The ANC came out in support of the Springbok emblem on Friday, saying it did not want to see it replaced.

“The ANC would like to state categorically that it would not like to see any replacement or change of the Springbok emblem until sufficient debate and consultation of all stakeholders, including rugby supporters, has taken place,” said African National Congress spokeswoman Jessie Duarte.

“We would also like to encourage our world-acclaimed sportsmen to continue winning more world cups for South Africa and not be detracted by debates on the future of the Springbok emblem.”

She was responding to discussions at the National Sports Indaba in Durban where sports portfolio committee chairman Butana Komphela told delegates on Thursday that the Springbok emblem divided the country.

“Minister, I want you to observe the arrogance of white people on the Springbok emblem,” he said. Komphela said that there could be “no negotiation” on replacing the Springbok emblem.

However, the Democratic Alliance said it saw no need to scrap the Springbok emblem. “Everybody in the country, including those who are not necessarily rugby fans, identifies with this emblem. Every emerging rugby player aspires to be part of the Springboks’ legacy,” said DA spokesman Donald Lee.

“The emblem is a symbol of excellence, pride and passion. It has been with us through two Rugby World Cup victories, and it epitomises the pursuit of excellence, not only in rugby, but sport in the country.”

The DA urged the ANC government to focus on developing sports infrastructure in South Africa to produce the best sportsmen and women who could improve the country’s performance in international sports competitions. “The ANC government’s campaign to scrap the Springbok emblem is part of an orchestrated ploy to divide South Africa unnecessarily, and to deflect attention from the many failures of its sports policies,” Lee said.

“Former president Nelson Mandela, endorsed the emblem because he acknowledged its significance and value. If the emblem was good for Mandela, then it is good for the rest of South Africa.”

Komphela’s claim that the emblem “divides” the nation was unfounded, he said. “Each time the Springboks play, South Africans from all walks of life rally behind the team. “The pride and euphoria that follow our rugby team are a testament to the fact that the Springbok emblem is appreciated across racial, political and ethnic lines.

“Mr Komphela should spend more time concentrating on his oversight responsibilities than on his witch-hunt against the Springboks. “What South Africa needs is to develop young talent in sport to produce the best sports stars, who will bring the country into league with the best sporting nations in the world,” Lee said.