Rasool’s appointment as Western Province chair likely to deepen divisions in a fractured union

Ebrahim Rasool’s appointment as chairman of Western Province rugby’s board of directors.
Ebrahim Rasool’s appointment as chairman of Western Province rugby’s board of directors.
Image: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

Ebrahim Rasool’s appointment as chairman of Western Province rugby’s board of directors is likely to deepen divisions in an already fractured union.

WP over the weekend unveiled the former activist‚ premier and ambassador as the new man in the position after erstwhile chairman Johan van der Merwe’s term expired.

It did not take long for incendiary social media and rugby blog commentary to take flight.

Appointing a heavy-hitting African National Congress (ANC) member to the position in a hotly contested province was always going to get the fingers to do the talking.

It is what he represents‚ perhaps even more than what happened on his watch in high office‚ that has rankled with some ‘Province’ fans.

Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) president Zelt Marais‚ who swept to power on a ticket that promised the acceleration of transformation‚ may have ticked another box in that delivery but his detractors will argue it is another step in politicising the boardroom.

Marais contends‚ however‚ that Rasool‚ a former ambassador to the United States‚ “brings with him a wealth of experience‚ from his credentials in the struggle for justice‚ his exposure to various portfolios in government‚ his diplomatic experience in the USA‚ his academic expertise and his business acumen.”

He added: “We are looking forward to harnessing the experience and networks of Ambassador Rasool to the benefit of WP Rugby‚ and we are confident his appointment will help usher in an exciting era for WP Rugby. He is a rugby man through and through‚” he said.

Rasool underlined his deep roots in non-racial rugby‚ his commitment to unity with transformation‚ and his love of WP Rugby.

“The Western Cape is undoubtedly the cradle of rugby in South Africa‚” said Rasool‚ a point folk in the Eastern Cape may dispute.

“We must nurture rugby from grassroots - the clubs and the schools - to the professional - the Stormers and our Springboks. But we must honour the whole history of rugby‚ from the very celebrated to those written out of rugby history.”

Those opposed to his appointment will argue his comments don’t speak to the role he is supposed to serve as chairman of the professional arm of the organisation.

They will also‚ with some alacrity‚ point to his role in the so-called ‘brown-envelope scandal’ in which journalists were paid with public funds while he was premier of the Western Cape.

To be fair‚ even if he had a spotless record‚ it would have done little to stem the brickbats now heading his way.

He has signed up for a position among WP’s top brass that will be daunting. Bringing Bantry Bay and Bonteheuwel a little closer is easier said than done. They face the delicate juggling act of bringing about financial prosperity‚ while ensuring equal opportunity. South African sports administrators are yet to display the dexterity required to do that job.

In an already divided ‘Province’ Rasool will have his work cut out.