Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has asked SA Rugby to make a pronouncement on the actions of eight SA players who refused to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement ahead of a match played in England at the weekend.
Mthethwa added that the state will ‘hunt down’ people who show a racist attitude.
The eight South Africans were part of 11 players from the Manchester-based Sale Sharks club that elected to remain standing during the pre-match activity ahead of an English Premiership match against Harlequins.
Those who did not kneel are Springbok World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager; twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez; their older brother Robert; Akker van der Merwe; Coenie Oosthuizen; and club captain Jono Ross.
They all wore “Rugby Against Racism” T-shirts, but their decision not to kneel has caused an uproar in SA and in other parts of the world.
Mthethwa said: “We do not want to jump the gun on the specific matter of the SA players in England who didn’t kneel in support of the BLM movement, but we did say we want to understand what’s happening‚ and what the position of SA Rugby is in this whole thing.”
The minister said the whole country united behind the Springboks during the World Cup in Japan in 2019 and the actions of those displaying “racist behaviour and showing [a] racist attitude” will not be tolerated.
“The first thing we noted is that they were wearing the T-shirts which support [the] BLM movement but they did not kneel‚” Mthethwa said. “Upon seeing this‚ I interacted with SA Rugby through its president [Mark Alexander] and I asked him to explain what’s happening so that we are on the same wavelength.
“You must remember we were together at the World Cup in Japan as a country with some of the players and one thing which cannot be tolerated is when somebody is displaying racist behaviour. The president of SA Rugby did say they are going to be having their own meeting and they will make their views known.”
Mthethwa said the government would take the necessary steps to deal with people who continue to undermine efforts to combat racism.
“I must underscore the point that there have been statements in the past coming from that quarter, which seem to be identifying themselves with the BLM movement‚” he said.
“[The] BLM movement is important because the rot and the pain has been faced by black players here in SA. Racism is no longer in the statute books but some are practising it covertly and we are saying we will hunt them down because we know the pain caused by this cancer called racism.
“We are ready to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that people toe the line and those who are racist are taught to embrace other people. If that doesn’t happen‚ the government is going to come in handy to ensure that we do what the constitution mandates us to do.
“Nonracialism is not just something that is superficial but has to come from the roots.”