Swimming SA Strategies and Transformation: Department briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

30 August 2005
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Meeting report

SPORT AND RECREATION SOUTH AFRICA: PORTFOLIO COMMITEE

SPORT AND RECREATION PORTFOLIO COMMITEE
30 August 2005
SWIMMING SA STRATEGIES AND TRANSFORMATION: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING


Chairperson:
Mr B Komphela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Swimming South Africa PowerPoint presentation
Transformation In Swimming South Africa
National Squad Strategy

SUMMARY
Swimming South Africa (SSA) briefed the Committee on its work. Officials reported that it was very important to teach every learner in the country to swim. With heated pools, swimming had become an all year round sport. The Lottery had provided funding to renovate some facilities. More was needed in the rural areas where councils were not maintaining pools, as they did not have the resources. More staffing was needed at all levels where programmes were ongoing.

SSA had appointed a National Coaching Director to bring key skills into the country. Major international events included the Commonwealth Games, the Sub Sahara Meet, the World Championships and the African Junior Championships to be held in Mauritius. At the Commonwealth Youth Games, the South African swimming team had come first and won 27 medals. SSA was linking with the Department of Water Affairs to look more at open water swimming.

The Committee responded that the overall picture was very impressive in terms of development, but there were not sufficient facilities for swimming. It was also no use having a facility with no teachers. There was a need train teachers and to change social culture to help grow the sport. SSA should form partnerships with such countries as Cuba, Russia and China rather than Australia and the USA. The State should intervene more to support the sport financially.

MINUTES

Committee Planning
While waiting for an extension cable for the SSA PowerPoint presentation, the Committee discussed a number of other issues. The Chairperson stated that the Cricket Committee would likely not be too comfortable with the cricket budget process. Two letters had been sent to Cricket, who claimed they did not have funds to attend Parliament.

Swimming had also claimed it could not attend because of budget constraints. He asked the Department Head to explain why they did not have funds, as according to figures received from the National Lottery and the Department, swimming was a major consumer of the bulk of those funds. Not to come to Parliamentary Committee meetings was a breach of the Constitution with far-reaching consequences.

The Chairperson continued that there was a need to take a resolution on who would participate in the MTN-sponsored event in KwaMashu. It was agreed that those going to KwaZulu-Natal the next day should come along. Arrangements would be made for accommodation but not for transport. This Committee had used its budget, while other Committees had not used their budgets at all. Parliament had decided that those Committees that had not used their funds should give 70% to the Committees that had done so.

Mr T Lee (DA) felt the DA was not being timeously informed of events, referring specifically to the tournaments in KwaMashu. The Chairperson added that they would have to conduct oversight of the National Under-16s tournaments that would be held soon in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Swimming South Africa briefing
Mr Jayce Naidoo (President, Swimming South Africa) said his organisation did not treat the Committee or Parliament lightly, but attendance had been restricted by lack of funds. Every effort was being made for sport to become non-racial, and he highlighted some of the challenges. It was difficult for small federations to get administrative funds. For instance, swimming did not get as much funding as athletics. A significant amount came from the Lottery, of which more than two thirds went to facilities. Sending two people to a Committee meeting would take away resources from other important issues.

With regard to young athletes and progress for the future, Swimming SA had a high-performance programme that included a transformation policy, a drive to develop partnerships with local municipalities, mass participation programmes linked together with sports and recreation, and a focus on new geographical areas.

In terms of national strategy, there was a big gap between national level and swimming outside the country and this needed to be looked at from a global point of view. Finally SSA had appointed a National Coaching Director, Mr Dirk Lange from Germany to bring key skills into the country. A national squad programme had been developed and implemented and designed for athlete performance. The squad was getting experience in terms of international competition. Mr Naidoo gave a breakdown of where the talent lay and the various levels. In terms of representation, 34 of those swimmers were black and 40 were women.

The programme also looked at both senior and junior coaches for the squads, and for the long-term sustainability of the programme. 13 of the coaches were black and three were women.

Very clear selection criteria had been set to get into the various squads and also as to what the objectives of the squads were. There was a need to provide senior athletes with international experience in international competitions so they could compete with the best in the world. The focus for junior athletes was on gaining experience. Two camps were set up per year, with the focus on education and life skills and being role models for the country.

With regard to coaching there was a long-term sustainable programme for coaches and development programmes consisted of professional coaching practices. Junior coaches were taken to international competitions. A bridging programme was set up for instructors to understand the concept of coaching. A coaching coarse was purchased from the USA, which was being adapted for coaching levels one and two. There was a mentorship programme attached to the senior coach, benchmarked against other countries to see what we could learn from them from a coaching point of view.

Major international participation included the Commonwealth Games, the Sub Saharan Meeting, the World Championships and the African Junior Championships in Mauritius. In terms of participation and performance, at the Commonwealth Youth Games our swimming team came first with 27 medals (14 gold, five silver and nine bronze); at the World Championships the team came fourth overall, with two gold, one silver and two bronze medals, breaking three SA Junior records. At the Sub Sahara Meeting, nine records were broken and Daniel van der Linde won the Victor Ladorum in his age group. 32 medals were won in total in 2004. In 2005, that number had gone up to 40 medals, an increase of 20%.

Mr Naidoo then went through the various high performance initiatives. One focus was to bring more women into the competition, and also to focus on a squad to take more athletes to the Commonwealth Games. There was a fair amount of interest across the country. Four athletes would be selected to participate. Training and education was needed in terms of managers understanding their responsibilities.

In terms of the transformation policy, documentation had been circulated. In 2004, athletes were not delivering on expectations, the gaps had been identified and targets had been set as to where they wanted to be in four years. There were huge discrepancies in the various provinces and their capacity to deliver. Targets were then set for each province separately based on the resources they had. SSA was waiting for a final document from SASCOC to finalise the policy to ensure alignment and delivery on targets. This applied not just to athletes but also to all levels of organisation.

With regard to facilities, swimming had become an all-year-round sport. Help from the Lottery gave funding to renovate more facilities, but more was needed in the rural areas where councils were not retaining them, as they did not have the resources to do that. Human resources were needed at all levels where programmes were ongoing. Specific programmes included teaching structures, programmes of the ocean, rural pools and clubs. There was a need for synergy between schools and federation programmes.

With regard to job creation, there was a business skills programme training unemployed youth, which structured training as a life course, a leadership-training programme and succession planning.

Sport played a critical role in transformation and should be used in more sectors of the nation.
SSA was linking with the Department of Water Affairs on a drive to look at open water swimming and swimming in open areas. There was a trend for big events to take place in open waters, these events had to be controlled to ensure safety was taken care of. People living around dams had not learned to swim and accidents happened. The Department was looking to legislate for the control of those events.

Mr Naidoo referred to the Rural Splash programme from February to April 2005 when 110 instructors were trained and gave the demographics of swimming participation.

A BMI survey showed that swimming was popular and the reason people got involved was because it required much dedication, was very stylish and graceful, and required skill and endurance. Sponsors allocated resources to draw more people into the sport.

Discussion
Mr E Saloojee (ANC) referred to his experience in Johannesburg. In summer, Rhodes Park seemed to be reserved for whites but in Bezuidenhout Valley, the swimming pool and tennis courts were abandoned and neglected. Five children had drowned in nearby Bruma Lake. The overall picture was very impressive in terms of development, but facilities for swimming were not evident. Facilities in the black townships did not seem to be utilised. That seemed to be reality in his constituency.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) asked what Swimming SA was doing in terms of using the facilities in Model C schools. In the Western Province, SSA should check where such facilities were open to everybody and to what extent the maintenance of that facility was done. He asked for a breakdown by province.

Mr L Reid (ANC) enquired whether the German coach was from East or West Germany. Ryk Neethling was quoted as not being at peak because he was not swimming in the USA. Was that because of local competition or coaching levels or equipment? He asked whether there were currently any black swimmers swimming in the USA being exposed to those facilities.

Regarding benefits from the Lottery, swimming and athletics got the best funding. Lottery funding was targeted for specific purposes. What other challenges were faced with regard to the funding? He asked for figures as to funds received from the Lottery over the last three years had assisted the programmes, and what proposals could be made to the Lottery for additional funds.

Mr T Lee (DA) recalled there was a time when swimming galas were attended on a regular basis and he had wondered why Uitenhage could swim and others not, but it was simply because they had a swimming pool and dedicated teachers. The key lay in the facility and dedicated teachers. Children needed to be coached. He asked SSA which facilities had been built, which had been upgraded and where that was happening. It was no use getting the children enthusiastic without coaching.

Mr Naidoo responded to the question of the utilisation of facilities. An ongoing challenge was getting structures to be placed at those facilities. There was a need to use lifeguards. The previous volunteers seemed to have disappeared. Children used to be coached by teachers but that culture seemed to be no longer there and that was a challenge. With heated facilities swimming was no longer just a summer sport.

With regard to Model C schools, Mr Naidoo said SSA was engaging with USSASA and the Department of Education. Schools did not have resources. Running a swimming pool would cost approximately R10 000 to R15 000 per month; the schools could not sustain that kind of cost and funding would have to come from another source.

In terms of swimming programmes, there were 25 swimming programmes spread across the country, mostly in Gauteng but SSA tried to spread these across all provinces. Over the last few years three facilities were renovated in Gauteng, being Dobsonville, Eldorado Park and Lenasia; Retreat in the Western Cape, the University of Western Cape and a facility in East London prior to the SA Games.

Almost R7 million had been received from the Lottery last year for swimming overall. Of this R5 million was for upgrading of facilities, the rest was used on a project basis. A fair amount went into schools training, awareness programmes, Rural Splash and Ocean Splash. R780 000 went into Olympic preparation and for support of athletes. It was very clear in terms of the business plan as to where funds were being targeted. There was the uncertainty with the Lottery that SSA could not budget in advance, as there was no guarantee. There was a big gap from the time it was informed to funds actually being received, and then that had to be used before the financial year-end.

With reference to programmes for Mpumalanga and Limpopo, there were rural programmes specifically targeted for these areas and volunteers were already working with that as well as in the North West.

In reply to Mr Reid’s question on the German coach, he came from West Germany. We could learn a lot from other countries with little resources, such as Cuba, where the government played a key role in appointing coaches. They were delivering on an international level. There was a gap in linkage between sport and society. With regard to HIV/AIDS, it was critical to ensure the youth was healthy.

With regard to Ryk Neethling’s preparation, he had made a conscious decision to do the best for South Africa and was involved in many development programmes in the townships for children. It was not easy for him not getting the competition he would get in the USA.

As to why programmes did not deliver, Mr Naidoo said the odds were against them. In mass participation there was talent but they did not have the resources to take programmes to the townships. The college programme in the USA was huge and South Africans went there because of the bursaries.

As far as teachers and dedicated coaches were concerned, there was a need to get teachers trained and change culture to help grow the sport. It was no use having a facility and no teachers.

There was a need to make South Africa more attractive; it cost too much to send swimmers to the USA. There was a need to have bursaries and a college league in place. South Africa’s new national coach was attracting international swimmers. Those were the products to build on in terms of the college system to make it more attractive for our swimmers to stay in South Africa.

Mr Dikgacwi referred to the issue of Model C schools; which were mostly attended by African and so-called coloured pupils. Since 1994 there had been no resources to maintain facilities. It was important for Swimming SA to engage with the Department of Education. He felt South Africa should exchange programmes with Cuba instead of sending swimmers to the USA. They would learn more in Cuba.

Mr Reid agreed with setting up a similar system locally. Since 1992, all SA gold medal winners had studied in the USA and he asked how long it would take for them to get to the same level in this country.

Mr Saloojee asked whether Model C schools were being visited, as they should be significantly funded by the State. It was still traditional for the formerly Soviet states to support sport. The State should intervene.

Mr Naidoo responded that in terms of partnerships with Cuba he had a list of all agreements with the Department of Sports and Recreation and were looking at proposals for specific areas. Unfortunately the cost of bringing Cubans into the country for partnerships would drain resources. Partnerships with Russia, Great Britain, Germany and China would be pursued on an ongoing basis.

Regarding the German coach, the individual had to meet certain requirements and performance levels; the post had been advertised locally and internationally. He had been the only foreign person to apply and the best person to take us forward into the next league. The South African public was expecting more medals and planning had to cater for that.

Ms MJ van Oerle (SSA General Manager) said it would take approximately eight years to produce top-level athletes, and it would mean taking about 40 swimmers through a programme to end up with maybe one star. World Champion von Biljon who was in the top six had trained at Pretoria University.

Ms van Oerle continued that SSA was trying to engage schools at various levels and had engaged with the national Department of Education. They realised why pools were not being maintained and also the issue of fear for teachers who could not swim and were afraid of drowning. These issues needed to be addressed to get teachers more confident.

Mr Naidoo said we should share our expertise with other African countries and build the African continent as well.

With regard to rural areas, Mr Naidoo continued that there had been very successful engagement in Mpumalanga but there were not a lot of registered swimmers in Mpumalanga. SSA was taking swimming into the rural areas and had engaged very successfully with the Department of Sport in Mpumalanga.

With regard to Pinetown and surroundings, SSA had submitted an application to the Lottery for upgrading of facilities at KwaMashu and for an outreach programme for schools in that area. In terms of KZN, broadly municipalities were spending a lot of money in terms of training of instructors and teaching children to swim, with lifeguards training as instructors as well. Another South African reality was the transport system where children had to taxi home; we would have to deal with the transport system to enable the children to swim.

In terms of democracy and accountability, SSA had produced an Annual Report and financial statements together with an account of activities during the past year. It was important for people to know how money was spent

The Chairperson asked the Committee when they should go on an oversight visit to check facilities and to engage with municipalities. Many municipalities did not have the revenue to sustain facilities. There had been a breakthrough in terms of integration. Clear collaboration was taking place with all spheres of government. The Portfolio Committee was still young. Sport had previously been run on a voluntary basis and our country was still locked in that mindset, and could not bank on volunteers as far as development was concerned. He asked SSA to meet with the relevant Sector Education and Training Authoriy (SETA) and ask on behalf of the Committee that they supply funds to develop human resources.

SSA could give input on the challenges facing sport and how it could assist SSA to tap into the resources of Model C schools and engage with the Department of Sport and Recreation.

The issue of heating water became part of the financial constraints. Small municipalities did not have resources, unemployment was rife and people were living on government grants.

He referred to the new focus and asked Mr Naidoo what the old focus was. The Chairperson was comfortable with job creation. SSA was going about that in the correct way together with government. SSA was contributing towards government’s goals.

The co-operation with Water Affairs was welcomed. It was very exciting that from time to time government would forget about the wealthy countries and instead of measuring against Australia, the USA and France, SSA was the first to say that as a developing country we could not compare. Cuba did not have a large budget, yet it was world class.

The Chairperson referred to the very important breakdown of facilities around the country. He was not comfortable with swimming at school level. Not all schools had swimming pools.

Mr Naidoo responded thatinformation would be made available electronically on the issue of facilities. SSA did not own facilities; they were in partnership with municipalities. SSA had tried on numerous occasions to invite the Committee to events. SSA would continue working on the urban areas of KZN, Free State, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. In terms of the issue of mass participation and government and delivery it was important for government to get involved. This could not be done in isolation but only in partnership with the federation.

In terms of who South Africans compared themselves to, Mr Naidoo said we should also look at expectations. A high medal delivery would take away from mass participation. There was a need to work more on the issues of job creation and schools. A number of challenges and where to focus had been identified. SSA had already had an initial meeting with the Department of Education.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Naidoo for his frank presentation and asked that the SSA communicate more with the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Committee Secretary’s minutes
The Committee Secretary’s Minutes of meetings held on 16 and 17 August 2005 were then unanimously adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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