Fikile Mbalula is on fire, taking on both Safa and CSA in the past week. But how long is he for the world of sport, wonders Nickolaus Bauer
As the saying goes: Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
For Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, never could this statement be more apt than right now.
Saddled with an arguably junior Cabinet position, Mbalula’s actions of the past week alone have thoroughly stamped his authority on his role as protector of what couch potato citizens hold so dear.
Firstly, Mbalula elegantly waded into the Cricket South Africa (CSA) bonus debacle by announcing the launch of an inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter.
Apparently, CSA’s explanation on where money went during the 2009 Indian Premier League, which was hosted in South Africa, was not to his liking. He said as much, claiming he was launching the inquiry to nip in the bud any “banana-republic” tendencies that might otherwise bring the nation low.
This was followed by a verbal tirade against the South African Football Association (Safa) for their “disgraceful” handling of the Africa Cup of Nations qualification saga.
Bafana Bafana are once again missing out on the continent’s greatest spectacle in the football arena because some knucklehead forgot to read the rules surrounding the conditions for qualification.
Mbalula spared no one in his castigation of Safa, promising “heads will roll” for tormenting and abusing South Africa’s poor sports fans.
The past week’s developments also follow on one or two other instances in Mbalula’s short reign that have warmed the belly of many South African sports lovers.
One that immediately springs to mind is his support for the advancement of fringe sports—and the way he lambasted his predecessor’s approach to the quota system in our national teams - a ballsy move on an almost taboo subject.
Some would argue though that Mbalula is only taking aim at Safa and CSA as he’s been given a sharp stick with which to hammer the two bodies and as the ever opportunistic politician he is doing so with relish. Whatever truth may lie in thoughts of Mbalula’s motives by so many a bar-bound commentator, I applaud the man.
For too long South Africa has been left with sports ministers who seemingly defer to inept administrators and only issue statements (never mind actually do something) when absolutely necessary.
I would suggest though that if the rumours about Mbalula’s recent vigour being cynically intended to score political brownie points contain any truth, we could be seeing far more complex politic manoeuvring at play than that of a minister simply trying to look busy.
It’s an open secret that the position of secretary-general of the ruling ANC, currently held by Gwede Mantashe, is something Mbalula and his backers inside the ANC Youth League have firmly set their sights on.
So while all we sports fans crack a beer to toast Mbalula, don’t get too comfortable with the idea of a sports minister actually doing his job.
Before long he will be gone, and we will have another lazy and yawn-worthy has-been thrust upon us—simply there to collect his or her salary and warm seats at matches, reminding sports fans, perhaps, of the likes of Makhenkesi Stofile and Ngconde Balfour.
So once you’re done toasting Mbalula, perhaps you’ll join me in another beer to preemptively drown future sorrows.