By Tafi Mhaka
South Africans of all races often unite in support of The Springboks, Bafana Bafana or Olympic gold medal-winning athletes like Wayde Van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and Chad Le Clos when the call of national duty arises for loyal and passionate lovers of sport.
South Africans of all persuasions often unite in pursuit of common goals, especially in close-knit places, like at work, for example – where, more often than not, a firm unity of purpose strongly supersedes any negative notions or emotions.
So it is profoundly disheartening to hear that Rachel Kolisi and her husband Siya, who plays blindside flank for Western Province and the senior national rugby team, the Springboks, have been hounded by racist trolls, who have used horrific terms to disparage their interracial marriage. This is not a White, Black, Indian or Coloured thing, Mrs Kolisi is keen to stress, the unsettling stream of racial abuse has come from people of all manner of races.
Now, Mr. Kolisi is a great loose forward: he is tough, he is quick, he is a marvel to watch when he is at the top of his game. But, I must admit, I simply have never cared to find out if he is married or not. Perhaps it is because I don’t read tabloids or follow gossip pages much. But I certainly do see him play quite a lot and watch Springbok matches rather religiously as well. This is what really matters to me and millions of rugby fans I suspect.
I have a friend who is married to an Indian lady, who hails from Durban. They have been together for more than ten years and have two wonderful children. But I have never cared or dared to ask if they get hate mail sometimes or occasionally fall victim to bizarre unsolicited looks from complete strangers in restaurants or shopping malls. I have just never gathered the need to bring up that kind of conversation.
But I have seen, in full colour, lovely pictures of mixed race family gatherings on Facebook, which have been posted by friends who are in interracial unions, and, sure enough, they look very happy most of the time. So I have often clicked on the like button in cordial gestures of support and friendship much like I would for friends in same-race relationships: click, click, click, and that is it – I briskly move on to the next post.
Rachel and Siya’s two-year-old son, Nicholas, has not been spared the horrendous racial abuse, either, as taunts of ‘half breed’ have coloured the online onslaught. I wonder if the trolls have had a go at President Barack Obama, hip-hop superstar Drake or legendary golfer Tiger Woods as well. Do they troll Academy Award-winning actress, Halle Berry – or Springbok great, Bryan Habana, too?
Attitudes should have shifted vastly in the new South Africa. Besides, I doubt if either you or I wilfully chose to be born with a certain skin colour. How we contribute to the greater good of society, the bigger picture, if you will, in this rainbow nation, in small or big, but tellingly significant ways, should be of some concern to other people, not whom we choose to love or marry in a United South Africa.