The Democratic Alliance, AfriForum and Solidarity have hit back at sports minister Nathi Mthethwa for demanding clarity from SA Rugby in response to certain players opting not to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
This past weekend there were a variety of responses from English Premiership teams as they were given freedom to demonstrate different interpretations of the ‘Rugby Against Racism’ campaign.
However, the majority of South Africans in the competition – including several leading Springboks – opted against taking a knee in support of BLM and remained standing.
Their stance has caused a stir back home in South Africa, and drew a response from Mthethwa, who has asked SA Rugby president Mark Alexander to provide clarity in regard to the players’ decision.
But in another twist, the DA, AfriForum and Solidarity has labelled Mthethwa’s request ridiculous.
Werner Human, deputy chief executive for legal matters and research at Solidarity, said Mthethwa has no right to intimidate or victimise players on the basis of their support, or not, for the BLM movement.
‘Such behaviour falls completely outside the ambit of the minister’s powers, and it infringes on the players’ freedom of speech, belief and religion,’ Human said. ‘We are not even mentioning freedom of expression, for that matter – what the minister is trying to do here is to bring about a forced expression of speech. This can never be tolerated.
‘For the minister to consider opposition to the BLM movement to be racist is absurd. This movement and its harmful precepts and beliefs should actually be opposed because of the negative consequences it holds for all races.
‘Just because we are not prepared to bend the knee for BLM, it does not mean we refuse to grant others that freedom. What is unacceptable, however, is to victimise players because of their own choice in this regard.’
AfriForum head of policy Ernst Roets says Mthethwa’s request is bordering on dictatorial.
‘His request is characteristic of a government that is acting increasingly dictatorial and wants to prescribe to citizens what they must think and how they must act,’ Roets said.
‘People can make their own choices on how to fight racism. It doesn’t mean people have to support an ideologically charged movement they don’t agree with, in order for them to participate in the struggle against racism.
‘You don’t have to bend the knee or support the #BLM movement in order to fight racism. It is everyone’s choice and right to make this decision.’
The DA’s Zakhele Mbhele further added that Mthethwa is on a ‘witch hunt’.
‘This is nothing more than a witch hunt against players who practised their constitutional right of freedom of choice and association,’ Mbhele explained.
‘It’s precisely such utterances [as made by Mthethwa] that are dividing South Africa.’
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