/ 25 November 2011

Mbalula: Winning starts at the grassroots

Mbalula: Winning Starts At The Grassroots
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

You recently instituted a commission of inquiry into cricket, are you not interfering in the running of the game?
Not at all. It has never been our intention to interfere with federations and how they run their affairs. But, over and above that, there should be a plan in relation to what they want to achieve. But cricket cannot blame us for interfering because it could not overcome its own problems and, in the interest of the people who love the sport, government had to intervene to ensure the game did not die. We had to intervene to bring stability. The nation was calling for intervention as it was sick and tired of the shenanigans within Cricket South Africa.

You were recently quoted as saying that sport is a powerful tool that can be used to unite people.
Rightly so. I am told that in Zambia, there are 73 tribes, but they all unite behind their national football team and forget their tribal affiliations. We have not experienced extreme tribal differences like those in Rwanda, for instance, but it has been proved many times that sport can play a significant role in reconciling our people. In 1995 former president Nelson Mandela openly and publicly expressed his support for the Springboks and I sincerely believe that if properly used, sport can be an effective tool for reconciliation.

You also said it could bring down barriers, can you elaborate?
Under normal circumstances white people wouldn’t voluntarily visit Soweto. I suppose they have been indoctrinated to believe that it is a dangerous place where criminality is the norm. It took a rugby match staged at Orlando Stadium to change their perceptions about Soweto. Not one incident was reported and I believe some even conveniently got “lost” as they enjoyed themselves in the township. There was peace and tranquillity and the serenity that prevailed surprised them. That is the power of sport.

Tell us about the impact of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on the continent.
If ever there was an event that has helped change perceptions about South Africa and Africa it had to be the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Except, perhaps, for Mandela, few in the United States knew about South Africa. They came here and found a completely different country, a tourist paradise. I should know because I used to travel to these countries when I was president of the International Union of Socialist Youths. In Peru, Guatemala, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina they didn’t know and didn’t care about South Africa, but the Cup exposed our country to the world.

You recently expressed strong views about Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup tournament.
A country with the kind of resources that we have should easily be able to qualify for continental tournaments. I have expressed my disappointment about the embarrassing chapter in our football and we now know where we stand. Discussions with the football authorities are ongoing. We are waiting for a report from the South African Football Association regarding their failure, but I am confident that the mishaps that cost us so dearly shall never be repeated. Everybody is co-operating and the sooner we forget that disgraceful chapter, the better. I am sure the misunderstanding regarding the release of players for the 2012 Olympic Games qualifiers will also be resolved soon.

What is the state of boxing in our country?
Boxing is not in a healthy state. I am working round the clock to put mechanisms in place that will ensure we secure sponsorship to broadcast tournaments via the South African Broadcasting Corporation. I have received numerous complaints that boxers cannot defend their titles for reasons I cannot disclose and some are continually stripped of their titles because there is no sponsorship. This has to come to an end. We need to revive the sport and return it to its former glory.

What about athletics?
I am not entirely happy about athletics. That is why I believe the sport indaba must begin to position South Africa with a national sport plan that talks about a whole range of issues. I am not looking at three sporting codes only, but at sport in its entirety, creating a base for development to nurture talent. There is talent; all we need to do is to establish a programme of action and learn from the best, like Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Kenya.

Are you happy about structures for sport development in the country?
We need to reposition sport and ensure that an incubation system of talent is really on our radar screen and that we don’t just lose people like Monde Zondeki in cricket. Ask what happened to him, because it was not only Makhaya Ntini who excelled in the sport. Our system must address sport; how we plan to nurture talent in our development plan structures. We need singular thinking when it comes to development as a base for sport in our country.

You recently launched the school sport programme.
And we want to launch “magnificent Wednesdays” for schools next year. In addition we will launch the National Schools Olympics 2012 from January. We expect each school to participate in no fewer than six sporting codes. To ensure the success of the programme we have requested R100-million from the Lotto because we must make sure that our children take part in extramural activities.

How do you plan to establish the youth camps that you are talking about?
Apartheid had a strategy called “wham”, which was basically about winning hearts and minds. It was a strategy designed for infiltration and hijacking. It was a strategy of depoliticisation. The Nationalist government created the strategy in different townships across the country, which enabled it, to a certain extent, to depoliticise youth.

Will parents support such a venture?
I am advocating for the same model, but in support of democracy, patriotism, peace, unity and the development of social cohesion. We need a model in which young people go to a youth camp and there is movement, when you look at a particular person, he or she appears a completely different human being from the point of behaviour because corporal punishment never changed a person. It is investment in the human being. Next year I will establish such camps nationwide.