While white South African swimmers, Cameron van den Burgh and Chad Le Clos, have won gold medals at the Olympic games in London, complaints that “Team SA” is “too white” have surfaced. In a country where affirmative action requires black majorities everywhere, even racial quotas for sports teams, the sight of two young white men winning gold medals have jarred local sensibilities.
On Twitter, one member of the black elite tweeted “Whites will be hugged by the likes of @Sentletse @Mabine_Seabe @khayadlanga because of that Gold. #2012London I’ll wait for Caster’s Bronze”. Caster refers to Caster Semenya, the black female 800m athlete whose career has been marred by a controversy about her gender.
Whereas white faces are almost never shown in leadership positions on state TV, many of the black presenters for the Olympic games have enthused about “our gold medals” won by the the two white swimmers.
Sapa reports that former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has defended the racial make-up of the SA Olympic team after suggestions that it was too white.
Malema was asked about the team during an interview with British Sky News on Tuesday.
The Sky News interviewer said: “It did strike me that there weren’t many black faces in the group for a black majority country.”
Malema said the team members were chosen because they were qualified.
“We think that we’re a non-racial country and all South Africans who have qualified to make Team SA should carry the flag proudly, and we support them,” he said.
“It’s not [any] more about the issue of colour.”
Malema said there was still a problem with poor communities not having access to sport. Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula was working to resolve this.
“It’s quite a serious challenge, but we’re still very proud of our Team SA,” Malema said.