Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Bill [B7-2009] briefing & report-back on public hearings

Sports, Arts and Culture

12 October 2009
Chairperson: Mr B Komphela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee had planned to hold a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Police but the latter was unable to attend due to another meeting.  The Chairperson ruled that the briefing by the Portfolio Committee on Police regarding the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Bill should be held over until Members of that Committee could be present.

Successful public hearings on the Bill were held in KwaZulu-Natal, but the hearings in the Eastern Cape had been very disappointing.  The hearing in Port Elizabeth was cancelled and the hearing in East London was poorly attended. New dates would be scheduled to repeat the hearings in the Eastern Cape.  Members felt that public hearings should also be held to investigate the serious problems with school sport in the country.

The meeting with the South African Football Association was postponed.  The concerns of the Democratic Alliance over the Beijing Olympics and SASCOC were not responded to prior to the elections.

The Chairperson explained the situation around the request from the Democratic Alliance for a meeting with the President of Athletics South Africa.  There had been a problem in finding a suitable time for it but the meeting would still be held.

Meeting report

The Chairperson advised that the intention had been to hold a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Police.  However, the Committee on Police was holding another meeting at the same time and was unable to attend..

The Chairperson reported that successful meetings were held in the Southern Cape region.  The meetings were part of the programme of public hearings on the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Bill (SSREB).  The programme had been completed and he thanked the Members for the hard work that had been done.  However, he had received complaints from organisations in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and in East London that no hearings were held there.  The hearing in Port Elizabeth was cancelled and only ten persons had attended the meeting in East London.  The views expressed could therefore not be regarded as representative and the Committee would need to hold extra hearings in the Eastern Cape.  The Committee wished to move on to deliberations on the SSREB but would first have to complete the public hearing process.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) was concerned at the lack of attendance at the public hearings.  The Committee had done a lot of planning but did not gather the necessary input.  Expenses were incurred and had to be paid despite the failure of the hearings in that province.  He wanted to know who was responsible for the lack of attendance at the hearings.  He noted the presence of members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) at the meeting and felt that the absence of Members from the Portfolio Committee on Police should be explained.

Mr G MacKenzie (COPE) advised that his team had started their hearings in the town of Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).  The meeting there had been well attended.  The theme was largely rural and several school authorities had also been present.  The meeting in the city hall in Durban was also well attended and the delegates were well prepared.  Generally the KZN leg had been a success.  The team had then moved on to East London and travelled to Umtata by bus.  The meeting there was well attended but it appeared that the parties were ill informed about the contents of the SSREB.  His impression was that the Eastern Cape Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) had not studied the Bill beforehand.  The meeting in East London was almost cancelled, as the local organisers had not booked a venue.  Eventually, a meeting room was found at the Hemmingway’s Hotel.  Only twenty people attended and made very little input.  The team decided to cancel the hearing in Port Elizabeth as only one or two parties had responded to the invitation to present submissions.

Mr J van der Linde (DA) agreed with Mr MacKenzie’s comments.  The MPL’s in KZN had studied the Bill and had prepared a good presentation.  The people at the Umtata hearing had attended to hear about the SSREB rather than to discuss it.  The organisers in East London had undertaken to make all the arrangements but the responsible MPL had failed to do so.

The Chairperson remarked that a lesson had been leant.  The Committee should have played a more hands-on role in the organisation of the public hearings.  It was clear that the Committee would have to return to the Eastern Cape in order to finalise the hearing process.

Mr C Frolick (ANC) suggested that the Chairperson communicated with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police.  He understood that the latter was busy with the Criminal Procedures Amendment Bill, which was a very important piece of legislation.  However, the Portfolio Committee on Police had insisted on being involved in the SSREB.  They had to identify which Members of their Committee would be working with this Committee.  He was concerned that the Portfolio Committee on Police would only become involved at the end of the process, as the Committee was nearing approval of the Bill, and then try to make amendments.  The Portfolio Committee on Police should be a party to the proceedings during all its stages.

Mr D Lee (DA) felt that it would be futile to have the briefing scheduled for that day in the absence of the Portfolio Committee on Police.  It was, after all, their submission that was on the table.  He proposed that another meeting was arranged and took place as soon as possible.

The Chairperson cautioned the Members about jumping the gun.  He felt that the Committee should rather conclude the public hearing process in the first instance and then interact with the proposal made by Mr Lee.  He had to meet with the House Chairperson and report on progress with the Bill.  In its initial stage the Bill was of no concern to the Committee.

Mr Frolick was challenged by the style of the briefing.  It was more like a submission than part of the process of deliberation.  There were well-organised sports bodies in the Eastern Cape with a wide range of interests.  The Committee Secretary should make contact with these bodies and tap into their practical experience.  This would de-mystify the process.  A new stadium had been built in the area.  He would like to know more about the operations of the Venue Operations Centre (VOC).

Mr Lee agreed with Mr Frolick.  He had received a call from a person who had been waiting at the venue in Port Elizabeth.  Some people had made the effort to attend and the Committee owed them an apology.  The Committee needed to have a professional approach.

The Chairperson agreed to Mr Frolick and Mr Lee’s suggestions.

Mr McGluma asked if there were written reports from the two Committees.  This would enable them to share information and also create a paper trail.

The Chairperson said that both Committees would have to report to the House Chairperson and information would be exchanged.

Mr L Suka (ANC) said that the mayors of the areas concerned must be involved when the new public hearings were planned.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had committed itself to holding public hearings on the status of school sport in the country.  School sport was in tatters and it was a shameful situation.  Nobody was doing anything to remedy the situation.  The Committee had to find out where the problems were.  He suggested that the approach of the Committee should be one of holding hearings in (for example) six of the eight regions of KZN.  The visits to these regions should last as long as it was necessary to form a picture.  There was a pseudo grand plan on the table from the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA).  He still had to see where this plan was becoming visible.  School sport was the responsibility of SRSA.  President Zuma had addressed the situation but SRSA had obliterated their obligations.  SRSA had no clue of what the programme should be.  The children of the country were on the receiving end.  The Department of Education was not doing anything either.  He was recently on a flight with the Minister of Higher Education.  The Minster had revealed the failing nature of university sport.  Government must re-dedicate itself to restoring the situation, but there could be no commitment without the direction being laid out.

The Chairperson said that SRSA had been likened to an elephant.  It was big but could not run and was inefficient.  The Committee had still not been advised of the resolutions taken at the Sports Indaba held in Durban in 2008.  Work on the Sports and Recreation Amendment Bill had begun in 2007 but as yet SRSA had not drafted the accompanying regulations.  The Committee had not seen the regulations.  He expressed a brutally honest opinion that the Department was non-existent.

Mr Frolick supported the call for public hearings on school sport.  The Mass Participation Programme (MPP) also had to be addressed.  The programmes were interlinked and both should be investigated.  Much money had been invested in these programmes but few results had been achieved.  The lack of progress in urban areas was apparent and he dreaded to think of the situation in rural areas.  Formerly advantaged schools like Grey College wanted to arrange fixtures against township schools.  However, these township schools lacked support and matches were cancelled, leaving the organising schools reluctant to repeat the invitations.  There was an international governing body for school sport.  Three different South African groups had attended a recent meeting but only one delegation could be recognised.  This indicated the chaos prevailing in the sphere of school sport.  The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) was now occupying the vacant space.

The Chairperson wanted to inform the Members on the gravity of the situation.  The Auditor- General had commented on the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) grant.  There was no evidence of what had happened to equipment purchased with the grant.  There was a consistent pattern of financial mismanagement.  In the six years since Prof Denver Hendricks had ended his term as Director-General of SRSA there had never been a clean audit report for SRSA.  The Minister would shortly be presenting the Department’s annual report.  Another area that was lacking was Boxing South Africa.  For seven years, SRSA had provided no assistance to this body.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) said that the Memorandum of Understanding between SRSA and the Department of Education had still not been forwarded to the Committee.  This document was concluded six years previously.

The Chairperson said that the envisaged public hearings on school sport would produce shocking stories.  It was important that the hearings were held.

Mr Suka asked if the leaders had the passion to serve the country and its citizens.

The Chairperson advised that the Department’s annual report would be tabled on 3 November 2009.  He estimated that the meeting would have to be spread over two days.  The Committee would have to review all outstanding issues.  The report could not be presented unless the Minister was present.  The SSREB was presented by the Director-General.  As a matter of policy, this should not happen.  The political head of the Department must give direction, which was not the case with this Bill.  The inputs of experts and the Director-General were valued, but the political principal had to present a Bill to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that the wrong tone was set at the start of the meeting.  He planned to meet with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police.

Other Agenda items
The next item on the agenda was a discussion with the South African Football Association (SAFA).  They had apologised as their management team was out of the country.  Their business there had been protracted.  One issue that SAFA had to answer for was the placement of the national emblem on the players’ shirts.  The national anthem should not be played before matches if only the ‘Die Stem’ component was played.  He asked who was providing the recordings.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had sent a letter on matters of national interest.  The DA had criticised the manner in which team uniforms for the Beijing Olympics had been procured.  A SASCOC official had given the tender to a friend without due process being followed.  This was unethical and wrong.  It was an example of poor corporate governance.  The well-paid post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) had not been advertised.  The DA had requested a report on these matters.  The Committee had not reacted to the request at the time due to the pending elections, but SASCOC had been summoned to attend a Committee meeting on 20 October 2009.  They had also been requested to prepare a report on progress for the 2012 Olympic Games.  The Committee would interact with them on the issues of gross conflicts of interest.  Many SASCOC officials also served on the Lotteries Distribution Board and were felt to be favouring their federations in the allocations of grants.  Organisations making use of the assistance of SASCOC members in preparing Lottery funding applications were charged a consultancy fee of up to 20% of the grant, and then the same SASCOC members adjudicated on the applications.  The tap had to be closed.

The last item to be discussed was the issue with the President of Athletics South Africa (ASA).  The Chairperson said that his office had received a letter from Mr Lee at 15h30 on 11 September 2009.  The letter requested that the Committee summoned Mr Leonard Chuene, President of ASA, to explain the circumstances surrounding the gender testing of Caster Semenya.  He had already left the office by that time and was at home over the weekend.  During the following week, he was busy with public hearings in the Free State and Gauteng and only returned to his office on 17 September, at which point he reacted to the letter from the DA.  The contents of the letter had been leaked to the media in the interim.  He had set up a meeting with ASA, which was scheduled for the last day of the current Parliamentary sitting.  This meeting had to be cancelled as the House Chairperson cancelled all Committee meetings on that date in order to accommodate other Parliamentary business.

The Chairperson said that the media claimed that he had tried to sabotage the DA’s request.  He did not take unilateral decisions.  The whole Committee had to reach agreement on substantial matters.  The Committee would still interact with ASA.  They would not waive their duty to defend the rights of Ms Semenya.  Her right to privacy had been violated.   Both the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and ASA had to apologise and explain what had gone wrong.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) wanted to know when the matter had been discussed.  Organisations would not be called to appear before the Committee at the whim of one party but by a collective decision of the Committee.  Members had spoken to Ms Semanya’s parents and ASA.  Two days later the ID had smelt a rat.

Mr Lee said that the DA was an independent body that tried to act in a professional and ethical manner.  He had written the letter but had not discussed it with the press.  He had had the opportunity to discuss it with The Chairperson while Members were in Johannesburg and they had agreed on the procedure to be followed.  He had a right to write a letter.  It was the professional manner of raising issues.  He was man enough to do this and had not put any pressure on the Chairperson to respond.  He would not apologise for his action.

The Chairperson accepted Mr Lee’s explanation.  The problem was the huge media outcry that had followed.  The media were not revealing the source of their information.  Matters had to be put into perspective.  The principle of calling the meeting was not the problem but the scheduling of the meeting.  He was not making any accusations.  The media were alleging that he was shielding Mr Chuene because of their friendship.

Mr McGluwa was sympathetic on the issue of the letter.  He asked why it had not been discussed.  As an ID member he was also subject to the rules of the party.  Mr Chuene had lied to the public.  Mr McGluwa would not tolerate being called a coward.  There were common interests in the Committee and he stood by the statement that he had made.

Mr Dikgacwi said the media had made it clear that their understanding was that the matter had been dropped because Mr Chuene was an ANC comrade.  It was up to the Committee to agree on the procedure to be followed.  He had no problem with the letter written by Mr Lee, but had a problem with the fact that its contents had been leaked to the press.

Mr Lee said that he had a right to make statements to the press.  He acknowledged to them that he would be writing to the Chairperson but did not reveal the contents of the letter.

Mr Dhlamini was concerned over the reputation of the Committee.  There was a perception that the Chairperson was shielding Mr Chuene.  He was satisfied with the Chairperson’s explanation.

The Chairperson said that the Committee Members had been busy with public hearings.  Today was the first opportunity to clear the air.  He acknowledged Mr Lee’s right to make policy statements, but said that the issue had been raised at an unfortunate time.

Mr Lee asked if the meeting would be held, and if so, when.

The Chairperson confirmed that the meeting would be held.  All role players would be invited.  The IAAF must also explain its actions.

Mr Frolick said that attention had been concentrated on Ms Semenya rather than on Mr Chuene.  All Committee meetings had been cancelled in the last week of the previous session.  The Minister and his Deputy would have to be present.  This must be an opportunity to have both parties present.

The Chairperson said that SRSA had no right to determine the leadership of federations.  The ANC stood by the sovereignty of sports bodies.  He requested that the Members should not continue with the submissions made by the Portfolio Committee on Police.  The presence of the sub-committee was needed.

Mr G Boshoff (Legal Advisor, SRSA) said that the SRSA presentation was a detailed response to the submissions made by the Police to the SSREB.

The Chairperson noted that only one member of the Portfolio Committee on Police had arrived to attend the meeting.

Mr Dikgacwi said that the submission of the Portfolio Committee on Police could be interpreted incorrectly without their presence to explain.

Mr Lee felt it important to know what the response of the Portfolio Committee on Police would be.

Mr Boshoff said that the SAPS had made a submission that had been led by the Commissioner.

The Chairperson said that there was even a suggestion that the Bill should be split.  This raised a number of important issues.  A shared understanding was needed.  It would not help if this Committee was responding to itself.

Mr Suka was under the impression that the briefing had been made by the Portfolio Committee on Police.

The Chairperson confirmed that it actually came from the SAPS.

Mr MacKenzie felt that it would be more logical to read the document first and then discuss it at a better time.

Mr Boshoff agreed.  There was a need to make that presentation first and then present SRSA’s response.

Mr Frolick pointed out that the SAPS recommended that the Bill be split.  This would be a major decision and would not be achieved easily.

The Chairman said that the SAPS said that there had been no interaction on the Bill.  He showed the Members a thick file recording all the correspondence.  He agreed that the meeting could not proceed.  The SAPS said that the Bill had been drafted without their knowledge.  He had proof to the contrary.  If the Portfolio Committee on Police was not ready then other issues regarding the Bill would be discussed the following day.

Mr Lee requested a copy of the submission of SRSA.

The Chairperson was not comfortable with that.  He ruled that the Members should rather wait until the presentations were made.

The meeting was adjourned.



Present

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