Inequalities and Sport in South Africa
Dec 16, 2019
South Africa’s sport industry suffers great inequalities. Just like the greater South Africa, it all comes down to affordability. 50 South Africans have reached the summits of Annapurna, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, Makalu, Lhotse and Everest, with only 8 of the 50 being women. Of the 8 women, only one is black and of the 42 men, only 2 are black. In the most unequal society in the world, it is therefore no surprise that sport in South Africa is often the last consideration.
A recent World Bank report describes South Africa as the most unequal country in the world. We sit atop a list of 149 countries considered the most unequal because the top one per cent of South Africans own over seventy per cent of the country’s wealth while the bottom 60 percent only holds less than ten per cent.
When we started exploring the outdoors, one of the motivating factors to legally register our club as a non-profit was to have a formal plaftform to fundraise to get basic equipment for participants. We noticed that even mere participation by joining a group for a day hike was impossible if one didn't have basic hiking gear. We also introduced the "Aint No Mountain High Enough" annual camps where kids from five schools around Bojanala would participate by entering a writing competition about their understanding of climate change. The winners would be invited to the camp and be provided with gear. The objective is to attract students who do not particpate in mainstream sport so they can be encouraged to lead a physically active lifestyle.
This also showed the other side, that schools themselves are under-resourced, and focusing on sport or transformation of sport at school level is impossible. The private sector has also shown great bias in their support of athletes - in mountaineering context, white male climbers are the most sponsored demographic. Gender inequalities in sport are not viewed as part and parcel of women empowerment initiatives in Africa: almost all funds are focused on women's human rights, political participation, peace building, health, reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS.
With the background above, our focus in 2020 will be reaching out to the international community for partnerships and fundraising, so we will be scaling back on our scheduled hikes.