'Racism won't go away': Peter de Villiers on sports development in Paarl
*Ed's note: This story has been updated to reflect comment from the Western Cape education department. We apologise for previously omitting this.
Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers claims poor people in the Western Cape town of Paarl have been “robbed” of sports facilities.
De Villiers said the DA-led municipality was prioritising “luxurious lifestyles for whites” and not doing enough to develop sporting facilities in underprivileged communities.
“The municipality robbed the Paarl community of its sports stadium by giving it to a formerly privileged school," De Villiers said.
"It has again shown its contempt for people of colour by granting permission for a storm water drain to be dug across a school playground.”
Western Cape education department spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said this claim about Noorder Paarl High School was incorrect.
"Permission has not yet been granted for the storm water drain. The minister has requested reasons for the objection from the school governing body by August 21. These have not yet been supplied," she said.
De Villiers claimed Noorder Paarl High was always “in the firing line” when it comes to development plans for white residents of Paarl.
He said “privileged schools” with more than seven sports fields are left alone.
“First, the school was vacated as a result of an apartheid eviction order, but the hand of God prevailed over these demon spirits. Then the authorities wanted to turn the school’s sports field into an emergency landing strip for helicopters. Then they wanted to build houses on the land,” De Villiers said on Facebook.
“The school has just one sports field. This is a relative luxury. Most schools for children of colour in Paarl have no sports facilities at all because the town prioritises luxurious lifestyles for whites.”
Earlier this year, sports minister Nathi Mthethwa acknowledged that little was being done to develop sports in underprivileged schools. He said black people and women were still underrepresented in South African sport.
“Black Africans and women are underrepresented in every sphere of SA sport. Less than 10% of the 25,000 schools participate in sport,” Mthethwa said, emphasising that this needed major improvement.
De Villiers said it was time for underprivileged schools in Paarl to be prioritised, and called for an end to systematic racism in schools.
“We have had more than enough of these racist attitudes,” he said. “Black lives matter — also in Paarl.”
Executive mayor of the Drakenstein municipality Alderman Conrad Poole refuted the allegations made by De Villiers.
In a statement sent to TimesLIVE, he said De Villiers made a number of factually incorrect statements. He said the school De Villiers refers to can reject the stormwater drain and should the school not agree, "alternative plans" will be made. The executive mayor said the the drain is "unlikely to have an influence on the field other than to provide for the drainage of the filed, making it more useable."
Poole also disputes De Villiers's claims about the La Rochelle indoor sport complex, saying it was not built by the municipality and all schools make use of municipal facilities.
"Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Noorder Paarl regularly used our facilities including the Parys cricket field, Boy Louw and Dal Josafat."
Western Cape government
Responding to De Villiers's claims, the Western Cape government told TimesLIVE it prioritises delivering services to all residents and focuses specifically on uplifting vulnerable communities.
“Our painful apartheid past left many communities without access, and this is something we are determined to undo. We always uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination,” said the provincial government.
“This is illustrated by our work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in providing services, including health-care services, humanitarian relief, social support, the ongoing delivery of housing and support to schools across the province.
“It is also the reason we are determined to fight against the second pandemic of unemployment, hunger, and increasing levels of poverty. It is our poorest residents who have been hit the hardest by the lockdown and we need to save jobs, provide nutrition, and ensure greater access to opportunities for all our people.”