Debate: Budget Vote 18 - Sport and Recreation address by Bantu Holomisa, MP in Extended Public Committee (22 May 2007)

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members -

The Budget Vote for Sport and Recreation totals R3.15 billion. There are huge backlogs and imbalances in Sport in general in this country. Therefore, at first glance, this Budget Vote seems like an adequate response to the widespread call to address these imbalances. However, by far the largest chunk of these billions is dedicated towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup Unit which has to coordinate all Government activities in this regard. Without this particular item the actual budget is only R440 million. Thus it is safe to say that South Africa's desperate need for sport development including infrastructure at local level will not be adequately addressed in the foreseeable future.

As far as private sector sponsorship is concerned it will not be adequate to meet the sport development needs of millions of South Africans, there is therefore a need for an urgent Government intervention. In particular, to invest more on facilities and intensification of training of teachers responsible for sport to identify and nurture the latent talent among youngsters.

It is therefore pleasing to note the Department has finally taken up the UDM's clarion call in recent years in budget debates for the construction of sporting facilities at grassroots level in all communities in coordination with other infrastructure programmes. We thus welcome the realignment of the Department's internal structure with its major focus on mass participation and school sport. In particular, it is pleasing to note that the Department intends to create sport facility hubs in each municipal ward in the country.

By the look of things, the Department has not always been taken seriously especially when budgets are allocated, perhaps because of a lack of administrative leadership and policy continuity. It doesn't seem that plans are followed through. Senior political and administrative managers come and go, seemingly without ever following through and delivering on promised objectives. If not for this leadership and policy weakness, the question of transformation in sport would have been much better and sooner dealt with, thus negating the need for the new powers that we have given to the Minister. By now the Department should have produced a timetable in coordination with the leadership of every sporting code with clear and realistic transformation goals.

I'm raising this point, specifically, because over the last twelve years Parliament has been complaining about the lack of transformation in sport in general. As a result, if one looks at it, the Portfolio Committee of Sport of late is running the sport in this country and dealing directly with sporting codes. In the process we have been forced to do the work of the Department and its officials and opened ourselves up to the accusation that we are interfering in sport. It might be correct to accuse the Portfolio Committee of interference but then we need to ask questions about the political will and commitment of the Department's political and administrative leaders. Unfortunately, the Portfolio Committees in this House do not have the power to remove or recommend the removal of Ministers and DGs that fail to deliver.

We therefore call upon the Minister of Sport and the Public Service Commission to interrogate the administration of the Department to determine whether its structure and personnel are adequate to the task.

Whereas this House last week approved the National Sport and Recreation Amendment Bill, it is my conviction that if the Department had the best personnel and adequate resources, then there would be no need for the Minister to make use of these new powers. A properly functioning Department would ensure the continuous monitoring of transformation and a harmonious process without the need for Ministerial heavy-handedness.

Now that the Minister has been given these powers, the Portfolio Committee of Sport should put more pressure on the Minister and his Department to produce a plan on transformation. They must ensure that they understand the meaning of the word 'transformation', because it does not simply mean the replacement of a person with white skin by one with black skin. Rather transformation is more a question of changing the way of doing things to be in line with the Constitution and the new democratic dispensation.

However if the Department is not manned by people who understand the vision of the new South Africa properly, then there will be confusion in sport codes about the meaning of transformation and we in this Portfolio Committee will continue to shout and scream at those codes.

We need to commend the sport codes that have introduced transformation plans and goals. We are beginning to see some players from disadvantaged communities earning their colours on merit. What this country needs to do is invest more in sport and ensure that the players that represent South Africa will deliver on the international stage and make this nation proud.

The fracas which we noted in the past week in rugby, followed up by confusing statements emanating from the rugby leadership once more demonstrated that many people think transformation means an exclusive focus on individual players and filling quotas, whereas the style of doing things and the functioning of the sport's management remains unchanged. This is incorrect. Transformation must happen in all facets of sporting codes, not just team selection.

Finally, we wish Jake White and our boys success in the forthcoming international rugby tests. What we cannot deny is the fact that South Africa has got an abundance of talented players, who come from all communities, to take us to the highest level of the World Cup in France this year. The challenge is on the coach, selectors, and rugby management to ensure that the best team represents the country at that competition.

The UDM supports the Vote.

I thank you

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