The Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture has released a new draft of the amendment bill in December which brings all sports codes, clubs, and fitness organizations under the direct regulatory control of the Minister. According to the department, it seeks to amend the National Sport and Recreation Act to broadly provide for the promotion and development of sport and recreation.
The amendment process includes the establishment of 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. Kobus Marais, The South African Sports Federation’s added that the draft laws take away all power from sports bodies while adding more responsibilities and pressure.
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,Nathi Mthethwa who will now have the power to step-in directly and deal with disputes in sports. The department will also be handing out penalties to organizations if they do not comply with the prescriptions in the Act which includes fines facing jail time.Furthermore, Virgin Active and Planet Fitness will also have to register and be certified by the department.
According to experts and sports bodies, the move is nothing short of the nationalization 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 department will also have the final say on who qualifies for national colours in all sporting codes, and who gets to host or participate in any international competition. Secretary-General of the department, Sumayya Khan says “The minister is just seeking to establish a mechanism through which the department can maintain oversight, without getting mixed up in the day-to-day running of sports bodies.
By Amanda Mkhize