Mind Sports South Africa: Where Gaming and Politics meet

8 min read

South Africa is in a unique position when it comes to eSports: unlike other countries where eSports is almost entirely organized and run through private leagues and association, we have a public, government organization that can organize official international matches. They even receive government funding and can give eSports athletes national colors. Unfortunately, they face similar issues to other governmental bodies.

Who owns the flag?

Yesterday, Gavin told you about the issues a team wishing to play Battlefield 4 at the ESL. They were not allowed to use the name South Africa, nor were they allowed to make use of their national flag. As a member of SASCOC, the MSSA is the body tasked with the development of mind sports, as well as awarding national colors for international competitions – this is in much the same way as Rugby Union is responsible for developing Rugby and elevating some players to the level of “Springboks”. But do they have control over the use of the flag?

South african pride

There is legislation surrounding sports, the flag and national colors. I want to be clear here – I’m not a lawyer. As my studies of European Law proved to me, there will be legal experts on even the smallest field (there are experts on EU alcohol laws), so I’m sure there is a South African sports law expert somewhere who could contradict me. However, the law is quite clear on the use of the flag, and differs from the laws on national colors. It appears to me that the MSSA has gotten the two confused.

According to the Government Gazette published in 2001, there are rules about the shape of the flag as well as general instructions on respect for the flag and proper treatment of the flag. These include not using it to cover objects during unveilings or for use as a tablecloth (obviously) – no restrictions are given here on citizens using the flag to represent national origin or pride. In Andre Louw’s Sports Law in South Africa, we get explicit explanation about the use of national colors:

An athlete, person, member federation or organization which […] project himself or herself of itself as representing South Africa in an official capacity in a sporting activity without the written consent of SASCOC or Sport and Recreation SA […] is building of an offense and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment

Alright, so it is not allowed to wear national colors or present oneself as representing SA without written permission from SASCOC (via MSSA in this case). Considering that the ESL is hosting a country cup, people may assume that a team called South Africa would be representing the country. However, I sincerely doubt that each team captain has official permission from their countries to represent the nation. Now, South Africa looks like a bunch of crazy Australians called “Southern Barbarians” on the list. Perhaps the sports laws still apply in this context, but will SASCOC be doing a raid on Trackmania soon, too, to get rid of all the people purporting to represent their country?

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Perth shop

Then there is the use of the flag. What restrictions are there on the use of the flag? As far as I can find, as long as the flag is treated with respect and correctly depicted, anyone can use it to show citizenship or national pride. SASCOC and the MSSA have control over people presenting themselves as representing South Africa, but they do not have specific ownership over the use of the flag. Again, if anyone knows a legal expert specializing in this specific field, their input/correction would be appreciated.

Is this a puppet president?

Last year, we told you how Colin Webster could no longer stand as President of the MSSA. That’s right, according the constitution he had run out of terms in office and had to stand down. During their AGM, the MSSA elected the sole candidate for president, Simphiwe Maphumulo, to that office.

I’m sure Maphumulo is a nice guy. Well, actually, I’m not sure of anything about him. We have not been given any access to him – all communication still goes through Webster. That’s right, if you go to the MSSA Facebook page you will still only see his contact details, and the same is true of the SASCOC member page. I would love to direct you to their official page, but it seems that Facebook and Wikipedia are their official representation. It doesn’t take much to change contact details on Facebook, but it is clear that the president does not want to be contacted, or has been told to avoid contact. When I phoned Webster yesterday for Maphumulo’s contact details, I was advised that permission had not been given to give out his phone numbers. When we used the only channel we could, Facebook, to contact Maphumulo, Gavin received the following response from the MSSA page:

Many people have seen Mr Simphiwe Maphumulo since he has become president of the MSSA. At the moment, the President is finding his feet with the position and will respond to requests through the MSSA’s office.

And when he attempted to contact the new president directly through Facebook, this was the reply:

Hi Gavin, I will only be available next month,I will let you know the date later,thanks

I understand that someone new to a position may not know all the ins and outs of an organization. That said, Maphumulo has been an active participant in the MSSA for many years now, and as the president of a public body he needs to be available to the media to make comments. The lack of access and continued focus on Webster makes it all too easy to jump to the conclusion that Maphumulo is merely a puppet president. I hope to be proven wrong on this, and that the new president takes the MSSA in a positive new direction. Unfortunately, evidence thus far would lead us to believe that Webster is still in charge.

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Is this another government body plagued with corruption? If I’m reading into things too much, I sincerely apologize, but it’s very hard to take the change in leadership seriously when I am still forced to contact the former president. The MSSA is quick to point fingers at this site, calling us unprofessional, yet this irregular behavior would not be tolerated in any governmental organization. The MSSA keeps insisting that they are treating eSports like any other sport, so we should treat the MSSA like any other SASCOC member – can you imagine how the media would respond if this happened to top leadership for Cricket or Rugby?

I have contacted the MSSA (aka Colin Webster) with a request for comment. Thus far, we have received no response.

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Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • oVg

    SANRAL could do a better job for e-sports than the MSSA.

    • Admiral Chief in Vegas

      Bliksem now THAT is pushing it oVg!

      • oVg


        • Devourer of Small Bunnies

          HAHAHA a million times this

    • Kensei Seraph

      The sad thing is you’re probably right.
      Although they’d have to pay for “maintenance and improvements” on the flag.

    • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

      Sheesh OVG. What did you have for breakfast? Are you crazy? Then we’d have to pay them to watch any live streaming of the sports!

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        …and then they bill you triple the amount

        • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

          Only if you don’t have an e-cookie that you’ve registered for to stream the video

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            Indeed, SANRAL knows where you have been…

          • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

            Pay per page clicks instead of per/KM

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas


  • Admiral Chief in Vegas


    • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!


      • Ultimo_Cleric N7


        • GalacticLordCaptainAwesomeness

          MUCH PRETTY

          • Sageville

            OVER 100!

    • Hammersteyn


    • Hammersteyn

      So much lag, image was posted three times O_0

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    They could call themselves the Southern Barbarians & use the South African flag, thereby side-stepping the issue of being a team officially (assumed or not) representing South Africa while showing national pride. There’s a difference between being the South African team & being the team from South Africa.

  • Jonah Cash

    Hahaha!! As a sports nut I can see the following happening: New president of SARU (South African Rugby Union) says he can’t be contacted yet because he is still learning about his job????? Wait what???? Oh please, if you run for fffffff president of something AND get elected then surely you should be able to take the reins and run the ffffff organization?!?!?!?! What a bunch of clowns!!!!

    • Tarisma

      Imagine this headlines.

      Springbok Squad anounced

      The same Springbok squad who played in the end of year test matches will be used for the Rugby Championship despite 8 of the 27 selected players being injured,this is due to the selectors are new and haven’t learnt their jobs yet. Although we only have 1 prop and no flyhalf we’re sure our boys will do their best and win.

  • TiMsTeR1033

    such utter bullshit, bad enough got idiots in real politics now in gaming too! what is this world coming too. Next gamers wearing red berets too 0_0

  • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

    Well according to our media people here in the office, use of the flag is perfectly fine as long as they didn’t put it next to (or in conjunction with) an official sports affiliate (In this case MSSA).

    What that means is, if they used the flag AND MSSA logo, then they are in trouble because then they are claiming National, official sports affiliation with an official sports club that they aren’t actually part of.

    But the flag on its own? That’s fine because then they are simply showing pride for their country. They’d better behave themselves then but as long as they do nothing to disgrace SA while under the flag they should be fine.

    NOTE: This isn’t taking from legislation and is in no way meant to be legal advise. But rather just what some of the folks here in office know to the best of their knowledge.

    • Admiral Chief in Vegas

      Stop flirting with your hot office girls Llew

    • Lord Chaos

      I think it’s time for a rebel league.

    • Anon A Mouse

      As far as I can remember from my drunken varsity days, any person is allowed to display the national flag as long as it is displayed correctly and used with dignity. You can not, however use the flag in a competition that might suggest that you are part of a national team. I think it is on this premise that the MSSA said they may not use the flag because it was a country cup. However what I understand from what has been written it never stated that it is the different country’s national teams against each other, only teams from different countries and as such they should have been able to use South Africa in their name as well as use the flag.

      • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

        Hence why the people say as long as it isn’t used along with an official team flag / logo.

        So for example a rugby team from school can use the South African flag on a tour against other countries school teams (a country cup of sorts) and they will be fine.

        However, if they include SARU or Springbok logos anywhere then they are in contravention of the rules and regs of sport use of the flag.

        So same here. As long as they don’t include a national team / affiliations flag or logo along with the flag they should be fine as long as they show dignity and respect

        • AJ Titanium

          The issue here is that MSSA wants control. They do not care to be nice, or accomodating or whatever because, like the pretty chick in high school, they wont be able to control their friends. I believe they will be laughed off and subverted if they dont change their game.

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7

    This is getting a little silly now. The MSSA need to get their asses in gear. If this continues, it’s only a matter of time until the organizations funding is pulled and we are the laughing stock of esports

    • TiMsTeR1033

      We the laughing stocks in many other ways… whats new, welcome to South Africa.

  • RinceThis2014

    Maybe we need to start throwing shoes? http://0.tqn.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/o/W/2/bush-matrix.gif

  • Georgie Chrono

    New Changes to MSSA Contract : Any gamer who competitively plays a racing game of any kind will have to pay the MSSA R3 as a Fuel levy for any lap completed

    • Admiral Chief in Vegas


  • Bonk

    Well they need a new website! I can’t believe that an institution that gets government funding can have such a shocking website. And how can you vote someone to be president, surely if they get funding and a wage, positions should be advertised, or do you work on a voluntary basis. Why can’t they have a PR officer that will handle media requests?

  • Lord Chaos

    Seeing as how they threaten and throw their toys about, would it not be a good idea if a rebel league were created? Much like we played sport during the bad years or how Zim got practice when they were struck off internationals.

    • Georgie Chrono
      • Rags

        Haven’t done shit. Its just a facebook group where people spam random shit.

        • Georgie Chrono

          Do you even understand what they have to do to even been considered to be a representative body for players, they are busy writing up their constitution, read into things more before you just say that they spam shit and havent done shit.

          • Rags

            Hmmm, okay. But their silence is deafening and I am getting impatient 🙁 Where are their PR peeps? Not a single word from them since ~November.

          • Georgie Chrono

            Yeah that was my big concern too, i personally know some peeps who are working with saesa and they have almost completed their constitution 🙂

    • Georgie Chrono

      well that is more of a player representation but if you think about it shurly the DGL would be seen as the “rebel league” as they are giving teams playing time but they are in no way connected to the government?

  • AJ Titanium

    i have a lot of personal opinions. this one is that C. Webster should lose some weight. He will bend an office chair beyond recognition and flatten the mousepad with his forearm in a day. I thought gamers were free people. We are enslaved by government. fml. ffs. yfc, stop it and lets go. Let everyone play and use the flag and go big. Every gamer should have the flag on their logo because we are a proud nation. Surely this is fronting worse than the DA…

  • Dean

    Does this mean I need to stop playing TrackMania? My car is splattered with the SA flag and I think I’m technically representing considering the rest of the guys on the track.

  • DeWet Lombard-Bovéy

    Nice article as usual Zoe 🙂

    The biggest thing is there is a difference between Pro and National.

    The MSSA has the rights and blah blah blah needed for National but cant do anything to the Pro teams.

    Using Dota as an example. Romania national team has Bone7, ComeWithMe etc in it. Each of these players plays for different Pro teams. ( IE LGD.cn *lgd china* does not mean they are the Chinese National team BUT a Pro team that comes from China)

    There was no need for them to force the BF4 guys to change their name. Although it would be nice to know what they called themselves.

    Easy solution guys. Just make sure if you play in a comp that you register under your club/team/clan name that is in no way or can in no way be seen to be that you are representing SA itself.

    I know it sucks. but by doing that. The MSSA cant do anything.

    Good luck boys. make us proud 🙂

  • Jaded_Reprobate

    I’m having a feeling….

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