Perhaps not unexpectedly, given the balance of power between the apartheid state and the liberation movement, much was conceded during negotiations. Those who had pinned their hopes on a state-led, and interventionist economic recovery programme to address the inequities in power and wealth were to be disappointed. For by the end of the Cold War, a neo-liberal approach to economic management (also referred to as the Washington Consensus), with an emphasis on labour, trade and financial market liberalisation and the privatisation of state assets, was dominant. Programmes of re-distribution and redress in many sectors of South African society were placed on the back burner, as the new government attempted to demonstrate its commitment to this new global agenda.

Despite the formation of non-racial sporting bodies in many codes at both national and provincial levels, sport (including cricket) in early post-apartheid South Africa appears to have displayed continuity rather than disjuncture with its racist past and this segment of society remained firmly in the grip of the old-white elite, for whom it was 'business as usual', but with the crucial added bonus of international respectability. [End Page 63]

The ANC appreciated that symbols, songs and icons distinguish nations from each other, that sporting victories create positive images of national strength, and provide 'shared memories' and ideas of 'common destiny', and appropriated sport as part of its nationalising programme (Booth 1998: 210). This paper explores a variety of issues arising out of these changes in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Who are the beneficiaries of change? Is transformation in cricket just racial tokenism? Are there new tensions among blacks - Africans, Indians and coloureds - over the transformation agenda? Are issues of corporate governance, in what is clearly a major industry, creating new difficulties? Among other issues it looks at the historic construction of boundaries between Indians, whites and Africans in the struggle for control of cricket in this province in the first decade of freedom. The paper is less a narrative about cricket than it is about the making and persistence of race and ethnic classifications, the struggles over resources, and the attempts to mould disparate racial, economic, political, and ideological interests into a common nationhood.

While Africans make up the majority population in KwaZulu-Natal, Indians and whites together constitute over ninety-five per cent of cricket players and administrators in the province, both historically and in the contemporary period. Cricket has always been popular among coloureds, but their numbers in the province are negligible (Desai et al 2002: chapter 4). Unlike the Cape and the Transvaal, historical circumstances resulted in cricket failing to take root among Africans in Natal. Cricket was first introduced to Africans in Durban when the local state appointed JT Rawlins as its 'Native Welfare Officer' in April 1930. His mandate was to gainfully occupy the leisure time of the burgeoning African urban population so as to take their minds away from political 'agitation'. Cricket was part of a larger project by the local state to change African leisure-time activities, with the collaboration of capital, white liberals and African middle classes. The local state sponsored African participation in national tournaments for almost three decades. However, cricket was confined to African elites in Christian missions and schools, where it was part of a wider transmission of European norms and values, as well as among clerical workers in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Soccer and leisure activities like dance halls and music, which required less investment of finance and time, were more practical for a migrant population...


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pp. 63-88
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