Home competition discipline OPEN LETTER: Cry our beloved Union Grounds

OPEN LETTER: Cry our beloved Union Grounds


Farrell Moses expressed unspeakable concern over how sporting facilities in less-privileged neighbourhoods were being administered; he spoke with special reference to the AR Abass Stadium in Squarehill Park.

In addition to the roof of the main grandstand being blown off during a storm a few years ago, the AR Abass Stadium facility has faced additional challenges. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WITH the Springboks’ thrilling victory at the Rugby World Cup still resonating through the streets of South Africa nearly a week after their heart-stopping triumph over the New Zealand All Blacks in Paris last Saturday, one might expect that the entire nation is basking in the joy of being Rugby World Champions.

However, this is not the case everywhere and in every community. In fact, on Tuesday a few short hours ahead of the Springbok team’s arrival at OR Tambo International, Gareth Edwards interviewed Mark Fredericks, a lecturer assistant in the journalism department at Walter Sisulu University, and someone I met personally some 56 years ago.

Fredericks acknowledged the achievement of the team and expressed congratulations to the players who had battled through the tournament and ultimately triumphed against the New Zealand All Blacks in what he termed “a fantastic match”.

And though he has stated over and over again that he has nothing against the individual players, the young men who play in the green and gold, he has for a long time been a vocal critic of what can be called the ‘Springbok Illusion’.

Drilling down into the interview, Fredericks spoke about East London, one of the cities through which the Springbok victory parade was to pass. He pointed out: “Buffalo City is a city with a population of approximately one million people, but there are very few facilities here for sport generally and rugby specifically, except in your finer areas. Your Model C and private school areas.”

One has to admit that it is a concern that with the end of Apartheid, it is alarming how quickly school sport at Black and Coloured schools just collapsed completely.

Meanwhile, here on the home front, these sentiments were echoed in an Open Letter to the Northern Cape Premier penned by Farrell Moses, who in his letter, refers to himself as a “concerned sportsman and administrator”.

Moses expressed unspeakable concern over how sporting facilities in less-privileged neighbourhoods were being administered and maintained; he spoke with special reference to the AR Abass Stadium in Squarehill Park.

Moses writes: “This historic sport facility with its origins firmly embedded in the sport liberation struggle was renamed after the advent of democracy in honour of a Sport and Community leader the late Abdullah Abass, a man of valour, stature, humility and deeply entrenched to bring relief to the disenfranchised, disadvantaged communities.”

After a brief description of Mr Abass’s service to the community, and the motives behind the community establishing the sports field, Moses adds: “The AR Abass Stadium, the old ‘Union Grounds’, where Mr Abass played alongside so many great players, is today a four-walled barren, dust pitch, not even the equivalent of what it was five decades ago.

“It is a NO-GO area for our local rugby clubs in Kimberley. The oldest Rugby Club in the country, Universals RFC, cannot even practise on these fields,” he adds.

He then explains why one of the country’s oldest rugby clubs is not allowed to use the facilities in their own neighbourhood, that was originally built for their use.

“Special events with hidden political agendas (have) become the flagship of this venue. Provincial government departments find it prudent to arrange their sport and recreational activities at this once historic Rugby, Soccer, Netball Stadium as if it is the exclusive domain of government.

AR Abass Staduim was left in a mess after patrons at the Metro FM Heatwave were unhappy about line-up artists did not perform on Saturday evening. Picture: Soraya Crowie

“It is atrocious to say the least that the Music festivals, political gatherings and any other events are held at this venue at regular intervals with soccer being the main code of sport now being played at AR Abass,” Moses adds.

He went on to lament the fact that the stadium was utilised as a fan park for the Rugby World Cup final when the ablution facilities were in disrepair, he assumed that the temporary measure of portable toilets would have be utilised.

“My inconsolable concern is sparked by the thought and fact that the late AR Abass, Baby Richards, Dennis Jacobs, Bunny Hermanus, Tommy Musson and Jim Summers, will be turning in their graves by the rapid deterioration … of this historic beacon of hope for sport development,” Moses adds, explaining that: “These Elders of ours, our icons and true leaders, would detest the fact that alcohol and revelry disguised as recreation now take centre stage at this facility.

“Their hard fought gains to secure a piece of ground in the dark era of Apartheid is diluted.”

However, Moses makes it clear that it is not his intention to stir up a political storm. “I draw this parallel not for undue political debate,” he writes, “but in my quest to illustrate the careless attitude of our current leaders especially in sport.

“Their shallow, myopic view of our elders who delivered democratic change to our country, is not well researched.”

He adds that the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) took ownership of the facility without due foresight and planning.

“When DSAC insisted on taking ownership they should have budgeted for maintenance,” Moses says. “The supply of effluent water (that used to be used for irrigation) is no more (as) the pump station is non-functional, because the cables to the pump station have been stolen.”

He adds that, “artisanal miners are digging in close proximity to the back wall which is on the brink of caving in and so the list (of problems) continues.”

Moses says that they have tried to have the problem remedied, but with limited success. “Our sport structures have tried on numerous occasions to get an audience with the MEC of DSAC but to no avail. One of the salient features of democracy and a fundamental pillar is broader consultation to seek clear mandates on the execution of a better life for all.

“Why then are our efforts to be implementing agents for sport development so nonchalantly overlooked?”

In conclusion, Moses makes a plea for communities to stand up and make their voice heard: “Let us honour our leaders for what they stood for and not allow their principles to be destroyed. Let the institutions which bear their names be in honour and not in disgrace as it will be a serious indictment upon ourselves.

“Government must be an Enabler, not a Dictator,” Moses suggests.

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