THE bowling club of Papenfusburg is 105 years old. It was always an important institution in the town and surroundings, close to the heart of the community; the pastor, the school principal, the lawyer, the veterinarian and the dignitaries of the Afrikaans Christian Women's Association and their spouses were traditionally all members.
As Afrikaners prefer, it is a well-regulated club with a constitution and a governing body of members and old members known as Oupaap.
But after 1994, and especially in the last 10 years, more and more brown and black Papies, as the townsfolk refer to themselves, started joining the club. According to informed sources, there are also a lot of liberals, homosexuals and other dissidents rolling the balls in the town nowadays.
Now there is an uproar. The chairman of Oupaap, Johan Genis, is furious because the new president of the club, Willem de Winnaar, has proposed that the article in the constitution which prescribes that all players must wear white clothes at all times and that every meeting should open with an Afrikaans prayer, be scrapped.
This amendment must be deleted or De Winnaar's head must roll, says Genis. It's pure political correctness, he says. He also suspects that De Winnaar bought a brandy and Coke with club money in the clubhouse bar for one of his supporters the other day.
The new black and brown club members, in particular, do not see the importance of white clothes, and there are two Muslims and a Jew in the town who say they feel excluded by the prayers.
But Genis is an old hand at politics. He speaks with great certainty and eloquence about values, traditions and constitutionality.
He soon ensured the local newspaper, Die Paaper, was on his side. He arranges for his supporters to send letters to Die Paaper daily to smear his critics and has even quietly hired a nephew to make videos in which he, Genis, is depicted as a brave knight on a white horse brandishing a sword.
The De Winnaar supporters say Genis and his Oupaap committee must first consult everyone; they cannot just issue decrees. We are not all like that, they say.
Shame, says Genis, you don't understand democracy. I was elected chairman of Oupaap with a majority, so my voice is Oupaap's voice.
L'Oupaap, c'est moi.
Political analysts believe that Genis indeed has a lot of support in the Oupaap community because the overwhelming number of Oupaap members come from the days when clothes were still pure white and Jesus preferred Afrikaans. Most of them are over 50.
There are still too few new, post-1994 members in Oupaap to have a determining influence, say the analysts.
That contrarian newspaper Vrye Weeklaag has now asked in an editorial comment whether Oupaap, as it is currently composed, should not become just a social club.
Is Oupaap now more important than the bowling club itself?
When the Oupaap members vote on the motions and counter-motions this week, writes the newspaper, they must remember that their ranks primarily represent the past — Genis himself stopped bowling in 1975.
If they really have the club's interests at heart, they will acknowledge that the club is no longer, and should no longer be, the institution it was in the 1970s. Papenfusburg itself is no longer the crappy old Boeredorpie of the 1970s.
And they must tell Genis & Co straight up that just because they were once elected to management, they can follow their own heads and do not have to consult Oupaap members, writes Vrye Weeklaag.
After all, it is a proud bowling club, not just something like a university.
♦ VWB ♦
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