LoveLife on its Strategy and the loveLife Games; Election of Chairperson

Sport, Arts and Culture

14 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr R Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The new Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation, Mr Mzameni Richard Mdakane, was elected.

loveLife presented its report, which covered the entity’s strategic plan, financial performance and loveLife Games that defined the entity’s commitments to reducing HIV infection through sport. Its report spoke about the history of the loveLife Games and of the loveLife organisation, its geographic presence throughout the country, how it performed to get its message across and reasons for targeting youth and its theory of change to move teens away from high-risk behaviour. The change in the strategy for loveLife Games, its alignment to the Department’s strategic priorities and the type of events it targeted was discussed. Impressive results were mentioned from various research studies. However, despite reporting substantial progress in its objectives, loveLife said the country had experienced an increased number of female youths getting infected especially in marginalised areas.

Members commended the vision of loveLife of promoting healthy, HIV-free living South African teenagers through sport but questioned the effectiveness of its programmes and its impact in changing youth attitudes about risky sexual behaviour. Some raised concern, saying there was no visibility of loveLife programmes, the report lacked depth on policy and the country witnessed an increased number of pregnancies by teenagers in areas such as the Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo, yet the organisation claimed to be making strides in reducing the rate of infection and risky sexual behaviour. Some members complained about the financial report which they said did not articulate how money received from Sports and Recreation SA was spent. Also, members raised concern at the structure of the Annual Report submitted by the entity and lack of depth in terms of governance and what impact the organisation had made in changing risky sexual behaviour among the youths and in driving its National HIV prevention programmes. loveLife received R210 million in funding with government department contribution of R150 million, with the Department of Sport and Recreation being a major sponsor, contributing R27 million for sporting activities.

Meeting report

Mr R Mdakane (ANC) was elected as the new Chairperson of the Committee. He explained to loveLife that the Committee appreciated its work but encouraged it to execute its mandate with diligence and with respect for the Members of Parliament as representatives of society.

loveLife presentation
Ms Grace Matlhape, loveLife Chief Executive Officer, spoke about the history of the loveLife Games and of the loveLife organisation, its geographic presence throughout the country, how it performed to get its message across and reasons for targeting youth and its theory of change to move teens away from high-risk behaviour. She discussed the change in the strategy for loveLife Games, its alignment to the Department’s strategic priorities and the type of events it targeted.

loveLife had been promoting healthy, HIV-free living among South African teenagers since 1999. It was formed as a private public partnership between government and the Kaiser Family Foundation creating a large-scale prevention programme for youths. In 2004 a study conducted by the Witwatersrand University’s Reproductive Health Unit on the strategic policies of the organisation, concluded that loveLife could influence behaviour change of young youths with much success through face-to-face outreach programmes than depending on media campaigns. As a result the entity had scaled up outreach and scaled down media campaigns. It had shifted from an event driven approach to a mass participation approach, spreading its services through out the country particularly in the marginalised areas with a presence in 880 communities in the country. The organisation launched a new campaign “Make your Move’ in 2008 which tried to address structural factors accounting for the increased rate on infection as opposed too the pre-held assumption that ignorance was the major cause. Through sustained media campaigns and outreach programmes, in 2010 the organisation managed to recruit 9,452 peer educators, 1, 447 ground breakers and 8005 mpintshis (young volunteers) and partnered with 532 Youth Friendly Clinics, 6,520 schools, 330 NGOs, and 500 goGogetters (old people). The youths were the target group of loveLife programmes as they constitute half of the total population and they were the most affected and infected age group especially those below the age of 25 years, with females more at risk than their male counterparts.

According to a Survey conducted by the Human Science Research Council in 2005 and 2008 there was higher HIV prevalence among youths than other age groups and inequality had an impact in influencing risky sexual behaviour among youths. An understanding of HIV prevalence and structural contributors to risk behaviour among youths determined the operation strategy of loveLife. High-risk behaviour among youths was a product of a group of individual, social and structural factors. Some of the factors include low self esteem, uncertain identity, coercion, peer pressure, lack of open child-parent communication, male sense of entitlement, poverty, marginalisation and a high rate of inequality. These factors limit decision-making by youths and hence predispose youths to a high risk of HIV infection.

loveLife Games was launched as a presidential lead project with United School Sports Association of South Africa (USSASA) and the Department of Sports & Recreation (Sports and Recreation SA) from 2000 to 2005.

Following a new agreement with the Sports and Recreation SA on the role of loveLife’s strategy in sport development, loveLife’s focus shifted from being a flagship for South African sport events for youths, to a HIV prevention support package for School Sports programmes, implemented in partnership with Sport and Recreation SA together with sporting federations. The change in strategy allowed for better role clarification between loveLife and sporting federations, enabled reducing the rate of infections in sport (working with both youth and adults), it supported sports development in the country’s marginalised communities plagued by poverty. loveLife Games was a mutually beneficial arrangement- loveLife drives HIV prevention with youths while federations expand through the loveLife hubs.

As part of the organisation’s re-alignment strategy in line with Sports and Recreation SA priorities, there were four strategic actions: schools sport, recreation, mass mobilisation and institutional mechanisms. Under institutional mechanisms the entity would work on improving partnership with youth driven HIV prevention organisations, driving coordination between federations, providing support for sport academies, and training coaches to enhance positive attitude changes.

The new arrangement mandated loveLife to ensure its visibility at international, national, regional, cluster leagues and community leagues with priority put on sporting codes such as Athletics, Chess, Basketball, Netball, Women Cricket, Women Football, Women Rugby and others specific to community needs.

The new action plan for loveLife would focus on using sports events as opportunities for HIV prevention, building capacity of adults to respond to individual, social and structural drivers of HIV infection among youths and to actively promote sports and recreation activities in marginalised communities.

loveLife uses Mobile Youth Centres as a way of bringing service to the people. Capacity building would be enhanced through training adults for umpiring, refereeing and sport administration with a bias towards HIV prevention in young people. To ensure participation of marginalised areas, loveLife would support organised leagues and events in rural communities and rural schools.

Inroads had been made in changing youth attitudes – condom use among young men increased siginificantly, HIV prevalence was 6.1 in 2002 and was down to 3.8 in 2008. Unfortunately despite the declining rate of infection among youth, there was a significant increase in the rate of HIV prevalence among young women. An evaluation report by the HSRC assessing the impact of loveLife programmes would be presented at the next HIV conference, the SAHARA (Social Aspects of HIV and AIDS Research Alliance) Conference, and at an upcoming international conference in Ethiopia, comparing the risk behaviour of youths who participate in loveLife programmes with others who do not. Another evaluation to examine whether public health communication programmes and messages have an impact in changing knowledge, attitudes, norms and behaviour of youths on HIV/AIDS and TB issues would be conducted next year in partnership with Soul City and the John Hopkins Health and Education South Africa (JHHESA). In 2012 loveLife would conduct an internal evaluation of groundBREAKER programmes and the impact of new Youth centres. The organisation was building new Youth Mobile centres in all the communities it was involved.

A study done by Pettifor et al in 2005, “A survey of 15-24 year olds” found that interaction with loveLife face-to-face had a 0.61 AOR “protective effect”. This meant that participating in loveLife programmes made young men and women about 40% less likely to contract HIV.
Some of the returns on social investments have been the creation of 2,500 employment opportunities resulting in cash transfers to marginalised communities. loveLife programmes had resulted in skills transfers to youths, enhancing their chances of employability. An evaluation report done in 2007 showed significant progress in two indicators paramount in HIV risk: post-matric qualification and employment. There was a 47% possibility of loveLife beneficiaries passing matric after receiving training and 60% chance of getting employment. This served as testimony that loveLife programmes were not limited to HIV/AIDS prevention but also tackling socio-economic indicators. Although the organisation had implemented its programmes with significant success, there had not been any noteworthy increase in funding. There had been an increase of 450% young people participating in loveLife activities and 127% increase in school partnerships. Lack of enough funds had resulted in a dramatic increase in cost efficiency.

For the 2010 financial year the major contributors to the budget were government departments though some significant funding came from private organisations. The biggest funders were: Department of Health (R76m), Department of Social Development (R42 million), Sport Recreation SA (R27 million), National Lottery Distribution Trust (R17 million), and the National Lottery (R17 million). Total funding for 2010 financial year was R210 million with a total of R150 coming from government departments.

Mr T Lee (DA) asked loveLife to clarify whether they paid their service providers promptly. He was referring to an incident where he received a call from somebody complaining that she had done work for loveLife and they had not paid her - to the extent she was seeking legal recourse. He questioned the entity’s customer care attitude after he had phoned their national office and could not be assisted. He requested that the loveLife should provide a breakdown of how it had used the R27 million allocated by the Department of Sport and Recreation since it was the major sponsor of its sport activities. Referring to the SAFARI Conference that would take place in Port Elizabeth on HIV/AIDS, he wanted to know the venue of the event and the physical addresses of provincial offices of loveLife. He asked if the organisation had taken note of the recommendations of the Auditor-General to provide a better report next year.

Ms Matlhape replied that loveLife obtained most of the funding from government whose financial year was different from theirs. She expressed concern about this, saying more often than not the organisation wasted a lot of time waiting on government to release funding which had resulted in its media programmes being suspended by the SABC. As such, suppliers were paid as soon as the entity got money from the government departments. Suppliers were informed beforehand that payments could be delayed. She was greatly disturbed that the member had called the national office but did not get any assistance, a practice unlikely of loveLife. On providing a separate report on SRSA funding, she said that the 2010 financial report was an abridged version and they had tried to show in the report how each funder’s money was spent. She promised to provide the detailed report to the Committee. Answering a question on some of the points raised by the Auditor-General, she said the audit report was not an adverse opinion as it accounted only for loveLife and not its investment company, Kurisani. It was not allowed to publish one report separate from the other. It was for the purpose of oversight they had provided an abridged version. The consolidated report had been completed and would be provided to the Committee.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) asked if loveLife submitted the same report to other departments. In the report nothing had been mentioned about the Department of Social Development and it lacked statistics on HIV prevalence per province. He wanted an update on an ongoing court case on condoms that were bursting because they were too small. He requested a report on structures built by loveLife and a calendar of sporting events done in collaboration with Department of Basic Education and sports federations. He asked if the entity had a system of accountability.

Ms Matlhape replied that they had presented the same report to other government sponsors taking into account each sponsor’s point of connection with loveLife. On the issue of condoms, she said that condoms did not occupy much of the entity’s responsibility but they ensured healthy sexual behaviour among youths. This was not the major factor for HIV risk but a number of structural and socio-economic factors.

Answering a question about appearing only once before the Committee for oversight purposes, despite receiving a huge chunk of funding, Ms Matlhape said that the organisation was prepared to come for oversight more often. The information on loveLife sites and specific programmes implemented per province was available and would be provided to the Committee.

Mr Raxmax Mashigo, Director: loveLife Games, said that they had formulated a sporting calendar for sports activities in South Africa for different sporting codes. The organisation was busy finalising school league activities coming in December with the Department o Basic Education. The tournament scheduled for Port Elizabeth was a chess competition for junior players.

The Chairperson said that the member was not accusing the organisation of focussing on condoms only in its programme but had referred to as an issue of concern. He said the Constitution required that the entity provide a high level strategic report that could help policy makers tackle socio-economic problems and help the entity in achieving its objectives. As policy makers, members were not concerned about administrative issues of entities but policy issues.

Mr Lee said wanted to know where the organisation obtained money for investment saying that was the reason why people had always complained about misappropriation of funds.

Ms Matlhape replied that Kurisani was established as a way of funding loveLife as the organisation needed to raise R60 Million each year. Until 2009 the organisation was a complete separate company funding HIV programmes among youths. The auditors decided that it should be consolidated as part of ensuring sustainable funding. The law prohibited the use of donor funds for investment.

Mr M Mmusi (ANC) wanted to know the type of schools targeted by loveLife and the criteria for consideration and whether Board members met regularly on a paid basis or not. He questioned the conduct of some groundBREAKERS held at a loveLife event held at a certain school. He wanted to know why young volunteers were paid a pittance of R980 relative to the big salaries obtained by senior management and the amount of funding given to the organisation.

Ms Matlhape said the issue of board members of loveLife was reflected in the Annual Report. The board members met five times a year and sub-committee members met five times a year and membership was voluntary hence no payments. On the conduct of the volunteers she said that, though she could not deny that it occurred sometimes, volunteers had a code of conducted that guided the discharge of duties and they were monitored by regional leaders. Since 2003 until 2010 volunteers were being paid R890 a month plus airtime and transport allowances. While she admitted it was a pittance, she said the organisation was under pressure to scale up and the wage had since been raised to R1200 a month.

Mr G Mackenzie (COPE) was uncomfortable with loveLife driving HIV/AIDS issues and suggested that the Department of Health was better placed to do the job as the presentation made little reference to sport and more to condoms. He wanted to know if loveLife was a member of SASCOC and questioned why the entity had high staff benefits and travel expenses.

Ms Matlhape replied that the organisation had the capacity to run the programme and sport gave it an opportunity to help youths understand the risk of HIV. The synergy established with the Departments of Sport and Recreation and Basic Education would aid the success of the organisation in tackling socio-economic problems causing risk to youths.

Mashego said that loveLife was a member of SASCOC and had partnerships with other sporting federation in programmes aimed at preserving talent in the country as more sportspeople were succumbing to HIV.

Mr M Dikgcwi (ANC) requested clarity on the gender and race composition of loveLife. He raised concern at the number of youths in their teens falling pregnant especially in the Worcester, Boland and De Doorns areas. He gave an example where the Premier of the Western Cape was approached to intervene in the West Coast following an increasing number of school children getting pregnant. He wanted to know if loveLife programmes were implemented in areas with the biggest number of disadvantaged children. He noted there were few issues about governance in the presentation.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) asked whether the UNCUT magazine was distributed in all municipalities and how was the issue of language handled at its call centre.
Ms Matlhape answered that the organisation employed people who spoke different languages but they were experiencing problems in keeping consultants who spoke Venda and Tsonga. The magazine was distributed in all 880 communities where loveLife was involved, in 8000 schools, at events and at its regional offices. Though the organisation had expanded its network, it had 23 offices which did not cover all municipalities, with some grouped into clusters.

Ms M Dube (ANC) wanted to know if loveLife had sporting activities arranged for the festive season.

Mr M
ashego answered that a programme for young people would be in place during the entire period and the Committee would be provided with the details.

Ms G Tseke was happy about the programmes of loveLife, saying the Committee had engaged the Sports Minister about the bottlenecks of loveLife programmes and was optimistic that things would improve.

Mr J Van Der Linde (DA) was angry about the inefficiency of loveLife in driving its project, arguing that their activities were not visible. He had been a member of loveLife before its transformation but the new look loveLife was failing to discharge it duties. Previously all sporting codes were included but under the current management system, some codes had been scrapped. Commenting on the high expenditure on staff wages, he said it was unacceptable that the cost was in excess of R60 million. As a passionate sportsperson, he requested that loveLife ensure that members had access to its programmes if it wanted the Committee to support them.

Mr Mashego replied saying it was difficult to know what was happening in different communities. Currently the organisation was receiving notification manually but a new web based scheduling system to be effected in 2012 was being developed. In provincial areas, sporting codes of priority were the ones listed in the presentation but in rural areas, codes were identified according to needs.

Mr William Davis, loveLife National Games Manager, said that loveLife respected the condition that condoms and its programmes should be implemented at schools only with the permission of the school’s governing board. The organisation had taken into account the recommendations of the Committee which accounted for the majority of changes in its operations.

The Chairperson said that members were not interested in issues of administration but policy issues that helped shape up decision. He urged the entity to do its best to improve its programmes to aim for meaningful impact in society. He was happy with the point that not only ignorance accounted for high risk of infection but structural factors played a pivotal role as well.

The meeting was adjourned.


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