Johannesburg - In an interview with the youngest MEC in the country, Mbali Hlophe spoke about how her provincial Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation was acknowledged by national Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as the number one achiever in providing COVID relief to artists, accounting for 44% of the National count.
MEC Hlophe, that’s a huge number, especially since we have seen many artists voicing themselves on the issue of relief. How did Gauteng go about this?
The Gauteng province appreciates its place as the economic hub of the country, and it therefore attracts many people seeking better prospects within it. In this regard many artists and athletes reside here. It’s on this basis we sent aside R28 million so we can provide relief to as many artists and athletes as possible. There certainly is more to do, and the demand for help persists however we are appreciative of the acknowledgement that we are on the right track.
What hope is there for artists and athletes, do you think things will get better any time soon?
Things can get better, however it’s up to all of us to work together to ensure we get as many people as possible to vaccinate so we get back to normality. Much of the countries around the world have gotten back to normality, and fans can go to stadiums, concerts can take place and theatres are open again. We too can experience this, however people must vaccinate so we can return to the games. It’s just that simple.
Oh yes, I saw the National launch of the vaccination social mobilisation held at FNB stadium you had with the Deputy President (David Mabuza), Premier (David Makhura) and Minister Mthethwa, attended by various renowned artists and athletes. Do you think people will heed the call to vaccinate?
At the height of the hard lockdowns, society was vocal on its request for government to bring vaccines into the country. Government has heeded the call and now people are not vaccinating. Largely due to uncertainty and fears propelled by fake news. Thus far close to 14 million people have vaccinated and you don’t see mass deaths of the vaccinated, as fake news claim that people will die.
The world over, people are vaccinated and you can see how they have returned to normality. We are pleading with society to help us get back to normality so we have a good festive season. And importantly get to enjoy sports, the arts and all the mass based activities we can’t have currently. I long for a good New Years Eve party, with performances by our countries great artists. It’s possible to experience this once we reach herd immunity. Let’s be part of the VacciNation, and jab for us to reach immunity.
We’ve seen a fun fitness campaign you run in Gauteng communities, where you integrate sports and arts. Can you tell us more about this program?
You’re talking about our Hanyani Wellness Campaign. We drew the name from the Tsonga word “hanyani” which means live long. And that’s really what we seek to achieve through the campaign, to ensure we have a healthy Gauteng population. The health status of our population is critical for us to continue being an economic hub and home of champions. We pride ourselves in this and equally appreciate that due to the great health infrastructure we have in place, we therefore attract many individuals from neighbouring provinces and countries, who well ill utilise our services. As you can image this creates much traffic into the health facilities. In order to reduce the traffic of those suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure etc, our program ensures these are eradicated through getting people to have a healthy lifestyle.
So beyond it being fun filled activities of aerobics, yoga, hip hop step, kick boxing etc., we fuse it with performances from our celebrated DJs and artists. It’s essentially “green parties” we host, which have grown in popularity in communities and we have lots of fun rolling them out.
We’ve now infused our VacciNation work within them, as being an important component for wellness in this current climate.
Please do invite us to your next one. Would be great to spend time with friends in these Hanyani wellness “green parties” as you coin them. You’ve spoken about Gauteng being the Home of Champions, I hear you say this a lot, can you unpack it for us?
[Laughs] I do say it a lot, and proudly so. Not as an arrogant statement but an affirmation of the truth and great talent we have in the province. If you consider any national team, Gauteng athletes are in the forefront. Whether it’s soccer, rugby, cricket, swimming. I mean, what would the PSL be without Gauteng teams. [Laughs]
Equally many of our much celebrated artists are from this province. Or it’s individuals who were born outside the province and came to Gauteng to realise the growth of their careers and talent.
So we truly are the Home of Champions.
Well, well, talk about provincial pride. But how will you maintain this status, is Government doing anything to maintain this status?
Certainly, it’s a crown we protect. And we do this by investing in grass roots sports. Through our Wednesday Leagues Sports and Arts program in schools, we seek to revive sports and arts in schools. This is important for us to develop young people, but also allows us to identify and nurture talent from a young age. With the shocking stats of the high number of teenage pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse amongst youth, through sports and arts we can reverse this tide by getting young people engaged in positive activities.
You’ve just mentioned young girls, what measures are you putting in place to ensure girls excel in sports?
As you might know when young girls face puberty, many exit sport. Largely due to the uncomfortability they have as their bodies change; gaining of additional weight from breasts and hips which have an impact on their performance. Through programs such as our sports bra campaign; we had out sport bras to young girls and women who want to be involved in sport and don’t have the resources for comfortable gear and equipment. This goes a long way in turning the tide of seeing many young girls leave sports.
In addition, we prioritize female involvement in sports such as soccer, rugby, etc. And work closely with organisations such as SAFA on the Women’s League to name but a few.
Thanks for that information it’s quite informative and to hear the work the Department does. Now as the economic hub of the country, how are you ensuring artists and athletes become global brands?
That’s a great question, especially because our Premier (Mr David Makhura) has mandated us to focus on the business of sports and arts. So these many be viewed not just as avenues for social development but importantly economic development too. We are therefore focused on creating as many market access opportunities for our sectors as possible and have started reaching out to various embassies for possible partnerships. In addition to this we are exposing individuals to the many business and administrative opportunities within the sectors. For example people assume working within the tv industry is all about being in front of the camera, there far more opportunities behind it, and we want to see much transformation in that space amongst other things.
Indeed there are many opportunities, before we close off this interview, please tell us about the clean up work you’ve been doing in the department. Some call you a broom. Are you cleaning up shop?
We certainly are. Our 6th Administration and Premier has been unambiguous on the need for government to eradicate maladministration and corruption. In this regard within our Department you would have noted that many of our cases relating to senior managers who have had to be removed from the system owning to their involvement in corruption, have taken place. This is work we continue with even in the face of the culprits trying to fight back and creating all sorts of lies as a way to redirect our attention from them. The craziest of these being when individuals fabricated CIPC documents and put my name within a company alleged of PPE corruption. The issue has been cleared accordingly and proof given that I’ve never been a director of such a company. It didn’t end there, they tried a suggesting renowned gospel artist had corrupt relations with the Department; that too was cleared. And many other silly accusations which have also been cleared, but this goes to show the extent culprits will go to.
Be that as it may, we remain focused and our objective remains serving.