‘Sport bud­get is too small’

New min­is­ter pleased the depart­ment is func­tion­ing well, but trans­for­ma­tion must hap­pen

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Once a teacher, al­ways a teacher – this is the best way to de­scribe new Sport and Re­cre­ation Min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi as he preaches about devel­op­ment. There is a vast distinc­tion between Nx­esi and his pre­de­ces­sor, Fik­ile Mbalula.

While Mbaks was loud and all about the razzmatazz, Nx­esi is grounded and easy-go­ing.

From a dis­tance, the new min­is­ter comes across as a softy. But, judg­ing by what he says, he’s ac­tu­ally firm. The 58-year-old for­mer school teacher might be new to the job – 30 days, to be ex­act – but he al­ready knows the ins and outs of his new depart­ment.

He proudly says he has in­her­ited a well­func­tion­ing unit, which has helped him set­tle in quickly de­spite hav­ing to hit the ground run­ning.

But he is un­der no il­lu­sions of the task ahead.

“This is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world from where I’m com­ing from,” says the for­mer pub­lic works min­is­ter.

“I’m very for­tu­nate that I found a well-func­tion­ing depart­ment at man­age­ment level. They have a solid man­age­ment team, un­like when I got to pub­lic works. The first thing I did was look for the di­rec­tor-gen­eral, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and the deputy di­rec­tors­gen­eral. At least there is a bet­ter tran­si­tion this time around, but, of course, these are two dif­fer­ent worlds.”

Nx­esi says peo­ple in the depart­ment are aware of where they are go­ing and un­der­stand their is­sues.

“I’m talk­ing about the depart­ment that has ac­counted prop­erly in terms of fi­nances – three years of clean au­dits – and knows all about pub­lic man­age­ment is­sues.”

How­ever, he says one of the big­gest chal­lenges he is fac­ing is the depart­ment’s small bud­get. Last year’s bud­get was R1 bil­lion.

“I don’t think we are tak­ing sports se­ri­ously with that bud­get – how can we think the depart­ment can lead devel­op­ment with such a mi­nus­cule bud­get? We de­serve more, and my ar­gu­ment is that there is a case to be made at gov­ern­ment and pub­lic level.”

Nx­esi is pas­sion­ate about trans­for­ma­tion and devel­op­ment, and says these will be two ar­eas he will fo­cus on.

“We talk trans­for­ma­tion, but we do very lit­tle in terms of devel­op­ment. The few black faces in na­tional teams are prod­ucts of for­mer Model C schools and not of our devel­op­ment struc­tures, where the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple come from.

“There is a very small pool to pick from for na­tional teams and we can­not con­tinue like this.” He has be­moaned the lack of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in the school cur­ricu­lum, say­ing it con­trib­utes to be­ing un­able to iden­tify tal­ent at an ear­lier stage. “When I was in the SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union, we went to Par­lia­ment when there were changes in the cur­ricu­lum, but lost. How do you be­come a healthy mind in a healthy body when you dump ev­ery­thing to do with sport? This is a se­ri­ous mat­ter that needs a pub­lic de­bate. Sport is key to so­cial co­he­sion – look at what hap­pened at the 2010 World Cup when black and white sup­port­ers got to­gether. Since then, we’ve started see­ing white sup­port­ers at­tend lo­cal foot­ball matches be­cause sport brings peo­ple to­gether.” Nx­esi be­lieves sport can help fight crime in the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly among the youth. “Look at what is hap­pen­ing – with crime, we are fac­ing drugs abuse. What would hap­pen if each vil­lage had sports clubs and so on?” He says he will en­gage with the depart­ment so that syn­er­gies can be cre­ated, but stresses that teach­ers’ unions should not be left be­hind. He says he is un­aware of the fight between the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and the SA Schools Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion over who should run school foot­ball in the coun­try, but prom­ises to ask per­ti­nent ques­tions when he meets with the foot­ball con­trol­ling body. After fin­ish­ing with his in­ter­nal con­sul­ta­tion, Nx­esi will em­bark on a road­show to about 74 fed­er­a­tions to have deeper dis­cus­sions with them. He says he is in­ter­ested in, among other things, trans­for­ma­tion, fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity and good gov­er­nance, and he will not back down on these. “We will have to tighten the screws when it comes to these is­sues. Ev­ery­body must ac­count, no mat­ter how lit­tle money there is.” Nx­esi says he will ask tough ques­tions of the fed­er­a­tions that have failed to meet their own tar­gets re­gard­ing the quota sys­tem. “Let’s see how far peo­ple have ad­vanced in terms of the quota sys­tem they have agreed to. We are go­ing to be de­mand­ing re­sults of the tar­get that they have set. They must ex­plain why they could not meet them.” On the is­sue of host­ing ma­jor in­ter­na­tional events, Nx­esi says that, where there is the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate jobs, they would be con­sid­ered. He be­lieves there is a lot of hid­den tal­ent in vil­lages and town­ships that must be iden­ti­fied. “There is a lot of tal­ent out there that, un­for­tu­nately, has been suf­fo­cated, and we need to do some­thing about it,” he says. Hope­fully, he will prac­tice what he preaches be­fore he is re­de­ployed or reshuf­fled else­where.

PHOTO: SYD­NEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IM­AGES

GAME ON Sport Min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi is pas­sion­ate about devel­op­ment

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