The Democratic Alliance says it has written to the minister of sports, Nathi Mthethwa, seeking clarity on the deadline for submissions by the public on the controversial Sport and Recreation Amendment Bill.
It said that the 30 day comment period outlined by the bill, is far too short, especially as it falls within the holiday period.
The bill, released by the department in December, seeks to amend the National Sport and Recreation Act to broadly “provide for the promotion and development of sport and recreation”.
This includes establishing a Sport Arbitration Tribunal to resolve disputes between sport or recreation bodies; regulate combat sport; regulate the fitness industry; provide for the procedure in bidding for and hosting of international sports and recreation events; provide for the delegation of powers; provide for offences and penalties; and to provide for matters connected with these.
Among the many proposed changes in the bill is the removal of the independence of sports bodies, which would now have to develop ways to promote their sports in consultation with the minister, as well as giving the minister power to step-in directly in any disputes within sports.
The department also wants to assume full control of all sports codes, with its oversight extending to “any national federation, agency, club or body, including a trust, professional league, or registered company of such a national federation, agency, club or body, involved in the administration of sport or recreation at local, provincial or national level.”
This would ostensibly include fitness groups like Virgin Active and Planet Fitness, which would have to register and be certified by the department.
The department would also be empowered to hand out penalties to organisations or aforementioned clubs if they do not comply with the prescriptions in the Act, including fines and up to two years in jail.
According to experts and sports bodies speaking to Rapport, the move is nothing short of the nationalisation of sport in South Africa and could lead to the country being booted out of international competitions like the Olympics.
The draft amendment bill gives the minister a direct hand in practically everything to do with sports and fitness in the country, which could extend to selecting sports teams, or any other directive that falls in line with the department’s goal of ensuring “transformation in sport”.
The DA argues that the bill places the minister at the centre of everything that happens in sport and that throughout the document, the powers are vested in the minister and/or his authorised representative – at local, provincial as well as national level.
Some of the potential problems contained in the bill include:
- The role of recognised sport Confederations is in some cases replaced with only the minister’s. Furthermore, sports bodies will no longer be able to arrange international events or meetings without the consent of the minister.
- Disputes between sports bodies will also only be resolved by the minister via a tribunal.
- The minister will further be able to regulate the appointments of foreign coaches. Cricket SA or professional football (SAFA) will therefore have to obtain permission from the minister to make appointments in this regard. Even sports promoters will be regulated in the future.
- The minister will be the only person to award Protea colours and the powers of federations and Sascoc will be limited to recommendations.
- The minister may change the policy that may influence team selection. Minister Mthetwha’s statements in July 2019 that the demographics of national teams must change to promote social cohesion speak volumes. To this end, the DA said it certainly does not support sports quotas.
“We will not rest until an adequate period of time is granted for the necessary comments and submissions to this bill,” the DA said.
“Minister Mthetwha and his department must sort out the confusion around the closing date for comments and ensure that it is properly communicated to the public.”
The memo on the proposed changes can be read below: