Open Letter to Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s Minister of Sport: Cleanse South African Sport Of Elite Control And Domination: From Cheryl Roberts

15 Jan

Dear Minister Mbalula

Re: Focus On South African Sport, Root Out The Negatives

You may be disappointed that you were not elected as one of the ANC’s top six officials at the ANC’s 2012 elective congress. However, I’m writing a letter to you, saying don’t be disappointed; rather welcome this opportunity as a chance for you to concentrate on your paid job which is to oversee South African sport.

During your tenure as a cabinet minister, you must demonstrate what is expected of government in transforming South African society; give leadership to your government responsibility and ensure that sport in Sport Africa is developed, organized and managed in the interests of South Africans, and not only benefit a controlling elite. Should you be able to achieve this, you would have shown your leadership mettle and how sport can be a model of transformation for our non-racial, democratic South Africa.

Firstly, Minister Mbalula, I must plead with you to please concentrate on building non-racial sport, never forgetting that we are a non-racial society. Seemingly, in my opinion, there is no emphasis, from your leadership, on the imperative of building non-racial sport. There is a neglect of talking about non-racialism in society and sport and this can’t be allowed.

Secondly, you must cleanse South African sport of self-interest people who use sport for their own enrichment. You know that sport in South Africa is organized on two levels: professional or amateur sport. Professional sport is heavily backed by commercial, corporate and business interests. Amateur sport, if it does get any backing at all, relies on government funding.

In this non-racial, democratic era of South Africa, its incumbent for us to acknowledge that South African sport receives billions of financial assistance and funding, yet much of this money is not used to assist and grow sport at all levels of the sports paradigm. Instead, much of thus money is used extensively to fund a sports elite and the officials who control these sports. Sadly, grassroots sports organization and growth is neglected and left to die as slow death, because of under funding.

The elite domination of sport allows sports officials to get bonus payments, travel luxuriously and be more out of office, in the sky, booked in at high quality hotels, hiring expensive cars, attending event after event, and yet they are not productive and producing results, for what they earn their lucrative salaries. And, while this horrendous cycle turns around, involving the selected few, grassroots sports suffers and working class participation in sport is dependent on how privileged your financial situation is to allow you to watch and play sport.

This is a serious situation; I’m just not saying this, as the evidence is all there.

Some of the ailments within South African sport are leadership tenures, volunteer sports officials versus employees within sport and bonus payments and perks. Resolutions must be adopted that eliminate officials having any chance of wrongfully assuming the sports to them once they served the leadership for years. All leadership tenures must be not more than four years. This will encourage new leaders and officials to emerge and will most importantly, stop officials from staying around too long.

No more commissions of enquiry because we are tired of commissions of enquiry. The first post-apartheid Minister of Sport, Steve Tshwete introduced the inaugural commission of enquiry which debuted with spectacular evidence and resolutions concerning football. There should be only one commission of enquiry, no more. And this one should look at why and who has further disadvantaged the working class’ involvement ad participation in sport.


For South African sport to grow and thrive from the grassroots level, we must ensure that:

. No sports officials shall hold a term longer than four years

. No bonus payments, unless you are a paid employee and receive a 13th cheque

. No sports leader can serve as a paid employee simultaneously: you decide to either work in the sports sector or to serve sport as an administrator

. No paid employee must be connected to any business entity because this is when the rot sets in

. Gender equity must be enacted in the interests and protection and growth of girls and women in sport

. Luxurious travel, such as business and first class travel must be curtailed and this applies to all ranks

. Salaries are too exhorbitant: they must be capped

. Executives that are too bloated must be decreased for efficiency and better administration with more emphasis on delivery


In this non-racial, democratic era of our South African society, sport is about money; the privileged, affluent and middle class have most opportunity to consume sport because of access to money and resources whilst working class people are left to get some assistance here and there. How can we allow this unequal and inhumane gap to grow even wider, for more working class children to fall off the sports radar when we struggled and fought for a better South African sports system for all? And how can those of us who have a social consciousness even allow this widening of imbalances and inequalities in sport?

Minister Mbalula, you have the power to cleanse South African sport of elite and lavish spending, including within your Sport and Recreation SA department, which has become more of an event company which outsources government events to a few select businesses, and which seemingly concentrates on catering and lavish functions.

If South African sport is to cleanse itself of officials who are more intent on personal gain and enrichment and pay themselves bonus and massive perks, then we have to look at the root of this negative which has taken control of our sport. And one of the root causes of this state of affairs is power corrupting those when they assume leadership and become accountable only to themselves.

From: Cheryl Roberts


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