Please allow me to comment on an article published in the Confidente weekly newspaper, dated 29 June 2017, under the headline “Breaking down racial barriers”.
I was hoping somebody would have pointed out the discrepancies in Laurie Pieters’ article and have the greatest of respect for the man whom I regard as one of the best sports administrators in Namibia.
However, I have also noticed that Pieters mentioned in the said article what he has done and not Cricket Namibia (CN) and I therefore accept that was written as his views and beliefs and not necessarily those of CN.
I will also fail in my duty as all those that resolved to keep silent on the incorrectness of his report, making the general public believe it is correct. In 2002, Pieters in his own words (and not CN) said he introduced a development programme to 13,000 kids, of which the majority are black. Needless to say, the different age group teams, up to the national senior team, do not reflect this. It must be noted that there is a distinct difference between developmental programmes and sports/coaching clinics.
The veteran long serving CN board member Pieters has revealed how a development programme he introduced in 2002 has now resulted in the previously and still white-dominated sporting discipline being introduced to 13,000 kids, of which the majority are black, really?
Pieters, how many of those ethnic black cricketers have progressed through the national age group ranks to the senior cricket 11? There is a distinct difference between a development programme and a one-day clinic.
It also makes me wonder why you have embarked on a development only after you have severed ties with Cricket South Africa?
While bemoaning Namibia’s underperformance at major International sporting events, Pieters said he remains a vocal advocate for the country to have inclusive national teams across all its sporting codes by 2020.
Again Pieters, you got it very much wrong. How can any sports administrator so easily forget the achievements of our disabled athletes at the Paralympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships?
Do you then regard sports for the disabled inferior to the so-called able-bodied sports. Does your misplaced assessment not constitute a form of discrimination against disabled people?
Let us also not forget the performances of the senior rugby side at five 5 World Cups, viewed by more than a billion television viewers. They might not have won a match at a IRB World cup finals, but did not disgrace the country either. They have become more than just competitive.
In fact, Mr Pieters, with rugby’s participation in the Rugby World Cup they are doubtlessly the biggest marketers for Namibia, through its global television audience over a period of six weeks.
Mr Pieters I’m sure you will agree with me that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism should financially support the national rugby team in preparation for the next Rugby World Cup. It will be money well spent. In fact, it will be free advertising for the country.
Inclusive national teams by 2020? Inclusiveness is no longer an issue, Mr Pieters.
Inclusiveness can be one ethnic black or coloured person. When last did you watch our senior rugby side in action?
It’s inclusive of all ethnic groups, but not representative of our ethnic demographics. Here you have completely missed the point. The matter that should be of concern is representation on merit and that simply means development, transformation and exposure according to the ethic ratio.
Meaning 87.5% should be blacks, 6% whites and 6.5% mixed (whatever that is). To sum it up, cricket should have nine ethnic black cricketers, whites and mixed one each: Rugby – 13 ethnic blacks and whites and mixed one each, then our national teams will be truly representative.
So, it’s not about inclusiveness, but representation. Many sports bodies, such as the National Rugby Union (NRU), has fought and sacrificed for this ideal. We could not get this ratio right in 27 years of democracy and I cannot see how it will be achieved within three years from now.
In 2002, Pieters embarked on a CN developmental programme, which was inclusive of all cultures and races, and which was administered by Marcia Raid and Jona Ambuka.
He said from 2003 to 2008, the programme registered 5,000 would-be cricketers, as it targeted regions in the northern parts of the country. Pieters said by 2014, CN had introduced the sport to 13,000 children, of which a significant number hailed from schools in Oshakati, Oshikuku, Otjiwarongo, Outjo, Rundu, Windhoek and Swakopmund.
Can Mr Pieters tell us, the readers, that since you claimed to have started a cricketing programme in 2003, 14 years ago to be precise, can we then say you have a regional cricket body with a functional league in Oshakati, Oshikuku, Rundu, Outjo, Swakopmund, Windhoek and Otjiwarongo?
Mr Pieters it is on record that veteran sports journalist Carlos Kambaekwa has constantly fingered Namibian cricket of racism which was vehemently denied by cricket administrators. But as a former CEO of CN, who has always shot down the allegations, you have now admitted that it is indeed so by claiming blacks deserved to be called up, but were never called up.
You also refer to 40–45% must be cricketers of colour, but alas, how did you arrive at this ratio? So, what you are saying the national cricket 11 must still be predominantly white, whereas the ratio is 87.5% is ethnic black and 6% white in this country?
This is a typical example of the tail wagging the dog and still wants to wag the tail til kingdom come. I’m very much curious to know why white cricketers must still be more than 50%. Is this how you are breaking down the racial barriers?
Regrettably, my learned colleague added that the poor performances of our national teams across all sport codes on the global stage, can be attributed to poor coaching structures.
I think to generalise is a big mistake Mr Pieters, Again look at the Sports for Disabled achievements over last past years.
Or do we still believe that sports for the disabled are inferior to the so-called normal sports, despite their global achievements? Are their achievements a fluke or due to hard work and excellent coaching?
The problem, in my view, is not poor coaching structures, but the failure to differentiate between a development programme and a clinic, while I also admit that inadequate funding does play a major role.
The renowned administrator, who is also a former CN chief executive officer, said the lack of proper coaches can be blamed on government, whose red tape, in terms of employing foreign nationals, is cumbersome. He added that government can make it easier for sport codes to employ qualified coaches, if it streamlines the process of acquiring work permits and other substantive documents.
It has become the norm by a certain group of sports administrators to blame government for the failure to develop sport. Hello, the onus is on the sports code to grow their sport codes. This is written in each sports code’s constitution. Nowhere does it say: ‘subject to funds available from the government’.
You have not consulted government before putting that clause in your constitution. So it’s a promise you made and a promise you should keep. How come the Welwitschias have a foreign coach?
Why should the laws of the country be amended to suit certain sports codes that failed to develop their own coaches. Surely, we do have coaches with the potential to rise to the occasion. Foreign coaches do not guarantee success.
The cricket administrator, who was introduced to the game, when he attended a test match between South Africa and New Zealand at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1952 with his late father, said that “success breeds success”.
Born in 1944, Pieters said that more money must be injected into sport, although there are other priority areas in the country, such as health and housing. The 73-year-old said that Namibia must start winning at world events by employing competent coaches and funding its players.
The former Centaurus High School pupil, who played for Wanderers Cricket Club during his heyday, admitted that during apartheid, cricket was an all-white sport, played by a select few. He said Namibia’s independence in 1990 brought a huge change, as the administration of the game changed, and many left the country, especially whites.
Pieters said that at independence, Namibia was left with only 60 top cricketers, and when he was asked to become CN’s chairman in 1992, the sport became the first code in the country to adhere to the Gleneagles Agreement, a pact between Commonwealth leaders to discourage sporting contact with apartheid South Africa.
Mr Pieters for the record. The Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) was an affiliate of the South African Rugby Union, better known as SARU, which in turn was a member of the South African Council On Sports, which was in good standing with the then banned ANC, was the first sports organisation to sever ties with sporting organisations in South Africa.
September 1989 – to be correct – at an AGM of SARU attended by myself and then president of NRU Adv John Walters. For the record, the NRU was the very first sports organisation way before independence to accept the name Namibia, where some “others” regarded it as a name used by “terrorists”.
The South West Africa Rugby Union (SWARU), an affiliate of the South African Rugby Board, and supporter of the pro-apartheid SA regime, reluctantly severed those ties.
Mr Pieters, to refresh your memory, by your own admission, Cricket Namibia was still affiliated to Cricket South Africa up until 1992 as a province, I assume.
For two years after Independence, cricket holed up in an Independent Namibia either refused to recognise Namibia’s Independence or wanted to stay on as a provincial team of Cricket South Africa, the cricket body of apartheid South Africa.
Further, Mr Pieters it is a blatantly false statement you made by declaring that cricket was the first sports code to adhere to the Gleneagles Agreement. NRU was the very first, followed by all the other sports codes before or after Independence, apart from CN choosing to remain with Cricket South Africa.
The ban on South Africa was lifted in 1992, bringing an end to the Gleneagles Agreement, signed by presidents and prime ministers of the Commonwealth countries at the holiday resort Gleneagles, Scotland on the 15 June 1977.
Therefore, Mr Pieters, as CN was a member of Cricket South Africa, the boycott was against CN, as well. By returning “home” you lifted the boycott against yourself, whereas all other local sports codes had already done it before 1992.
So please, cricket was not the first sports code to sever ties with South Africa, but the last to acknowledge Namibia as a sovereign country and that it was no longer a South African province. Your statement is an insult to sports codes that severed those ties long before the cricket fraternity.
Although Namibia has so far dismally failed to qualify for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup, Pieters is optimistic that things will change in the future, as the team attends training programmes at high-performance centres and is coached by people with world-class skills.
Finally, Mr Pieters looking at the heading of this article you have provided to the media – “Breaking Down Racial Barriers”. Is this an admission that Cricket Namibia was practising racism all these years, as suggested in media circles? I mean, you don’t break down racial barriers if they do not exist.
I accept that article in the Confidente, dated 29 June 2017, is based on Pieters’ personal views and not necessarily those of CN and, therefore, I responded to the article in my personal capacity freely expressing my personal opinion.
I sign off with a famous quote by Adv John Walters: “I need not to be praised. History will judge me.”
* Shortened. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the stance of New Era.