Sports and Recreation Budget Debate

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Sport and Recreation

I Find myself this year saying very much the same as I said last year, that it is difficult to fault the department of Sports and Recreation on their mission statement, strategic goals, strategic objectives and core functions and that when one goes through the APP  there is planning and reporting.

I am not sure to what extent these strategies and plans are translated into concrete and measurable actions, but with a new HOD in place there is evidence of a tighter administration and a steadier hand on the wheel.

The DA has consistently over the years opposed the Sport and Recreation budget because it tries to be all things to all people with limited funds and limited expertise to fulfill the expectations it has generated in its planning strategies. We have argued that the creation of a separate Sports and Recreation Department is unnecessary and that large part of this department should fall under Education, another section under COGTA, another section under National Sports Department, and finally another section under Social Development.

But that is not to gainsay the very valuable work that the department does under severe restraints. It is patently obvious that most of our non-white communities have totally inadequate sporting and recreational facilities and that, consequently the daily habit of exercise and social sporting interaction is not afforded to the vast majority of our population. As a person who played sport my whole life and coached various sporting codes for 30 years, I am totally sold on the principles behind the National Development plan on compulsory school sport and community involvement in sports. If there is any activity that leads one to racial colour-blindness it is the sporting arena and we have seen how our national sporting teams have fostered nation building.

The performance plan targeting a rational and systematic transformation of human settlement nodes that will allow for the development of community recreational facilities, has the DA’s full support. The problem we have is that without a massive injection of funds – which we don’t believe is available in the short term because of other imperatives – the Sport and Recreation Department cannot with its limited budget, fractured focus and limited skilled personnel begin to address the programmes it has in a meaningful way.

The development of community recreational infrastructure for example needs to be done within municipal town planning schemes under an overarching human settlement special development plan. There seems to be an awkward intrusion of Sport and Recreation into this mix.  It seems to sit more comfortably under a COGTA and Human Settlement mandate. I have visited some of these sports fields in remote areas developed under Sport and Recreation budget in response to local community demands. What I saw was rapidly deteriorating soccer fields, vandalized ablution blocks and unused basketball courts.

It is not a matter only of satisfying a community request, but a matter of integrating the project into clear special planning schemes and I don’t see clear evidence of this.

As far as school sport is concerned, I can only repeat what I said last year. It is difficult for someone who has come out of an ex-model C background to accept the huge gap between what teachers in these schools accept as their normal duties, school sport commitments after school and on weekends, and the reluctance on the part of teachers emanating from other education departments who refuse to do any unpaid work after 2:30 pm.

Until teachers embrace the concept that extra-curriculum activities is part of their job description, and that afternoon and weekend sports and cultural activities need to be carried by every teacher in every school, my belief is that very little meaningful improvement in this field will take place. There is uncontroversial evidence of the value of extra-curriculum to the development of young boys and girls in a wide range of indicators. It is staggering that we can have an education dispensation in this country, particularly with our history, where, as a result of an ill-advised service agreement with teacher unions, teachers see the school day ending at 2:30 pm, and that after school engagement with learners is optional.

I look forward with great anticipation as our new model schools get rolled out across the province, as promised in the Education MEC address yesterday. Hopefully part and parcel of these schools will be a sports programme and a corps of truly professional teachers who will set an example of the kind of teaching service we need to create our new society.

The DA will not support this budget in its entirety.  Not because we oppose the value of sports and recreation to fuse and heal communities, but because we believe as currently conceived, this department should be fundamentally restructured for greater efficiency.

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