Posts Tagged ‘IDsouthafrica’

Race and Football in South Africa


We’ve talked before about South Africa’s love of football, digging into the rivalry between the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. But while that illustrated the country’s passion for the game, today we will discuss the particular importance of football to the nation’s primarily black population.

While cricket and rugby are also popular games here, those sports have been historically white in this country, and even with the abolishment of apartheid in 1994, have remained predominantly white. While some blacks and colored people have started a rise to cricket or rugby notoriety, football still remains the clear king among these groups. For many of these people, South Africa’s proudest moment to this day is winning the African Cup of Nations in 1996. This post will expand a bit upon the South African football world, giving you some nice information to break the ice with next time you find yourself in a social situation with a South African.

We have already discussed the Kaizer Chiefs—essentially the New York Yankees or Manchester United of South African football—and their rival Orlando Pirates. However, there are other South African clubs that have earned popularity since the nation’s Premier League inked an international broadcasting deal in 2007, generating funds (it is now the seventh-wealthiest league in the world) to attract more talent. Some of the most notable include the Mamelodi Sundowns (also known as the “Brazilians”) and SuperSport United—both based in Tshwane/Pretoria.

As far as competitions go, the regular-season Premier League is the biggest prize, but there are several others. The MTN 8 is an annual knockout tournament featuring the top eight Premier League finishers from the previous season, while the Telkom Knockout Cup is similar but extends invitations to all 16 Premier League teams. There is also the Nedbank Cup, which is an annual tournament that gives lower-division clubs a chance to compete with (and sometimes defeat) Premier League squads.

Of course, there is also the national team, affectionately know as Bafana Bafana (“the boys”) and Banyana Banyana (“the girls”). Bafana Bafana’s aforementioned 1996 African Cup victory was a shock following the nation’s failure to even qualify for the 1994 edition, and a huge windfall for the national psyche in the fragile post-apartheid era. The club also put on a formidable showing as host nation of the 2010 World Cup, kicking the tournament off in fine fashion with a brilliant strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala in the opening match. Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, has consistently been one of the top clubs in Africa.

Bafana Bafana's Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

Bafana Bafana’s Siphiwe Tshabalala kicks off the 2010 World Cup with a goal against Mexico

IDcapetown: The Gum Boot Dance


Gumboot Dancers

Gumboot Dancers

You don’t need to spend too much time in tourist spots like Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront to witness a dance truly unique to South Africa—that of the gumboot. Originally conceived by black South African miners as an alternative to drumming, which was prohibited by authorities, the dance consists of a group of guys dressed in Wellington boots, often embellished with bells, stomping on the ground rhythmically.

Interestingly enough, the dance was originally intended to be a communication tool. Miners were not only prohibited from drumming—they were prohibited from talking altogether in some cases. Combine that with the dark, damp conditions in which they often had to work, and the sound of the stomping basically served as a code intended for someone nearby. As for the boots, they just happened to be what the miners wore, who often stood in knee-deep water while working.

An important part of South Africa’s cultural history, the gumboot dance is still seen frequently throughout the country, and also taught in some schools. While it certainly draws inspiration from other African dances featuring polyrhythm and body articulation, it is truly a South African art. Outside of the country, you can see traces of the gumboot dance’s influence in the step shows popularized by fraternities and sororities in the United States and beyond. But as nothing quite compares to the original, enjoy the video below!

Post-Apartheid (Reverse) Discrimination in South Africa?


South Africa was built on apartheid. For generations prior to 1994, blacks and whites were separated, with the whites essentially exploiting the powerless blacks for immense wealth and power. Blacks, who make up around 77% of the population of 45 million, were denied citizenship, subjected to legalized oppression and limited to menial, labor-intensive jobs. “Coloreds,” or people of mixed race, and Indians were placed socially above the blacks, but still considered inferior to the whites that comprised only 10% of the population.

Today, less than 20 years later, despite a Nelson Mandela-led transition into equality that went far smoother than could have been expected, race-related tension is still prominent. One of the areas in which this is most noticeable is in the jobs sector, with whites often complaining that the affirmative action measures in place tip the scales far too much against them.

Since the Employment Equity Act that was introduced in 1998, companies with 50 employees or more are required to provide equal opportunity for people that were previous disadvantaged on the grounds of race. While it applies to all sectors, enforcement officials have given extra attention to the banking, mining and insurance industries, which were historically dominated by whites.

This is a very touchy subject. Because while one can logically argue that by limiting promotional opportunities for whites—you run the risk of brain drain and losing competitiveness on a global scale, not on the basis of race but on education and experience, non-whites were also legally prevented from attaining education and experience to develop managerial skills.

But if you look at the numbers, surveys have shown that blacks currently hold around 30% of professional management positions in the country—still a far lower ratio than their demographic representation. It is also evident that the representation of blacks at the highest levels of management is still more than 80% lower than in “unskilled and defined decision-making” positions.

This debate has gone beyond the traditional job markets, even into decisions about rosters on the nation’s athletic teams. It was a huge scandal in 2002 when president of the country’s cricket board ordered the replacement of a white player with one of mixed race. The country is passionate about cricket, and whites complained that their 100 years of experience in the sport warranted inclusion on the national team. Blacks, however, argued that they were essentially banned from the sport for those 100 years, and thus were more than deserving of opportunities to reach a level playing field now.

Given the actual numbers mentioned above, it is hard to really give credibility to the white argument that they are suffering and battling the odds. They are simply having to work harder for things that were handed to them before, and I sincerely hope that rather than spark racial tensions on micro levels, it will lead to finally a truly equal society on the macro level. For a country that prides itself on being the “Rainbow Nation”, this is not only desirable, but essential.