Minister Fikile Mbalula loves metaphor when convincing the faithful. As he ascended the throne - Like a tornado, he promised to blow inefficiency off the Department of Sport and Recreation and wake it from its prolonged slumber.
Fortune was to favour Minister Mbalula in that, he ascended the throne when South Africa was to host the Fifa World Cup 2010. And like the intoxicating “vuvuzela” he sounded promising but faded after every blow.
I am passionate with schools sports and a sucker for fresh ideas of young people. And when Mbalula promised to give attention to grass roots sports development, especially the much neglected schools’ sport, somehow I believed him.
Then I said - Here was a Minister who sounded sincere and acknowledged the dynamics of schools’ sport and overall sports development in the country, a visionary.
Then so-called Fifa 2010 World Cup legacy projects were mushrooming in most townships and I saw an opportunity for grass roots soccer development of young girls and boys. An opportunity presented itself, where most young boys and girls would kick the ball on well kept lawns instead of the dusty sports fields bequeathed to them by apartheid.
An opportunity presented itself, because most of the Fifa 2010 Legacy soccer fields were adjacent to schools. Most schools in townships like Tembisa had no soccer fields, but the World Cup Legacy presented learners with a rare opportunity to explore their natural talent.
To cut a long story short – I am very much disappointed because my hope for the learners simply vanished like a paper fire. I was disappointed because in Tembisa, the once beautiful Legacy soccer fields transforming into an eyesore.
The immaculate lawns transformed into bushes because the municipality neglected them. The palisade fencing was vandalized and the irrigation systems were stolen en masse. I was disappointed because most of the Legacy Soccer fields were built with millions of Rand of taxpayers’ money, but most were to become white elephants.
I was municipal councilor then at Ekurhuleni Municipality, when I asked questions to council about the then redundant Legacy Soccer fields and I followed that with press releases. That was in 2010 – 2011 and Ekurhuleni Municipality did nothing to arrest the situation and save the Municipality from another shameful fruitless expenditure.
The 2010 Legacy projects mostly failed the learners from previously disadvantaged communities. The legacy projects mostly failed the learners who then and now have no formal soccer fields to hone their natural prowess.
Lack of an integrated plan in National, Provincial and Local governments derailed what could have erased the legacy of apartheid.
Most schools in Tembisa and I reckon in most townships have no formal sporting facilities and this after 20 years of this country’s liberation. Yet, one man enjoys the opulence of R246m security upgrade which earned him and his family a swimming pool, amphitheatre and a sporting field at the expense of the public.
It’s an indictment on previously disadvantaged Africans that schools that do have the multipurpose sporting facilities have simply neglected the facilities and as a result, no formal sport meetings take place.
In the Townships like Tembisa athletics meeting is a once off occasion happening like clockwork every first week of February every year.
All schools in Tembisa and most African townships do not play rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, hockey, nor participate in cross country meetings and swimming, because of lack of facilities and relevant personnel to identify, coach and nurture raw talent.
Tembisa has a population of more than 2 million and it is the single biggest township at Ekurhuleni. And yet the whole township has NO Olympic size swimming pool.
Most kids have to walk to neighbouring suburbs like Birchleigh during hot summer days to swim. But one man with insatiable and unconscionable appetite has earned himself and family a R246m security upgrade – Swimming pool included.
Where are the Fifa 2010 millions given to SAFA to help reinvent development at grass roots level? Soccer survived apartheid and after 1996 South Africa was in the top 5 in Africa and 30 in world rankings. But 20 years after democracy South Africa soccer has deteriorated to levels beyond comprehension.
After the razzmatazz that accompanied his appointment to head the Sports Department, Minister Mbalula proved to be another “vuvuzela” – lots of noise but nothing to show for it.
Imposing quotas when there’s zero development of sports in South Africa’s predominantly African townships shall never achieve a thing except boost some politician’s ego.
Minister Mbalula and fellow “vuvuzelas” must do the simplest thing a Sports Administrator worth his or her worth would do – Grass roots development.
The Department of Basic Education must impose Sports in all schools. Build necessary facilities and revamp those neglected for the past 20 years. Also impose a year calendar of Sport meetings at every school under their jurisdiction. Every township, district and province must have professionally administered Schools’ Sports Associations. Like educators, employ professionals to identify, coach and nurture Sports at schools.
The Department of Basic Education may only succeed when its plans are integrated with those of National, Provincial and Local government Departments of Sport. Here I am talking about a short to long term plan that will see previously disadvantaged Africans participate and even excel in Sport.
International sporting bodies do not take kindly to government interference in Sport Administration and Minister Mbalula knows the consequences. Populist rhetoric shall never send a representative and competitive team but palookas to Rio Olympics 2016 and four years thereafter.
In the last 20 years, government has dismally failed the development of Sports in previously disadvantaged African communities of South Africa. But as always, government shall never take full responsibility for its inaction and failures. At best government will plead ignorance even when it failure are glaring straight at them.
For Minister Mbalula, to pay millions of Dollars to US artists and sport persons to come tour South Africa is meaningless and worthless. And it does not add any value to Sports development in African communities.
The day Sports development produces tangible results and the selectors and administration subsequently ignore the obvious, then, and only then - Minister Fikile Mbalula shall have every “legal” obligation to come hard on selectors and administrators.