FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: We don't have to stay in past by not celebrating Boks
In 2005, two Japanese men, both in their 80s, were found on an island close to the Philippines. The men were former members of a military division whose ranks were obliterated by the US forces during the Second World War.
The two men, Yoshio Yamakawa (87) and Tsuzuki Nakauchi (85), were hiding on the island unaware that the war had ended about 60 years earlier. They decided to stay on the island for fear of being court-martialled for desertion if they showed their faces in public again.
It was not the first time someone had thought that the war was still on. Hiroo Onoda was persuaded to lay down his rifle in 1974, unaware that his Japanese army had surrendered nearly three decades earlier.
As funny and fascinating as such stories are, they tell us something about human beings and their tendency to stay in the past. Some people just do not have it in them to believe that a traumatic episode such as a war might pass, even if its effects stay on.
Take the Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) juvenile reaction to the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup: the party has gone to great lengths and used their leaders’ high learning to maximum effect to try cast a shadow on the team’s magnificent performance on the sport’s biggest stage.
The party’s Members of Parliament (MPs) chose to sit in their benches as other parties in the House of Assembly congratulated the Boks. The party’s MP in the National Council of Provinces, Mmabatho Mokause, elected to salute only the black members of the team.
The EFF is perhaps the most visible and organised sign of this tendency to live in the past.
There is, of course, a right-wing equivalent that has refused to recognise Siya Kolisi and other black players on their merits, with one social media post that has been shared repeatedly using the F-word to describe Siya. “F#% Kwota, F*$ BBEE, F#% Swart Kaptein en as jy nie daarvan hou nie F#% jou.” (F#% Quota, F#% BEE, F#% black captain and if you don’t like this F-you too).
The EFF and these individuals belong together. They will not accept that the war that shaped most of South Africa’s history has ended.
This is not to say that South Africa is the land of milk and honey. Far from it. Many of those dispossessed of their land still do not have it, the poor of 1994 have become even poorer, unemployment is high and schools are violent.
But none of these can be blamed on the group of young men who went to Yamakawa, Nakachui and Onoda’s land to win the Webb Ellis trophy.
Who the captain was or how many black people were in the team was not going to change the realities of our country. To think they would have would be to betray ignorance of the size and nature of the problem before South Africa.
To refuse to acknowledge the Boks because we have racial and other socio-economic issues, or because the captain is black, is to stay in a past that most of us have moved on from.
Yamakawa, Nakachui and Onoda could defend themselves by saying that unlike today, they did not have the technology to have it communicated to them that the war was over. What will be the EFF and their flipside’s argument be?
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.