Nathi Mthethwa’s BLM comments a flagrant disregard of constitutional freedoms – IRR

21 August 2020 - Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa’s comments about the choice of eight South African rugby players not to “take the knee” before a club match in England in obeisance to the “#BlackLivesMatter” (BLM) movement amount to a disturbing and inappropriate interference with the players’ freedom of speech and association.

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa’s comments about the choice of eight South African rugby players not to “take the knee” before a club match in England in obeisance to the “#BlackLivesMatter” (BLM) movement amount to a disturbing and inappropriate interference with the players’ freedom of speech and association.

Mthethwa has asked SA Rugby to make a pronouncement on the choice made by the eight players. He suggested their actions amounted to “racist behaviour and showing racist attitude", and that this “cannot be tolerated”. While noting that the players were wearing T-shirts in support of “Rugby Against Racism”, he singled them out for the fact that they “didn’t kneel in support of the BLM movement”.

Mthethwa has no right to demand that the players kneel. Choosing not to kneel is not a sign of racism or any other odious behaviour the Minister may want to allege. And, for many, kneeling is an act of faith to be taken only before God.

A climate has been created to suggest that support for BLM is necessary to prove one is ‘anti-racist’, but this is both untrue and mischievous.

Some say that supporting the idea of BLM is worthy, even if support of the movement is undesirable. To have to justify that distinction is undesirable and unnecessary. Supporting “Rugby Against Racism” is an unambiguous expression of opposition to racism.

Minister Mthethwa’s admonishments reflect a flagrant disregard of the players’ constitutional rights to freedom of belief, opinion, expression, and association and, above all, to dignity.

Media contact: Sara Gon, IRR Head of Strategic Engagement – 083 555 7952; sara@irr.org.za

Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za

Kelebogile Leepile Tel: 079 051 0073 Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za

 

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