National Paralympic Committee of South Africa: briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

28 August 2001
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Meeting report


28 AUGUST 2001

Chairperson:Mr H P Chauke

Documents handed out
Sport for people with disabilities

The Minister of Sport and Recreation congratulated the Paralympic Committee for its members recent achievement in Rome and promised his Department’s support. A number of issues were discussed such as the accessibility of sporting facilities and media coverage of sporting events for the disabled.

Mr Peter Goldhawk, the President of the Paralympic Committee, presented several issues on the disabled and sport in South Africa. Sporting achievements at the Paralympic games, disability leadership structures and organisations, talent identification and development, funding and future programmes were included in the presentation (see document).

Mr E Ferreira (IFP) stated that people’s attitude had not changed regarding the participation of disabled persons in sport. The blame must be squarely put on the media which plays an important role in changing attitudes. What is the percentage of the disabled that partake in sport in the whole country and how do they get involved in the games? Is any drug testing performed during their sports meetings.

Mr Joseph Mzondeki (ANC) asked the Paralympic Committee to unpack their percentages in terms of equity such as the number of blacks, women, rural and the disabled in the leadership structure of the organisation.

Mr Peter Goldhawk said that six per cent of the South African population is disabled. Of the 64 000 of school going age, only 25% are in schools. He stressed the fact that they are trying their level best to be representative of South African demographics. He made an example of a swimmer from the former homeland of Transkei for whom they had to organise training facilities just before the Sydney Olympic games. Transport remains their major problem in ferrying the disabled from their place of residence to training facilities.

They are busy finalising strategy on how to incorporate the visually impaired to have access to sport especially women. Provincial structures are not intact yet as they are composed mostly of volunteers. Drug testing is also performed on the sport. Athletes who are on prescribed drugs for any ailment and want to participate in sport, have to inform the sporting body within a reasonable period. Many have been disciplined for instance in Sydney for not abiding by this standing regulation. In a recent sporting meeting in Rome, a South African athlete who came first in the marathon was tested whether he was really deaf.

Mr Arthur Cowley, Vice President of the Committee, said another issue which compounded the problem is the whole question of school children not being properly assessed before being placed in special schools especially in the Eastern Cape. Only 40% women and 60% men who are disabled take part in organised sport and there are clubs around the country that caters for differentially abled persons. Duplication is by all means avoided for the process of inclusion to be successful.

Mr Goldhawk said that sporting events take place mostly in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. Talented people need to be identified in these rural areas to take them out of the area and bring them to areas where there are proper facilities. Another problem is that of the education system which has a different definition of disabilities. This needs to be sorted out with the Department of Education. They have spoken to their counterparts in Australia and the United Kingdom to find out on how they have to rectify the problem of definition.

Mr Cowley added that participation in sport is beyond physical fitness only, the educational system needs to incorporate physical education into the mainstream syllabus.

Mr R Pieterse (ANC) asked how sport is being developed especially in rural areas. Has any progress been made? He asked the Committee for an audit of the present sporting facilities in the country. It is becoming a general phenomenon that sporting bodies are moving towards professionalism but sport is also a means of socialisation, not only of going to the Olympics. The country seems to be losing disabled sports people after having won glory in international events. He mentioned Zanele who has not been profiled by the national media.

He criticised the national broadcaster for leaving the meeting before the presentation by people with disabilities. This demonstrated that the media is treating the disabled as a non newsworthy item. Many sporting facilities are not accessible and local government needs to be engaged around this issue. Do people have access to information on this subject?

Ms A Burchell, Operational Manager for the Paralympic Committee, said the Paralympic Committee does have proper representation in terms of colour and disabilities. Germiston Local authority is upgrading its sporting facilities to be completely accessible. On the accessibility of information, she said that they are presently busy with upgrading their website.

Ms N Lamani (ANC) asked at what age do they start building self esteem for school-going children. Communities should try and adopt these special schools. Multi-purpose Centres must also be utilised for the purpose of sporting facilities for the disabled.

Mr Goldhawk answered that there are different phases in which kids are taught certain skills and the starting age is 13 years for building self esteem. Educators need to be trained on how to deal with sporting needs of the disabled kids.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by saying that a presentation of this nature becomes a challenge to the Committee. More information should be provided to the Portfolio Committee especially on pressing problems. The media is not doing enough to address the legacy of the past, that is, that people with disabilities are generally ignored by the media. A meeting will be arranged between the Portfolio Committee on Education and the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation on the definition of people with disabilities.


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