Eliminate Government Departments Of Sport In South Africa? By Cheryl Roberts

5 Feb

South African sport at grassroots level is not in a healthy state. Successful international participation belies the honest situation of struggles to participate in sport. Yet, provincial sports departments exist with budgets to operate and ensure the provision of sport, whilst sports federations and clubs are battling to stay alive in sport. Do we need sports departments soaking up the sports budgets whilst sports federations struggle to survive with meagre budgets?

South Africa has a sports ministry with a Minister of Sport, one national sports department and nine provincial departments of sport. Amongst these departments of sport is a budget of over one billion rand. After 20 years of a non-racial, democratic government, we are now asking whether we are seeing effective and productive results from the departments of sport.

South Africa competes internationally in sport, sometimes attaining world champion or gold medal status, continental champion, world class ranking or not making the international grade. It may appear that South African sport is well-financed and massively funded, given that teams and athletes represent the country regularly.

It’s very hard to believe that only a few national sports teams and athletes are sponsored, whilst some sports still require athletes to contribute personal money to represent the country, for example, swimming.

But why do need the provincial sports departments to have budget allocations whilst the sports federations don’t have much money to survive. Grassroots sport is still heavily reliant on volunteer coaches and officials, most of whom use their personal time and money to fund grassroots clubs and participation in sport. Participation in sport in working class schools and communities is an ongoing struggle because of the money need to play and enjoy sport.

South Africa doesn’t have a massive sports budget allocated to the national sport department to manage and oversee sport in the country. The R500 million plus budget is still not seen as enough for the needs of sport.

But how effective are these government departments of sport? I have not done a national survey or national in depth research, but the investigative journalism I’ve undertaken, speaking to people inside and outside of government, is enough to inform me that the sports departments are not as effective as they should be.

South Africa has a national department of sport, Sport and Recreation SA. All nine provinces have a provincial sports department; this department is coupled with arts and culture.

At least 50% of the provincial sports budget goes on salaries. At least R5 milion per month is spent nationally on provincial salaries for sports departments. Why are we paying so much of the sports budget on salaries, for people who are mostly in office, writing documents and reports sitting at computers, when money is needed by sports federations to advance, develop and organise sport?

What about the national department of sport that has a big staff contingent soaking up a big portion of the sports budget? Honestly speaking, just how effective are these sports departments? Several officials of sports federations are adamant that the sports departments are not as effective as they should be, that the sports departments conduct piece meal, adhoc events, sit in offices and write up reports, when they should be outside offices, developing sport on the sports terrain.

The biggest and overwhelming complaint against the sports departments, including SRSA, is the lateness of funding grants delivered into the bank accounts of sports federations. Sports leaders and officials have had enough of not knowing when the money is being paid. They say they can’t do much with no money, not knowing when they will be able to function with money.

Let’s break this down realistically and confront the existence of government sports departments. We want sport in South Africa to develop, grow and be managed efficiently; we want sports to be played and provided for, especially in communities struggling for resources and money to play sport.

We are not going to achieve much with the sports budget if half of this budget allocation is for paying salaries. Sport is organized by sports federations and sports structures. There also exist the sports councils and confederations of sport which must be rooted at grassroots level. We don’t need government sports departments. Awards and honouring functions, team send offs, seminars and workshops, all sports functions should be held under the auspices of the sports councils. Coaching clinics and development work must be conducted by the sports federation.

I ask again, why we need sports departments to exist when they give the country no authentic and honest reason to exist. Sports federations are not satisfied with their productivity, efficiency and delivery? In sports departments around South Africa, there are some very committed and efficient public servants. However, there are many lazy, unproductive and inefficient ones as well.

Sport in South Africa should be controlled by a national structure such as SASCOC. Obviously, SASCOC would need to be expanded and strengthened. Close government departments so we have much more budget to be used effectively for the development and growth of sport. Increase national grants to sports federations. Of course, national federations must be checked, scrutinised and accountable.

Grassroots level of participation in sport MUST increase and clubs must grow. At least, more budget will be made available for grassroots participation in sport.

There should exist a ministry of sport or a commission of sport to oversee sport nationally and to make SASCOC accountable, but not a department of sport. I still opt for a Minister of Sport, operating with a sports commission or ministry. But this national structure must be small, tight knit, efficient and productive. At provincial level, MEC’s must be done away, perhaps replaced by a commissioner.

I don’t have the answers for the type of structure/management to replace the departments of sport but what I do know is that sports departments should be eliminated. When I say this, I’m not against people having government jobs. What I am challenging is the usefulness of government sports departments when sports federations are struggling for money to function.'south african sport'. published by cheryl roberts. published in december 2014. published in cape town. south africa

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