Pro­files in lead­er­ship

Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer at Sport and Re­cre­ation South Africa Su­mayya Khan ex­plains the im­por­tance and ben­e­fits of sport

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

Sport is not just about win­ning medals and tro­phies but is also a tool for so­cial co­he­sion and na­tion build­ing.

This is ac­cord­ing to Su­mayya Khan, who is the Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer (COO) at Sport and Re­cre­ation South Africa.

For most of her ca­reer, Khan has been in­volved in sport. She started off as a qual­i­fied phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher, both in pri­mary and high schools, and coached net­ball, vol­ley­ball, ath­let­ics, gym­nas­tics and cricket for about 17 years.

Khan holds a Diploma in

Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion, a Diploma in Sports Man­age­ment and var­i­ous cer­tifi­cates in lead­er­ship, sports coach­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing a sports ad­min­is­tra­tor course ac­cred­ited by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee.

Through her coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Khan has re­alised that sport is a good dis­trac­tion that pre­vents peo­ple from get­ting in­volved in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties and other so­cial ills.This is why the South African Na­tional School Sport Cham­pi­onship is one of her favourite pro­grammes led by the de­part­ment.This an­nual

pro­gramme sees top schools par­tic­i­pat­ing for na­tional hon­ours in a se­ries of events.

Climb­ing up the ranks

Khan joined the de­part­ment in 1998 as a Deputy Di­rec­tor for sport and re­cre­ation in the KwaZulu-Na­tal (KZN) De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­ture when phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion was phased out of the school cur­ricu­lum.

“I re­ally wanted to be in sport, so I started look­ing for new jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the sport­ing sec­tor.That is when I ap­plied for the job at the de­part­ment,” she said.

She worked her way up the ranks to be­come the Di­rec­tor for Cul­tural Ser­vices in the eThek­wini re­gion of the KZN De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, man­ag­ing sport and re­cre­ation de­vel­op­ment and arts, cul­ture and youth af­fairs both for schools and com­mu­ni­ties.

In 2004, when the stand-alone De­part­ment of Sport and Re­cre­ation in KZN was es­tab­lished, she was ap­pointed as Chief Di­rec­tor and later as the Head of De­part­ment of the new de­part­ment.

“I was on a con­tract for five years and, just as it was about to end, the na­tional de­part­ment ad­ver­tised the COO post in 2010. I ap­plied and got the job,” she said.

In­cred­i­bly, Khan has been the first in­cum­bent in all the man­age­ment posts that she has held, which has meant that she of­ten had to start ev­ery­thing from scratch, in­clud­ing ar­tic­u­lat­ing her job de­scrip­tion.

She said this has been both chal­leng­ing and ex­cit­ing and taught her and her col­leagues many valu­able lessons.

Her cur­rent job in­volves sup­port­ing the Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral (DG).

She ex­plained:“The DG works at a strate­gic level, and I am ex­pected to take those strate­gies and di­rec­tives from the DG and put them into op­er­a­tion. I ba­si­cally look at plan­ning, man­ag­ing and co­or­di­nat­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of the de­part­ment and, most im­por­tantly, pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship and men­tor­ing to my col­leagues,” she added.

Khan re­ferred to her­self as a mother hen who is al­ways look­ing af­ter ev­ery­thing and every­one in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, mak­ing sure that they meet time­lines and com­ply with leg­isla­tive pre­scripts, and putting in place busi­ness pro­cesses to stream­line op­er­a­tions.

Pro­mot­ing team spirit, work­ing smart

“Our de­part­men­tal struc­ture makes pro­vi­sion for about 300 peo­ple, but re­al­is­ti­cally we are just above 180 warm bod­ies in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Given the fact that there are cost con­tain­ments and bud­get con­straints, we have to work very cre­atively,” she said.

The ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ees are young and are al­ways ready to put new ideas on the ta­ble, Khan added.

Ma­jor pro­grammes and projects led by the de­part­ment in­clude the An­drew Mlan­geni Golf De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, Bas­ket­ball Na­tional League, Big Walk, Box­ing Is Back!, Indige­nous Games Fes­ti­val, Na­tional Re­cre­ation

Day, Na­tional Sports Week, Ru­ral Sport De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, SA Na­tional School Sport Cham­pi­onship, SA Sport Awards, the SASReCon con­fer­ence, Sport in the Strug­gle Ex­hi­bi­tion, and Youth Camp.

To en­sure that all th­ese pro­grammes are ex­e­cuted

“I re­ally wanted to be in sport so I started look­ing for new jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the sport­ing sec­tor. That is when I ap­plied for the job at the


ef­fec­tively, Khan said the de­part­ment had to come up with an in­no­va­tive ap­proach.

“For in­stance, in­stead of re­strict­ing peo­ple to their direc­torates and pro­fes­sions, we work on a task team ba­sis. In those task teams, we mix peo­ple from dif­fer­ent direc­torates and give them tasks to do when­ever we have sports projects.

“The amaz­ing thing about this is that some task team mem­bers would never have had the op­por­tu­nity to work out­side the of­fice and ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the field.They might have never known what their tal­ents and skills are,” she added.

Khan said, for­tu­nately, every­one shows com­mit­ment, even when things have to be done at short no­tice.

Know­ing that all per­son­nel will at some stage be de­ployed to a task team en­cour­ages every­one to work as a team to achieve the goals, mis­sion and vi­sion of the de­part­ment.

“When we are out in the field, we for­get about ranks. We are all col­leagues on the same level and we all re­port to the task team con­vener, who can lit­er­ally be any staff mem­ber and is ex­pected to lead and di­rect the team,” she added.

How­ever, Khan still has to play an over­sight role as the COO to sup­port the task team con­ven­ers and ad­dress any chal­lenges that may arise.

Telling SA's good story

What she loves about her job is en­gag­ing with dif­fer­ent sec­tors of so­ci­ety, not only in South Africa but in­ter­na­tion­ally as well.

“I am quite hon­oured that I have been nom­i­nated by the Min­is­ter to sit on var­i­ous ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees and com­mis­sions of the African Union Sport Coun­cil to en­gage with other coun­tries in the re­gion.”

She added that the de­part­ment works with the Com­mon­wealth Games Fed­er­a­tion and United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion, and ex­plained that she uses th­ese plat­forms to speak about some of the best prac­tices that South Africa has in place and also to learn from other coun­tries.

For in­stance, Khan lets the world know that South Africa has top­class sport in­fra­struc­ture and the abil­ity to host ma­jor in­ter­na­tional sport events.This, she said, is thanks to the legacy of the 2010 World Cup.

She said South Africa is also the only coun­try in Africa that has a lab­o­ra­tory that tests for banned per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs some­times used by ath­letes.

“We also have the South African In­sti­tute of Drug-Free Sport, which is our de­part­ment's en­tity.”

Khan said that South Africa has a ca­pa­ble team of sport ad­min­is­tra­tors and ex­plained that it is be­cause of this hu­man re­source ca­pac­ity that our tech­ni­cal of­fi­cials are of­ten called on to as­sist in other African coun­tries.

This was ev­i­dent when Mozam­bique hosted the 2011 All-Africa Games and asked for teams of peo­ple from South Africa to as­sist the coun­try with its var­i­ous needs just weeks be­fore the of­fi­cial pro­gramme be­gan.

Lessons learnt from sport

The fact that no two days are the same and that she gets to work with var­i­ous other gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, fed­er­a­tions and many pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies adds to the ex­cite­ment of Khan's job. As some­one who has worked in the sport arena for the ma­jor­ity of her ca­reer, Khan said sport has taught her to be ded­i­cated, pas­sion­ate and com­mit­ted to ev­ery­thing that she does.

“Sport re­quires peo­ple to be eth­i­cal in their be­hav­iour. Exer-

cis­ing good gov­er­nance within sport struc­tures is im­por­tant to me, to en­sure that ev­ery­thing I am in­volved in runs ef­fec­tively.”

Some of the valu­able life lessons she has taken from sport in­clude re­spect, dis­ci­pline and how to work in a team.

“It has also taught me that life is about win­ning and los­ing; when I win I do so gra­ciously, but when I lose, I also have to ac­cept that it is part of the game,” Khan said.

Cel­e­brat­ing achieve­ments

High­light­ing some of the de­part­ment's re­cent achieve­ments, Khan said th­ese in­clude: • Re­ceiv­ing five clean au­dits from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral of South Africa.

• Sign­ing a Me­moran­dum of Agree­ment with the De­part­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion, which en­sures that school sport or phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion be­comes part of the school cur­ricu­lum.

• Re­leas­ing the fifth trans­for­ma­tion re­port, which is based on the Trans­for­ma­tion Char­ter wherein the codes of sport now have to re­port on achiev­ing their tar­gets with re­gard to trans­for­ma­tion.

• The I Choose to be Ac­tive Cam­paign, which en­cour­ages all South Africans to be phys­i­cally ac­tive in an ef­fort to pro­mote healthy liv­ing. • De­vel­op­ing a pol­icy for

women in sport.

Khan said the de­part­ment is proud of the progress and achieve­ments that South African women in sport are re­al­is­ing. Ath­letes and team South Africa made the coun­try proud in 2018 when they com­peted in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional events, in­clud­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games and Wim­ble­don.

She also con­grat­u­lated Banyana Banyana for mak­ing his­tory by qual­i­fy­ing for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 and mak­ing it to the fi­nals of the African Women's Cup of Na­tions.

Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer at Sport and Re­cre­ation South Africa Su­mayya Khan.

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