Policy should support athletes, schools

By Ismail Obaray, MPL, DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Sport, Arts & Culture:

The following is an extract from the speech delivered today in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature by Ismail Obaray during the debate on the budget of the department of Sport, Arts & Culture. Ismail Obaray is the alternate member of the Democratic Alliance for the Portfolio


The Democratic Alliance believes that sports policy should support competitive athletes and teams that can become provincial sports ambassadors. We welcome the targeted increase in the number of athletes supported by sports academies and athlete support programmes.


Following yesterday’s budget debate by the MEC for Education, I will not belabour the importance of school sport. The Democratic Alliance notes that the department of Education and the department of Sport, Arts & Culture have established joint district task teams to oversee and facilitate improvements in school sport. We will be monitoring work of the teams.


Athletes should be identified at school level. While the department has 16 priority sport codes, it will only support 10 formal talent identification programmes in 2015/16. All the priority sport codes must be accommodated within the talent identification programmes and we must find our talented athletes wherever they are.


The Democratic Alliance believes that the talent identification programmes should be about more than ticking boxes. Talent identification programmes should not just go through the motions, but should strive to find potential wherever it exists.


There must be enough synergy between the different talent identification programmes to promote athletes who are interested in one sport and show potential to perform in another. Mokgadi Caster Semenya started running to be fit for soccer. She did not become the striker for Banyana Banyana, but an Olympic medallist and middle distance world champion.


A healthy lifestyle is necessary at every stage of a person’s life.

Just as a child in sport is a child out of court, a community in sport is a community out of court. We welcome the fact that 25 of the 30 sport projects planned by the department focuses on community sport involvement. After all, Venus and Serena Williams starting playing tennis on a community court in a park.


However, the access of communities to sports and recreational facilities remain problematic. Many towns in rural areas lack the basic sports infrastructure needed for community sport projects. Of course it is not the main responsibility of the department to construct facilities. Funds are allocated to municipalities in the form of a Municipal Infrastructure Grant to see to the development and maintenance of sports infrastructure. But the department, from the very nature of its core function to promote sport, has a responsibility to ensure the development of sport at municipal level.


The Democratic Alliance therefore urges the department to continue working through SALGA to hold municipalities accountable for sports infrastructure. If these interventions are not successful, we must investigate alternatives to ensure that all communities have access to sports infrastructure. Perhaps private-public partnerships and greater collaboration with the private sector can assist in improving the access of communities to sports facilities.


Historically, underspending on capital projects have been a challenge in the department. It is disappointing that the department will again be applying for roll-overs for projects that have not yet been completed. We note, however, that the department is enthusiastic about the capacity of its internal infrastructure unit to improve the delivery of capital projects.


It is well understood that departments submit their prioritised bids to the provincial Treasury and that allocations are made based on the bids. But within the prioritisation that is required of a budget process, departments must be allocated sufficient resources to perform their core functions.


One of the unfunded mandates for 2015/16 is the implementation of the Northern Cape Use of Official Languages Act, for which the department requested R6 million. The Act goes to the heart of the department’s strategic objectives on language matters, as it requires the provincial government to be serious about multilingualism and the development of marginalised languages. The Northern Cape has a specific duty to see to the development of the Nama, Khoi and San languages which are indigenous to our shores.


For the Act to be upheld and strategic objectives to be met, the department will need the necessary resources to roll out programmes, adopt policies and retain staff. We especially need to invest in interpreters. As it is, the Cultural Affairs program receives 15% of the department’s total budget. The Language Services sub-programme receives about 1% of the department’s total budget. Hopefully, the department can either reprioritise or secure funding in the adjustment appropriation bill to ensure that the department meets its responsibilities.


The work of the department goes to the heart of who we are. It speaks to our culture, our languages, our sports and our communities.


The Democratic Alliance supports the budget vote of the department.