Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Humour or racism? David Kekana on SABC last night... "This umlungu uyadlisa" or "the white man is making us lose"

THIS is the moment - all poorly-filmed 12 seconds of it - when SABC analyst David Kekana put his foot in his mouth on Thomas Mlambo's otherwise excellent Monday night show SoccerZone.

The sound ain't great. But here's what happened. Asked about whether he preferred Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo or Belgium-based Darren Keet to play in goal for South Africa during the AFCON 2015 tournament, Kekana made no bones about it. He said he preferred Itumeleng Khune's 24-year-old stand-in at the AmaKhosi and said: "This mlungu uyadlisa" or "the white man is costing us" when referring to Cape Town-born Keet, .

I have no problem with the use of the word umlungu. This very morning my t-shirt was emblazoned with the word, which means "white guy" and Bafana Bafana captain Dean Furman knows when that word is chanted around the stadium, it is not used in a derogatory sense.

ugly example of the race group Mlungu
But linked with the idea that Keet is in someway inferior - so far he has barely put a foot (or a hand) wrong in the national jersey - it comes across as deeply offensive. And as my twitter followers immediately pointed out last night, RACIST.

I've looked up "uyasidlisa". On google, the confusing response in English was "Iranians" (go on, try it) but most suggest it means "helping us to lose" with the "uya" suggesting defeat and "sidlisa" his role in the side.Scelo Nciki (@scubkae1 on twitter) and many others helped me with that.

Twitter on the whole blasted Kekana, not just for his utterance but for his on-screen performance generally, suggesting a lot of his "jokes" fall flat. When I retweeted some of those messages, Kekana stayed silent. The debate raged but generally the reaction was: Imagine if a white analyst had said: "The darkie is letting us down". Unthinkable.

Ultimately, that is the bottom-line. Using race to single a man out for criticism has long been a problem in South Africa.

The question is: in post-Aparthate South Africa how seriously should be take black racism against white folk, after those long years of pale oppression? Clearly white-on-black racism has always been the major problem. But are we now democratic enough to see both sides of this particularly ugly coin? After 21 years, I'd argue: It's time to stop judging on race, time to end the awful habit of declaring ANYTHING on the basis of skin colour.

Around 90% of the tweets agreed with me as we went to bed, only to wake up this morning with THESE tweets from @davidkekana:

"I was asked a comparative question about Keet and Khuzwayo I said he conceded 33 goals in 21 matches for club"

"In African terms someone with a white hue is referred to as Umlungu. Nothing racist about that."

"Well I am married to an Umlungu, so I get told every day when I walk the streets with my wife"

I pointed out that I know several white men who, though married across the colour-line, hold racist views. When I recommended a course in broadcasting, he responded: "Neil (sic) I have done media law and hold a bachelors degree. Please don't insult me."

I said no slight was intended and asked him to apologise, he responded: "To please you Neil?"

I said no, just to prove he was a decent bloke. That was followed by: "I did not judge him based on his colour! It's your interpretation and not a fact"

I pointed out that "umlungu" suggested he had immediately zoned in on to Keet's colour. Kekana, refusing to apologise or accept responsibility for his words, then tweeted: "Neil, I have better things to be concerned with than you. You are the list (sic) of my concern."

And then came the cracker. The response of all racists under fire: "Like all racist (sic) Neal has to point fingers. Does that sound like turning the wheel back to an era?"

By then Kekana was trending on South African twitter as the nation vented their feelings. You can read the tweets online now if you want. Some came to Kekana's defence, but most agreed: "Please apologise, it's the right thing to do". That is, in my view, still the dominant feeling.

Seconds ago, Kekana sent this: "I said Mlungu Oyadlisa, cause he conceded 33 goals in 21 games in Belgium. Get your Zulu interpreter to interpret that."

As I write, there has been no response from the national broadcaster nor Thomas Mlambo, the presenter of SoccerZone and a man who I consider a friend. We did Euro2012 together. Mlambo, as you can see in the video footage, attempted to put a sock in Kekana's mouth as the incident unfolded and after the ad break, he came close to an apology for his colleague's sentiments.

But there has been no apology from Kekana. It's not like we are asking for a pint of blood. Just a simple sorry. If a white man were to say such things of a black player - particularly on the rugby or cricket channels - all hell would break loose.

With Bafana preparing to play Mali in their final friendly tomorrow - and Keet ready to play after a lightning-quick trip home to see his new-born son Leighton - this story may linger. But I hope not. All it would take is a quick "sorry" and we could leave this all behind.

But to ignore it, to let it go, would be WRONG. Racism is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Especially on SABC1, our national broadcasters' flag-ship channel.

Or perhaps I'm wrong and I've been WRONG all my life. Perhaps it's acceptable. Perhaps racism is still okay in South Africa. You tell me, David Kekana.

I left South Africa in 1985 because I just couldn't stand Aparthate any more. I was a young sports writer appalled by what I came across every day working in Umlazi and KwaMashu. I abhor racism, I was arrested and had my telephone bugged for dating a black woman in Durban. I returned to this country in 2010 to cover the World Cup... and came back to look after my elderly father... and because I thought we'd moved beyond the crude divide-and-rule politics of the Boer.

I didn't raise this topic, ordinary South Africans did, the minute they saw you say it. Ask them what you should do, David. We are all South Africans. We are equal. Darren Keet. Even me.

If Kekana, whom I have only met briefly, has a problem with any of this, he has my telephone number. I'd love to hear a reasonable response.


  1. I strongly agree with u Neal. @Thuto_V

  2. Well said Mr Neil, who is David Kekana in the world of football broacast anyway???

  3. I hope the public broadcaster is not turning a blind eye on this. Mr Kekana please swallow your pride and apologise. Your employer might lose revenue because of your arrogance

  4. you have no problem with word mlungu but yet you resorted to write this article??? just come out neal and say that you don't like the word mlungu!!! if don't have a problem with that word then where is racism??? had David said this "goalkeeper uyasidlisa"?? or "lomdlali uyasidlisa" would you have a problem with him?

    you say that it would have been a problem if that said to a black guy in rugby or cricket, well that is true Neal because historical those are sports code that have been undermining and insulting our people for years. the fact of the matter is that if you have a problem with David take it with him do not use Darren Keet as a scapegoat.

  5. UMLUNGU isnt derogatory, let alone racist. its actually a beautiful nguni word meaning "uMUNTU o LUNGILE', a good person. largely reffering to whites.

    referring to a person's talents, skills, traits and competency in relation or in connection with their RACIST OR RACIALIST! for that David Kekana must apologize, to Darren Keet and the entire nation on that public broadcaster platform. excerpt for 'WAYITJUKUTJA' Mlambo, SABC sports presenters seem unpolished....

    we dont need this energy. not at this time.
    bafana is doing great we need unity and positivity.

    Ta! neals

    1. neal, HOW COME U HAENT MENTIONED, "BLOGGED" ABOUT NKATHA LEAVING FOR MATSATSANTSA? !!!!, i rely on u for inside/insight information.....

    2. *typo* -in connection their race-...