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Rooting for the uitlander

   28 July 2017   l   Johnny Masilela    l   Views: 105   l   8 months ago  


We all tend to take for granted the fairly healthy race relations of present-day South Africa.

There was a time when things were bad, really bad.

The likes of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had called for an economic blockade against the country, with likewise devastating effects on both the sports and cultural fronts.

On the sports front, both black and white athletes were barred from showcasing their talents on the international stage.

But the Nationalists designed certain clandestine strategies to break the sports boycott, and to some extent succeeded in bringing the odd “rebel” cricket tour to our racially-divided shores.

Take the heavyweight boxing title fight between Kallie Knoetze and the African-American, John Tate, at Sun City, for instance.

White South Africa was, on the one hand, anticipating a great performance from a compatriot, while the townships and villages rooted for Tate, simply because he was black like us.

In a nutshell, it was the collective wish of black people that Tate knock the lights out of Knoetze, his sin being white and worse still, a former member of the “skop, skiet en donder” South African Police. 

Behind the scenes at Sun City, a completely ironic narrative was playing itself out.

Bra J, at the time a boxing scribe for a Johannesburg-based daily newspaper, once whispered to me that in-between the pre-fight training sessions, he stumbled into Knoetze in the corridors at Sun City.

Because being seen with the boxer was taboo among blacks, Bra J said he looked over his shoulder, to make sure he was safe from prying eyes.

He then whispered to Knoetze: “Kallie, jy weet ons sportskrywers sukkel baie. Het jy miskien nie R50 vir my nie, ou maat?”.

Knoetze was still in his boxing shorts, and promised to arrange “something” for Bra J shortly.

Then at dinner, with both local and foreign boxing writers converged at a restaurant, Kallie innocently arrived waving a R50 note between his fingers, passing the money onto the blushing Bra J.

I personally met Kallie at a golf course in Brits, ahead of the first elections for a democratic South Africa.

Kallie proudly showed off his Mandela-led ANC membership card, just like many other whites had boasted at the time.

• Johnny Masilela’s novel, We Shall Not Weep (Kwela Books), is on sale at PNA at Bela-Bela and Oude Werf Antiques and Décor at Modimolle 




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