By Honourable N P Msimango MPL
The Inkatha Freedom Party welcomes the budget of R426 479 000 that is allocated to the Department of Sport & Recreation.
While we welcome this budget, I must hasten to state that this funding is not sufficient for this department to carry out its mandate. I am aware that our government has many spending pressures that often take priority over sports and recreation. I am equally aware that there are those who consider sports and recreation as luxury items and therefore the effects of minimal spending on these items will not have any serious impact on the province or the lives of our people.
But I wish to debunk that myth by reminding the House that many research finding have identified that we as a nation are sitting on a ticking time bomb when it comes to the high levels of obesity among our people and especially among our children. It is not only obesity that is a concern for health care professionals, it is also diabetes that is ruining thousands of lives on a daily basis. These are lifestyle diseases that can be overcome through healthy living and eating habits.
I am aware that the Department of Health receives the second largest slice of the provincial budget and I have no problem with that, but I do believe that if we take care of the health of our children through sport and recreation, we will reduce the strain on our health care facilities. It is essential that we invest more resources in building a healthy nation. A nation that prioritises a healthy lifestyle will not be dependent on medication and hospitalisation. We need to ensure that our children do not become coach-potatoes, they must be encouraged to get out of their homes and get into playgrounds and sports fields. They need to be encouraged to participate in sporting and recreational activities, but for this to happen there has to be suitable sports facilities, coaches and structured programmes that will attract our children and keep them motivated. Therefore it is prudent for us to invest more funding in the provision of sports and recreational facilities and thereby effect savings on the purchase of expensive medication.
Having said that, Honourable Chairperson, I must express my disappointment at the delay in the construction of the sports development centre at Hoy Park in eThekwini due to “challenges experienced by the eThekwini Metro”. I find it difficult to understand why challenges should arise after a site was identified and funds were made available in the 2015/2016 budget for this project to commence. It would appear that the eThekwini Metro is always problematic when it comes to development. I am reminded about the bus transport problem that is ongoing in the metro, the delay in the construction of the statue to Indian Indentured Labourers that has been delayed for over four years, etc. We hope that the project will proceed without delay at the new site that has been identified at the Kings Park Sporting Precinct.
Honourable Chairperson, it is encouraging to note that the Department is planning on the construction of two basic sports and recreational facilities, 11 outdoor gyms and 11 kick-about sports facilities.
While this is most welcome, the location of such facilities in relation to communities is of utmost importance. These facilities must be easily accessible to communities and have the necessary support to ensure that programmes are sustained.
I would urge the Department to give attention to sports facilities that cater for those in our province who are physical challenged as I do not see this aspect receiving much attention in the budget. Sport and recreation facilities for those who are physically challenged will go a long way towards improving the quality of life of all of our citizens. While on this issue, the IFP commends the Comrades Association for implementing a directive from Athletics South Africa to allow two wheelchair athletes to participate in this year’s event. We also take this opportunity to wish all Comrades participants a successful event. I am aware that the MEC for Health, Hon Dhlomo and some members of the Legislature staff have been frequent participants in Comrades Marathons and we wish them well for this year’s event .
The IFP is proud of the 595 KZN learners who participated in the National Top Schools Tournament which was held in Pretoria in December last year. It is a great achievement that KZN was placed second in the country and our learners brought back 102 medals. Such achievements will serve to encourage other learners to participate in such activities. It will also serve to encourage parents to get involved with their children thereby building family and community unity.
Honourable Chairperson, whilst looking at the Summary of Departmental Transfers to other Entities on page 481 of the Green Book, I noticed that there is no budget allocation to Lifesaving South Africa (Water Safety). I find this rather concerning as KwaZulu-Natal is a coastal province with vast beaches that attract thousands of holiday makers all year round. During every festive season and long weekends we see large numbers of citizens from various parts of our province and nationally who go to our beaches. We also note that people drown due to negligence and a lack of knowledge about water safety. It is of utmost importance, therefore that we encourage safety, not only on the beaches but also at swimming pools where drownings take place all too frequently. I would urge the Department to reconsider its decision not to allocate funding to Lifesaving South Africa.
The community mass participation programme (Siyadlala) has been growing and is well-sustained. It is pleasing to note that through this programme 459 clubs have benefitted.
I note that the Department intends to train 800 educators and volunteers in coaching as part of the School Sport programme. This is encouraging but I would caution that educators should not be taken out of schools during teaching time as we cannot afford to have our learners being without educators. It is also important that these educators will utilise their knowledge and skills to encourage and promote sports at schools.
Concerning the School Sports programme, I do believe that there must be greater inter-departmental co-operation between this Department and the Department of Education. Schools are the most fertile grounds for the identification and nurturing of young talent and therefore more resources and attention needs to be placed at schools.
Honourable Chairperson, the IFP supports the budget.
I thank you.