Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gary Player's Chickens Home to Roost

The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF) has moved to distance itself from apartheid-era golfer, Gary Player, amidst revelations of his relationsip with junta leaders in Burma.

Archbishop Bishop Tutu called on former President Mandela to end his association with Player who is an honorary guest, and the host, of the Nelson Mandela International tournament.

Player has been instrumental in setting up the tournament and he has acted as the host for the past six years. It is little wonder then that many observers, including myself, assumed that the tournament actually ‘belonged’ to Player.

The NMCF’s representative, Oupa Ngwenya, commented on a call-in show (Radio 702) that Player was only an invited guest of the tournament. Ngwenya went on to say that even though Player used his extensive contacts among golfers to add value to the tournament, the NMCF was the sole owner.

This may be so if we take his Ngwenya’s word. But even he had to admit that the tournament is an association of two primary charities: the NMCF and the Gary Player Foundation.

What this means, is that Player’s charity/foundation, and his name by implication, is still very much part of the tournament.

The fancy footwork that led the NMCF not to invite Player to host the upcoming tournament is a significant distancing at best; it hardly represents a fundamental break with Player.

Player in true apartheid era fashion has hit back by saying that he does not need to "justify his human rights record."


What record is he referring to in this instance? Would it be the racist commentary he delivered in his autobiography entitled “Grand Slam Golf”? In this 1966 (2nd edition) he leaves no doubt about his ardent support for the apartheid regime, and he racistly describes Black folk as "barbarians."

As can be expected, there is much debate in open forums that highlight, again, the fractured nature of race relations in South Africa. Many white South Africans have called in to talk radio to lambast Tutu and to call President Mbeki a hypocrite.

They are eager to point out (as is Player) that Player has raised millions for poor Black children. One white caller said: "Mbeki is propping up a regime that kills white people in Zimbabwe and Tutu is worried about Player who built a golf course in Burma … does not seem right to me."

This kind of comment is the now usual muddling of issues that seeks to obscure the brutal weight of the apartheid past.

Zondo, who commented on my post below, aptly describes the relevant issues at hand when he writes elsewhere:
“it is hard to find any white person who admits to voting for the National Party these days … But Player takes the cake. He has reinvented himself as Nelson Mandela's big buddy and a fighter for human rights. Am I the only person in South Africa who remembers Player's support and defence of the apartheid regime? I was only a teenager, but well remember my father's anger towards Player. ...

He defended what was called "separate development" to the outside world on numerous occasions. He didn't keep quiet about the regime's polices, he actively defended them.

He was a regular golfing partner with ... Prime Minister BJ Vorster ...(who) was responsible for some of the most draconian detention laws such as the 90 and 180 day detention without trial.

The sad part of this is that if Player had the beliefs then that he now claims to have now, he could have, with his high profile in the world, put the spotlight and real pressure on the apartheid regime. …

Has anyone ever heard him saying he was wrong for supporting apartheid? Because after his very public support for many years, he owes the black people of this country an apology before he can get on with his new life as a campaigner for democracy and human rights.”

Good questions Zondo. No one will hear him apologize because like many other whites he thinks he has done nothing wrong. His money, and his connections, have afforded him the denial-space to evade close scrutiny.

What still galls me is the manner in which the African National Congress Mandela, and the NMCF, was cozy with the likes of Player.

I am not surprised by the reaction of many whites who want us to forget the past and, thereby, erase their complicity.

That part is to be expected.

But, in the words of Judith Herman:”The past will refuse to be buried.” And is this not so true of the events that are unfolding around Gary Player?


Anonymous said...

How did I miss this post...I must admit I didn't know much about Gary Player off the field. I am also not a Golf fan so I knew him as a white South African who is ploughing back what apartheid took away from us. That was until I listened to SAfm and heard about his past which sounded very dodgy, but I was not very surprised we don't what is in the closet most whites.
is it not time we forgive but not forget? Is that not what make South Africa tick?

Ridwan said...

Muzi I think we should never forget.

Thanks for your comment broer. What is the news about the tournament now?

Please try to post with your blogger address so folks here can go over and read your blog.

I think the trick is to make sure that the comment has been accepted.

It requires one to type those letters in twice sometimes.

Thanks for looking in!


Anonymous said...

How well I remember Gary Player's defense of apartheid in the sixties and his "like it or leave it" advice to white South Africans who opposed the regime.

To see him on TV now, praising Mandela qualifies Gary Player as a great hypocrite, as much as Mandela is the greatest man of our time.

Ridwan said...

Thank you for your comment.

Gary Player remains an unrepentant hypocrite. His money and influence shield him from being called out in public but like you there are enough folks who remember his support for apartheid.

Also, there are those of us who know how he took money from the brutal regime in Burma in recent years.

On that count he has remained silent too - and hardly anyone is investigating that illegal activity.

On this sad day marked by the passing of President Mandela, Gary Player should be the last person to offer condolences to the post-apartheid nation.

Again, thank you for your comment you have nailed Gary Player as he deserves.