‘Bending The Rules 

Braving the bouncers that apartheid South Africa pitched at him, cricketer Rafique Gangat used every stroke in the book to defend his wicket – an enduring belief that, regardless of colour or creed, all human beings are equal. Bending the Rules is a collection of anecdotes that piece together a picture of Gangat’s extraordinary life, from an idyllic rural childhood in KwaZulu-Natal to a pioneering career as South Africa’s first diplomat of colour.

Just as Gangat began to feel the burn of racism and apartheid, he was exposed to political resistance and introduced to rock ’n roll. His rebellion took root and –bellbottom-clad – he began to swim against the stream.

Throughout the book, Gangat comes back to his enduring passion for cricket, fuelled in childhood by games played with a cola crate standing in as a wicket. It runs as a parallel theme to his anecdotes of bigotry and prejudice and, in many instances, plays a unifying role. But there was one pivotal day – on his first visit to the Wanderers cricket ground – that played a part in changing his life forever.  

Far from sanctimonious, Gangat dishes up a healthy dose of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. Through illicit liaisons across the colour bar he fell foul of apartheid laws against inter-racial relationships, while experiments with dagga took the edge off racism’s sting. Still mad about music, Gangat got involved in the industry after finishing his degree and, in similar vein to the unifying power of sport, he believed music could do the same. This led to groundbreaking ventures in creating a unique disco-rock fusion sound.

When his idealism was squashed by disappointment, Gangat tried business leadership. When racism blocked his way, he tried diplomacy. Yet again, he was ahead of his time and decided to stop swimming against the stream. He chose to settle down, marry and find his voice on radio.

But being a pioneer was in his stars and he became the first career diplomat of colour in South Africa – a South Africa at the end days of apartheid rule. His idealism was alive and well, and he wanted to be part of ringing in the changes that would lead to democracy.

However, his old wrestling companion – racist prejudice – was also alive and well, which added layers of challenge. Like a raconteur, Gangat highlights the interesting incidents and lifts the lid on a new South Africa being tainted by greed, corruption and power mongering.

Even for one who thought outside the box to achieve an outcome – sometimes bending the rules in the process – Gangat was disillusioned. Through bending the rules to suit themselves, his superiors eventually achieved his demise.

Yet, despite being bowled out – more than once – Gangat never lost faith that whether through sport, music, radio or diplomacy there was always hope of finding common ground.  

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