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Managing South African transformation: the story of cricket in KwaZulu Natal, 1994-2004

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Abstract:

Sport has historically been an important element of South African popular culture, even though it was divided along racial lines for much of the country's history. In post-apartheid South Africa, sport is seen by politicians, sports officials and many ordinary people as a means to surmount race and class barriers and to forge nationhood. But sport remains a site of acute contestation over what transformation means: 'merit' versus 'affirmative action', beneficiaries of change, pace of transformation and so on. This conflict reflects the broader tensions over how South African society should be restructured. Change in racial composition at the level of leadership, coaching and players since 1990 has failed to transform cricket into a 'people's game'. The cricket establishment is following the lead of government in prioritizing the empowerment of a minority. Class privilege has replaced race privilege. At the same time, tensions generated by change are producing further hostility along the fault lines of race and class. There is, for example, a conflict over resources among those previously labelled 'Black': Indians, Coloureds and the majority African population. These struggles reveal the fragmented nature of post-apartheid South African society, notwithstanding attempts to define South Africa as a 'rainbow nation'. The historical, social, economic and cultural legacy of South Africa's conflicting pasts, the impact of globalization--and sport is a principal front of globalization, generating vast economic revenue and creating intolerable pressure to succeed--as well as post-apartheid discrepancies in economic and social conditions are all making it difficult to forge a united national culture, despite the attempt to use sport for the 'mythic enactment' of a collective South African identity. The tensions discussed in this article continue to be alive though the 'patterns of prejudice' are manifesting themselves in different forms.

Keywords: KwaZulu Natal; South Africa; class; cricket; identity; race; sport; transformation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0031322042000250457

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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