Debate by Hon. MB Khawula – IFP
On behalf of the organisation with integrity, the IFP, let me kick off by putting into context the reservations of the IFP in Budget Vote 10. During the 2019/20 Budget consideration last year, as members of the Sport and Recreation Portfolio Committee, all of us were in agreement that this Department was under-funded. At the Portfolio Committee Meeting, we agreed that we were going to support that meagre budget for the last time, and that in 2020/21 Budget we would demand that Provincial Treasury must reconsider and put more money into this Department. Or else, we will all protest together by not supporting the Budget if Sport and Recreation was not given more money. In the 2020/21 Budget, Sport and Recreation still remains under-funded. But what has happened? Heeee! They have all sold out, bajika bashaya umturn-around.
That is the objection Chairperson. It is not about the Department. It is about the meagre funding allocated for the sportsmen and sportswomen of this Province. For far too long the government of KwaZulu-Natal has treated Sport and Recreation as a Cinderella department.
The Sports Agreement between Sports and Recreation and Basic Education has now become an unending story. Sesiyobonga sekwenzekile.
Some seven or so years ago, when Hon. Fikile Mbalula was still Minister of Sport and Recreation in the country, a Sport and Recreation Master Plan was developed and quoted for implementation. Up to this day, this Sport and Recreation Master Plan has never taken off because of lack of financial resources to kick-start it. This was a very good and progressive plan. This is what the IFP is appealing for from our Provincial Treasury. Show support to our provincial athletes by at least allocating some reasonable funding to the programmes of this Department.
Hon. Minister Xhasa also commissioned a Committee of Eminent Persons in Sport, which was chaired by Prof. Somadoda Fikeni. The Committee came up with a Report on a variety of issues, including transformation in sport, with recommendations and targets per Province. As the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, Hon. MEC, we want to know how far are we in respect of the implementation of those recommendations? We cannot keep on producing report after report, which never get to see action in the light of day.
It is regrettable that the position of the Department being under-funded is contradicted by the historical and chronic under-spending that has lasted in the Department for many years in succession. For many years, the Department has failed to fill the posts, some of them critical, whilst funding was made available for them to do so. For many years in succession, the Department has failed to fully utilise and report properly on the EPWP Grant, which made the Department to lose this Grant in the current financial year. The loss of the EPWP funding for the 2020/21 financial year is a loss in job opportunities for the people of KwaZulu-Natal. At least during the financial year 2019/20, the Department was able to close the big gap in funded vacant posts, to 4.5%. That is what we expect the administration to do. The failure to spend for job creation on conditional grants is in contravention of Priority 2 of the Department’s own objective, which is economic transformation and job creation.
The department of Sport and Recreation previously received funding for the employment of caretakers of the sports facilities from the Department of Public Works, through EPWP Integrated Grant for Province’s allocation. Sadly, the Department did not receive this allocation for 2019/20, and did not receive it again for 2020/21, all because of inefficiency in spending. Hon. MEC, you have the task of correcting these wrongs because we want these Grants back.
We note that the budget cuts have affected Sport and Recreation, with the Department’s Budget falling from R482.524 million in 2019/20, to R481.217 million in 2020/21. Of the total Budget of R481.217 million, R367.200 million goes to Programme 2. This is for COE and events of the Department. A mere R58.337 million is allocated for infrastructure development. So, you can imagine how long it will take for the Department to close the gap of development of sports fields and recreational facilities between the developed urban world and the under-developed rural world.
It is heart-breaking to also note that some municipalities get awarded grant funding for sport facilities development by the Department, and end up squabbling over the money and fail to spend it. The delays in Newcastle were caused by the warring factions of the ruling party there. Umzimkhulu had up to December 2020 not come off the ground because of internal squabbles. The IFP says to that those who are still squabbling, money must be taken away from them and be given to the efficient spenders.
The Department supports a number of federations and sports entities in the Province for purposes of sports development programmes. Whilst this is a good initiative, we are concerned that sports development programmes in the Province end up being skewed towards urban areas. The rural neglect has continued to be an albatross in the rural communities of our country.
The Department entered into an agreement with the Department of Basic Education with the intention of developing sporting talents among youth in schools. This programme seems not to be able to kick off smoothly. The Department must assess this partnership and find ways of improving it. One appreciates that the Department supplies sport kits and equipment to some organisations and some schools every year. No individual school must feel that they own the Department. This assistance must be given to schools of the Province on a rotational basis.
On behalf of the IFP leadership, we express condolences to the families, associates, relatives and friends of all the sportsmen and sportswomen who have passed away during the past calendar year in sports, and the past financial year. We know that sports coaches, sports administrators and sports trainers mostly perform these duties as volunteers, for the love of sport in our country.
The IFP appreciates your contribution towards the social advancement of the people of our country. Sports also makes a huge contribution into the social cohesion programmes of our communities and our country. The IFP sympathises with the sporting fraternity, as it can be realised that they were the hardest affected by COVID-19 through cancellation of the many planned events. To an athlete, a slight shift in the programme of a planned competition causes immense disruptions in the strategy for the competition. We are optimistic that when things get back to normal, our sportsmen and women will beat the odds and excel once more. God Bless you, our unsung heroes and heroines of our national patriotism.