Poor Mbaks. You have to admire the man’s energy and enthusiasm. It is infectious. This time round, however, his overzealousness might get him into trouble. He really needs to channel it into the appropriate avenues.
Fikile Mbalula, the sports and recreation minister, wants the über-glamorous singing sensation Beyoncé to grace this year’s National Sports Awards. It is reported that her performance would come with a hefty $2-million price tag.
How on earth does the minister begin to explain or justify spending that kind of money on one artist? The significance of her presence at a sporting awards ceremony is also not immediately clear, other than that the minister obviously enjoys a good party.
So do we all, but none of us is proposing that it be done at public expense when there are so many competing and real challenges that fall under the minister’s ambit.
The sports awards were introduced last year by Mbalula in a bid to honour the country’s best performers in all the sporting codes. It is, in itself, a worthy initiative. Our athletes deserve recognition for what they endure to succeed. But it escapes me how parading international artists and musicians before them, at such great expense, would serve to do this.
Last year the minister presided over a similar spectacle at the inaugural awards. Movie and music stars and starlets from the 1980s and 1990s were paraded at a string of promotional events leading up to the gala awards evening.
Some of the artists even handed out awards on the night. They did not know the people they were honouring. We know this because of the cavalier attitude some of them displayed in announcing the winners. They clearly had not bothered to learn how to pronounce their names.
The entire affair ended up having an opposite effect to that intended. Instead of honouring our sportsmen andwomen, the awards cheapened and belittled their achievements through the lacklustre performance of these artists. It was an awful spectacle to watch.
Now the minister wants to put us through the same torture at the totally preposterous cost of $2-million. Beyoncé is a phenomenal artist and performer and there are many South Africans who would love to see her on stage — but to do so using the public purse is not the way to go about it. The minister should leave this task to concert organisers, who can bring such artists here at their own expense.
Mbalula has unveiled the national sport and recreation plan, which was recently approved by the Cabinet. It is admirable that he seems to have a plan.
“We must all strive to use the sport plan to increase social cohesion and provide much-needed opportunities for engagement in community life, foster healthy lifestyles as well as reduce conflict and criminal behaviour through education and sport,” he said.
The $2-million he fancies spending on Beyoncé would go a long way towards the effective implementation of his own bold plan.
He has also made a commitment to cleaning up corruption in sport, as shown by his no-nonsense approach to the cricket crisis.
He should take this further and look into school sports as well. A recent report alleged that pupils at some of the top rugby-playing schools in the country have been embroiled in an age-cheat scandal. School-level rugby at these elite institutions has become highly competitive and lucrative, yet some schools are said to be gaining an unfair advantage by fielding players whose identity has been doctored so they can appear to be younger or older.
Apparently this practice is widespread and has been going on for years, not just in rugby but also in other sports such as soccer.
Players from such teams are likely to end up feeding into the national sides and become heroes. How can we begin to trust them knowing they may have got their start through fraudulent means?
This, minister, is deserving of your energy and hard work. If you keep your eye on the ball, Team South Africa will back you, but this silly frolic in venality is nonsensical and must be abandoned.