Transformation of Sport in South Africa

Transformation of Sport in South Africa


Address to the Annual General Meeting of the SWD Sport Council BENNET BAILEY


The President of the Sports Council, Mr. Goliath Munro, Secretary of the Sports Council, Mr. Dave vd Walt thank you for the invite. When approached to share a few words with you, I look at the opportunity to share thoughts that will provoke debate, without fear or favour. There are things in life that some of us does not want to acknowledge, say, think, feel or even want to hear. Transformation happens to be one of them. Some equate it with a head count of people. Some regard transformation as reverse racism. Some see it as blatant racism. At times, referrals are made to “the africanisation of society”. This must be worrying to society, seen in the light of the current xenophobia attacks experienced by the foreigners.

The Western Cape is going through a period of change. The way change is managed leaves a lot to be desired. Change is at the behest, at most, at the desire of the designer. As I grew up, I learned or tried to learn from elders. This shaped the way I look and approached things in life. At times it is difficult to translate those learning’s into reality. However, the most important lesson learned is, when in doubt, look at the legal avenues available. Look at past experiences to pave the way forward. In our instance, transformation, we can look at the Zimbabwe Cricket team. The jury is obviously out if the sacking of the leadership of Zim cricket was good or bad. What we have witnessed at the recent 20/ 20 World Cup, clearly indicates that change can be good. But how it is managed, need to be with good intentions as well. Back to the constitution. We have one of the most liberal constitutions in the world. We mention this at times and we brag about it aloud. Now lets look at our constitution. Can or does it assist transformation.

“The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires the people of South Africa to weave the elements of equality, humanity and compassion within the fabric of our conduct and the formal structures of the law. Our Constitution retains from the past only what is defensible and represents a decisive break from, and a ringing rejection of that part of the past which is disgracefully racist, authoritarian, insular and repressive, and promotes the vigorous identification of and commitment to a democratic, universalistic, caring and inspirationally egalitarian ethos.

South Africa’s entry into the international arena and the total reorganisation of all sports within the country was premised on the momentous and fundamental political changes in this country since 1990. Undoubtedly, sport played a very significant role in the isolation and eventual destruction of the apartheid regime, and it is now necessary that sport play a similar role in the construction of a new non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South African nation.

Our Constitution demands that we strive for a society built on the democratic value of human dignity, the achievement of equality, the advancement of human rights and freedom.

The Employment Equity Act (Equality act)

The central provision of the Equality Act is section 6, which declares: “neither the State nor any person may unfairly discriminate against person.” The Equality Act provides full recognition to affirmative action measures. The Equality Act endeavours to facilitate the transition to a democratic society that is united in its diversity and guided by the principles of equality, fairness, equity, social progress justice, human dignity and freedom. It places a positive duty and responsibility on the state, non-governmental organisations, community based organisations, traditional institutions and all persons to promote equality.

Many more South Africans of Indian origin are now supporting and favouring the fortunes of the National Cricket Team since Hashim Amla has been selected to play. Similarly, the inclusion of Black African players in the National Rugby Team has invigorated interests in this sport amongst the overwhelming majority of people in our country. Having and still administering sport, I really do not believe that we have constructively made sufficient strides in producing the role models demanded by society.

The concept of quotas in its very making smacks of tokenism. This requires the achievement of representivity for its own sake. It is therefore not surprising that senior officials have criticised the quota system. Mr Gerald Majola issued a statement in July 2002 stating the following:

We must disabuse cricket fans and the sporting community in general of the perception that quota players are inferior and less talented than their White counterparts. And we must put an end to the narrow believes that our administrators havenot transformed the sport that use to be seen as the preserve of White South Africa.

What worried me is that this statement was made before the World Cup in 2003, which resulted in the selection of 4 athletes. Of which two played regularly and two warmed the bench. In 2007, 7 athletes of colour were selected. The squad consists of 15 players. 6 played all the games. They were all white. I have included Herschelle as a white player. The six players also included AB De Villiers. Followed by the rest. At the very bottom we have three black players, Robin Petersen (2 games), Loots Bosman (1 game) and Roger Telemachus (0 games). If we start analysing the top group which consist of Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, AB, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock, then you will see that their scores was not magnificent. Lets focus on one of the top group, AB. His scores for the games were, 42, 0, 146, 15, 0, 92, 62, 0, and 0. Pollock took seven wickets while Ntini took four. There was only one African in the team, Ntini. All of this happened after the announcement made by Gerald Majola in 2002. Are we as the saying goes, “Black man you on your own”?

National Federations have embarked on the process of introspection for more than a decade now. However, there are specific instances where the concept of minimum targets is not clearly spelled out. In a sense there is justifiable frustration in members of the designated groups that these targets are actually hindering the merit selection of many deserving Black players. The key to resolving this important debate does not lie in the knee-jerk pushing up of Black players into White dominated teams but rather in the creation of an environment that is conducive to providing opportunities for equitable participation in sport. One of the tragedies if not major tragedies that we will be criticised for by our predecessors is that in a time span extending over 16 years of sport unity, and having wasted hundreds of millions of rands in development programmes, we have not been able to identify talent and make our National and Provincial Teams as representative, as we would like them to be.

It was an express stipulation that guided unity talks as a condition of our admission to international sport that development programmes had to be instituted that would fast track closing the gap between access as well as performance levels in advantaged and disadvantaged communities. These programmes have been instituted and continue to operate in almost all instances. However, transformation, or as we would love to know it, development programmes has become the stepchildren of codes.

Then, when Black players do break through to the mainstream teams, (often as a result of demands for greater representivity); their inclusion is attributed to a so-called quota system. Very seldom is it attributed to merit selection. The inclusion of Black players rather tends to be associated with a lowering of standards and an abandonment of excellence. The excellence versus transformation paradox has become a well-worn debate, alongside the merit, development and quota issues. Here, it is only a healthy and thriving development programme that is directed at all our youth that will result in the success of any high performance programmes that the codes may wish to put in place. Excellence can only be attained if it has as its base a national transformation and development programme that is adopted and embraced by everyone in sport.

The aforementioned, speaks mostly about race, colour, representivity and demands to be included in sport. Is transformation about this only? Research has shown, that transformation is as inclusive as it can be. It includes;

  1. Good governance
  2. Democratic practices
  3. United body
  4. Accountable structure.
  5. Transparent record keeping and practices.
  1. Equity
  2. Already expanded on.
  1. Ethos
  2. Attitude of people to change.
  3. Recognition of black history.
  4. Spectator behaviour.
  5. Parents involvement
  6. Educator’s role.
  7. Common sports culture
  8. Symbols.
  1. Sport and Recreation culture
  2. Common value system
  3. Establish clubs
  4. Development programmes.
  5. Resources.
  6. Community programmes
  7. Venues
  8. Boundaries
  9. Dispute Resolution
  1. Resources
  2. Finances
  3. Facilities
  4. Human resources
  5. BEE Practices
  1. Globalisation
  2. Innovative and scientific approach.
  3. Professionalisation.
  4. Commercialisation.
  1. Development
  2. School sport.
  3. Youth sport
  4. Farm sport.
  5. Rural sport
  6. Seniors
  7. Elite sport
  8. Education and training
  9. Educators


When looking at the aforementioned, you will gauge that transformation is a process, and not an event. However, it is being treaded as an event, and marginalized to the dustbin of history. How do we turn the tide around? That should be the fundamental question.

We need to invest considerable resources in the reconstruction of credible and competent leadership capacity. New generations of leaders will not mushroom naturally. Leadership development cannot be left to chance – this requires a deliberate, calculated well-researched effort. There must be an institution that serves as the backbone of leadership development and this institution must be people friendly. The influence of sports on the structure and the destiny of our country are far-reaching.

A society not exposed to moral challenges and not privileged with the choice of visible and significant alternatives can easily fall into a state of bad habits. But a nation sharply sensitised through ethical alternatives, and challenged, to make a visibly, relevant choice of values, and institutions, is potentially a nation reborn and we need that reborn, a new cadre of leadership.

Thank you for listening.