2017-03-20 20:17

Its becoming fashionable that when people want to make a profile for themselves or revive it they withdraw from the attack an ANC Government Minister Bank. Instead of offering criticism that is hard hitting, they offer insults that are in most cases not worth any response.

Simnikiwe Xabaniso is the recent client of this Bank, this time, he attacked the Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa Mr. Fikile Mbalula. In all honesty, he did not have to go that route. One would believe Simnikiwe is above that.

In what seemed to be an attempt to criticise the Minister for the decision by the Commonwealth Games Federation ( CGF ) to review South Africa's successful bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Simnikiwe offered insults and ignorance.

He starts by suggesting that the Minister used the department to create a name for himself. Respectfully, many South Africans know the Minister from his days as the ANCYL President. Before he became the Minister of Sport and Recreation SA, he was the Deputy Minister of Police. Its surprising that a Simnikiwe who parades as a journalist only got to know the Minister now that he presides over the Ministry of Sport and Recreation SA.

He then attempts to offer criticism over what he calls "wasteful expenditure" on the R118 million money spent on the Commonwealth Games bid but he ends up displaying ignorance. Simnikiwe claims that the Minister failed to acknowledge the R118 million spent on the bid. Had he watched and listened to the Press Conference as he claims, he would have heard the Minister when he said:

"Any loss of money is regrettable. (We ) don't take it that R118 million lost means nothing; it means a lot. We went out of our way to secure the games - but not at all costs. We cannot say to government that it must spend money it did not have."

The Minister would go on to have interviews with PowerFM, Radio 702, eNCA and other mediums on the same issue repeating that.

But this flew over Simnikiwe's head because he wanted to have a trending story. His logic says government should have gone ahead and hosted the games even if it meant losing billions of rands, so we don't have what he calls "wasteful expenditure".

Unlike other journalist from the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and others who called and sent in emails to inquire about the games he didn't bother. His was not to report, but to insult. His was not to inquire and have facts but to display his ignorance. Other journalist wrote stories on the Commonwealth Games over the weekend informed and reporting fairly.

We don't expect Simnikiwe to be the Minister's praise singer, I am sure he believes the Minister has enough of them using his narrative. However, there is a fair expectation that he should familiarise himself with the work done by the Minster since assuming office. This is not our expectation, but the Press Code he is obliged to uphold by his profession.

Transformation in Sport continues to be an emotional issue. Whenever it is debated, emotions run high. Sport unlike any other sector in our society remains a constant reminder of our past whenever players in rugby, cricket, netball, soccer and other sport codes take to the field and are not reflective of South Africa in its true form.

In another display of ignorance, Simnikiwe claims that the Minister failed to transform sport using rugby as an example. Respectively, had he familiarised himself with the steps taken to transform sport he would not make such a claim. We can't claim successes in transforming sport nor can we boldly proclaim failure; it is too early if we were to review Minister's work.

In releasing the 2016 Eminent Person Group ( EPG ) Report the Minister outline steps taken to change the face of sport in South Africa:

Mr. Fikile Mbalula became the Minister of Sport and Recreation SA in November 2010.

In 2011, the Minister convened the National Sport and Recreation Indaba which produced the first ever National Sport and Recreation Plan. One of the success of this Indaba was its production of the Transformation Charter to drive transformation in sport.

In 2012, the Minister gave effect to the Transformation Charter by appointing the Eminent Person Group ( EPG ) chaired by the respected Dr. Somadoda Fikeni. The work of the EPG was to first run a pilot study on 11 sporting codes to track their transformation progress.

Fast forward to 2014, the pilot study was finalised and sport federations were ready to sign a Memoranda of Agreement with the department committing to their own set transformation targets.

In 2015 when federations were signing these agreements with the Minister, journalist like Simnikiwe were "distracted" by the FIFA World Cup scandal. Instead of asking what federation were singing, they asked questions related to FIFA.

In 2016, for the first time, the Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa imposed penalties on federations that failed to meet their own set transformation targets. Receiving the 2015/2016 EPG Transformation Report Minister Mbalula told the nation that he has:

"therefore resolved to revoke the privilege of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African Rugby (SARU) to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments in the Republic of South Africa as a consequence of the aforementioned federation, not meeting their own set transformation targets with immediate effect."

Notably, the Minister said he would:

"review this decision when considering the results of the 2016/2017 Transformation Barometer."

The Minister did not give automatic support to SARU to go ahead and bid for the Rugby World Cup. On the same Press Conference about the Commonwealth Games, the Minister indicated that his support depends on what the next EPG Transformation Report will say. This he repeated on eNCA's Justice Factor. The Minister will again receive another EPG Transformation report this year. Had Simnikiwe bothered to ask he would have been given more clarity.

It is important to outline all these steps taken by the Minister because South Africa is a democratic country and policy changes take steps to to formulate and implement, they don't happen with a proclamation. While Simnikiwe doesn't know steps taken to transform sport, the Minister can account for every year since taking office in 2010. It is these steps that AfriForum is taking the Minister to court for.

With a less than a Billion budget for his department, the Minister has made good strides in professionalizing federations such as Netball, Basketball and the recent federation being Hockey. This he does by taking the federations under the department assisting them with financial and human resources.

Boxing has been brought back on Television and a governance structure with a board and a CEO is in place. We accept that things are not perfect but there are processes in place to capacitate and stabilise the federations that remain dependent on government for resources. Through Sport Trust SA, the department partners with the private sector to equip schools in rural and township communities with sport facilities.

While Simnikile attaches "wasteful expenditure" on Minister's governance, the Auditor General has for the past three years given the Department of Sport and Recreation SA Clean Unqualified Audit opinion under his direction.

A journalist supposedly aware of what the department does would have known that the South African Sport Awards were in their 11th year in 2016. This is longer than the time the Minister has been with the department. In his display of ignorance, Simnikiwe suggest that the Minister uses these awards to create a personality for himself.

Minister Fikile Mbalula will continue to use the awards as a platform to honour and celebrate excellence. Many of our athletes invest their time, energy and resources working selflessly representing South Africa. The awards honour and recognise their handwork in hoisting our flag high making us a nation of success and excellence.

Simnkilwe must desist from entering personal disagreements the Minister has with other people not matter how close he is with them.

@EsethuHasane is a Media Liaison Officer for the Department of Sport and Recreation SA


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