Oppressor-victim narratives are prevalent currently. Victimhood is particularly seductive (and worth clinging to) because it calls for the morally-turpid oppressor to change, but calls for no change from the innocent victim. Examples of victim narratives are: the wealthy oppress the workers; men oppress woman; colonisers oppress the colonised; white people oppressed people of colour; straight people oppress gay people; beneficiaries of affirmative action oppress non-beneficiaries; etc, etc. There is of course much overarching truth in these narratives. Kgothatso Montjane is aware of overarching narratives, but she chooses to focus on more positive matters. In the modern Western world, where slavery and the gulag do not exist, most people can make some of the kind of choices that Kgothatso Montjane has made.
OUR SUMMARY OF THIS PODCAST: Kgothatso Montjane competed at this year’s Women’s Wheelchair Tennis Championships at Wimbledon. She was the first African to compete in this event. Although she did not qualify for normal entry (having gained entry on a wildcard), and although she had not played on grass before and she did not have a coach, she reached the semi-finals.
Shortly before the Wimbledon event, the normal sponsor of South African wheelchair tennis withdrew. Montjane herself had insufficient financial resources but a late contribution allowed her to travel to Wimbledon. However, the funds were insufficient for her coach to go with her.
She says that because of financial problems she thought that this Wimbledon would be her last tournament. “So I wanted to go and make the best of it and enjoy the experience … It was a dream come true and at that moment I felt like even if I quit, I would be happy because I completed the four slams.”
In a mirthful interview, the interviewer said, “But we (South Africa – editor) failed to show up for you” because of little funding.
Montjane replied: “That’s how it turned out to be, but I had to make it work … As an athlete, you don’t want to be focusing more on the negative side, you want to keep pushing despite the difficulties.”
This was also the first time she had played on a grass court and she was in trepidation. “Grass was so, so difficult … pushing on grass with a wheelchair … I thought it was impossible when I first saw it. What came into my mind was, ‘Just make it work, don’t complain’ … My coach wasn’t there, I had no one to advise me on all of these things, I had to work it out for myself.”
“I found myself so slow on the court and it was so frustrating. I believe if I have better preparations on grass, next time I will do better.”
Born with a congenital disorder which meant that her leg had to be amputated and which affected her arms, Montjane had started playing wheelchair tennis at the relatively mature age of 19.
“I had a conversation with myself – that I should be patient with myself and find ways to make it work … There’s a lot of negative stuff happening but we make choices. It’s our choice where we want to focus …
“I feel so happy that I was born with a disability and grew up in villages … I was also fortunate to go to a special school where others also didn’t have a leg or an arm and no one was going to judge you.
“We are unlike people who get into an accident and their life changes suddenly and they feel so terrible … People like us (disabled people – editor) must talk to those people (accident victims – editor) that they must accept who they are at the moment … because you cannot change it … acceptance is the biggest thing. Dwelling on your problems won’t help you.
“I am happy about the way my mother raised me because she acknowledged that I had a disability and I had special needs, but that didn’t mean that I was special. I still had to do the household chores and look after the younger children.”
At school Montjane was a very active pupil so when wheelchair tennis was offered she wasn’t interested. “Then I was just told I had to go and represent the school.”
Recently, some funding has become available for Montjane – for 2018, at least, her funding is secure.