178 The ANC's Fikile Mbalula addresses the media at Luthuli House on where the organisation stands regarding an article published by The Sunday Times regarding Mandela's ANC rally attendance last week. 230209. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Minister, take time away from your high-profile events, and be present at foundation and community sport, urges Cheryl Roberts.

In a recent reflection on the state of sport in South Africa, Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula expressed disappointment at the slow pace of transformation in certain sports.

This followed the release of a report by the Eminent Persons Group, commissioned and funded by Mbalula.

I want to ask Mbalula: Why are you alarmed, disappointed and angered by this state of sport? Surely, as the minister of the department, you should be aware of honest assessments of sport in our country?

What have you been doing during your tenure as minister if you weren’t aware what was happening at ground level, which is the pivotal foundation?

You see, Minister Mbalula, the provision, organisation, development and management of sport, in an unequal society such as South Africa, is not only about razzmatazz and the hosting of mega-events which cost megamillions.

Some sport observers and analysts, and I include myself in their number, have in recent years questioned the spending of the national and provincial budgets, because we are not seeing the change that is necessary to have sport transformed.

Have you only realised now that participation numbers at grass-roots sport levels are declining?

Have you only woken up now to the fact that sport is being organised for those who can afford to pay and play?

Minister Mbalula, take time away from your high-profile events, from your razzmatazz celebration of South African sport and be present at foundation and community sport.

You will see the volunteers who secure the foundation through their passion, commitment and hard work. This is done with no money, no rewards and no guarantee of any thanks, yet these people in sport make it happen. Now you are alarmed at the declining rates of black participation in sport?

This is the reality of the state of sport in South Africa, which is largely about money. People either have the money to play their way through the sports pyramid or they are made to hustle through the myriad challenges.

Professional sports such as cricket, rugby, golf and football get the sponsors’ share, this is because capitalists and corporates associate with sports that can bring them more money.

Most sports are left to rely on funding from your department and Lotto.

Usually, sports federations have to beg for their funds because your very own department takes months to deposit the funds allocated to sports federations.

How do you expect the federations to develop and grow when they are being stifled and strangled by the department you preside over? Why do you insist on using financial resources on events costing millions when those amounts could be used to develop grass-roots sport?

Clubs and community structures are struggling, the volunteer sports officials use their personal time and resources to fund these initiatives while you delight in emphasising extravagance.

* Cheryl Roberts is a sports analyst based in Sea Point, Cape Town.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star