Challenges facing Basketball South Africa: briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

18 June 2013
Chairperson: Mr R Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee heard that Basketball SA had no resources and officials had used their own money to be in Parliament. Basketball SA did not have an elected committee structure, and no official on the interim committee was being paid. The annual general meeting to elect permanent office bearers would take place on 27 July.  The officials were not yet certain how the new structure would look, but the idea was to ensure a stable and sustainable leadership which would ensure that SA played basketball competitively. The vision was to take SA to the top six for men, and top eight for women, in Africa.

The terms of reference for the interim committee included restoring the functionality of the organisation by reviewing the status of the provinces and affiliates. The interim committee was tasked with coordinating programmes, but also assessing the financial state of Basketball SA. The organisation owed debtors close to R6 million. The elected committee, back in 2009, had neglected all its functions, including putting in place a sound administration and a constitution. There seemed to have been a misuse of basketball funds, so all officials had been removed from office.  The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) had removed the officials from all structures of basketball in the country. Basketball SA had since been put under administration. Provincial structures were in no better position than the national structure.

The interim committee had put in place a turnaround strategy, central to which were effective and efficient national structures.  There also had to be structured mass participation at all ages. Had the proposed model been implemented, basketball would be among the highly regarded sports in the country. The model was three-phased, with wide participation at grass roots, a well-developed intervening layer that would focus on provincial clubs and universities, and with the national teams on top.  The main element of the turn-around was developing a sustainable club structure in all provinces. However, the organisation would also oversee, monitor and facilitate the organisation of mini basketball, with a view to recruiting children. Basketball SA would also facilitate the establishment of local leagues for clubs.
Some challenges the organisation faced included lack of credibility, poor leadership, low morale among players, no resources (coupled with a huge debt), dysfunctional provinces, and facilities. Where facilities existed they were of poor standard, and there were no customised floors throughout the country.  There was no national coach for basketball, but capacity building was starting to happen, and a national coach’s commission had been established.
Members wanted to know whether the officials who had embezzled the basketball funds were in prison, or disciplined at all. There seemed to be a huge mess in basketball’s affairs. People who created the mess were known, and something had to be done. Parliament could not allow a situation where people did as they pleased.  Basketball SA should involve the provincial departments of sport in their programmes in order to solicit funding. For this to happen, however, the organisation had to ensure that all the outstanding audits were completed. SASCOC should at least assist officials with their travelling. Members were also concerned that little attention was being given to the woman’s game.
 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that with Bafana-Bafana failing to qualify for Brazil it would be difficult for the Committee to motivate for a trip to Brazil during the World Cup. The team had continuously failed to qualify for major tournaments, and this time around was a serious blow to the Committee. The Committee should consider calling them to account, especially as the South African Football Association (SAFA) had promised that Bafana-Bafana would qualify. He said the Committee would receive a presentation from Basketball SA.

Briefing by Basketball SA
Mr Graham Abrahams, Chairman, Interim Committee: Basketball SA, said basketball had no resources and officials had had to used their own money to get to Parliament. There were two ladies on the interim committee, but due to a lack of funds, they could not come as well.  It had been a year since the sport had been put on administration by South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (SASCOC). Basketball SA did not have an elected committee structure, and no official on the interim committee was being paid.

The terms of reference for the interim committee included restoring the functionality of the organisation by reviewing the status of provinces and affiliates. The interim committee was also tasked with coordinating programmes, and assessing the financial state of Basketball SA. The organisation owed debtors close to R6 million. The interim committee was meant to engage sponsors; take measures to complete all outstanding annual financial audits; and also to convene a proper annual general meeting (AGM).

The elected committee, back in 2009, had neglected all its functions, including putting in place a sound administration and a constitution. There seemed to have been a misuse of basketball funds, so SASCOC had removed the officials from all structures of basketball in the country.

Since taking office, the new committee had revised the constitution, in line with SASCOC requirements. The interim committee had developed policy documents, as none had existed, to guide various governance units such as finance, human resources, technical, player registration and affiliations. No audited statements had been compiled since 2009, but the 2010 financial statements had been completed and signed off. This had been done pro bono by the Sithole and Associates auditing firm.

The financial statements from 2011 to 2013 were with the auditors, and would be finalised in time for the proposed AGM in July. About R5.5 million was owed to creditors, and sadly these were small business people who needed the cash most. There had never been something as tragic in sport as this.  A couple of big creditors were also owed money, while there was also an outstanding debt to the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Basketball SA had acquired the services of a chartered accountant for free, and the consultant had put in place the financial policies. The organisation was following a three-year budget cycle, but the challenge was that there was no money. The new financial system that had been developed would assist the organisation into the future.

He said that while in the process of rehabilitating the national structure, it was realised that the provinces were no better off. Some provinces lacked such simple things as bank accounts, constitutions, and management committees. An audit was being undertaken and it was hoped that this could be finalised before July 2013. Provincial governments and sports councils had been engaged with a view to getting assistance. Not a single provincial structure had an office; there simply was no capacity in the provinces. Schools and tertiary institutions were also badly organised. School basketball, despite what everybody said, was in a mess. The situation was a little better in private schools, some universities and the former model C’s.

Basketball was a major sport in all continents, with 213 countries affiliated to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). About 53 African countries played the sport, and three had qualified for the Olympic Games. This was a distant dream for SA, as the men were ranked 68th in the World. The same applied for the women’s teams as well.  A positive aspect was the increased number of people playing baseball -- now well over 420 000. Basketball was popular among black South Africans, and was the third most popular sport among black men, after soccer and road running.

The interim committee had put in place a turnaround strategy, central to which were effective and efficient national structures. There also had to be structured mass participation at all ages. Had the proposed model been implemented, basketball would be among the highly regarded sports in the country. The model was three-phased, with wide participation at grass roots, a well developed intervening layer that would focus on provincial clubs and universities, and with the national teams on top.

The main element of the turn-around was developing a sustainable club structure in all provinces. However, the organisation would also oversee, monitor and facilitate the organisation of mini basketball, with a view to recruiting children. Basketball SA would also facilitate the establishment of local leagues for clubs. Basketball SA had withdrawn from all international competitions while it attended to its challenges. This year’s national championships had been organised in Gauteng, but funding was a challenge for many of the provinces. The tournament had been a failure because of the lack of cooperation from provincial governments.

Mr Abrahams revealed there was not even a national coach for basketball. Capacity building was starting to happen, and a national coach’s commission had been established. An American had been invited last year, and he had been an unbelievable success. Training for coaches, referees and administrators, would be facilitated. As part of the training the coaches, about 272 coaches had attended the sessions with the American, 17 of whom had attained the FIBA Level II qualification. Basketball SA wanted to start a national league in September 2013. The Free State government was supportive of the development of the game.

Some challenges the organisation faced included lack of credibility, poor leadership, low morale among players, no resources (coupled with a huge debt), dysfunctional provinces, and facilities. Where facilities existed they were of poor standards, and there were no customised floors throughout the country.

Basketball SA wanted to improve its African ranking for men by 2016, to a least within the top 6, and the top 8 for women. He reiterated the lack of facilities and said no country would come to SA because there were no basketball courts. These floors cost about R1.5 million. About three years ago, Basketball SA had acquired one such court, but could not pay for it. The owner had been asking for the court to be returned to him. If the country was serious about making basketball competitive, provinces and municipalities should be serious about providing facilities. The game had the potential to address social ills in the country; children loved it.

Wheelchair basketball focus areas for 2013 would be competitions and getting teams that could compete on the global stage. Wheelchair basketball had an advantage, in that it had a dedicated facility that did not belong to the state. A national league would have the potential to catapult basketball from its current situation. Tremendous work had gone into establishing the basketball national league, which would take off next year.

Discussion
The Chairperson said he hoped those who had squandered Basketball SA’s money were in jail. He requested that light be shed on them, especially that they had misappropriated money. He wanted to know if the cases had been reported to the Hawks. There seemed to be a huge mess in basketball’s affairs.

Mr Abrahams replied the officials could be reported to the relevant authorities only if there was prima facie evidence of people abusing funding. The organisation would not hesitate to press charges, no matter who was involved.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) concurred with the Chairperson and said the people who had created the mess were known, and something had to be done. Parliament could not allow a situation where people did as they pleased.

Mr Dikgacwi commented that the programme was promising, considering the financial state of Basketball SA, but he was not sure how the organisation would kick it off. There should be sponsors involved, but it would be difficult to get them on board, given the current administration. The organisation should speak to the Minister of Sport, Mr Fikile Mbalula, to engage provincial sports MECs, in trying to get assistance. The provinces needed to be engaged to assist basketball with funding.

Mr Abrahams said it was important that Parliament assisted and facilitated engagements with MECs. If the Committee could assist in “opening doors” at the provincial departments of sport it would be highly appreciated.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) asked if there was a plan to develop basketball in rural areas.

Mr Abrahams replied that part of the overall turnaround strategy was rural development, and central to this was the vision to get facilities via municipalities. Rural provinces like Mpumalanga and Limpopo would be targeted.  The organisation would certainly be putting facilities in rural areas.

Mr Tsepo Nyewe, National Administrator, Basketball SA, said the organisation had been to many rural areas, and rural areas were indeed challenged for facilities. The organisation was negotiating with various municipalities in that respect, and some were committing to building courts.

Mr G MacKenzie (Cope) commented that given the challenges at Basketball SA, the presentation was well done. In order to solicit funding, one had to have all the financials audited. How far was the auditing of the 2011 and 2012 financial statements from completion?

Mr Abrahams replied that Basketball SA had compelled the former treasurer to avail himself to provide the required information. The financial years were 80% complete, and it was hoped they would be finalised by the end of June so that those financial statements could be presented as drafts at the council meeting on 29 June. People would be attending the council using their own money and he was adamant that they would come.

Mr Charles Foster, Basketball SA, replied that issues around the basketball national league would soon be finalised. Directors were meeting to finalise governance issues, and once that had been done the broadcast partner would be announced. It was hoped that by September when the National Basketball Association (NBA) left, South Africa would be able to play basketball professionally.

Mr Mackenzie commented that it was troubling that officials had to use their own money. Surely SASCOC should assist officials with their travelling?  He sought clarity on the statement that a professional league would start towards the end of the year, and yet there were no courts for basketball.  What was Basketball SA going to do about this?  Could someone get a used surface from the National Basketball Association (NBA)?

Mr Abrahams clarified that SASCOC was involved in some of Basketball SA’s operations. SASCOC paid the salaries of the two officials who occupied the offices fulltime. The officials had not been paid for over 14 months. SASCOC also made facilities available for meetings and other issues.  Where SASCOC could, it did not give the organisation money, but paid directly. This also was the situation with the Department of Sport and Recreation. The Department had assisted with the national championships in March, when the provincial governments had failed to do so. The Director General (DG) had given assistance, despite the regulations of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The money was not given directly, because Basketball SA had failed to provide audited statements. But both SASCOC and the Department had put their shoulders to the wheel, and had certainly backed the organisation 100%.

Mr Nyewe said the pending visit by the NBA to the country would not be of any benefit, other than marketing and exposure. Even on their previous visit, the country had been left with nothing other than used boots, which Basketball SA had objected to. When the league finally got started, the national team would get to the sixth position. The team currently lacked match fitness. The country still wanted to compete against its neighbours, even though it was not strong.

Ms M Dube (ANC) commented that administrators squandering money was a common trend in SA and was exacerbated by the inability to take action. This was worrying, because it frustrated the athletes. She sought clarity on funding, especially pertaining to trips abroad, and also how the costs incurred as a result of the American coach’s visit had been financed. The delegation should also clarify and unpack the statement “from our own pocket”.

Mr Abrahams replied that Basketball SA had cancelled international trips, and had also cancelled the undertaking of any event if there was no funding.  Officials at Basketball SA used their personal money for travel, and even for menial things such as stationery and the internet connection. This was not a concern at all. The organisation needed an office that was functional. Currently there was a Telkom bill of R73 000; a service provider provided internet connections in Cape Town, and often the connection was cut off because of non-payment.  The trainer’s flight tickets were paid by FIBA, but internet connections and accommodation were paid for by the organisation. The official was returning.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) said the way sport was run in SA was demoralising. It seemed as though people who wanted to get rich quickly simply became sports administrators. She sought clarity on the state and existence of basketball clubs in provinces. Light should be shed on the relationship between basketball and the provincial governments, because money was made available to all sports federations in the provinces. She sought details of the Minister’s announcement earlier in the year about starting a professional league. How much money was available for that purpose?

Mr Abraham said he agreed that the mess had had a demoralising effect, but the officials would keep on trying. Government had identified basketball as a priority sport, and in 2014 it would be earmarked for special attention from the Department. This year it was netball’s turn, and last year it was swimming.

There were basketball clubs, but they were not effectively administered. Basketball SA had put together a club manual. The focus would be on building capacity in the provinces after the AGM.

Mr Nyewe said the cost of having one court was very expensive -- up to R6 million. Basketball SA was engaging provincial heads of departments (HODs) on school sports with a view to building  outdoor courts in communities.

Mr Daluxolo Dzingwa, Basketball SA, said the organisation was also considering the aspect of training officials. Three officials from SA had been invited to officiate in the World Cup. The level of officiating was crucial, with a professional league in the pipeline. The standard of the league would largely depend on the kind of officials that were available.

Ms Tseke questioned the readiness of the organisation to host the AGM, especially as it was still reporting a lack of funding a mere month ahead of the scheduled meeting. It would be difficult to put a new committee in place if the financial mess had not been resolved. She asked if the organisation had sought to source funding from the programmes that were meant for mass participation. It also appeared as if Basketball SA was falling into the trap of disregarding women’s sport. Would the country ever get to a situation where women’s sport was prioritised?  People with disabilities should not be disregarded either, and should be prioritised in terms of serving on the executive that would be appointed in July.

Mr Abrahams replied the Minister had indicated in his budget vote that he hoped to bring the NBA to SA. The NBA required proper floors and would not be bringing second hand floors. He appealed to the Committee for assistance in ensuring that every province had two customised floors. At the moment there was one floor in possession of Basketball SA, but it belonged to a person who was owed R2.5 million.

The relationship with Sport and Recreation SA (SRSA) was very good and that the money made available through various programmes could be accessed only if Basketball SA accounted for the money that had been made available in prior years. They could not assist until that was done.

The AGM would happen on 27 July, no matter what. The officials were not yet certain what the structure would look like, but the idea was to ensure a stable organisation.

He agreed with the observation that women’s sport was not being prioritised, but basketball was the one sport that had even split between men and women participating. The reason the women’s national league would start only in 2015, was the apathy of sponsors to get involved in women’s sport. The idea was to use the men’s game as a springboard for the women’s game. He noted the comment on people with disabilities, but wheelchair basketball was the only sponsored league in the world, and had been happening over the past ten years.

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) sought clarity on whether there were any ongoing negotiations with major sponsors. He also wanted to know if any lessons had been learned from the neighbouring states the fields of financial management, operations and the actual administration of basketball.

Mr Nyewe said the organisation was working hard to ensure a strong women’s league. There were competitions and tournaments dedicated for women, and teams from neighbouring states had been invited to participate in them. There were negotiations with the Department so that when the NBA came toward the end of the year, the relevant equipment would be procured and would remain for the use of SA.

Mr Abrahams said visits to neighbouring countries would happen frequently when the finances at Basketball SA were in order. The organisation had undertaken visits to Angola and Mozambique, as both countries possessed a well-developed basketball infrastructure. It had been discovered that most clubs in Angola were linked to entities; players would work for a certain entity and would play for them as well. Basketball SA was speaking to a few companies for sponsorship, and would be announcing a broadcast partner in the next few weeks. The organisation did not need sponsors only for finances, but also for the supply of balls, cars and travel vouchers.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson said a lot of work still needed to be done.  Basketball should not be where it was. Local government needed to be engaged to ensure that money was made available. Metros should be targeted, and they should be able to build the courts. Members should on their oversight visits to the areas raise the issue. Poor governance was generally a challenge for sport in the country.

The Chairperson said Basketball SA should be careful about the quality of people invited to the AGM, so that those elected to lead the organisation would not run it down. The organisation should go to the  AGM with committed people, otherwise there would not be sponsors interested in the game. Sponsors would not be interested if the sport was run by corrupt officials. If people looted without punishment, sport would never be rid of corruption.

He said except for rugby, SA’s sport was challenged by poor administration, and it had resulted in Bafana-Bafana not qualifying for Brazil.  Basketball should not struggle for sponsors once it got off the ground and was well managed.   The concept should work. There could never be mass participation without good administrators. He emphasised the point that Members should raise the issue of basketball with provinces during the recess.

The Minister should intervene when there were problems and not wait for the destructive and greedy officials or the “grasshopper-generation” (according to Minister Sibusiso Ndebele) to mess things up. It was not right that the poor people were disadvantaged.   The country needed committed people to do things properly.

The Committee adopted the minutes of 4 June 2013.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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