South Africa’s Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has attracted Kenyan’s wrath for his utterances about Kenyan athletes.
The stern faced, bespectacled Sport and Recreation Minister was speaking at a media breakfast meeting in Johannesburg when he made the remarks that attracted Kenyans’ ire.
The Mail & Guardian reported that the Minister was addressing journalists on ‘social cohesion’ when a reporter asked why South Africa’s national teams remain predominantly white despite the end of apartheid more than 20 years ago.
“You can’t transform sports without targets,” the paper quoted him as saying in response to South Africa’s sticking issue of racial quotas.
“But at the same time, South Africa wouldn’t be like Kenya and send athletes to the Olympics to “drown in the pool” he said added.
According to the Mail & Guardian, the comment was met with some titters in the room as the rest of the African National Congress (ANC) leaders who had accompanied shifted uncomfortably.
If the Minister’s statement were to be taken at face value, it was inaccurate. No Kenyan athlete has ever “drowned” in a pool at the Olympics.
And Kenyans on Twitter, KOT, picked up the line “SomeoneTellSouthAfrica” to vent their anger at what most described as an insult at national pride.
Others created spoofs targeting South Africa President Jacob Zuma’s polygamous zeal, blade runner Oscar Pistorius who is facing charges of killing his girlfriend and vibrant Political activist Julius Malema.
“It is wrong for SA Sports Minister to slur (sic) our gallant athletes-the pride of Kenya. #Someonetellsouthafrica,” tweeted Hellen Githaiga under the handle @KsehiHG.
Atemah Gor tweeting as @Mtendawema added with a tongue in cheek: “#Someonetellsouthafrica Kenya’s First Lady can run better than (sic) their four first ladies combined.”
This was in reference to the historic run by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta who completed the 42km course in London Marathon.
As the rants went on, some suggested it was the Minister’s mistake to blame the entire country. @Rnagila said #Someonetellsouthafrica don’t blame a whole country because one @MbalulaFikile has a loose tongue.”
@MbalulaFikile later wrote: “Don’t interprete (sic) everything without context,”. These remarks made from an account presumed to belong to the minister suggested that the comment was misinterpreted. Nation could not establish its authenticity as it is unverified.
Whatever the case, angry Kenyans continued, with one Uhuru Kennyatta (not the President) posing;
“When will South Africans start electing intelligent leaders?” in apparent reference to another snide comment made by President Zuma last October about Malawian roads.
Last year, President Zuma caused uproar with his “we can’t think like Africans in Africa. It’s not some national road in Malawi,” comment seen as arrogant and disrespectful to other African countries.
South Africans hit back with another “someonetellkenya” trending topic, but many were generally embarrassed. One Lamola Malose Herold tweeting as @kasiflavour8 said the problem was because their national sports have been infiltrated with politics.
“South African sports are too political. Our national teams always under leadership of politicians. @mbalulafikile makes political statements.”
The online beef is reminiscent of another one last year between Kenyans and Nigerians sparked photos uploaded on social media showing the stars training in bare corridors of a dusty school.
The perceived mistreatment of Kenya’s national soccer team Harambee Stars when the team flew to Nigeria for a World Cup qualifier match led to a similar shouting match.