JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s first Black rugby Test captain Siya Kolisi, who led his country to win last year’s World Cup, has called for action to address racial inequality in a nation still reeling from the legacy of apartheid.
In a seven-minute long video posted on his Instagram account on Sunday (Jul 19), the 29-year-old flanker admitted he had previously shied away from the topic because he was “scared”.
But he vowed that the “time to be scared and to be silent” is over in South Africa, ranked one of the world’s most unequal societies.
“It’s time for all of us to change and actually start to living the South Africa that so may people have fought for, so many people have died for”.
“We should be the generation that is changing this, it’s 2020 right now … It’s time for all of us to come together, it’s the only way we can fight this, it’s the only way we can beat this.
“Until our lives matter, no lives matter. We are all important, black lives actually matter,” he said.
“I encourage people to have the difficult conversation”.
His remarks were triggered by the global Black Lives Matter movement and protests over the killing of African-American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.
Racial divisions have plagued South African sport – particularly rugby and cricket – since the fall of white minority apartheid rule in 1994.
Kolisi recounted his difficult journey from a township, beating the cultural odds and language barriers to go on to lead the Springboks to victory over England in 2019’s World Cup final.
“I felt my life didn’t matter since I was a little kid growing up in the townships”.
Kolisi said he felt he had “failed as a leader” as he hadn’t addressed this issue for a long time “because I was scared I was going to be kicked out or I was going to be seen differently”.
But, he said, “we have got to start addressing these issues because if (we) don’t address it, then the next kid that’s coming through is going to suffer the same way that I did.
“The next generation can’t suffer like we did”.