STOP marking time!

“Markeer die pas” – that’s the military order (in Afrikaans) to mark time, or march in place. Did I do plenty of that in the South African Defence Force way back in 1983! What a pointless exercise, using all that energy to go nowhere.

It reverberated in my mind recently as frustration mounted, simply because our programmes and objectives marked time instead of moving forward. It has been so distressing, annoying and demeaning that QASA says: NOW is the time for REAL PROTEST. We need vivid images of our distress and annoyance to be projected through global media to shake the ivory towers of organisations and specifically, sports controllers, and galvanise them into moving with change…

That’s been happening to us, to QASA members (in motorsport) and to thousands of young rugby players who might still - through inactivity - receive catastrophic injuries on the field of play.

Here’s the picture: Suddenly MotorSport SA (MSA) withdraws the competition licence of a paraplegic quad bike rider, who had been competing successfully for three years because he is paraplegic! When he appealed, the MSA Medical Panel said that while “his courage and tenacity to participate in competitive motorsport was admirable, he should rather consider a career as a co-driver in Rally or Off-Road car events.”

The MSA’s General Competition Rules (GCR) state that “Applicants must have sufficient function of their limbs to permit full control of the vehicle during an event…” However, the doctor President of the Medical Panel fails to note the next paragraph which says “A competing vehicle driven by a person with disability may be adapted to enable proper control of the vehicle by its rider/driver…”

MSA’s own rules “allow” him to compete, yet they summarily withdraw his licence after he has successfully raced for three years! Surely MSA should be on a completely different mission, encouraging and helping people with disabilities to compete, thrilled with their vision to integrate!

When I spoke with the Medical Panel President, he suggested MSA convene a panel of medical experts to evaluate his capacity to compete. What would his “experts” know about his capacity to control a quad bike? Surely a panel of quad bike competitors is better suited to evaluate his ability? In his last event, he assisted a fallen able-bodied co-competitor!

Personally, I am flabbergasted by MSA’s attitude. Ironically, they donated a quad cycle to QASA two years ago to encourage members to take up quad riding; and now they do this? QASA will do everything and anything to have this situation reversed.

The complete standstill in our mission to curb catastrophic rugby injuries is another massive “markeer die pas” frustration. And while SARU continually delays the introduction of QASA’s realistic proposals to make a real contribution to reversing the horrible trend, more and more young players are being injured on the field.

The season has just begun and already six players have been catastrophically injured – one has since died. Last season 19 serious injuries left four players dead and five quadriplegics. This is unacceptable and unforgivable.

QASA and the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Players Fund have given SARU’s leadership all the help and expertise it needs to commence a strategy to reverse the trend. Yet nothing is being done.

Something must be done. What will make a difference? What will galvanise Rugby and Motorsport into real activity? We are realising that our only option is to stage real protest; real intervention, to seek maximum media exposure of MSA’s discrimination and SARU’s oblivion. People must see something so shocking and disturbing happening on live television, to stop this marking time.

SA signs UN Charter on Disabled Rights

Despite inertia and crass misperception in motorsport and rugby, we are thrilled to report a global victory for disabled people. Congratulations to Mr. Essop Pahad, Minister in the Office of the President, who joined 70 other countries in signing the United Nations Charter on Human Rights for People with Disabilities. All that remains now is for our Government to ratify the Charter and then implement the strategies on the ground. SARU and MSA must now take heed.

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