Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa

DURBAN - The DA has called for an extension on the comment time for a controversial amendment bill that could see the country's sports "nationalised". 

The department of sports, arts and culture wants all sporting bodies - including clubs - to fall under the control of the minister. 

"The DA believes that, especially due to the controversial nature of this bill, 30 days for comment is a ridiculously short period of time, especially as it falls within the holiday period," said the party's deputy shadow minister for sports, arts and culture, Veronica van Dyk, on Tuesday. 

She said that the DA wrote to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa and the chairperson of the sport portfolio committee, Beauty Ndlulane, on January 4, seeking "clarity" on deadline submissions. 

"According to a media statement by Minister Mthethwa on December 11, all interested parties are invited to comment on this bill by no later than January 10.  Yet, later in the same statement, the deadline is stated as February 28," said van Dyk.

"We have asked the minister for clarity on the matter and, at the same time, we insist that the date has to be extended, even beyond February 28, to provide enough time for the public and interested parties to thoroughly scrutinise the bill."

The amendments in the draft bill were too comprehensive to address in such a short period of time, added van Dyk.

"The bill places the minister at the centre of everything that happens in sport. Throughout the document the powers are vested in the minister and/or his authorised representative - at local, provincial as well as national level.

"The role of recognised sport confederations is in some cases replaced with only the minister's [authority]. Furthermore, sports bodies will no longer be able to arrange international events or meetings without the consent of the minister. Disputes between sports bodies will also only be resolved by the minister via a tribunal," said van Dyk. 

South Africa's sports confederation and Olympic committee (Sascoc), would "basically be deprived of all rights" if the bill was made an Act in its current form, said van Dyk. 

"The minister will further be able to regulate the appointments of foreign coaches. Cricket SA or professional football (SAFA) will therefore have to obtain permission from the minister to make appointments in this regard. Even sports promoters will be regulated in the future.

"The minister will henceforth be the only person to award Protea colours and the powers of federations and Sascoc will be limited to recommendations."

This was "direct political interference" in South African sport, said van Dyk, and would cost the country dearly. 

She said the bill was in direct contrast to a ban on government interference in sports, as adopted by the international Olympic committee, the international paralympic committee and the Commonwealth Games. 

"Also worrying is that the minister may change the policy that may influence team selection. Minister Mthethwa's statements in July 2019 that the demographics of national teams must change to promote social cohesion speak volumes."

The DA would not support sporting quotas, said van Dyk. 

African News Agency