So Susan Devoy wanted to play squash in apartheid South Africa? Welcome to your new Race Relations Commissioner



The Listener has done some investigation into our new Race Relations Commissioner’s past and it is far uglier than any of us expected.

From her own autobiography, Susan explains that the only reason why she didn’t play apartheid South Africa was because it might hurt her reputation and damage her future earnings…

Many girls would head to the sunshine circuit in South Africa where tournament organisers were renowned for their hospitality and good times.

It could well have been called the goldmine circuit. There, in my early days anyhow, the biggest sums of money were to be made. It is one place, however, that I never visited. I couldn’t afford to, politically speaking of course. The squash association didn’t want me to go, because they had no idea what the repercussions would be. HART (Halt All Racist Tours) was very active in New Zealand in those days, and the anti-apartheid feeling so strong that any attempt to play there would have become a big issue. We knew I’d be blacklisted and the media coverage could damage my reputation in this country.

As an individual, I would have been singled out. It would have been remembered and there was the chance my sponsors may have pulled out to avoid adverse publicity as well. Furthermore, my Sports Foundation grant was given with the unwritten understanding that, if at all possible, I would avoid sporting contact with South Africa. The offers were incredibly attractive, however, and it took some strength to hang back, watching, while others went over and took advantage of the situation.

There was talk of being able to make upwards of $100,000 for a six to eight week trip. In those days that was big money, especially since it was also all-expenses-paid and absolutely the best of everything while you were there. Each year [husband] John and I would sit down and write out the pros and cons, trying to decide whether or not I should go. The cons always came out on top. As threatened by the United Nations, the girls who did go to South Africa would be put on a blacklist. It was seen as a bit of a joke, however, because all they had to do was write a letter saying they would never do it again – then they’d go back the next year. The English girls never had any trouble, the Aussies didn’t seem to worry, but as a Kiwi, and number one, it would have been seen as more significant had I played there.

It would be easy to say it was political convictions that stopped me, but that just isn’t true. I do not condone apartheid, but I don’t think boycotting sporting contacts helped the situation over there. If it was going to help, I could have seen the justification in it. As it was, people simply found ways of getting around the ban.

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The girls always came back with such wonderful tales of the cities they visited – Johannesburg, Capetown, Pretoria and Durban. It was considered quite a challenge to play there, because of the altitude. It is a country I would really love to have visited and I felt we sportspeople were the scapegoats.

…while the Government are scrambling to explain how they allowed John Key to appoint his mate to the Director of the GCSB, perhaps we could also ask how on earth Judith Collins appointed a squash player for Race Relations Commissioner whose only reason not to play apartheid South Africa was fear of financial repercussions.

If you thought Devoy was an inappropriate choice before, knowing her political convictions for racial equality were outweighed by her desire to make money demands she do the honorable thing and resign.

NZs race relations deserve better than this.


  1. What an insult..a squash player becoming the Race Relations Commissioner??What the hell’s wrong over there! choose someone with clues..and preferably NOT WHITE!

    • Ok, Rhonda, so a squash player can’t be race relations conciliator, not can a white person. So the field’s still quite open – how about a Maori league player or a Samoan shot-putter ?

    • LOL…NOT WHITE? Are you not a kettle calling a pot black? You ask what is wrong over here….what is wrong is, a South African national comes over here and commits “mercy” murder on his mother (New Zealand resident), then complains about jail time! That’s what’s wrong here. Worse, your celebrity Arch Bishop writes a letter to get him off the hook!

  2. Devoy lacks perceivable political principle or understanding. But she has over the years been patron of this or that and cuddles up to anyone that, heh, courts her including Lab politicians.

    And she made a wee bit of a Doris of her self during the ad agency led “Black Heart” Americas Cup affair. It is tempting sort of to give her a naive pass with her track record. She is not quite as ugly as a rough tough Cavalier rugby money grubber, but is certainly not suitable for her designated new role by her own account.

    It was Steve Van Zandt an old rock and roller that recorded the “Ain’t gonna play Sun City No More” in the 80s. People of Susan’s age were around at the time and we all made our choice (or can’t remember if you are the PM).

    She’s prob been roped in regardless but yes, resign now.

  3. So wait?? You are calling her out for not going to play? regardless of reasons, she didn’t go when she could have. how can anyone win in your Pakeha bashing world.

      • So If Dame Susan was a proud Maori, mates with Hone a supporter of Mana Party etc etc she would still get picked on? Insert Tui Billboard.

        “whose only reason not to play apartheid South Africa was fear of financial repercussions” well that’s incorrect. please re-read the listener article. she lost out on up to $100,000 for not going. The only fear she had is how others would have judged her for going to play the sport she loved and was the world’s best at.

        If only she knew she would be judged badly decades later anyway for not going…

        The fact that she is an Olympian already means she has mingled and mixed with more races and more situations than any of you put together, do some research on the meaning of the Olympics why its there, what it is for and the spirit behind it.

        There is a special place in my heart for blind ignorance.

        • Oh the poor thing, so this is the Pakeha Bashing world you were talking about?

          Ka arohahokia kia koe me to Kuini o Hakinakina o te Ao. He tino pouri ahau mo te mamae o tona Wairua.

          It must have been an horrific ordeal.

          Its great that their are people like yourself who must surely have indepth knowledge of the Maori World and their suffering, because only ignorant people wouldnt know anything about this as you have said yourself.

          Heoi ano na
          Toni Boynton

        • If she was Maori, she wouldn’t have been allowed to play squash in Apartheid South Africa, silly!

        • See, here’s the thing. It’s nothing at all about her being a poor picked on special snowflake for being white.

          It’s about her being picked on because she’s being appointed to a position that is supposed to advocate for the rights of people of colour, and she has a demonstrated history of being at best ignorant and clueless about issues of race relations.

          Also, the Olympics haven’t been about anything except money for decades now.

          • Sorry Arthur, you appear to not fully understand the role of the RRC. Their role is not to “advocate for the rights of people of colour”. That would itself be grounds for bringing a case before the RRC. Their role requires them to look into any discrimination based on race, ethnic origin etc. As such it does not preclude white people from holding that office.

    • “regardless of reasons?” the exact point.

      If Susan Devoy had cited “not going, declaring my solidarity with the South African people against apartheid” she would have demonstrated some scope to be considered for the RRC job.

      Her squiggly reasoning quoted from her book disqualifies her.

    • Pakeha Bashing World?

      CKIWI were you taught NZ History at School particulary, the NZ Land Wars and Tready of Waitangi? Were you taught Maori Language at School?

      My great grand mother, her mother and her sisters were raped and held by Pakeha police for over a week. Her two brothers were shot in front of her. Her father was arrested and and thrown in prison for resisting arrest.

      For three days before the police did this my great grand mother, her father and brothers and their entire community had welcomed the police into their settlement and provided them with accomodation and food for 3 days. The remainder of the Police arrived on the fourth day and iniated the above.

      My grandmothers Name was Waiwhakaatataa and her Father was Rua Kenana. They had everything taken from them and and they take it still beacuase the only version accepted in the pakeha world is the pakeha version.

      My Grandparents, Mum and Dad were beaten for speaking Maori and forced to learn Pakeha language and the Pakeha History.

      I have walked into shops, chemists and banks and been followed by staff or security. I have been subjected to racists comments and behaviour all my life. I have been dscriminated against for being a Maori probably at least 6 or 7 times a year.

      But thats what happens in a Maori Bashing world, please let me know what experiences you have had in a Pakeha Bashing world.

      Naku noa na
      Toni Boynton – Great great Granddaughter of Rua Kenana

      after my grandmother had welcomed feed and hosted the

      and all her belongs and land taken from her. Her Uncles were shot dead in front of her. Her father

      • Thank you for sharing some of the consequences of our shameful colonial past. These histories should be imbedded in our education but of course they were wiped from our school books. Devoy almost seems proud at being ignorant about the injustices against indigenous people which have been committed and are still being committed in New Zealand. She shows an almost apologetic perspective for not going to South Africa and fails to make the rational link between the sanctions which isolated that country and led to freedom. Policies of assimilation and apartheid have caused indigenous people and minorities to suffer murder, torture and calculated abuse by successive Governments. And yet she is flippant about these systems and sees no need to rally for justice. She not only deserves to be ousted from a job she has barely started she should apologise and compensate Maori for the harm she has already done in taking it on at all.

      • First of All I’m Second Generation Irish New Zealander I am not speaking on behalf of early settlers my family didn’t get here until the late 1940’s Just after World War 2, yes I was taught Maori language in school, not as much as my Kids Learn now, it was more numbers colours and common phrases. And on Wednesday Just gone, I was defending Maori Culture to another Dad who thought it was a bit overused in the Kindy, I simply said how can it do any harm by learning about where they are from, he couldn’t answer back. I completed early Childhood education while at Play Centre such as Te Wai etc. There is a Strong Culture and it is Unique, I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think there would be anything like this in Australia or America. But in saying that the Proudest Kiwi’s I have seen are the ones who live abroad.

        I did Te moana nui a kiwa at Intermediate which i chose to do can still remember most Waiata but the actions have long escaped me, 65% of my Family Is Half Maori, or Maorish (Maori/Irish) we like to say. I try to Educate myself, Have read many books about early history of New Zealand, even half pie conspiracy theories pre Maori. New Zealands Heritage the making of a Nation is a great lot of books would recommend to anyone. I havn’t Studied at university

        I am in NO disbelief that Some Maori get a raw Deal from white people, I have seen it first hand for example at a school I went to for a year that was pretty much all white, With Two Maori in the whole school, pretty much also my only 2 good friends their as even being white I didn’t fit into the rural farmer bullshit way of thinking and life that the majority was, the 3 of us all came from cities and were used to growing up and being around other cultures, and also fortunately one of the boys could also bench 100kg at 15, so big lad. looked after us smaller two.
        Or my page on facebook thier can be a lot of racism in every direction, all it takes is one

        I am not responsible for the early history in this country neither are my kids, but cause I fall into the “pakeha” category in most of your eyes I am. My opinion is to be ONE COUNTRY and to stop being so divided, I really don’t care what Day we celebrate as long as everyone can be proud of that day, not just one or the other. I want to see a Balance how or if it will happen unfortunately in my lifetime I will not see it the way things are, but my kids might get that chance. New Zealand belongs to New Zealanders, Maori Pakeha Samoan Indian etc etc, if you were born here you are a Kiwi no matter your heritage

        It is Terrible what happened to your family a really vivid horrible reality no matter what race they are. I can see your anger however I wouldn’t blame a whole race of people for it.

        Police in this country can be disgrace, and it seems finally they are being called out for it more and more. And hopefully some results will come out of it.

        The Government Sucks, National is Poison and Labour Is weak, and one of those will win next election sadly.

        There are a lot of things to advocate in this country, The National Anthem brings Unity, look carefully next AB’s game at Eden park, A rainbow of people singing both versions proudly.

        I believe I have strong opinions. I like to share them, put out a different perspective, I don’t Believe my Neck is Red

        I am grateful for an honest comment, It is rewarding to see with so many sarcastic propaganda comments that I normally see. I hope I have given you a more honest comment in return

  4. Appointing a person who has no interest in race relations to Race Relations Commissioner is an overtly political act.

    In the same way that people who claim that ‘race isn’t something they think about’ or that people with any race-based grievence should ‘get over it’ are actually making a statement about racism.

  5. So, let me understand this right. She was offered tons of money to go there and weighed up the issues and decided not to go… and this is somehow a black mark against her?

    What sort of fool would attempt to fabricate a negative news story out of someone who did the RIGHT thing?

    • Read it again, she weighed up what it might do to her career versus how much money she might make, little more than that. She is totally unsuitable to be our race relations commisioner.

      • So was Joris De Bres. He was little more than a union PR flack prior to that role and look how he became regarded for his work as race relations commissioner.

        The left have conveniently selective memories when it comes to pointing out the failings of others.

        • Bollocks, Joris got the post because of the breathed of his work experience and his ability to articulate bi-culturalism to a Pakeha audience. Joris major failing to begin with was, he wasn’t forceful enough.

  6. Yawn. Getting hot under the collar about the motives of a sportsperson a kid 30 years ago? Pitching in irrelevant crimes over 100 years ago? Yawn. Personally, I’d scrap the whole divisive department, scrap the treaty and the self-interested interpretations of it we are constantly bored with, which serve only to divide the nation and keep Maori poor (except the chosen few).

  7. ‘It would be easy to say it was political convictions that stopped me, but that just isn’t true. I do not condone apartheid, but I don’t think boycotting sporting contacts helped the situation over there. If it was going to help, I could have seen the justification in it.’

    So despite the majority in SA calling for the sports boycott our very own Susan Devoy new that they were wrong and it wasn’t going to help the situation. Such arrogance and ignorance, Susan you listen to the oppressed and do what they ask not what you as one selfish individual think you know.

  8. Susan Devoy is an uninspired choice but what recent choices by Key have shown any insight or capacity for anything other than cynical cronyism?

  9. Apart from the obvious reasons pointed out above as to why she shouldn’t have been given the job…WHAT qualifications does she actually have, to deserve our taxpayers $200.00 per year salary!!! it is a complete insult and just another kick in the ribs from the national party idiots.

  10. It also speaks volumes that she doesn’t seem to have considered at all (a) why South Africa would pay athletes ridiculous sums of money to play there if it would have no political impact and (b) how South Africa managed to have that kind of funding for sports in the first place *cough*oppressing people for economic gain*cough*

  11. […] >>> and Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury comments on startling revelations about Susan Devoy. Revelations that make her even more unacceptable as our new Race Relations commissioner (but just perfect for National). See: So Susan Devoy wanted to play squash in apartheid South Africa? Welcome to your new Race Relations C… […]

  12. The only thing I would deem important in this situation would be whether or not the person chosen for any job had the right qualifications. In this case I would assume you would need a fair amount of knowledge about Race Relations and have a proven track record in this area, especially in this very top job. You may even need to be proficient in different languages and or Political Sciences as a starting point. Until I am advised otherwise it is clear that Susan may not be qualified for the job. I do hope that the National Government are not using Susan in some way, in this role, as she was a cracker Squash Player if nothing else.

    • Interesting point. She’s obviously qualified in SOME way to the people who appointed her or she wouldn’t have got the job … it’s just not any way that’s relevant, appropriate, meaningful or even noticeable to the rest of us?

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