JOHANNESBURG - What is the point of Sascoc? If that organisation didn’t exist, would anyone miss it? South African athletes perform, well or not, in spite of and not because of Sascoc.
It’s been that way for a while. Current Minister for Sport (and Arts and Culture) Nathi Mthethwa, for all his many faults – just ask anyone in the arts industry what they think of Mthethwa – has tried really hard to give Sascoc an authoritative role in SA sport, and Sascoc has failed dismally.
“Failed dismally” were the very words used by Mthethwa earlier this year to describe Sascoc’s attempts at intervening in the problems that beset Cricket SA’s administration in the last few years. Sascoc president Barry Hendricks has occasionally earned the ire of Mthethwa.
In a radio interview in April, as the crisis at CSA deepened, Mthethwa described Sascoc and Hendricks’ antics at the Special General Meeting in the following way: “The problem with sport is that you have individuals whose parochial interests supersede the national interest. Sascoc was presented as a paragon of correctness and uprightness (at the special meeting) which they are not. If they were, they would have dealt with this matter, now they want to come through the backdoor.”
And now we have this issue over the bonuses for medallists at the Olympics. That controversy has, for now, clouded the fact that there were just two medallists for Team SA in Tokyo. There are plenty of mitigating factors – the most obvious one being the Covid-19 pandemic – but it’s not a good return for Team SA and does not reflect very well on Sascoc.
The organisation will have to account for that, according to Mthethwa’s department, which on Tuesday, in a long winded statement about the bonuses, also said that Sascoc would have to explain the overall performance of the Olympic team as it is “Sascoc’s task to coordinate the team, including the selection process”.
Mthethwa was also unhappy about the racial composition of the team that represented SA in Tokyo, although there is a whole lot his own ministry will have to account for on that front.
Hendricks’ comment that he and Sascoc did not want to get into discussions about bonuses before the Games because “we wanted the athletes to concentrate on their performances without distraction” is simply ridiculous. The previous three summer Olympics and Paralympics all saw Sascoc make a real song and dance about bonuses for medallists, which certainly didn’t cause a distraction for the nine athletes who won six medals in London, nor the nine athletes and Blitzboks who won 10 medals in Rio – South Africa’s best medal haul since the country’s return to the Olympics in 1992. The bonuses were hardly a “distraction”.
The only thing that appears to be a distraction for athletes and SA sport in general is Sascoc’s inability to properly oversee sport in SA.
It’s been through a change of leadership, which was enforced following a commission of inquiry.
What it needs is better leadership that won’t go looking for excuses, or saying things like athletes will be distracted by talk of bonuses.
Surely we have better sports administrators who can make Sascoc into an entity that benefits and prioritises athletes.