South African Boxing Bill: public hearings

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 September 2000
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Meeting report

SOUTH AFRICAN BOXING BILL: PUBLIC HEARINGS

SPORT AND RECREATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 September 2000
SOUTH AFRICAN BOXING BILL: PUBLIC HEARINGS


Relevant documents
South African Boxing Bill
Regulations of the South African Female Boxing Association (SAFBA)
Submission by Supersport and M-Net
Slides from Supersport and M-Net [e-mail info@pmg.org.za if required]

SUMMARY
The South African Female Boxing Association and M-Net/Supersport made presentations. SAFBA's primary concern was that the word "female" should be added to the Bill wherever a reference to boxer is made. Their point was that there was too much room for incorrect interpretation of the Bill's provisions when it comes to women boxers. The Committee assured SAFBA that the Bill applied equally to both male and female boxers and this was constitutionally guaranteed. M-Net are opposed to the legal ramifications of Clause 29 (Broadcasting rights of tournaments) and challenged its constitutionality. Both presenters commented on the short notice given to present.

MINUTES
The Chair, Ms Bengu, noted the following:
-The purpose of the hearing was to obtain the views of the public stakeholders regarding boxing in South Africa, specifically on the Bill.
-The purpose of the Bill is to overhaul the current Act of 1954 and all its subsequent amendments, thus transforming boxing to be in line with the Constitution.
- The 1954 Act prohibits women in boxing and the new Bill would allow women to participate.

South African Female Boxing Association (SAFBA)
Ms Mohammad, Mr Sibisi (legal advisor) and Mr Mohammad presented. They noted that they had not received a copy of the Bill sufficiently in advance to be able to give a more informed and organized presentation. SAFBA gave an overview of what their organization stood for, its constitution and rules and their status in the area of women in boxing and how this Bill would affect their organization which had been established in September 1999.

SAFBA addressed only the issue of women in boxing. SAFBA's legal advisor discussed the relevant portions of the Bill, Clause 9 specifically. Although he mentioned that SAFBA had many points to make regarding the Bill, he only referred to their primary concern of adding the word "female" or the word "woman/women" into the Bill wherever a reference to the boxer is made. Their point was that there was too much room for the incorrect interpretation of the provisions in the Bill when it comes to women boxers.

Dr Sibisi said that SAFBA was a pioneer in the sport of female boxing. As an organization they are ensuring that when women are allowed to fight, they can and will do so under their wing.

The position taken by SAFBA is that they do not see this Bill being able to educate and inform women who are interested in the sport of boxing. They are prepared to cooperate with and assist Boxing South Africa in any way they can to achieve this goal.

They strongly believe that SAFBA should have some independence from the Boxing Commission as they are cognizant of the real danger of this new aspect of the sport having problems not of its own doing.

Female boxing is different from male boxing and that is the reason for the rules they have drawn up. There has to be thought given to SAFBA being able to run under its own constitution. He said, "You do not put new wine in an old bottle."

Ms Mohammad asked for clarification of Clause 9(c)i. The Chair informed the presenters of the proper protocol of the meeting to let the Committee ask questions of them first. Ms Bengu also referred to the issue of the notice given to the public about the Bill and stated that there had been sufficient notice given.

Discussion
Mr Chauke (ANC) commented that because female boxing is illegal this organization is really an underground organization. He inquired as to how they could call themselves an association. He wondered if they had any accreditation or licence. He asked about SAFBA's relationship with the National and Provincial Boxing Commissions and what was happening with female boxing throughout the country?

Ms Mohammad answered that they have been educating people on female boxing throughout the Western Cape and many women have shown interest in it. She mentioned that they visited gyms in Khayelitsha. Secondly, she agreed that they are "underground" so they cannot be registered other than as a close corporation. She stated that SAFBA has a good relationship with the provincial body. She pointed out that they could have sent their women out to fight internationally but they really want to remain in their own country.

Adv Swart (DP) reminded the meeting that the Committee needed to focus on the Bill, not a briefing on SAFBA. He asked if SAFBA was representative of female boxers throughout the country or just the Western Cape. He commented that all aspects of both female and male boxers are covered under this Bill. With regard to SAFBA's rules and regulations and separate constitution, he said that organizations are able to have their own rules as long as they are in compliance with the Bill. He asked Dr Sibisi to elaborate on his previous comments regarding the issue of a separate constitution.

Mr Pieterse (ANC) agreed that the Bill does cover the area of women in boxing. He asked about SAFBA's rules and whether or not they were accredited and by whom?

Mr Frolick (UDM) felt that the Bill would cover Dr Sibisi's concern about any problems that arise and he referred them to Clause 46. He asked them if their concerns could be catered for by the clauses in the Bill, including Clause 9. The Chair added that Clause 2(c) would also cover women in boxing and asked for SAFBA's response to this.

Dr Sibisi responded that they did not have a problem with being covered in general fashion. However, their position was that females do not seem to be represented enough. In order to avoid misinterpretation it is best to emphasize certain things. Various sections should have the word "female" or "women" added.

Mr Frolick (UDM) commented that if specific reference to female boxers was made, then specific reference would also have to be made for male boxers. Such changes would be in conflict with the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Adv Swart agreed with Mr Frolick. The Chair added that this Act must be interpreted to apply to both men and women.

Dr Sibisi replied that SAFBA is very protective of this unique area of sport. Their view was merely a general discomfort with the lack of specific reference to women. However, he now concurred that male and female are both adequately covered. "We are now comfortable with it," he said.

The Chair again raised the question regarding whom does SAFBA represent as the name suggested the whole of South Africa. "How are you structured and how are the provinces represented in your structure?"

Dr Sibisi replied that thus far the conditions around the legality of the sport have defined their operations. They would have liked to be a national body but have confined themselves. They have made contacts outside the Western Cape province and when the sport is legalized they will be able to spread their wings and reach other provinces.

They are not permitted to be accredited as an organization for female boxers as a result of the current legislation on this sport. However female boxing is legal, that barrier will be removed and they will be prepared. He made it clear that they have been very mindful and have only worked within the confines of the law.

Adv Swart (DP) tried to assure them that female boxers would have equal protection under this Bill. He asked if SAFBA knew of any other organizations in South Africa specifically dealing with female boxing.

Ms Mohammed replied that to their knowledge, there is not any other organization like them. There are many gyms operating, but not as an organization. She added that SAFBA is very willing to work with the Commission and with all parties.

Mr Chauke (ANC) commented that the Committee must hear from SAFBA about how they are running their organization currently. He asked, "Are you going to be able to work with the Boxing Commission and be a part of it or do you want to be separate?"

Ms Mohammed indicated that she had already responded to that question.

In answer to Mr Chauke, Dr Sibisi replied that contacts have been made so when the time comes, they could all join together. He elaborated that these contacts are other interested parties who are not organized but want to have a hand in this issue. He assured the Committee that their mobilizing has been done with caution, given the immediate conditions of the law

Ms Xingwana (ANC) asked whether SAFBA was working with other provinces. She asked about the difference between men and woman boxers and if they can fight each other. "How is the conditioning of men and women different?" she asked.

Mr Mohammad replied that in America he had seen female and males boxing against each other but he is against it as are most Americans. Male and females can spar against each other but SAFBA does not believe they should fight against each other. Training a female is somewhat different. There are regulations about how to fight and train a female boxer. You cannot hit a female in the stomach and breast areas. Many trainers in South Africa are skeptical about training women boxers. In South Africa, many promoters are trying to make a fast buck, so care must be taken with women.

Mr Lucas (IFP) commented that SAFBA did not seem to be representative of all female boxers, which concerned him. He added that the Bill is representative of all and he felt that the Committee needed to bring the focus back to the Bill and not on SAFBA. Adv Swart reminded the Committee that he had also requested that the focus be on the Bill. The Chair disagreed saying that SAFBA should answer the questions put to them as the committee would like to understand their structure and their role in boxing.

Mr Pieterse (ANC) stressed that this Bill is in line with the Constitution and organizations cannot bend the Constitution to suit their own needs but will have to follow it.

Ms Xingwana (ANC) agreed with Mr Mohammad that women are different inasmuch as they "have breasts and have babies". Constitutionally women are allowed to choose whatever sport they want. However this Bill must ensure that females are protected with regard to their training.

Adv Swart commented that the Committee must make sure that this Bill accommodates all of these issues.

Mr Frolick (UDM) asked the presenters if they were promoters.

Mr Muhammad replied that he does not promote women boxers, but he trains them. He does promote and train men. He said that SAFBA intends to give seminars on how to train and promote female boxers once the sport is legal. He will stop training and promoting and focus on that.

Mr Frolick (UDM) pointed to Clause 55 which Bill specifies that trainers will not be allowed to promote fights. He asked Mr Mohammad how he felt about this clause.

Mr Muhammad said he would stop training and promotion. Instead as an advocate of female boxers, he would educate people on how to do train and promote female boxers.

Mr Ferreira (IFP) referred to SAFBAs regulations specifically on health issues. He wanted to know exactly what SAFBA will do to ensure that their female boxers are fit enough to fight, considering the differences in their bodies.

Ms Mohammad replied that women would have to undergo a physical examination by the Commission's doctor just as the men do.

Mr Pieterse (ANC) requested written input from SAFBA on the Bill specifically. He asked for their view on boxing being broadcast, in terms of Clause 29 in the Bill.

Dr Sibisi replied that as an organization they had not had a chance to sit down and take a collective position. His personal view is that broadcasting is in order and it would make a positive contribution to female boxing by helping to educate the public.

Mr Chauke (ANC) commented that as the Bill is not yet enacted and this organization is "underground", such discussion should be held off. He told SAFBA that they appreciated their work and hoped that they could work well together in the future.

Adv Swaft warned SAFBA to review Clause 41 and act quickly. He wished them luck.

Dr Sibisi thanked him for drawing SAFBA's attention to that and assured him that they would do so as soon as conditions are conducive. He gave assurances that they will give whatever assistance they can offer to boxing in South Africa.

M-Net/SuperSport
Mr Kwezi Mtengenya (Director: Regulatory Affairs, MNET), Ms Amanda Armstrong (MNET legal counsel), and Mr Imtiaz Patel (Director: Supersport Enterprises) presented. Mr Mtengenya noted that they supported the Bill as a bold initiative to establish a new boxing structure that would oversee both professional and amateur boxing in South Africa.

As broadcasters they concentrated on the effect of Clause 29 and the various legal concerns arising from it. Due to time constraints, they had been unable to concentrate on other areas of the Bill. They asserted that Clause 29 would negatively impact on their business as a subscription television service and requested that Clause 29 be deleted.

Mr Mtengenya noted that MNet's service is distinct from the free-to-air services provided by operators like SABC and e-TV. They need to offer programming that is not generally available to free-to-air broadcasters if they are to keep their subscribers and attract new ones. They want to ensure that people see the need to pay for their services.

Mr Patel addressed SuperSports contribution to boxing development. He had recently had a conversation with the Commission Chairperson, Adv Solomons, and they had agreed to meet soon to come up with some solutions to the current problems. He discussed the background of how the promoter secures financial viability of a bout via two main sources: sponsorship and the sale of broadcasting rights.

In making its decision to broadcast an event, MNet's guiding principles are:
1) the popularity, ranking and size of the bill;
2) whether the majority of their viewers and the market want to see the fight and
3) whether it will enhance their product offering to viewers and attract new subscribers.
This is a business decision which must satisfy the boxer's purse, the sponsor getting full value for its sponsorship, the promoter being able to "boast" about a big event, and its incentive for promoters to seek new and potentially successful boxers and events.
He outlined the financial obligations for the promoters with marketing and promotions being an important areas.

Most importantly he discussed the effect that the broadcasting clause in the Bill will have on their business as broadcasters:
-The clause will kill the initiative of promoters to "play the market" and get the best deal." - A broadcaster who knows that it is the only "player" will radically reduce the rights fees.
- This will negatively impact the promote'rs ability to pay the boxers and thus host a commercially successful event.
- In most cases, free-to-air TV channels may not be able to afford big World Title fights.

The impact of this clause on the sport:
- The likelihood of the more established promoters taking their fights outside of South Africa where they would be free to negotiate with anybody and then "sell" the rights back to the South Africa market.
- This will have a negative impact on the sport with less money going into the coffers of promoters, boxer's facilities and ultimately into the development of boxing itself.

Mr Patel concluded that internationally boxing was one of the first major Pay TV sports and the funds so generated, have developed boxing into the major sport that it is today.

Ms Armstrong addressed the legal concerns of Clause 29:
- It is an unreasonable and unjustifiable limitation on the right to freedom of expression, and is therefore unconstitutional.
- The section is in breach of Section 192 of the Constitution, which requires the establishment of an independent authority to regulate broadcasting in the public interest.
- It attempts to bypass the provisions of the Broadcasting Act.
- An additional reason why the clause would not pass constitutional scrutiny is that it would fall foul of the property clause in the Bill of Rights.
- The retrospective effect of Clause 29 aggravates the above problems

Discussion
Adv Swart (DP) agreed that Clause 29 would not pass the constitutionality test and that it bypasses the provisions of the Broadcasting Act as that Act covers them already. He was interrupted by the Chair who made it clear that it was inappropriate for the Committee to make any decisions with regard to support or disapproval of a particular presentation. This hearing was only to hear the views of the stakeholders and for the Committee to ask questions of them. The Committee would debate the issues later.

Adv Swart apologized. He asked SuperSport to discuss their views on Clause 5 (Independence of Boxing South Africa). In light of their request to remove Clause 29, he asked them what assurances can they give that boxing bouts of a national interest will be available for all to see.

Ms Armstrong replied that the Committee's concern with regard to broadcasters is already covered in the Broadcasting Act. She continued that their feeling on whether or not boxing is for all of the public is a subject for debate.

Mr Momberg (ANC) asked is it their view that if Clause 29 is removed, this concern would be covered by other legislation such as Clause 37 of Broadcasting Act.

Both Mr Patel and Ms Armstrong answered that it would.

Mr Ntuli (ANC) asked them "what about serving the whole of South Africa?"

Mr Chauke (ANC) noted that based on the previous day's hearing, the Committee is aware that there are issues concerning the small, historically disadvantaged promoter. This Bill is an effort to work on the current problems within boxing in South Africa. He did not understand how SuperSport contributed to the making of champions and boxing in South Africa, as noted by Mr Patel. He asked if it was a financial contribution or was it merely by broadcasting that they have contributed to boxing in South Africa.

Mr Patel made reference to having agreements with existing contacts.

Mr Chauke wondered if those contacts included promoters in disadvantaged areas or only those in privileged areas. He added that he agreed that the constitutionality of Clause 29 does need to be discussed more. However, he asked what should be put in its place, if removed. To him, it seemed as if SuperSport was giving a lot of money to advantaged promoters and very little or none to the disadvantaged.

Mr Pieterse (ANC) agreed with Mr Chauke. He commented that the broadcasters (specifically SuperSport) cannot close their eyes to the wrongdoing in the sport of boxing in South Africa. He brought up what the promoters had addressed the previous day about the broadcasters having individual deals with the larger promoters. He asked, "Is this true? Can you confirm this?"

Mr Pieterse (ANC) thanked SuperSport for the professional presentation and written submission. However there were no suggestions on how to handle the issues they had raised. He requested that they do so.

Mr Neinane (ANC) assured SuperSport that the Committee was not disregarding the contribution already given by SuperSport, but they could not discuss problems without providing solutions. No alternatives to Clause 29 were given. How can the objective be met without Clause 29?

Mr Neinane added that the broadcasters have had a tendency to make differences between the races with regards to their dealings with promoters. He asked for their suggestions to combat this problem.

Ms Xingwana (ANC) thanked MNet for a challenging presentation, specifically the issues surrounding the constitutionality of clause 29. She said that theirs was the most professional submission received. However she suggested that SuperSport do more than a one-hour programme per month as mentioned by Mr Patel. She said they needed to reach out more to underprivileged boxers and to women.

Mr Patel responded that they do make a contribution over and above making champions. He mentioned giving unknown boxers actually two hours a month. He said that they can definitely discuss doing more. He noted that they have worked with free-TV in giving them airtime, allowing them to show previously viewed fights or showing highlights of those fights.

Mr Mtengenya added that they operate within the confines of broadcasting legislation and this legislation makes sure that the objectives are met. He said that contribution to the community is not only in terms of M-Net/SuperSport, but also e-TV and the like.

Ms Xingwana (ANC) said she had a problem with the presentation because it seemed to only deal with SuperSport and its business and did not address the boxers, the people of South Africa and women. She asked them how they saw the Committee resolving the issue of South Africans being able to be involved in the sport.

Ms Xingwana (ANC) asked whose property is South Africa boxing? "Are you only concerned with your property rights? What about the boxers, etc.?" She said she believed boxing to be a national asset. She highlighted the Constitution and its provision on access to information. Ms Xingwana said that one's own freedom of expression must not hinder other people's freedoms. She asked whose freedoms do you address?

The Chair explained that what the Committee is trying to do is do away with the race and gender discrimination issues. The Committee had hoped that SuperSport would have looked at the broader issues as to the communities that these boxers come from and the role that all play, not only to look at the already successful. She asked them if they would try and address these issues specifically.

Mr Mtengenya responded that he felt as if too many questions had been asked of them all at once, but they would try to answer as best as possible.

Mr Patel responded to the request that they take a broader view. He said that they thought it would be disrespectful and inappropriate in their submission to go into the domain of boxing in South Africa. They wanted to address only the context of the Boxing Commission and their interaction with SuperSport, hence their narrow presentation. As to the issue of racism and discrimination. He said it would go against their views as individuals, to be racist. He asked that the Committee bear in mind that they are a business within the confines of the Constitution. They would like all to be able to view the sport, but that cannot always happen. It is within their constitutional right to run the company in a businesslike manner, which means that some may not be able to view.

Mr Chauke (ANC) asked who owns the rights? He asked them "to please answer this" because there is a big problem of exploitation and he wants to know where the boxer is represented.

Mr Patel responded that he understood that there is an issue of exploitation. He said that they felt that that was an issue that should be dealt with at the Commission's level not at the broadcaster's level. The Commission and the promoters need to discuss that, NOT the broadcasters. He said that they do not get involved with the issues between the promoters and the Commission.

Mr Pieterse (ANC) reacted strongly, saying that the broadcasters cannot stand separate from these issues in their own commercial reality. He said you cannot build the type of country that we want to build standing alone in your own interests. He told them that they needed to find a way to contribute in a much more prominent way.

Mr Fihla (ANC) asked them if they knew how the money was being used that they give to the promoters. He wanted to know if they knew or cared if the boxer was actually receiving his fair share of that money.

Adv Swart (DP) asked them in what way do they see themselves as a business playing a social role.

Mr Patel responded that they would be able to assist in all of these areas, if Boxing South Africa and SuperSport could sit down and work together to address these challenges. He said that they do not say they want one promoter and not the other. He said they take the best fight offered to them. He feels as though most of the questions and comments made regarding the issues of promoters and exploitation are for Boxing South Africa and Clause 29 does not address them. He strongly believed that those issues should be addressed at that level.

Mr Mtengenya felt that Clause 29 would only exacerbate the issues that the overall Bill is trying to address.

Mr Ntuli (ANC) commented that the meeting seemed to be going in circles and they need to allow the presenters to give more thought to some of the issues raised and submit their views in writing to the Committee.

The Chairperson noted that M-Net/SuperSport's presentation was impressive and commended them on doing their homework on the Bill and challenging the Committee. However it addressed only their concerns and did not offer any solutions. She requested that they do so in writing as soon as possible.

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