The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) were very satisfied with the meeting held with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture led by the Honourable Minister Nathi Mthethwa and his Deputy Minister, Ms Nocawe Noncedo Mafu on Wednesday 22 July 2020.
What clearly emanated from the meeting is that SASCOC and the Department are not in competition but that we collaborate and share roles and responsibilities as we are striving for the same objectives. And those include; making sport accessible to all South Africans irrespective of their economic and geographical circumstances. SASCOC wants to see our sportsmen and sportswomen flying that magnificent flag of our republic at the world stage and winning medals where it matters most, at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
SASCOC appreciated the detailed report that was given by the two Deputy Director Generals on how the Minister and the Department have implemented the COVID-19 Relief Fund. They provided full statistics on how many athletes, coaches and officials applied, how many were paid, how many were rejected and how many appealed. Their briefing included sharing the shortcomings they noted and lessons learnt.
During deliberations, the Board of SASCOC raised a concern with the Minister, that given the lockdown caused by the corona virus, the window period for the submission of applications was too short and therefore had not been conducive to everyone. This meant that many needy, poor and disadvantaged athletes and coaches had no access to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, as they had moved due to the lockdown from the cities to more inaccessible places like rural areas and townships where there was no infrastructure to enable them to submit applications in such a short space of time.
The lockdown also completely deprived many the freedom of movement and they could not reach places where they could access required resources and facilities, like technological support to complete their applications, and therefore missed the opportunity to apply. SASCOC was pleased that the Minister and his Deputy alluded to this fact.
“We are grateful to the Honourable Minister and the Department for providing a cordial environment for a successful meeting where we exchanged views and they were open to questions, and provided clarity wherever it was required,” said Aleck Skhosana, the Acting President of SASCOC.
“We further immensely appreciate that despite all the challenges that were there, they managed to disperse money to the athletes, coaches and officials from the various sporting federations providing them with much needed financial support for survival during this time of the devastating pandemic.
“We are looking forward to working with the Honourable Minister to ensure that we assist more of such desperate athletes, coaches and federations who are on a brink of collapse due to the impact of this pandemic as there are no sports taking place, no gate-takings collected, no sponsorships coming through and no grants. We urge the Honourable Minister and the Department to expedite the processing of the grant to our member federations.
“We were pleased that in their transparency, the Minister and his team were able to share with us the figures paid to sports, to arts and to culture. It was also with joy to learn that the Auditor General’s office together with the Department and SASCOC, participated in the process where SASCOC served on the adjudication and appeals panels. This has indeed been an inclusive process and we are encouraged by this, going forward.
“We look forward to having more engagements with the Honourable Minister on how our member federations, athletes, coaches, officials and SASCOC can still benefit from the COVID-19 Relief Fund. We acknowledge the fact that the collaboration between SASCOC and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture will ensure the growth of South African sport and invoke respect for SASCOC locally and globally.
“It is this collaboration with the Department that we treasure most as we cannot achieve the best results at an international level without the support of the Department, the private sector and the National Lotteries Commission.”
There was also a discussion on how the sector should return to normality as it was noted that some of the facilities are still closed. SASCOC was given statistics of how many federations had applied to return to competition, how many were approved and how many are still being processed. It was emphasised that there should be a balance between return to play, saving lives and livelihood, and we fully support this position taken.
SASCOC also made a point that given that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are happening in a year’s time, we should be able to come up with a collective plan that will ensure that our teams are adequately prepared at different locations, including having the training camp at either a centralised or decentralised venue, so that we can present a team that will return from the games with honour and glory.
In this regard National Federations are encouraged to assist their athletes to look at programmes and locations where it is safe to do so, so that our athletes can return to full preparation without shortcuts.