Has Advocate Wim Trengove missed the wood for the trees?

This certainly is the view of Ziyad Motala, former honorary professor of law at the University of the Western Cape and  currently a professor of law at Howard University.

Motala wrote a scathing op-ed published in the Sunday Times, in which he strongly disagrees with Trengove’s exoneration of David Teeger over his pro-Israel speech.

He was referring to Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) decision to refer complaints against Teeger to Trengove for determining whether his remarks had violated CSA codes.

Teeger sparked a huge controversy over his scandalous dedication of an award he received at a Jewish Report event, to Israel and its soldiers.

“Yes, I’ve been [given] this award, and yes, I’m now the rising star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel. And I’d like to dedicate it to the state of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora”.

As the Proteas U-19 Captain, Teeger’s comments in praise of Netanyahu’s racist right-wing regime and the ongoing genocide perpetrated in Gaza by the soldiers he lavishly applauds, cannot be disconnected from the context of Israel’s bloodbath there.

Motala asserts that Teeger’s dedication to a state and it’s soldiers implicated in enforcing hate, racial superiority, war crimes and crimes against humanity, challenges the essence of South Africa’s constitutional values.

He criticises Trengove for an atomistic mode of reasoning, relying on a disconnection of facts from their contextual embedding.

“If Trengove applied a holistic interpretation, considering political facts and events in terms of an interaction between individuals and groups, and their social and political environment, he would likely have come to a different conclusion”.

Motala insists and correctly so, that Teeger’s speech was not merely offensive. Instead it was speech in support of Zionism, a political ideology of racism.

Indeed some observers have questioned why CSA, to whom complaints had been lodged, had failed to acknowledge this fact. Instead it ducked out of its responsibility by outsourcing it to Trengove.

Surely CSA chair Lawson Naidoo ought to be aware of the hideous role of Israel and its soldiers in what the world as a whole, including global institutions such as the UN, WHO, UNRWA plus human rights organisations, have declared to be a genocide?

Yet, despite the gruesome maiming and killing of close to 20,000 Palestinians and the relentless bombardment of residential buildings, schools, hospitals, refugee centres, mosques and churches, coupled with the cruel blockade of food, fuel and medical services, CSA failed to link Teeger’s love and adoration to the unfolding of no less than a holocaust?

Teeger did not dedicate his award to his parents, siblings or coach. As Motala points out, he dedicated his award to Zionist soldiers who brutally enforce racist and apartheid rule against the Palestinians.

“These soldiers are implicated in war crimes – the most serious offence in international law”.

According to Motala’s compelling argument, if Trengove had adopted a holistic method of interpretation, he would have related the speech to Zionism, racism, and our own history of apartheid – the raison d’etre of our constitution, which is the rejection of any and all manifestations of racial superiority and attendant military conduct.

He then reminds us of a not too insignificant recent event when Naidoo endorsed David Unterhalter – whom Motala describes as “an avowed Zionist” – for appointment to the Constitutional Court and to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Linking the dots, Motala deduces that some in the upper echelons of CSA find nothing repugnant about Zionism. “Did the upper echelons of CSA deliberately select Trengove to head the investigation so that the findings, which gloss over support for Zionism, have a veneer of respectability?”, he asks.

Though pro-Israel lobby groups who unashamedly are committed to Zionism have been jubilant about Teeger being exonerated, the revulsion by cricket lovers of his declaration of love for Israel’s army of murderers, has not dissipated.

Social media is abuzz with resentment and disappointment that he could escape censure in the midst of global outrage against Israeli military forces’ barbaric massacres and indiscriminate destruction in Gaza.

Hence, it is understandable for Motala to be critical of both the CSA and Trengove’s decision.

He asserts that Teeger’s statements are comparable to someone praising apartheid and soldiers from the 1980s South African Defence Force who engaged in “unspeakable barbarity, war crimes and genocide in the preservation of apartheid”.

Sports and cricket in particular during apartheid heydays, was characterised by racism and discrimination. The apartheid regime spent huge amounts of money in lobbying to overcome isolation and boycott, but ultimately had to buckle under public pressure.

“No normal sport in an abnormal society” became a rallying call to punish apartheid-era sports.

Teeger’s endorsement of an abnormal apartheid regime in occupation of Palestine, should thus disqualify him from participating in CSA.

For CSA to allow him to captain the U-19 Proteas team, is to normalise the abnormal. Motala reminds CSA that to tolerate views based on hate and violent enforcement of racial superiority jeopardises the essence of sportsmanship. And the bigger risk is alienating a diverse fan and player base. Will Naidoo and his team take heed?

Iqbal Jassat – Executive Member – Media Review Network Johannesburg, South Africa