Report card: Fikile Mbalula as sports minister

2014-05-11 15:00

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Fikile Mbalula had served three and a half years as sports minister as President Jacob Zuma’s first term came to an end this week.

There are many questions about his performance over that period, and as many differing views.

SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam believes Mbalula has performed well, while critic Graeme Joffe disagrees.

Joffe, who has covered Mbalula’s administration extensively, gave the minister a 3/10 rating, saying Mbaks behaved like the “minister of overspending”, citing the parties and flashy events regularly hosted by his department. Joffe described Mbalula as a smart politician who was unfortunately “clueless” about sport.

But Sam believes the minister deserved to be applauded for revolutionising sport, unlike his predecessors.

One undisputed fact is that Mbalula has ruffled feathers with his stance on transformation and match-fixing in soccer.

Annual Sports Awards expenditure

Joffe criticised Mbalula for the amounts spent on this annual event from day one. “The amounts of money spent on these awards are simply wasteful. It should have gone to development of sport at grass roots level,” he said.

“The money was not spent on athletes but on parties. Giving an athlete R1?million at a one-night event is futile when athletes are struggling to prepare for the Olympic Games.”

Sam said hosting awards had never been a cheap endeavour, even before Mbalula took over. The Sascoc head honcho added the ministry had raised the money from sponsorship, something Mbalula’s predecessors had failed to do.

Transformation talk and timing

“Transformation did not become important because we are nearing elections, it has been there since the 2011 National Sports Indaba,” said Sam, adding that those opposing transformation measures now had agreed to them in 2011.

But Joffe maintains Mbalula’s recent pushing of the transformation agenda smacks of someone pretending to be working in order to maintain his post after elections.

“Why were there so many meetings on transformation in the month before the polls when none was convened on the subject for three years?” Joffe asked.

He dismissed claims the minister had to wait for the Eminent Persons Group to wrap up its research and said there was no need to form the group in the first place as many studies had been conducted on the subject in the past.

School sport 

Sam and Joffe agreed Mbalula had done well under the circumstances. But while Sam felt there was a need for teachers to prioritise school sport, Joffe said kids excelling at school should be supported up to national level.

Overall, the two differed on Mbalula’s performance.

Sam is of the popular view that the disastrous funding model for sport limits ministerial action.

Joffe’s summation was more damning. Of Mbalula’s first-term performance, he said: “He failed miserably. Under his leadership, sport in SA is regressing.”

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