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Team SA at the Tokyo Olympic Games does not reflect demographics of the country‚ says minister Mthethwa

05 August 2021 - 16:34 By mahlatse mphahlele
Sport, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Sport, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa says the team that SA sent to the Olympic Games in Tokyo does not reflect the demographics of the country.

The South African Sport and Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) sent a squad of 185 athletes‚ the largest contingent the country has ever sent to an Olympics‚ to participate in 17 of the 33 sporting codes in Japan.

South Africa have only managed three medals, after Tatjana Schoenmaker claimed gold and silver in the 200m breaststroke and 100m breaststroke respectively‚ and Bianca Buitendag took silver in the surfing.

Most of the federations took all-white teams or predominantly white teams to Tokyo and Mthethwa said the time had come for the government to accelerate transformation so that teams reflect the demographics of the country at international tournaments.

“The team which represented SA at the Olympics is not reflective of the demographics of the country‚” said Mthethwa during his engagement with media on Thursday.

“We are taking time to engage and accelerate transformation in the sporting sector guided by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG)‚ which is monitoring the level of transformation in the sporting arena.

“Before they went to Tokyo‚ we took time and met with all the 16 national federations in the country and I can say it here and now that it was only softball which was given the nod by the EPG in terms of transformation‚ and in terms of the pillars underpinning that.

“It means softball met all the transformation requirements and the rest fall in the category of conditional pass and that’s how far behind transformation is. Besides the category of those who got a conditional pass‚ there are those who performed the worst to dismal failure.

“That is the situation we are faced with and we have made it very clear to the federations that they must not pay lip service. They are asked to accelerate and on the other side‚ we are also pushing ourselves as government because the most strategic pillar of transformation and development is schools sport.

"The issue of transformation is sacrosanct, because if we take away the acceleration trajectory we won’t achieve it.”

Mthethwa confirmed that he will be appearing at Cricket SA’s (CSA) Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) project on Friday.

“The SJN hearings‚ which are ongoing now‚ are a process of cleaning up the environment so that when we talk transformation on and off the field you know you have dealt with the elephant in the room.

“Papering over the cracks is not going to help anybody. We have agreed to appear before the SJN hearings [on Friday] to make the case and look specifically at the issue of transformation.”