The Sports Confederation (the embattled SASCOC) would lose much of its ability to act independently in controlling and promoting sport.  It would no longer award national colours – which will in future be the responsibility of a National Colours Board appointed by the Minister.   It – together with all other bodies involved in Sport and Recreation – will be required to carry out the policies dictated by the Minister – including the obligation to “comply with the guidelines or policies to promote equity, representivity and redress in sport and recreation” – and, more specifically, with the Government’s 2011 Transformation Charter for South African Sport (Transformation Charter).

The Transformation Charter is, in effect, the extension of the Government’s BBBEE policies into the sport sector.  It explicitly accepts the need for racial quotas and requires the changing of “sport’s demographic profile on and off the field of play so that it reflects regional and local population demographics”.

Sport and recreation bodies would also be required to comply with, and support, Government priorities relating to issues such as AIDS, crime, xenophobia, nation-building and social cohesion.

The Minister will henceforth control the relationship between South African sport bodies and international sports federations. They will have to notify him before bidding to host international events and before seeking election to, or voting in, any matter dealt with by, international bodies.

The Bill would vastly expand the powers and scope of the Minister and his Department:

The Minister will be empowered to appoint a Ministerial Committee of Inquiry, chaired by a retired judge, to investigate failures to comply with his policy directives or “any matter that may bring a sport or recreational activity or body into disrepute.”  He will also establish a Sport Arbitration Tribunal to hear disputes and appeals against decisions affecting sport and recreation.

All this will be policed by a new cohort of Sports Inspectors. They will have wide-ranging powers to inspect sport and recreation facilities and access documentation, and will be empowered to issue compliance orders.

Much of the Bill is profoundly at odds with the values and prescripts of international sporting bodies:

Can one imagine the outcry that would quite rightly ensue should anyone ever suggest that US track and field squads – or European soccer teams – should be subject to racial quotas?

Why then is the government proposing legislation that will pose such a dire risk to South Africa’s position in international sport?  What compels it to expand so unnecessarily its powers to intervene in, and control, so many aspects of sport and recreation in the country?  Why would it want to undermine the enormous goodwill generated among all South Africans by sporting successes – such as the recent victory in the Rugby World Cup – by accentuating once again the divisive issue of race?

There is one clause in the Bill that the government will probably want to reconsider.  In its desire to impose control, the government has for the first time included a provision for criminal offences.  Thus, among other provisions, any person who fails to comply with the obligations of an international sport controlling body (such as the IOC or the ICC) would be liable for a fine, or two years imprisonment. This could come back to haunt government officials as the proposed legislation is itself, a prima facie breach of South Africa’s international sporting obligations.

All South Africans who love sport and freedom should oppose the Bill at every step of its progress through Parliament.

By Dave Steward: Chairman, FW de Klerk Foundation
16 January 2020