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South Africa’s Minister Of Sport Must Challenge Inequalities In SA Sport By Cheryl Roberts

17 May

For Minister of Sport, Mr Thembelani Nxesi and South African sport, it all happened so quickly; the recent cabinet reshuffle of the Republic of South Africa. It’s a political appointment in the ANC-administered national government. For now, let’s leave aside which political party Mr Nxesi represents, or the fact that he’s in the cabinet of a President, severely and seriously challenged by groupings of citizens in South Africa.

Let’s get started by acknowledging we are living in a structurally unequal, male-controlled, minority wealthy, white privilege South Africa, where we are involved in sport as participants and consumers and want opportunities to play sport in the country.

I’m not giving a report card about predecessor, Fikile Mbalula and how he managed, administered and responded to leadership of sports organisation and development. As the political head of sport and recreation in South Africa, the Minister of Sport must understand and acknowledge how sport operates in an unequal society, where the minority middle class and privileged elites have easier access to sport than the majority working class; this because of their class position and money.

It’s paramount that Mr Nxesi gets going by ensuring Sport and Recreation South Africa is not managed as an events company, hosting events here and there, flaunting achievements and accomplishment on how many events are hosted whenever.

I’m telling Minister Nxesi upfront that girls and women in sport have had enough of being victims of gender inequalities and discrimination in sport. South Africa’s women in sport are demanding not to be neglected, marginalised or hardly supported.

National, professional and full-time leagues for women in sport are almost non-existent. How must South Africa’s women in sport thrive , compete internationally and produce performances when they compete in chains?

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

 

All national federations must produce vision/ambition blueprints about how women will be represented in sport; from club level to international athlete and officialdom. Black girls are participating in sport, but sadly most of them are being lost in the system and moving out the system. Why is this happening?

Discard the transformation rhetoric; never be afraid to honestly portray and admit that the sports network is one that functions amidst structural inequalities because it’s a capitalist sport network, flowing out of a structurally unequal society. Gender, class, race must inform all sport policies and implementation of policies when strategising sport in South Africa.

It’s because of the inequalities and discrimination, that we must understand precisely and consciously, what it takes to transform sport in South Africa.

Transformation is not about a few black officials and players/athletes in some national teams. Transformation of sport in democratic, non-racial South Africa is much more than quotas. It’s also about redistribution of the sports wealth, especially the apartheid sports wealth, and about eliminating gender discrimination and inequality. It involves assessment and re-design of the organisation of sport. Most importantly, it necessitates a commitment and fulfillment by action to ensure grassroots and community sport in working class communities are supported, so that the foundation of sport is strong and grows.

For the struggling working class, sport is a privilege. Why must working class children, youth and the unemployed pay registration fees to federations? Besides the registration costs, it’s the transport and playing kit costs. Provincial government sports departments must support the working class in sport!

Unless you go to a suburban or expensive fees school, your chances of falling out of the sports pyramid are much better than staying in sport to elite level.  Organisation and development of school sport in working class areas, must be looked after.

The Minister of Sport has much power to implement effective, significant and pivotal change. Leadership and officialdom of sports federations must be examined. We have this unhealthy situation where officials get into positions and stay there for over 5 years, sometimes holding officialdom for 10 and 15 years, serving 2 and 3 terms of office. These long serving officials then get so accustomed in their positions (and the perks) that go with the position, that they begin to assume they ‘own’the position and the sport.’ I suggest officials serve just a four year term and then move onto something else in the sport.

Under the Minister of Sport’s mangement/jurisdiction, are the nine provincial departments of sport, the government SRSA and SASCOC. The budgets of these structures which exist to provide for sport, how and on what the money is spent must be meticulously mapped out and implemented. Money is not reaching grassroots sport effectively! Why must some provincial and national team members contribute personal funds to official representation in sport? What are the departments of sport really doing? Community sport is struggling; its being kept alive by some volunteers in some communities.

Who ‘own’s sport in SA? Seemingly corporates control and own sport at elite and professional level because of the funding and sponsorship. Corporates and businesses might be associated with sport through their funding, but no way do they own the sport. National federations own sport!

Sport in South Africa is surviving by elite funding to elite/ corporate sports while the grassroots and working class sport is struggling to survive. The Minister of Sport can no longer occupy this position and assume sport is healthily growing and developing.