SA introduces steps to prevent racism

Published: Monday, April 30, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Durban: Racial comments made by white cricket players in local leagues here against South African Indian players has led to the introduction of bylaws in terms of which any players found guilty of making such remarks could get a life ban.

This follows several incidents of remarks against South African Indian players with action against the offenders by their clubs being viewed as inadequate.

The president of the Durban District Cricket Union, Logan Naidoo, confirmed that by early next year cricket bylaws would be changed to make provision for a life ban on any player found guilty of racial remarks against other players.

But Naidoo emphasised that this would be only "for extreme cases", with the definition of "normal" and "extreme" offences still to be decided by the Union. He said the proposed bylaws were designed "as a preventative measure for racist acts."

A representative of the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union, the provincial affiliate of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, also welcomed the move. Sada Naidoo told the 'Tribune Herald' here that the move was "a step in the right direction for the development of the sport."

South African cricket had been divided along racial lines for decades through apartheid legislation, and integration of the sport only began about a decade ago. In KwaZulu-Natal province, where most of South Africa's 1.2 million South African Indians live, dozens of local teams are still divided along mainly racial lines as their residential areas remain largely occupied by Indians who were forcibly resettled there during the apartheid years.

The proposed drastic action by the cricket authorities follows incidents in which offensive remarks were made about South African Indian players. Although the word "coolie" can be heard at scores of South African Indian railway stations regularly to hail a porter, in South Africa it has developed into one of the most derogatory and offensive terms to refer to people of Indians origin.

South African Indians take great offence at the word, which has been used for the past century by whites to refer to Indians in a derogatory context. Another term considered offensive by local Indians is "cane-cutters," often used in the past by whites in KwaZulu-Natal province, where the first settlers from India landed in 1860 as indentured laborers for the sugarcane plantations owned mainly by British settlers.

Both these offensive terms were used in cricket matches, which prompted the action. In the most recent incident, in a match between the clubs Amanzimtoti (mainly white) and Merebank (mainly Indian), both areas south of Durban, the captain of the Amanzimtoti Club, Edmund Pretorius, allegedly said, "The coolies can go fishing" (a popular pastime with Indians in Durban)."

He later apologised in writing, claiming that he had not aimed the remark at any individual player, but that it was a general comment. But the Merebank Cricket Club refused to accept Pretorius' apology, even though the board of the Amanzimtoti club told them that did not condone any form of racism. Merebank members said a three-match suspension served on Pretorius after a hearing a fortnight ago was not sufficient punishment.

India Abroad News Service 

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