“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
This powerful statement from Martin Luther King Jr came to my mind when former Proteas captain, Faf Du Plessis released an Instagram statement citing his support for Black Lives Matters (BLM) campaign. Du Plessis joined a legion of former Proteas players calling for equal treatment of Black, Coloured, Indian players in South African cricket. One can expect that a lot of former and current Proteas stars will also follow Du Plessis and show their solidarity to the #BLM.
It had to take the voice of one Lungi Ngidi to call for black solidarity in cricket, for the likes of Du Plessis to also show their allegiance to the course that seeks to end discrimination of any kind in cricket on Black players. And in brother King’s words, Du Plessis does not want to be seen as ‘cooperating’ into the oppression of Black, Indian and Coloured players, hence he finally came out to be on the right side of history.
The Makhaya Ntini interview on SABC about his experience with the national team further magnified the spotlight on how Cricket South Africa (CSA) and white players were complicit to the system that sought to dehumanise, exclude and to some extent oppress Black, Indian and Coloured players in the national team. The contentious debate has since moved to whether South Africans should buy into the “sudden realization” by white players about the fact that they now, after so many years of benefitting from an unjust system, accept and admit that Black, Indian, and Coloured players were treated differently than them in the national team.
Faf, as a Proteas Test, ODI and T20 captain, presided over a dressing room where the majority of Black, Indian, and Coloured were often made to feel like ‘outsiders’ in the national team. Unlike other sports, in cricket, a captain is included in the decision-making process on the team’s selection and he is practically a coach on the field in terms of changing playing personnel, Du Plessis as a skipper, presided in a system that prioritised white players over Indian, Coloured, and Black players. Players such as Aaron Phangiso, Mangaliso Mosehle, and Temba Bavuma were often overlooked, while players such as Duane Pretorius and Chris Morris were given chances after chances and Du Plessis was part of the so-called decision-makers in the technical team when such injustices were committed in the Proteas.
So, please forgive me when I do not buy into Du Plessis’s lip service to the #BLM campaign. There are a few questions which we should ask Du Plessis now;
What did he do as a captain to make sure that Black, Indian, and Coloured players felt welcomed in the Proteas set-up?
Did he socialise with Black, Indian, and Coloured players when the team was in camps and shared hotel rooms with them as he did with the likes of AB De Villiers, Dean Elgar, and other white players he is personal friends with?
What did he say to white players who would ridicule Indian, Coloured, Black players calling them “quota players” in his presence?
What did he do dismantle the white Afrikaner culture which dominated the Proteas’ dressing room?
The truth is, Du Plessis like the rest of former Proteas captains did nothing in relations to the above questions, they were complicit in a system that was/is hellbent in crushing out and isolate the likes of Ntini, Phangiso, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Until white players, especially captains(since we are still obsessed with having white captains) are able to create a conducive and dressing room that is socially welcoming to everyone, where players will socially connect with one another beyond linguistic and racial lines, then the so-called solidarity from the likes of Du Plessis remains a lip service. It cannot be that white Afrikaans-speaking players will form one group with another, and it becomes normalized in the team because they share a language and culture. A captain should crush such social arrangement to create racial integration in the team. The less said about CSA for now, the better, because they hired a white coach without even following the proper procedures, overlooking Black, Indian, or Coloured coach in the process.