Pretoria - Emboldened and reassured by his reappointment as minister of sport and recreation, Fikile Mbalula, outspoken as ever, reiterated that in his second term in office he will clamp down hard on federations not complying with the transformation resolution.
The robust minister outlined some of his plans for his next five years, which will include addressing the most burning issue hindering the growth of South African sports like the make-up of the Springboks.
“We want as many players of colour as possible to participate in rugby. That on its own is not an event, it’s a process. There is a whole lot of systems that need to be sharpened. We are aware that there are certain standards that need to be met,” Mbalula said during the first day of his second term.
“We met with rugby (South African Rugby Union) and said any team that does not transform, there will be consequences. We have said this to all federations and that (transformation) is non-negotiable. The next step is to meet with them again so that they give us feedback to say what are they doing as a federation (Saru) to accelerate transformation. We expect rugby, cricket and all the other federations to comply. Our national teams must be reflective of the country. There must be a conscious effort on the part of the federations to unearth talent.”
Mbalula said his department has a realistic expectation and do not wish for the status quo to change overnight.
“Our vision is not to say that by tomorrow our teams must be 100% transformed. That is not what is expected. What is expected is not to overlook talent simple because of racial connotations. We must be able to select players who are capable and who are in a position to play. Not just to make up the numbers. But every player must be there on merit, and not just to balance the colour,” he said.
The development of athletes is high on the agenda of objectives for the department and a key element that has been identified to fast-track this is to improve the country’s academies.
“We need to beef up our academies. We have high performance centres but they will not be affective if we don’t have the right academy structures,” said the minister affectionately known as Mbaks.
Another key area in the department’s blueprint Mbalula has set to take on is the mass participation of pupils in school sport. Sport and recreation will work in unison with the Department of Basic Education to integrate sports in the curriculum.
“What’s important is implementation for us. We have a national sports plan. School sport is key. We will not be happy up until the point where every Wednesday every school has a programme and a teacher who is responsible for sport. There is a dilapidated infrastructure of sports in some of the schools that needs to be looked at.
We need infrastructure in our schools. We want every school in the country to have sports facilities,” he said.
Mbalula said it’s unjust that communities across the country are unable to utilise landmark facilities.
“Look at Dobsonville Stadium for example. The problem is that the locals there in the township cannot access the facility because of high tariffs charged. We have met with the local government and we have said that the tariffs need to be lowered.”
During his first term Mbalula has played de facto arbitrator because of some of the boardroom squabbles that have ensued at various federations.
The minister has had to play a hand in resolving issues of conflict at Safa (South African Football Association) when vice-president Mwelo Nonkonyane was suspended, CSA (Cricket South Africa) when it’s then boss Gerald Majola was expelled for rewarding himself with an unauthorised bonus and ASA (Athletics South Africa) which saw its boss James Evans suspended for maladministration.
Mbalula bemoaned: “My role as the minister is not to become a conflict resolution team. It’s about overseeing but at the same time ensure that development is implemented fully. It’s not to resolve conflict. But I have been reduced to that over the years without option because when things go out of hand we cannot sit by and look.”
Mbalula will be looking to coax new minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene to allocate a bigger budget for sports in future.
“We can’t even talk of a billion. We have a R800 million budget for sports and we have put ourselves in a position to argue for more resources.
We have asked government for more resources to prepare our national teams. “We want to be counted amongst the best in the continent first, before we can look at the global perspective.”