Constituency Work: Discussion with Department and SA Sports Commission

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Portfolio Committee Sports and Recreation

3 June 2003

Chairperson: Ms N R Benghu (ANC)

Documents handed out

The committee forwarded questions raised by their constituencies, to the Department of Sports and Recreation and the SA Sports Commission. Questions ranged from the department's ability to respond to committee members and community requests to the lack of funding for sports development and managing the various National Sports Federations.

The Chair said that the Department of Sports and Recreation and the South African Sports Commission had been invited to discuss matters arising from members' constituency work. This was the purpose of the meeting. If no suitable answers were forthcoming, at least the Committee would have sensitised the Department to the issues concerned and outstanding matters could be addressed.

An ANC member said it had become necessary to discuss the poor attendance of committee members at meetings. He named Ms R Southgate (ACDP) in particular. He said the smaller parties should not waste the Committee's time. They should decide whether they wanted to be part of the Committee or not and act accordingly.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) said he had been absent recently due to study obligations. He said his apology had not been listed, even though he had followed the proper procedures. He would follow the matter up. He said he did not believe that absenteeism was necessarily an indication of lack of interest on the part of members.

The Chair said the Committee had always been very sensitive to proportionality and had been guided by the availability of members. The Committee had a work programme that needed to be addressed in a timely fashion.

Dr M J Phaahla, Chief Executive Officer, South African Sports Commission, said they had not been clear about their role at the meeting until they had arrived in Cape Town.

Mr Denver Hendricks, Head of Department, Department of Sports and Recreation, said that the timing for the meeting was ideal as the Department would be holding its strategic planning workshop soon. Matters raised at the meeting would be fed into the workshop.

The Chair said ordinary South Africans could not always distinguish between the functions of the various departments, commissions and organs of state. They saw Members of Parliament (MPs) as their representatives. Members frequently received requests from their constituencies to bring to the attention of the Department. How did the Department handle such requests?

Mr Hendricks said that he, personally, also received many such requests and sent them to the relevant offices in the Department. The Department had to operate according to policy and could not necessarily respond positively to spontaneous requests from the community. Local government played a significant role in deciding on spending priorities and communities should approach their local representatives as well. The Department also allocated money to the various National Sports Federations for grassroots activities.

Dr Phaahla said planning was based on thorough research and analysis done by the Department. However, well-resourced facilities were sometimes not sufficiently supported by the communities concerned. Matching community initiatives with strategic plans was a challenge for the Department.

The Chair said that letters sent via MPs should be addressed promptly as this affected the relationship between members and the community.

Dr Phaahla added that the Department could play a role in assisting communities to draft requests to the lottery fund, who could assist grass roots development in sport.

The Chair said that a number of schools had facilities that were not accessible to everyone in the community and asked what could be done about this.

Mr Hendricks replied that the Department focused on the strategic location of facilities and one of the key factors was optimal accessibility. He said the Department could intervene with state-owned schools to ensure greater access to their facilities for the broader community.
Recently, authorities in Uitenhage had been found to be overcharging for the use of facilities, resulting in the facility falling into disuse. In cases such as these the Minister intervened to resolve the matter.

A member asked whether funds allocated to National Sports Federations were dedicated allocations for specific projects.

Mr Hendricks replied that the Department dealt with Federations who acted as agents on their behalf. He said there were three categories for allocating funds to the Federations. One category was aimed at attracting more people to the sport. Another was for incentives for excellence such as medals and other prizes. Another, smaller, allocation category was for the Federations' running expenses. Sports federations were generally primarily interested in performance, often to the detriment of grassroots sports development. He said that the Department was looking at measures to ensure that, if spending on attracting more people to the sport was insufficient, allocations for other funding categories would be withheld.

During the previous year the Department had funded seventy-two Federations to run national programs. The Department was now prioritising allocations for sports development and incentives and was funding the Federations accordingly. At local level there was practically no money to invest in sport. A councillor had recently said that, compared with critical issues such as housing and education, sport and recreation tended to be very low on the list of priorities.

Mr M Moss (ANC) said athletes who represented their country were often required to pay their own travelling and accommodation costs.

Mr Hendricks said that the trend in South African sport that was that only those with means could afford to represent their country. South Africa had almost missed sending teams to the Commonwealth and All Africa games because of insufficient funds. In both cases, funding had been received at the last minute.

Mr C Frolick (UDM) asked if a policy was in place to deal with conflicts within Federations.

Mr Phaahla replied that the National Sports Commission had programs on conflict management to assist with this. The number of conflicts over sport taken to court had greatly reduced over the past few years; which was a positive sign.

Mr Hendricks said sports structures were overextended because of the need to deal with problems in the Federations. Sports development and other important activities also required attention.

A departmental official said some clubs did not have the required level of accounting to qualify for state funding. The department was providing them with equipment instead of money.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) said funds seldom reached the people they were intended to benefit. He supported the policy of giving equipment rather than money.

Mr Hendricks said that the Department accounted for every cent it and the Federations spent. The Federations were required to report on all money spent before more was allocated to them.

The Chair noted that the Committee has only raised some of the important questions it had wanted to discuss. She hoped that a similar meeting could be arranged soon to address outstanding issues.

The meeting adjourned.


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