Is she the one that women in sport and sportswomen have been waiting for? The one to not only pioneer initiatives to challenge, disrupt and eliminate male control of sport in South Africa but to wipe out gender inequalities in our land’s sport paradigm?
Will South Africa’s newest Minister of Sport have the consciousness and determination to disrupt male hegemonic control of the sports paradigm; this male power that so acutely keeps men in control of sport officialdom, ensuring that women in sport get little attention, some handouts here and there, some position now and then?
Get this! Not because Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa is a woman, does it mean she will consistently challenge male control and power in sport? And not because she is a woman can we believe and rely on her government power to ensure gender inequalities in sport will be removed?
Dear Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa, as a black woman you should know what it is to live in South Africa’s patriarchal, neo-liberal society littered with gender inequalities and male power all over.
You know about this male control of women’s lives in society. And yes, we have it in sport, too. Your male predecessors before you, in this government sports portfolio and their men directors-general were very weak in tackling gender inequalities in sport. They were not only weak; they just didn’t say or do much. After all, the gender inequalities didn’t exclude them; they benefited men in sport. Despite the decades of oppressive and unequal sports paradigms in sport, women in sport and sportswomen are still here, struggling to survive, develop and advance and participate as elite sportswomen.
Minister Tokozile Xasa, I know you are entering office as a first-time minister but we have been waiting for you and have lots to tell you about our expectations. After all, we have had enough of this male control of sport and women’s sport gets little of the funding, attention and sponsorship.
What you as the Minister of Sport must not do is pander to this male control by allowing men officials to fool you with what they are supposedly doing to improve and advance women in sport.
We are telling you that men officialdom has always given girls and women a raw and unequal deal in sport. Men officials control the budgets, they decide for girls and women what is “best” for them in sport. And you do know that women in sport and sportswomen have had to exist within this male-dominated paradigm and battle to develop through the sports pyramid with the crumbs given to them by men officials.
Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa inherits a sports portfolio that has to be cleaned out from the very Sport and Recreation South Africa department she will oversee to Sascoc, the national sports confederation, including the national sports federations.
With South Africa’s elite athletes winning on international sports stages and achieving continental sports feats, South Africa’s sports system seemingly looks all in order. If anything, sport in South Africa is not in a healthy state, especially at grassroots levels, in working-class schools and communities and provincial administration.
For a long time, I’ve been calling for a national sports budget solely for girls and women in sport. Can Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa implement such a priority focus budget?
Women’s sports need national and professional leagues. Will Minister Xasa be able to insist that national federations provide the same events for women as they do for men?
And part-time elite athlete/sportswomen participation must be abolished. If elite sportswomen can’t get the funding and sponsorship within national federations and businesses to be full-time and professional in the game, then how are they going to improve, become world-class and compete with the world’s best?
As a black woman in unequal, white privilege South Africa, Minister Xasa should know that to be black, rural and working-class in post-apartheid society is to still struggle and battle the odds. Gender inequalities exist in South African sport, but white and middle-class women are not facing the same struggles and hardships as black working-class girls and women in sport.
Several national sports teams are still embarrassingly white-dominated. This white privilege is supported in national sports that do little development projects here and there for black girls and in working-class schools and communities. And this white domination/white priority must be stopped.
Again, Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa must be strong and call out this white sportswoman domination of national teams and athlete representation.
If Minister Xasa enters her newest job with the clarity, consciousness and understanding that sport in South Africa is unequal, that gender imbalances are rampant and rife, that white sportswomen domination must be disrupted, that black and working-class girls need to be prioritised, that male control of sport must be challenged and disrupted, she would have started where she should - with the intention of giving priority attention to all the wrongs that contribute negatively to our sports development and growth.
Is Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa the one that sportswomen and women in sport have been waiting for?
* Cheryl Roberts is a sports activist.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.