Minister speaks at SASCOCs General Meeting

Minister speaks at SASCOCs General Meeting

SASCOC General Meeting, Olympic House, Johannesburg, 22.04.2017

Keynote Address:
NW Nxesi MP, Minister of Sport and Recreation

• Programme Director
• The President and CEO of SASCOC
• Members of the SASCOC Executive
• Presidents, CEOs and representatives of National Federations
• Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. As you know, I am new to the Sport and Recreation portfolio – so it is absolutely appropriate that amongst my first official engagements is to address the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) – the controlling body for all high performance sports in South Africa – as well as the body charged with the responsibility of delivering Team South Africa at all multi-sport international games.

I want to start by reassuring you… I can hear some of you thinking:  ‘What does this guy know about sport?’ So I want to assure you of my absolute commitment to this portfolio and to the Vision of Sport and Recreation South Africa for ‘An Active and Winning Nation,’

I am well aware that my life-long support for a particular soccer team is not a sufficient qualification for the job I now hold. But I do believe that I have skills and experience which are both useful and relevant:

• As a teacher I know the importance of School Sport – and if I approach this portfolio with any preconceptions, it is with the passionate belief that School Sport has to be a priority. I might add that as General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), we lobbied for the inclusion of Physical Education in the core curriculum. We lost that one, but I mention it to reassure you of my commitment to School Sport.
• Like many of you I helped build organisations and participated in unity talks in the 1980s and 90s. So I know something about negotiation, being a team member – part of a collective, and most of all – building strong organisation. In my case, it was helping to build a teacher union of quarter-of-a-million members based on democratic and participatory structures.
• My eight-years’ in Parliament and government, I believe, gives me useful experience of how government works and how to get things done.
But enough about me.

Let me rather celebrate – with you - the achievements of Team South Africa in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and reiterate the country’s thanks for the tireless efforts of SASCOC in this regard. These achievements provide a solid foundation for further successes to come.
To this end, we have committed additional funding in this financial year for the establishment of the National Training and Olympic Preparatory Centre (NTC) to be based in Bloemfontein. Since the Confederation presented the project to Sports and Recreation, the Department has engaged all provinces to commit 5% of their conditional grant budget to this vision. Today, I am pleased to inform you that the provinces have agreed to increase their commitment to 10% of their ring-fenced budgets.
The NTC is the first of its kind in the country and represents a decisive step by government and the Confederation to invest in high-performance sport. Previously our top athletes have had to go to other countries to receive the necessary training and preparation. The NTC changes all that, saves on costs, and safeguards information relating to our athletes from the competition. The NTC also links to earlier initiatives such as the Academy System and the Sports Bursaries.

Other issues on the agenda for the year include the following:
• Important for my Department and SASCOC to note is the specific reference to the role of sport for social progress in the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015.
The challenge now is to identify the specific areas where the sport sector can have a meaningful impact as well as the most effective means of implementation. In this regard, I can report that my Department is working very closely with global role-players, as well as other government departments, in developing indicators for the sport sector that could help us achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We will clearly have to engage further on this matter as the sports sector.
• 2017 will also see the sixth Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (known as MINEPS 6) – scheduled to take place in Kazan, Russia in July this year. I am told by Deputy Minister, Mr Gert Oosthuizen, who is Chairperson of CIGEPS (Unesco’s Inter-Governmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport), that the focus of MINEPS 6 will be more on policy implementation rather than policy development. I think there is an important message there for all of us in the South African sports sector – as well as across the rest of government, for that matter.
• In the very near future, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) will be releasing its now Annual Audit on Transformation in Sport.  This has become a highly credible and well-researched document – and clearly we will have to engage on its findings. It is so important that we do this kind of thorough research before rushing to take action. I want to study the research and I want to talk to people before I start making any pronouncements on transformation. [For a preview - an overview of the findings of the EPG go to the SRSA website.]
• I also need to report to you that the Department is reviewing the current Transformation Charter – and again we will be engaging with SASCOC on this.
I mentioned the importance of research and data collection as the basis of policy and action in relation to the work of the EPG. For the same reason it is critical that SASCOC and its members embrace the reporting requirements to the Department. SRSA has developed a detailed template to assist reporting. This allows us to monitor and evaluate progress across the sector. It is also a requirement of the National Sport and Recreation Plan, and is informed by the National Sport and Recreation Act 1998 (Act No 110 of 1998 as amended). The data which is collected will be analysed and used for the development of research-based policy and plans. You know the old adage: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Whilst we are on matters of compliance, I have to remind SASCOC of the advice provided by the Auditor-General – that bodies that receive public funds must place those funds in an account separate from any other income they receive, and they must account for those public funds separately. Public money does not go into the general pot – it is provided for specific purposes which need to be reported on. My experience is that the advice of the A-G is usually sound. Non-compliance will delay the distribution of funding.
I want to emphasize this point – compliance, reporting and proper financial management are the fundamentals of running any effective organisation or business – and the many successfully-run sports bodies will back me up on that.
In the rest of my input, I want to share with you my initial impressions of the sport environment in which I find myself. Bear with me. If you think I am wrong on something, you can shoot me down. [If there is a sport code for shooting – please don’t take me literally.] I should rather say: I welcome you to debate with me if you don’t agree with anything I say. And of course there will be opportunity for this as I meet with the National Federations individually in the coming weeks.

So these are first impressions:
• SRSA - I have found the Department of Sport and Recreation to be a well-functioning, well-led and professional organisation. The proof is there in the clean audits and the good performance measurement record – and also in the large footprint the Department has constructed on a relatively small budget. If I tell you that at Public Works we had to start by rebuilding a highly dysfunctional department, before we could get down to the business of improving service delivery – you will realise that in SRSA you have a real asset.
Now let me get to some of the challenges that I see, principally:
o The weakness of School Sport
o An inadequate funding model, and
o A problem of organisations and departments operating in silos.
• School Sport – as a former teacher I probably came to the issue of School Sport with a degree of sentimentality – but also a sense of urgency – having witnessed the death of Physical Education and sport in the majority of our schools. This is very wrong. Access to sport is defined as a fundamental right in various UN Conventions. Are we surprised that young people turn to anti-social behaviour – when they lack the opportunities to participate in sport. If the call for Radical Economic Transformation is to have any meaning, it must include the demand for access for all learners to sport and physical education.
But talking to people since I arrived at SRSA has opened my eyes to a looming crisis of sustainability for the sports system as a whole if we do not address the challenges in School Sport. Based on their research, the Eminent Persons Group describes School Sport as the ‘Achilles Heel’ of the whole sport system including the high performance sport codes.

They argue that the present strategy of some sports codes of effectively relying on a handful of ex Model-C and private schools – as their pipeline for identifying talent is not sustainable. And demographic projections indicate that – both in absolute numbers and in percentage terms – the strategy will become unsustainable in the medium to long run.
Quoting from the White Paper on Sport and Recreation:
“No country can expect to achieve and sustain at the elite level … without a strong participation base in the community.”  End quote. In other words we have to widen the pool of talent from which national teams are selected – if we are to perform, as a country, at the highest levels of international sport – and this starts with addressing the challenges in School Sport:

o Widening access
o Identifying talent, and
o then linking organisationally – organically - to the sport system and the National Federations.

• Funding – We can all agree on one thing: the budget for sport and recreation is woefully inadequate. My job is to raise this with the relevant powers. I will need a Task Team to work with. I am given to understand that a lot of the research is done and various proposals have been developed. So we are not starting from scratch. In the present environment of budgetary constraints:
o we are going to have to make a strong case for sport – you know the arguments around health and social cohesion etc;
o We are going to have to make the best use of the funds we already have;
o We are going to have to ensure that where money has been budgeted for sport – wherever it resides – in Education, in the provinces or municipalities – we have to ensure that that money is actually used for sport – and used optimally. That will be my job.
o We are going to have to go back to National Treasury with proposals and to cost the priorities in the National Plan for Sport and Recreation for presentation to Cabinet. Obviously we are going to have to make strategic choices about what are the priorities.
o We are going to have to go to SARS and make the case for rebates for sponsors; and
o We will need to go back to the Lotto to remind them of their original commitments to support sport.
Whilst I am dealing with funding, let me raise some concerns around issues of sponsorship. I am aware that a culture of not properly accounting for sponsorship funding occurs in some parts of the sporting family – both in terms of financial accounting and providing an account of what has been achieved. This is wrong. It diverts resources from sports development, and it results in sponsors withdrawing their support.

We are going to have to discuss with SASCOC how we can assist in leading a campaign to ensure accountability in every sector of Sport and Recreation.
• Silos – Colleagues working in silos means that we are unable to coordinate our efforts for optimal results. Some critical examples:
o In School Sport we have a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Basic Education – yet the departments do not sufficiently support each other’s work. This is a serious misalignment. So you have SRSA running national competitions – without the necessary underpinning from schools, districts and provinces. This has a knock on effect in that National Federations are not going to take seriously uncoordinated national competitions as a pipeline for talent. So you have another silo right there.
This has to be a priority for me to review and reinvigorate the MoA with DBE – and for us jointly to create the necessary platform for coordination of resources and the efforts of all the role-players I have mentioned – and including the teacher unions.
o I have mentioned the silo between the work of SRSA in School Sport and the operations of SASCO and National Federations. Again we need to strengthen the platforms for coordination. The potential synergies and benefits are obvious. We strive to revive School Sport and you help us to construct and expand the pipeline into high performance sport. Let me quote from the National Sport and Recreation Plan:
“There is a need for a coordinated, integrated and aligned national sport and recreation system within which all component parts are aligned with the National Sport and Recreation Plan …
“It is not in the best interest of a seamless development continuum that the delivery of sport and the development of athletes is divided across two macro entities – SRSA and SASCOC. This led to both gaps and duplication in service delivery to the sport and recreation sector.”
That is our task – jointly to develop that ‘seamless development continuum’. We owe it to the many talented athletes who have already shown what they can do – as well as to the untold numbers of potential athletes who never had the opportunity. The vision of an Active and Winning Nation can only be achieved by expanding access to sport and recreation – and this starts with School Sport.

I thank you.

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