Sport quotas to be opposed

Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Civil rights body AfriForum and trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday they would oppose the implementation of 60-40 quotas in sport favouring black players.

"AfriForum will not remain passive while the dreams and sporting careers of young people are destroyed by racist politicians and sports administrators," AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said in a statement.

"We will not spare any trouble or cost to take up the fight with every international sporting body against blatant discrimination in South African sports."

He said AfriForum would report South African sports bodies to international sports authorities, should they yield to pressure to implement racial quotas.

On Saturday, SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) President Gideon Sam and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said athletics, cricket, football, netball and rugby were falling behind with transformation and development.

"On 25 March we received the pilot study on the status of transformation in sport and the findings were shocking," said Mbalula at a Sascoc general meeting held at Olympic House on Saturday.

Mbalula then announced far-reaching measures to address the issues at stake.

The quota system, as instructed in the national Sports Plan of 2011, will be aggressively implemented, he said.

"We will insist on a change from a 50-50 proportion to a 40-60 representation both provincially and nationally."

Solidarity spokesman Johan Kruger said the union, in a letter to Mbalula, indicated that the implementation of quotas would be unlawful, as it was contrary to the Employment Equity Act.

"Players, who have contracts with unions or companies, are undoubtedly employees and that the Employment Equity Act applies to them," he said in a statement.

The Act authorised numerical targets but specifically prohibited quotas.

"What minister Mbabula proposes, and in so many words labels as quotas, is therefore an unlawful way in which to achieve racial transformation," Kruger said.

As a trade union, Solidarity had sports professionals as members, and therefore they had every right to ask these questions and to test the legality of the decision.

Mbalula said development plans from the five bodies -- athletics, cricket, football, netball and rugby -- will be sought.

He warned of harsh punishment if there was any form of resistance to these measures.

If any resistance was met, Mbalula said government could: withdraw funding to bodies that fail to comply; withdraw national colours to federations holding back, rule that utilising bidding and hosting regulations to be illegal, de-register any body that fails to transform and bar sponsorship to anyone hostile to transformation.

Kriel said the regulations issued by almost every international sporting body prohibited any form of racial discrimination and government interference in sport.

This was explicitly stated in the Olympic Manifesto of the International Olympic Committee, which was applicable to most sports, as well as the regulations issued by the International Rugby Board, the International Cricket Council and the International Netball Federation.

AfriForum supported the development of sport, which would afford all South Africans an equal opportunity to participate.

However, a race-based quota system did not contribute to the development of new players and merely disadvantaged talented sport stars.

"Talented black players are disadvantaged by quotas because the validity of their inclusion into teams is always questioned, and young white players are excluded from teams because they happen to be of the wrong race," Kriel said.

Solidarity has requested the official minutes from the meeting attended by Mbalula where the decision for 60-40 quotas was made.

"If we are not furnished with the minutes we will lodge an application for access to information in order to obtain the minutes," Kruger said.

"We are already obtaining legal advice on the possibilities of contesting the minister's decision."

He said there was no place for this type of interference in professional sport.

It was also inconceivable how Mbalula would go so far as to oppose sponsorships and ban teams from international participation under the banner of racial transformation.

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