Rowing SA – briefing on strategic plan, governance, transformation & development

Sports, Arts and Culture

14 March 2017
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

With the arrival of a London Olympics Gold medallist, the meeting took on a different trajectory as Rowing South Africa could clearly confirm the success of their effort in developing lives and internationally representing the country. The President of Rowing South Africa took the Committee through the presentation highlighting the challenges that Rowing SA faced in 2015 and 2016. The biggest challenges was the shortage of funding and sponsorships, which also resulted in a non-increase in the salary of the Rowing SA coach, the expensive nature of rowing equipment which made it  inaccessible to poorer schools and  the facilitating of the learners meals and travelling costs when attending Rowing SA camps. Rowing SA was advised to further their development and transformation projects to more rural areas.

Meeting report

Welcoming Remarks

Chairperson welcomed the representatives of Rowing SA and stated that the Whip of the Committee ought to file a complaint with regards to the long queues at the entrance of Parliament that ended up delaying respective guests. As a result, she asked the Committee to wait a few minutes for the other presenters of Rowing SA.

Opening Remarks by Rowing SA President

Mr Sean Kerr, President, Rowing SA, greeted the Committee and thanked them for the opportunity to come and tell them about the work that they were doing for Rowing SA and for raising the flag of the country on high. He explained that he would be shortly joined by Ms V Mabaso, who was a full time employee of Rowing SA and Mr S Ndlovu, who was a London Olympic gold medal holder and was the only black gold medal holder for rowing in the world.  Mr Ndlovu was recently elected in an executive position. The President mentioned that Mr Ndlovu was a great asset to Rowing SA. He said that they were happy to be at the meeting after the Rio Olympic Games in order to tell the Committee about what was happening in rowing. He mentioned that he could be stopped anytime during the presentation and that he welcomed questions thereafter as well. He noted that the Rowing SA teams acquired a number of silver medals at the Rio Olympic Games. However, he understood that the Committee was more interested in the impact that Rowing SA had on the people of South Africa and about the changes that the sport made within the country.

Rowing SA Presentation

Mr Kerr took the Committee through the presentation and said that indoor rowing was the fastest growing indoor event in the world. He explained that it was the first mass participation aspect of rowing. Rowing SA was said to be present in all nine provinces of the country. Coastal rowing on the other hand, was gathered to be a type of rowing that Rowing SA would soon explore since South Africa had a large coastline. In giving an overview of Rowing SA, he explained that it was the sole governing body for the sport of rowing in South Africa and was recognised with this status by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and Sport and Recreation South Africa. He mentioned that rowing was a sport for all and that Rowing SA’s activities included schools which were in rural and urban areas, junior clubs, universities, masters and international levels. Rowing SA was a finalist in a number of categories at the 2016 SA Sport Awards, namely: Federation of the Year, Administrator of the year, who was Ms V Mabaso, and School Team of the Year, which was St Benedict’s College Junior.

He continued that Rowing SA’s coach, Mr R Barrow, was awarded the 2016 Fiduciary Institute of Southern Africa (FISA) World Rowing Coach of the Year Award and that Rowing SA won the Letsema Award for para-rowing in 2016. The governance of Rowing SA was described to comprise of a council whose overall role was to formulate and adopt the overall policy of Rowing SA, and of an executive committee, whose overall role was to implement the policies formulated by Council as well as to conduct the ordinary business of the Federation. He mentioned that what Rowing SA was most proud of was the fact that it had the best coach in the world as Mr R Barrow won the award for Best Rowing Coach in the World in 2016. Emphasis was made on how Rowing SA was the only sport council that had a schools representative as part of their council structure. He explained that Rowing SA had the following goals for 2017-2020 which fell in three categories on page 22, namely: transformation and development; passion and more medals. He described how the goals were geared towards various disciplines, genders, disabilities and races. Under business plan outcomes 2017, he said that a total of R13.12 million was budgeted for national squad participation and competition.  A total of R 7.7 million was budgeted for the regional junior club development, 2017. He commented that Rowing SA were very happy to be funded by SASCOC in these amounts.  An amount of R1.25 million was budgeted for official support and coach training in 2017. The challenges that Rowing SA faced was shortages in funding, which would cause a stall in Ms Mabaso’s development and transformation plan, training and sustaining coaches at schools facilitating transport and feeding kids at camps, and getting rowing equipment.

Development and transformation plan

Ms Virginia Mabaso, Development Coordinator, Rowing SA, said that she was born and bred in the Northern part of Limpopo, Lephalale. She said that she worked for ten years in the federation. It was a life changing experience for her to do so and that if she had to do it again, she would. With regards to the Rowing SA Development Plan, she said that indoor rowing was a concept that was introduced in 2007 in order to drive development in South Africa. The main projects were: the establishment of indoor rowing as a mass participation sport, the use of indoor rowing as a vehicle for talent identification and to meet the goals of Sports and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) for all sporting codes and to transform the sport of rowing across age, gender, disability and geographical spread. However, she explained that despite all the efforts of Rowing SA, there remained many communities that did not know about rowing and still had more work to do in this regard and that there was a need for more funding. Concerning coach training, she explained that it was an important aspect of the sustainability of Rowing SA’s projects at schools who were chosen from the community.

Development and Growth

Mr Sizwe Ndlovu, Chair of Athletes Commission, introduced himself as having been born and bred in Newcastle and Volksrust. The process of identifying his talent began in school where he was allowed to stay with the employees of his mother, who was a domestic worker at the time, where he enrolled at a school south of Johannesburg. He stated that Rowing SA identified the requirement to establish a Junior Rowing Club in all provinces. He explained that there were many talented athletes who attended their traditional rowing schools. Rowing SA also developed a blue print to establish successful Junior Rowing Clubs in order to provide a club for any junior to join.  He stated that the goal of the junior development club was to establish junior clubs accessible to disabled, youth and women rowers. He described how Rowing SA supported junior rowing clubs in Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo. Rowing SA recently acquired a fleet of 20 boats that were either bought or donated. There was also other equipment that would be used to aid developing schools and clubs in their goal to perform at a high level in rowing. In concluding, he said that the strategy of Rowing SA was to continue building an elite rowing squad with an attitude and culture of winning and performing at international level. He mentioned that this would require a strong support team, sport science, medical care and the best quality of equipment. 


Mr T Mhlongo (DA) stated that he was happy with the presentation and welcomed it. He asked where the Soweto branch was as he was not aware that there was a rowing team there. He asked how much their equipment cost. Regarding the Rowing SA financial statement, he asked whether they were ready for the financial year. With regards to the St Johns school award, he asked were this school was situated. He said he did not understand their sporting code that spoke of ‘black schools’. What was sport science, and what did it entail? He noted that Ms Mabaso spoke only of indoor sport being only in only black schools, whereas sport should unite all races. He said this was a matter of diversity and transformation.

Mr D Bergman (DA) congratulated Rowing SA on their good performance and their presentation. He said it was also good to have Mr S Ndlovu with the Committee and that it was good to see that he was now giving back to the sport and not just taking. He sought clarity on what support they had in making their participants’ water safe when Rowing SA move from indoor to outdoor rowing. He asked if Swimming SA could not maybe be of help. He asked what could fix the issue of exclusion in limiting people who could participate in such a sport.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) received the presentation and said that it was an honour to have Mr Ndlovu with them. She commented that in 2017 one ought to not talk of a 'black group'. She stated that the disabled were doing well and wanted to know how they managed to include them. She asked how they could be involved as the Committee in indoor rowing. She asked how they got it right in involving the educators of the school. She asked how swimming lessons worked for those who participated in indoor rowing. She sought to know how well indoor rowing was doing. When would Rowing SA get to other provinces? She enquired about the ratio of indoor rowing of black to white participants.

Ms B Dlomo (ANC) said that she was impressed by the involvement of young leaders and by seeing Mr Ndlovu in person. She noted that they only visited Durban in KZN and not deep rural areas.  

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) explained that his question was briefly covered. He asked how related indoor rowing and outdoor rowing were. He wanted to know how much the indoor rowing machine prepared an athlete for actual rowing. He noted that Mr Kerr noted that Rowing SA had not received anything from the National Lottery and why this was so. He commented that Rustenburg had rural areas which needed to be attended to as well, as many federations did not do so.

Ms D Manana (ANC) said that she received the presentation and that sometimes presentations did not capture exactly what was happening on the ground. She noted that she was gender sensitive and wanted to know the genders of executive members. She had a question regarding the "first black person in the world to win a gold medal in rowing" which she said indicated that there was no transformation in sports in SA. She said that the presentation only commented on a national level and less on the provincial level. Mr Ndlovu was asked to clarify on his statement about rowing being a reachable sport to everyone and she sought to know who ‘everyone’ was.  

Mr S Ralegoma (ANC) congratulated Rowing SA on their presentation. He was concerned about the accessibility of the sport. It was not merely a matter of complying with basic standards. He added that this was linked to the expensive nature of the sport. He said that Africans should have access to rowing clubs for transformation. He cautioned Rowing SA about associating with the Black Rowing African organisation. The stance of Rowing SA in terms of international relations was wanted. To Mr Ndlovu, he asked whether South Africa was treating him as an Olympic gold medallist would be treated in other countries.

Mr L Ntshayisa (ANC) appreciated that he could make it to the meeting, even though he was late, in order to have seen the three presenters.

The Chairperson thanked all members and expressed that she was pleased that they could be here to present on this rare sport. She appealed for Rowing SA to look into the tragedy that occurred in the Transkei when children drowned in a pool. She asked what their relationship was with schools.

Mr Kerr said that the Lottery gave the federation R5 million 90 days before the Rio Games begun which made it impossible for them to use the money towards its intended cause. When they opened up their application in 2016 for funding, they were not allowed to apply because they had a two year lay over.

Ms Mabaso said that they followed thorough procedure and even won a compliance award with the Lottery but still had to wait for the two year lay over. With regards to the cost of the sport, she confirmed that it was indeed an expensive sport. However, indoor rowing was relatively cheaper. She noted that indoor rowing related to outdoor rowing in many ways since the same motions and target muscles were used. Concerning the Black Rowing African organisation, she said that as long as the two rowing federations worked together, the organisation was allowed to be a constituency on their executive structure.

Mr Ndlovu clarified that Sport Science was the investment in medical staff and the testing of athlete’s athletic ability. St Johns was a private school in Johannesburg which was awarded a price by the Sports South Africa Committee. He mentioned that indoor rowing was an entry level sport for kids in rural black communities. However, as a result of shortage in equipment, skills and lack of water in some areas it was not possible to convert all kids to outdoor rowing. With regards to the financial statements, he said that it was uncommon to have additional disclosure in a federation’s financial statement.

In terms of Rowing SAs’ engagement with schools, Ms Mabaso submitted Payizane High School for the awards of the schools though they did not win the award. They also recognised schools in rural areas and ran development camps in these areas in order to introduce indoor rowers to indoor rowing. She said they involved the schools by sending them a presentation of indoor rowing and the benefits of it, and thereafter had a visitation session to the schools in order to discuss finer logistics. Rowing SA also made sure that they hired a coach from the community who could oversee the process and build relationships with educators. With regards to swimming, she said that whenever Rowing SA had kids who could not swim they would give those kids life jackets and would be closely monitored by a coach when participating in outdoor rowing. She said that they were currently involved in KZN, Kwa Mashu and hoped to further their work in the province. The aspect of development was said to be difficult in rural areas but would increase with better prospects in funding.  Rowing SA was also involved in Jongintaba and Dalinyebo High School in deep rural areas of the Eastern Cape. She mentioned that Rustenburg was indeed in their plans.

The Chairperson introduced the paparazzi. She explained that the passing of the minutes would be shelved for another meeting as the Committee had to take pictures with the Olympic Gold medal winner Mr S Ndlovu.

The meeting was adjourned.





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