Team SA given hero's welcome in Parliament

Team South Africa waves to supporters when they arrived back from London. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Team South Africa waves to supporters when they arrived back from London. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Parliament held a special sitting to congratulate Team South Africa on Tuesday. 

Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff donned clothing in South African colours, while the parliamentary precinct was spruced up and adorned with national flags.

While Parliament sittings are normally highly-charged occasions with politicians tearing into one another, parliamentarians put aside their differences and one after another paid glowing tributes to the team. 

Speakers mentioned swimming gold medallists Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh as well as the men's rowing team, while special mentions were made for 800m silver medallist Caster Semenya and double amputee, Oscar Pistorius.

Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said July and August had been two of the most successful sporting months for South Africa since readmission to international sport in 1992. "Our athletes have done exceptionally well in their codes across the board. They've excelled and raised our sporting bar to new and higher heights," said Mbalula.

He spoke of how Le Clos "butterflied to glory" when he won gold in the 200m butterfly and beating world champion Michael Phelps. Mbalula also paid special tribute to Semenya, saying:

"Caster Semenya showed lots of class by finishing second ... she nearly caused us heart attacks at the beginning of the race [but] she managed to earn a deserved silver.

"She still has a bright future in athletics and a long way to go.

"We must remind ourselves that Caster has had to endure lots of unfair pressure in the past, with those questioning her gender," he said.

'Ways and means'
The DA's Winston Rabotapi called on the government to find "ways and means of efficiently" spending more on schools sports development programmes, so that schools can become nurseries for grooming future athletes and sports administrators. 

He also called upon the private sector to invest more in sports development to support government's efforts.

The Congress of the People's Graham MacKenzie said for a country of 50-million, South Africa needed to be in the top 10 at the Olympics. "In order to achieve this, various structural changes in our thinking and planning need to come into effect. The fact that our athletes competed this well on a meagre budget of R100-million is nothing short of amazing, when one considers how other nations view the importance of sport to their national psyche."

Bafana Bafana were not spared for their poor performances with Freedom Front Plus leader and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Pieter Mulder taking a dig at the under-performing national soccer team. "Just like in a big family, everyone in South Africa shared in the achievements of every winner who obtained a medal. Remember, victory has many fathers but failure is an orphan.

"Just ask Bafana Bafana who haven’t had a solid victory recently. If we are one sporting family in South Africa, then Bafana Bafana is like that brother who is in jail. You still like him, but you don’t talk about him so often anymore."

But the most embarrassing moment was reserved for Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale when DA MP Donald Lee suggested that Mathale use the relay team to deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo.

 

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