DA Debate on Sports, Arts and Culture Budget Debate

Safiyia Stanfley MPL

DA Spokesperson on Sports, Arts and Culture

Note: The following is an extract from the speech delivered by the DA Spokesperson on Sports, Arts and Culture, Safiyia Stanfley, during the Sports, Arts and Culture Budget Vote in the Northern Cape Legislature today.

Having just come out of Youth Month, and having participated in the national and provincial youth parliaments, I devote this debate to the youth of our province. We have a rich provincial heritage of athletes, artists, actors and actresses. It is exciting to think of the potential of our youth to be the Karen Muir’s, Jimmy Tau’s and Crushanda Forbes’s of the future.

The department has a key role to play in the development of our youth and their talents. We are all familiar with the popular saying: “A child in sport is a child out of court.”

This stems from the fact that sports and hobbies take up time and prevent boredom and frustration. Sports also encourage the development of skills, determination, self-esteem and pride, a feeling of belonging, teamwork and leadership skills. These are all things that are generally missing in individuals who commit crime.

Of those who do commit crime, the National Department of Correctional Services states in its latest Annual Report that offenders sentenced to life imprisonment increased from about 400 in 1994 to more than 11 000 in 2013. And more than a third of those incarcerated were youth.

What, may I ask, does this say about this department’s mandate of advancing sport for the youth?

It says little.

And little is exactly what is being allocated for the department’s programmes. Honourable Speaker, insufficient resources is not a new obstacle to the department’s performance. We know that the department’s personnel costs are relatively high and leaves little funding for the achievement of pre-determined objectives. More budgetary pressure is applied by the decrease in the equitable share allocated to the department.

When budgetary constraints prevail, it is time to get creative and consider new solutions to old problems.

The DA urges the department to consider an organisational restructuring. It has been clear for the past few years that the department’s current structure is not conducive to service delivery. Let us revisit the personnel component of the department and see what changes can be made to ensure that the department is capacitated to deliver on its mandate. I must emphasise that the DA is not advocating job cuts. We do not want people to be laid off. Where the department’s organisational structure does not lend itself to the maximum achievement of goals, the structure must be reviewed.

The department has already showed how it could achieve this restructuring while expanding its achievement of targets. The Community Library Services Grant has increased with 36%, which is projected to continue along the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. This Grant is not strictly regulated and the department accordingly used the increase to fund the appointment of contract workers on a permanent level. The DA views this as a laudable move, especially considering how it will improve the working conditions of the staff. We must investigate innovative measures like these that can stretch the allocated funds.

Furthermore, let us review the mandates of the public entities to eradicate any duplication of functions. In this financial year, a total of R10.3 million will be transferred by the department to seven public entities. As public representatives considering a budget, we owe a fiduciary duty to the electorate to ensure that we are not duplicating costs. When public entities are established, they must be capacitated to achieve specific service delivery aims – they must not be allowed to become a non-specific drain on departmental resources.

The question which must be foremost in our minds when considering this budget is whether or not we are enhancing service delivery. More specifically, we must consider whether or not we are expanding opportunities available to our youth.

Unfortunately, it seems that opportunities to our youth will remain limited under the current budget.

Take school sport for example. The department allocates R10 000 per school per year, which amounts to roughly R833 per month. This is not enough to maintain a soccer field, let alone appoint a soccer coach and manage a soccer team. It is understandable that resources are limited, especially since the Mass Participation and Sport Development Grant is approximately 26% of the Community Library Services Grant. The department needs to take a new look at the funding of school sport. If we restructure the organisational model of the department, we should be able to divert more resources towards school sport.

However, it is not the task of this department alone to establish and maintain effective school sport programmes. School sport programmes are intended to be a collective, collaborative effort. The DA is concerned that no department now takes full responsibility for coordinating sport at school level. This needs to be addressed urgently.

The DA wants to congratulate the department on the Mayibuye Centre, which is beginning to become a household name in the province. Centres like these are needed in all communities with high levels of social dysfunction. The programmes offered by such centres could significantly reduce the risk of learners engaging in delinquent behaviour such as crime, gang activity and use of recreational drugs.

We want to encourage the department to embark on a concerted effort to join up with education, social services and municipalities. We need to roll out these ventures across the province. The utilization of unutilized state buildings could save on time and costs to get after-school centres up and running, and the secondment of departmental officials to work in these centres would better justify this department’s high wage bill.

In conjunction with the private sector, the Sport, Arts and Culture Department needs to develop sustainable initiatives. This is the only way that the department will free up funds to ensure that it has enough dedicated employees.

In this regard, the department could consider entering into a Public-Private-Partnership in terms of the running of the Kimberley Theatre. The department identified in its Annual Performance Plan that it would need to secure private funding and engage in fundraising efforts to provide a budget for finishing and operationalizing the theatre. The department has committed to a basic level of usage of the theatre within the next six months but due to financial constraints, extras such as sound and the envisaged recording studio will hang in the balance.  A Public-Private-Partnership could be the answer. It could enable the expansion of cultural opportunities to the youth, ensure that the theatre is run on a professional business format, and develop talent.

As this department indicated during its budget presentation, the province is losing talent to other provinces. We therefore need to urgently create opportunities to not only nurture this talent but also to retain it.

The DA would like to take the proposed community TV station to the next level. We suggest that the department looks for partners to buy into the establishment of a film school in the province. After all, what better way to pay tribute to the fallen Apollo Theatre in Victoria West than dedicating it to the future of film in this country? This could also allow for collaboration with Sol Plaatje University.

What better department than Sport, Arts and Culture, in conjunction with the province’s youth, to come up with weird and wonderful ways to transform the arts and culture scene in the province?

To allow this creative process to reach its maximum potential, the DA advises further reprioritisation of additional funds towards increasing the number of libraries that provide free internet services. Currently, 140 of the 265 libraries in the Northern Cape offer this service.  The increase in targets over the MTEF, however, are too low, with only an additional five libraries set to gain free internet access in 2015/16 and 2016/17 respectively.

Information and communication technologies continue to break down traditional boundaries between people, businesses and nations by making it easier to engage, to exchange information, to transact and to deliver services. Free internet access is crucial in sparking innovation and opening up opportunity for people to access the knowledge economy.

In closing, I wish to emphasize that this department has a crucial role to play in the development of our young people. More can and should be done with this budget to steer the youth of the Northern Cape to sport, arts and cultural greatness.