|GRIM TRUTH: child slavery is common in Mauritania|
Today, we could talk about Mpumalanga Black Aces being top of the PSL for three weeks just two months after trying to sell their top flight status to relegated Amazulu.
Or we could recall Steve Komphela’s bizarre post-match interview as he guided Kaizer Chiefs past financially-troubled Bloemfontein Celtic en route to the MTN8 final and what might just be the first trophy of his career as a player or a coach.
Or we could discuss Bafana Bafana’s Tokelo Rantie, who has played just 23 minutes this season for Bournemouth, being South Africa’s major weapon on Saturday after refusing to leave his honeymoon bed last time he was called.
Instead, I’ve dug this illuminating paragraph out of an article about Mauritania, Bafana Bafana’s next AFCON 2017 qualifying opponents. Feel free to click on the links for confirmation, it's all there on Wikipedia.
A system exists now by which Arab Muslims—the bidanes (literal meaning: white skinned people)—own black slaves, the haratines. An estimated 90,000 Mauritanians remain essentially enslaved. According to some estimates, up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved.
I never thought I’d see ANYTHING like that in the 21st century. I first came across this Mauritanian slavery stuff during the last CHAN tournament here in 2013, but since then I’ve researched a little deeper. It's despicable.
Shakes Mashaba’s South Africa will fly to Nouakchott on Thursday for the Saturday meeting against a nation where abolitionists are actually jailed for speaking out against slavery.
And nobody says a word. We talk about the composition of our Springboks - eight “players of colour” is clearly not enough for a Rugby World Cup after 20 years - and our Proteas - where Kagiso Rabada and Aaron Phangiso appear to share the “African spot” in our cricket team.
But none of this compares to play against a nation which still harbours slavery, surely?
For some weeks on twitter, I’ve been making this point to our Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who feels the need to proclaim himself “No 1 Springbok fan” every 5 minutes on SuperSport.
I’ve also tried his deputy, some bloke with an Afrikaans name, not to mention Danny Jordaan, the South African Football Association and other sporting luminaries in our nation, which prides itself on equality and a fairest-of-the-fair constitution.
But nobody is prepared to say a word.
Instead, we will discuss whether Dean Furman, after two games for SuperSport United, is ready to captain South Africa in Nouakchott. Whether Tokelo Rantie will play after 24 minutes for Bournemouth this season.
No, please. This time, the debate over shaky Mashaba’s decision-making can be put to one side. His inconsistent, agent-led selections, his rotation of both goalkeepers and captains, his failure to make adequate substitutions as the game demands.
Let’s ignore, for once, that 2015 AFCON in distinctly undemocratic Equatorial Guinea which left us with one point and the joint-worst record in the tournament. And try to get over the 0-0 home draw against Gambia which opened our AFCON 2017 qualifying effort, perhaps the worst result in the history of our game.
Those COSAFA disasters against Botswana and Malawi, the failure to pick Kamohelo Mokotjo, the appearance of so many of average players even when they aren’t playing for their clubs. Our 72nd place in the world rankings.
Ignore it all.
The point is: We are about to play a nation where people still own slaves. Child labour, sex trafficking, discrimination along tribal and race lines. This is Mauritania.
And we say NOT A WORD. This from a nation which so bravely stood up on the sporting field and declared APARTHEID a four-letter word. We are the nation who MADE sport a political football. And it WORKED.
Please, Mr Mbalula, this is when you stand up for principle, not smug self-promotion. Make a statement, at the very least. Even better, go to Nouakchott and make a speech against this awful practice. The dream: CAF and FIFA will ban this foul nation until they mend their broken nation.
And please, Mr Mashaba, let’s give them a good stuffing on the football field. It's the least we can do.