Priorities sport transformation

The mess we have today in sport should be laid squarely at the door of the ANC. I am more convinced than ever that they never really took sport seriously and never gave it the attention it deserved.  This utilitarian approach to sport has seen it being relegated to its lowest priority level ever.

In 1988 alone, they met a South African Rugby Board delegation three times and the third meeting was attended by Danie Craven himself after he had authorised Louis Luyt to lead the delegation in the two previous meetings. While sport, and rugby in particular, did not lead to the end of apartheid, it showed that sport was another front the ANC could use to further its own ends and help nudge South Africa towards a peaceful resolution. The isolated rugby teams saw the ANC as the shortest and most convenient route for a swift return to international participation. This saw the ANC change its tune after it was unbanned in 1990 and called for a swift return of the white-dominated sports into the international fold. Hence we saw the hastily-arranged tour of the cricket team to India in 1991 by an all-white South African team led by Clive Rice. This was followed by the entry of the same team into the Cricket World Cup in 1992.

Danie Craven’s lily white Springboks were also rewarded with tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks on two consecutive weekends in 1992. This was the harbinger of things to come. The white establishment couldn’t be happier and the concerns of the black sports bodies who had struggled along during apartheid were swept aside. After 1995 things were allowed to remain as they were in many of the white-dominated sports like cricket, netball, hockey and rugby, among others. To be fair, though, the first three ministers of sport, Steve Tshwete, Ngconde Balfour and Makhenkesi Stofile, appointed by the ANC, were sports people through and through. That is as good as it ever got. The ANC took over a country with excellent sporting facilities in all white areas and the schools built for them over the decades by the apartheid government.  The townships and rural areas where the black people lived had no such facilities but sport, nonetheless, thrived.

The ANC government, to its credit, went on a massive drive to build schools and houses for the marginalised black population. However, how many of those new schools and residential areas which they built, had sports fields? So where are these poor children going to develop their sporting skills and help to organically transform the sporting landscape and level the playing field if their own government does not see the need to provide them with the sporting facilities to do so?

Do you want to tell me in the budget worth millions to build a school no money can be set aside to build a soccer/rugby field and a netball court for the children to play on? So since 1994, when plans and budgets were set aside to build schools and RDP houses, no one – not even one person – said: “Hang on, where are these young people going to play sport if we do not include the sports facilities in our planning?” You now find school after school being built without facilities for the children to play sport. How does that happen? Does the ruling party really care about sport development and transformation of sport? Do they take it seriously?

Look at the ministers the ANC has appointed since Stofile and tell me that the ANC is taking sport seriously. Is it a blind spot and an oversight? Everywhere you go, sportspeople are crying about the poor state of the municipal sport facilities. How would you help transform sport if this was allowed to happen to the majority of the citizens of this country? Sport today is  not just a hobby, but a multibillion Rand industry that can take one out of poverty and provide a viable career. The lack of transformation, 26 years after democracy, is the result. They do not take sport seriously. We, as sportspeople, are truly on our own and swimming upstream.

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