Government pulls plug on ‘too white’ swimming gala

Young swimmers were the biggest losers this week after the national

schools’ swimming championships were cancelled because there were too few black

participants, Mark Skea, a former national swimmer, coach and parent has

said.

“When will the bureaucratic ­administrators focus on the ­important

issues, like the swimmers, and not on their inflated egos?” Skea, whose child

would have participated, said.


The gala was set to take place at the Kings Park swimming pool in

Durban yesterday and today. Top swimmers from schools in South Africa and other

African countries participate in the yearly event.


Parents, who had already organised accommodation and transport to

Durban, said they were only informed the gala had been cancelled on Thursday.


Some of them are now considering sending their children abroad to

pursue their swimming careers in and for other countries. One ­parent has

approached swimming federations in the US and ­Australia, while a German school

has shown interest in another.


Paena Galane, spokesperson for the sport and ­recreation

department, said that an agreement was reached with stakeholders in May last

year that there would have to be 50/50 representation in school swimming for the

department to continue its ­support.


“They asked for another year to continue with white swimming

programmes, but the department is keeping to the agreement that 50% have to be

development swimmers.


“They continued on their own with the 99% white championship. This

is why it wasn’t a part of the department’s calendar.


“In the spirit of sport development, we want to see more

representative swimming teams before we will become involved again.”


Gerhard Labuschagne, a father from Gauteng, said: “It cost us as

parents money to register our ­children for the provincial heats. We have also

already booked ­accommodation in Durban and it costs nearly R10?000 for both

parents to attend a gala like this one.


“Most swimmers are also ­dependent on bursaries from various

schools. Those who don’t have bursaries are forfeiting getting ­colours from

their schools.


“What do you say to your child who really wants to swim for South

Africa, but is being forced to find their fortune overseas because of

this?”


Braam van Niekerk, the father of a 12-year-old top swimmer, said he

couldn’t even imagine what affect this ­decision would have on a child who had

trained for the championships for a year.


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