Quinton de Questions

There is a lot of angry and negative ‘noise’ out there at the moment and I have no intention of adding to it. In the spirit of inclusivity and forgiveness it seems only right that Quinton de Kock is forgiven and welcomed back into the team fold, if not immediately the starting XI.

But there are still legitimate questions to be asked. If he was “perfectly happy to take a knee” as he said in his statement, why did that not apply for the last 15 months? He knew it would have been the simplest and least controversial route to take.

While all those who opted not to take a knee chose to show their respect in other ways – the raised fist, standing to attention or standing with arms behind their backs with heads bowed, de Kock did nothing. Before the opening T20 World Cup match against Australia he had his hands on his hips. Next to him Temba Bavuma was on a knee.

“He has his reasons, he is a man in his own shoes and we respect that,” Bavuma said later. It may not be relevant for those outside the team to ask what those reasons are, or were, but it seems reasonable enough to wonder why de Kock would not share them with the team mates he “loves”.

He was asked about his reasons during his brief reign as captain: “My reason? I'll keep it to myself. It's my own, personal opinion. It's everyone's decision, no-one's forced to do anything, not in life.”

If people are so concerned about the authenticity of a ‘gesture’ made by people who are ordered to do so, why have no reservations been expressed about an apology which de Kock may have been ordered to make during a meeting with the CSA board which de Kock described as “highly emotional”? A gesture made under duress is no less sincere and meaningful than an apology issued under similar circumstances.

De Kock was quite right in suggesting that the CSA board’s directive to take a knee, five hours before the game against the West Indies, was inappropriately timed. But it was prompted by the sight of the team obviously divided in their gestures and by him offering no obvious support whatsoever. CSA Board chairman, Lawson Naidoo, had respectfully left the team and its management to come up with an acceptable solution. They failed, mostly because de Kock willfully offered nothing with the cricketing eyes of the world upon him.

But he’s right about his civil and human rights being compromised. They are enshrined and protected by a constitution which didn’t exist before 1994 when millions of South Africans were marginalised, murdered, beaten or banished to ‘homelands’ hundreds of kilometres away from comfortable white cities and towns.

De Kock said he wishes this had been sorted out a long time before the World Cup. With respect to the privacy and confidentiality of team meetings, it is pertinent to ask what de Kock did to facilitate a solution. Head coach Mark Boucher was said by Bavuma to have been instrumental in the initial policy of not taking the knee, later compromised to the ‘every man for himself’ strategy after the black players registered their dissatisfaction at having their voices silenced.

De Kock was a senior player and, partially, captain while all this was going on. He is close friends with Kagiso Rabada and has played much of his cricket with Bavuma. He acknowledges he has been described as ‘doff’ (stupid) and ‘immature’ during his career. But it is impossible to believe that he wasn’t aware of the disappointment and sadness.

The Proteas prepared a statement while on tour in the Caribbean 10-weeks ago which was designed to pre-empt a negative reaction to their decision not to reciprocate the West Indies team gesture of taking a knee. It was never released, thankfully, because the degree of naivety is eye-watering:

“We have decided that we will not compromise our principles for the optics of a perceived ‘team’ gesture. We are individuals and our freedom of individual expression is enshrined in the greatest constitution in the world.

“We wish to reaffirm the Proteas’ support of BLM, a movement that stands for equality and justice across all races, ethnicities, religions and creeds.

“We hope that moving forward, the people of South Africa and the West Indies, the cricket-loving public and fans of the Proteas from around the world, can take our reactions and our actions as a team and as individuals within the team, with the respect that we give them,” the statement read.

It’s now time for that part of the column which many people don’t read. The final paragraph. Quinton de Kock is undeniably not a racist. He is a caring, endearing character who sees life through a unique lens. It’s just that his approach to publicly supporting his teammates in pushing back against prejudice may require him to refocus that lens.

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