It’s intrinsically significant that 60 years after apartheid legislation impacted on sport in South Africa and international sports linkages with apartheid SA began to be challenged and disrupted, that democratic South Africa’s Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula should resort to use of international sport bans to correct apartheid’s legacies.
Seemingly concerned about what he terms the ‘lack of transformation in sport’ in SA, Mbalula, on Monday released another money wasting ‘transformation report’ which has been compiled by his appointed eminent person’s group – most of them, I’m sure don’t even know what is happening at grassroots sport.
Under his ministerial responsibility, Mbalula knows the state of sport in South Africa. He must know; after all; he’s the person in charge and who must give leadership and direction. But then I don’t understand why Mr Mbalula doesn’t interview and speak to grassroots sports clubs and volunteer sports officials who sustain and maintain the foundation of SA’s sports pyramid, which is the community foundation, and let the community sports officials tell him how community sport is struggling to survive.
Mbalula responds by calling out a few sports federations who have seemingly ‘not transformed’ by taking away their privilege of bidding for and hosting international sports events.
Despite sports unification before the advent of SA’s historic democratic elections in 1994, democratic South Africa inherited an unequal and socially disparate sports apparatus with sports privilege remaining in the power grip of the white minority, the elite and wealthy.
Mbalula has got it wrong again! Either he doesn’t understand what transformation should mean and what should be implemented to transform the inequalities and vestiges of apartheid sport or he insists on doing it his way, which is to respond on an ad hoc basis and problem by problem, instead of confronting and tackling the entire flawed and unequal sports system.
When is Mr Mbalula going to acknowledge that the entire SA sports system and sports apparatus must be re-deployed and undergo critical, revolutionary change? Releasing transformation reports about five sports and adding what he sees as punitive measures, does not critically address sport in SA! What it does it put a plaster on a sore which needs critical attention, not a plaster.
Transformation must be understood as a disruption and subsequent redeployment of the sports system; in South Africa’s case, this means a total overhaul of an unequal sports network which largely benefits the privileged whites, the elite, black middle class, wealthy and rich.
Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula should have started off first with a ban on his previous responses to ‘lack of transformation’ by throwing them out of his mind, out of his department of sport and out of South African sport.
Next, he should have called out the unequal and corporate controlled sports system which assists the moneyed people to have access to and participate in sport but at the same time strangles working class participation in sport. Then he should have implemented a total ban on international sport, into SA and out of SA. And to get transformation under way, he was to issue the plan of how sport South African sport should be transformed.
How dare Mbalula look at only five sports, namely, football, netball, cricket, rugby and athletics? What about all other sports, most of them for the elite and white-dominated? What about sports like swimming which will be sending another all white able bodied swim team to the Olympics? What about hockey which isn’t organising and developing hockey in working class communities and schools? What about provincial sports codes in the Western Cape which have sports committees dominated by white and coloured people and have no black African officials?
And we must call out the neglect, marginalisation and struggles of black and working class girls in sport. Gender disparaty in SA sport is rife. What is Mbalula’s plan and objective to eliminate gender inequalities in sport, to ensure that black and working class girls and women stay in sport and are assisted on their sports journey?
How are sports federations expected to develop sport in working class communities when the sports budget is largely consumed by corporate sports of rugby, football and cricket?
Funding and financial assistance allocated by Mbalula’s department of sports and recreation is small and minimal; sports federations are presented with huge challenges to make this nominal funding work for sports development.
How about scrapping the non-performing provincial departments of sport? Provincial and club sport is struggling for money to exist and grow yet provincial departments of sport give them small handouts while the sports budget is spent on lucrative salaries and keeping people in offices and in front of commuters, compiling reports.
By reviewing just five sports and subsequently announcing what he terms ‘punitive measures’ like a ban on hosting and bidding for international sports events, Mbalula has seemingly scored some political points.
What Mbalula has actually done is left SA sport in the same delirious, unequal, transformed, unchallenged state that it’s been in for some time. Mbalula has not taken sport forward after the release of the ‘transformation report’, but has allowed SA sport to continue as they do and that is making sport available to the moneyed, rich and middle class while killing off grassroots sports in working class communities and schools.