South Africa’s Sport and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula, has banned four of the country’s sports federations from hosting and bidding for international tournaments. The federations affected are Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African Rugby (SARU). These four federations failed to meet transformation targets: a quota system introduced by Nelson Mandela’s government to increase racial diversity in sports. The football federation was the only major sports organization to meet the requirement.
An urgent task
“…I am applying these measures informed by the urgent task for the sport sector to reconstruct the fragmented and deeply discriminatory sport and recreation landscape by establishing a unified sports system that is underpinned by the principles of democracy, equity, transparency, demographic representation, access and increased participation,” Mbalula said.
The ban came into effect immediately after Mbalula’s announcement.
“I will review this decision when considering the results of the 2016/2017 Transformation Barometer,” he added.
Transformation is not negotiable
“Transformation is not negotiable…” Mbalula stated.
“Transformation is about merit, it’s about that black person who performs, who must be given an opportunity to play and that is what is important.”
Athletics South Africa (ASA) President Aleck Skhosana agreed with Mbalula’s views on the importance of transformation.
“What has been introduced is very good. You can’t talk from 1994 about transformation and you become a toothless dog,” he said. “What the department, Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee have done is quite a good exercise. I’m not saying that it’s only good for ASA; it is good for sport.”
The punishments could get harsher
Former president of Cricket South Africa (CSA) Willie Basson said that if the sports federations do not improve on meeting transformation agendas, they will face even harsher punishments:
“The barometer forces federations to project how are they going to change over the next five years. If it’s not sufficient change in five years, then another five years will be looked into, and then the punitive measures will just become more and more severe.”
Before he announced his decision, Mbalula reminded members and representatives of the Eminent Persons Group what penalties were within his right and prerogative to apply: he is allowed to suspend or withdraw government funding and recognition as a National Federation, revoke the privilege to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments, withdraw the opportunity to be awarded national colours, and withdraw political support and endorsements for sponsorships.
The decision is being protested
The ban was met with anger, as it was announced soon after South Africa planned to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. However, it does not affect the 2022 Commonwealth Games to be held in Durban. Political party The Freedom Front plus has openly opposed the minister’s decision.
“The FF Plus views the minister’s actions as uncalled for and illegal. In terms of the South African Constitution, we have seen that quotas are illegal – especially in the labour dispensation, so there is no reason it would not be illegal in sport. It takes away the merit nature of sport,” party member Anton Alberts said. “We will be writing letters to those international sporting federations to make them aware that what the minister has done and ask them to take very stern action against the African National Congress government,” he warned.