An Interview with Krish Naidoo, General Secretary of the National Sports Congress (NSC)
IN 1960, South Africa took part in the Olympic Games for the last time. Soon afterwards, the African countries got together and made a resolution calling for an international boycott of South African sports. The Resolution was adopted. Since then, any tours to South Africa have been rebel tours.
This year, Mike Gatting and his British cricket team have come here to play cricket. Everywhere the cricketers go, they meet with thousands of people telling them to go home. In restaurants and hotels, the staff have downed tools and refused to serve the rebels. And on the playing fields, the applause of the few spectators is drowned out by the steady hum of freedom songs from those outside the stadium gates.
Learn and Teach spoke to Krish Naidoo, the General Secretary of the National Sports Congress (NSC), the organisation that has spearheaded the Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign.
Learn and Teach: Could you please give us some background to the National Sports Congress (NSC). How and when did it start?
Krish Naidoo: The UDF began to be concerned with sports and culture in 1985. In the same year, it campaigned against the New Zealand All Blacks rugby tour. The UDF made it clear to the team they couldn’t play in a country where apartheid is felt in each and every aspect of life, even sport. The tour was cancelled.
In 1986, the UDF established its Sports Desk, with the aim of working with UDF affiliates. In April 1988, we decided to form a broader sports organisation, called the National Sports Congress. Today, we have both regional and national structures and our membership has been open to all local sports clubs since December last year.
Learn and Teach: What are the NSC’s aims?
Krish Naidoo: Our policy is based on three legs. The first one is unity — we believe that in a post-apartheid South Africa there will be only one sports movement. The second leg is the development of sport — in Africa, too little attention is given to sports. We are trying to develop sports people for a post-apartheid South Africa.
The last leg is preparation — we are preparing our sports people to play a meaningful role in the new non-racial democratic society we are building.
As part of our programme of action we have organised Soccer Unity talks. They are going well and we hope that by the year 1992 we will have one soccer federation. We are also involved in unity talks in sports such as tennis and table tennis.
Learn and Teach: About Mike Gatting’s English Cricket tour— could you please talk about the campaign against it.
Krish Naidoo: Last year we met with the South African Cricket Union (SACU) and told them to forget about the English Cricket tour. We said they should instead solve the problems in sports in South Africa, such as the division in sport along racial lines. SACU refused to cancel the tour.
We then sent representatives of the UDF and COSATU to meet with the English cricketers. The cricketers still said they would not cancel. It was then that we decided to form the Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign. We have organised protest demonstrations against the tour like those that have taken place at Jan Smuts airport and Bloemfontein.
Learn and Teach: What are the aims of the campaign?
Krish Naidoo: Simply to stop the tour. But we have also decided to use this anti-tour campaign to educate our people about the sports struggle. At the same time, the campaign has shown us how much support we have. We hope that this will be the last rebel tour in this country.
Learn and Teach: What do you say to those whites who say that it is their democratic right to invite and watch Gatting and the English Cricket team?
Krish Naidoo: That is a mad understanding of democracy! They are not genuine with themselves because if they were truly democratic, they would do what the majority of the people in this country and the world are doing — that is, to reject the tour.
Learn and Teach: What gains have been made so far in the anti-tour campaign?
Krish Naidoo: We have had the chance to explain to our people about the sports struggle. We have made links with other sports organisations inside and outside South Africa. And we have had the chance to lay the basis for a mass sports movement in the future. Most importantly, we have educated and organised our people against apartheid sports.
Learn and Teach: Mike Gatting and his fellows have been called “rebels” and “mercenaries”. Do you agree with these descriptions?
Krish Naidoo: Yes! Mike Gatting and his English cricketers are breaking the laws of the world sports movement. We are not the founders of those laws — the international community is. So Gatting and his fellows are rebelling against the world.
Learn and Teach: Some time ago on TV we saw some black people in Bloemfontein protesting in favour of the tour. Who are these people?
Krish Naidoo: Those were school children who were transported from Bophuthatswana by SACU. They were not from Kimberley. We have learnt that they were paid to come and protest in favour of the tour. It was sort of a Rent-a-protester business. It makes a mockery of SACU and its leader AN Bacher, because people are asking why they used black children. This proves true that “SACU is riding to fame on the backs of blacks.”
Learn and Teach: Why has Mike Gatting’s tour been targeted? Other sports people who have broken the boycott, like the golfers at the Sun City “Million Dollar Tournament” and the recent American athletics team, did not experience the same protest actions as the cricket tour.
Krish Naidoo: We are still a new organisation, and we are doing it slowly but surely. We are still educating our people. We are planning more meetings to educate our people about other sports.
Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s relationship to the South African Council of Sports (SACOS) and to the South African Non-Racial Olympics Committee (SANROC)?
Krish Naidoo: We have a working relationship with SANROC, although we do not have formal links. SANROC has helped us a great deal during this Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign. Among other things, we have used their offices in Britain to launch our campaign there against this tour.
Our relationship with SACOS is not easy to explain. It is too early to talk of unity between the two organisations, but what I can say is that we have a very good relationship with some of SACOS’ sporting codes, especially cricket and rugby. Some of the officials and members of these codes are also NSC Interim Executive Committee members. We have discussed the question of unity with SACOS several times and we hope that SACOS will in future see itself as one of those forces that are fighting for unity in this country.
Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s position on sporting contacts with other nations or sports people from other nations?
Krish Naidoo: The International Campaign Against Apartheid Sport (ICAAS) says that no nation or sports people from other countries should have contact with South Africa until apartheid is completely destroyed. We are part of that world community.
Learn and Teach: Are there any exceptions to the NSC’s policy? In other words, are there any situations where the NSC would support sporting contact with other countries?
Krish Naidoo: The only exception is when we encourage people to go to other countries for training only. But those sports people must come back and share their skills with others. This is part of our 1990 programme of action.
Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s opinion of SACU’s township cricket coaching clinics? Do you see this as a sincere attempt to promote non-racial sport, or just an attempt to fool the world community?
Krish Naidoo: I have said that development is part of our programme. But our people have problems with SACU’s programme because they were not properly consulted by SACU. We learnt that they only consulted the DET, an apartheid structure that our people do not support.
In townships like Atteridgeville in Pretoria, people are organising against SACU’s cricket programme. The NSC is also planning to replace SACU’s programmes with our democratic ones.
Learn and Teach: Under what conditions will the sports boycott be lifted?
Krish Naidoo: For the sports boycott to be lifted, the South African sports people have to get their house in order. They have to be united and fight against apartheid. All of them — black and white — have the serious task of getting together and solving the problems of sponsorships and apartheid in sports.
We are quite confident that within two years we will have addressed these problems. We hope to see our sports people marching hand in hand with the masses of our people towards a non-racial democratic country. Then we shall be saying that conditions are ripe for the sports boycott to be lifted!
objectives — aims
mercenaries — people who are only interested in money
an attempt — when you make an attempt to do something, you try to do it
make a mockery of something — make something look stupid
address a problem — discuss a problem and try to solve it