COVID-19 Sports Relief
Written by Emjay on May 6, 2020
While the Government faces growing resentment for its handling of the Tourism Sector it appears – on the surface of it – to have done all the right things for the Sports, Arts and Culture Sector. From the initial announcement on March 25 by Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who committed R150 million towards a Relief Fund for artists, athletes and technical personnel in an effortto soften the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken just over 5 weeks for some of those applicants to see that relief.
Following on that initial announcement regarding the R150 million relief fund, it was announced in their media statement dated 17 April 2020, that the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) had received over 300 applications for relief through various sporting federations. Fast forward to Monday, 4 May 2020, where the Minister announced that a total of 473 sporting applications had been received from ONLY 25 sports federations. Those 473 applications were subsequently adjudicated by an independent panel of six external panelists – although I cannot for the life of me understand why The LoveLife Trust or the National Lotteries Commission were included in an independent Sports Adjudication Panel!!!!
The first question that should be asked is why were there only 25 sports federations looking out for their athletes and secondly, how did we all of a sudden go from “just over 300 applications” to a “total of 473 applications”? Well the answer, in part, lies in a recent discussion held with Boxing SA CEO, Tsholofelo Lejaka, who advised that they had assisted many individual athletes and gyms to complete separate applications which had all been initially included as part of a single application from various boxing promotions resulting in a re-submission of applications that had been referred back to federations.
From the “final 473 sporting applications”, the independent panel approved 291 applicants for payment with most having received their funds or in the process of receiving their funds, according to Minister Mthethwa. Those that were rejected or denied relief were sent a rejection letter and according to Mickey Modisane, Chief Director Marketing and Communications (Sport), an additional panel – The Appeals Committee – has been set-up to deal with any and all appeals that are submitted when responding to the email indicated in the respective rejection letters. At the time of writing this, the composition of this “Appeals Committee” was unknown.
In the greater scheme of things we can all agree that for any Sector that contributes considerably to the SA economy, a Relief Fund of R150 million is an absolute pittance but at the end of it all, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for a number of applicants. That said, there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered;
- Given the persisting inequality in sports and in particular the limited access to resources that some athletes still experience, should the Relief Fund deadline not have been extended? Especially when, as per the DSAC media statement dated May 4, it is clear that the Independent Adjudication Panel experienced this very issue as a “legitimate reason” why a large number of applicants were not recommended/declined, particularly for Arts and Culture applicants.
- On the same score, should the qualifying criterion not have been relaxed to allow more athletes to benefit?
- Why are system issues and technical glitches always blamed when gets to “pumpkin time”? Surely the DSAC has a system in place to receive a document and why was there a need to create “a new system to deal with a new problem”?
It is so easy to be critical of the Government, if only because of their historically sad record of cocking things up, but we also need to give credit when it is due. As you read this, there are a number of athletes, artists and technical personnel that are able to keep head above water and according to Mr Modisane, no racial criterionwas used in determining sporting application success. Looking ahead, it is clear from both Mr Modisane and Minister Mthethwa (as per his tweet this morning) that there is no extensionfor DSAC Relief Fund Applications. While on the issue of the sale of sporting equipment during Lockdown Level 4, the Minister stated that the DSAC would definitely look into it, especially now that the public are allowed to walk and jog.