MEC’s sports goal aimed at children

Arts and culture MEC Fezeka Nkomonye-Bayeni
Arts and culture MEC Fezeka Nkomonye-Bayeni
Image: Supplied

Newly-appointed sport, recreation, arts and culture MEC Fezeka Bayeni wants to focus most of her energies on sport development at primary school level.

The Lusikisiki-born MEC plans to do this by providing incentives for pupils who participate in sporting activities, especially sports such as tennis that were not previously available to disadvantaged communities.

She told the Daily Dispatch that heading the department would be a mammoth task, but said she was equal to the challenge.

“It would be virtually impossible to have expertise in all sporting codes, so it’s important to build relationships with stakeholders in all sporting codes in the province,” said the former rugby player and roadrunner.

Having served in the provincial sport, arts and culture portfolio committee before being appointed as the MEC, Bayeni has already identified her priorities.

“I’ve noticed there are sporting codes that African children don’t take up,” she said.

“[Such as] tennis and other codes perceived to be ‘white people’s sports’.

“We need to create an environment where our kids can thrive in those sporting codes.

“We might not have the facilities to play these sporting codes, so one of the priorities is to identify talent – which is there among young Africans.”

Bayeni aims to encourage children at school level.

This, she said, could be done by roping in mobile network service providers to give free data to pupils taking part in sport.

“But in the meantime, I’m looking to use school sports to develop and harness our talent in the province in partnership with the department of education,” she said.

Bayeni said she wanted to see unfinished sporting facilities in the province completed, especially the Mthatha Stadium.

“The Mthatha Stadium cannot host Premier Soccer League [PSL] games,” she said.

“It doesn’t meet the PSL standards, and you don’t want to cluster PSL to Port Elizabeth and East London only.

“So the main priority now is to focus on that venue and make sure it’s fully functional.”

The Dispatch has reported on how some public swimming pools in the province are in a bad condition, with some competitions having to be cancelled as a result.

She vowed she would work to rectify this situation.

“I hear there are pools in Mdantsane, so we have to focus on those so that our pupils have all the tools they need to succeed in sport,” she said.

The MEC said “legacy sports” such as boxing and athletics would also be prioritised.

“We want to see boxers benefiting – and not only promoters – in the support given by government.

“We have a lot of runners in this province who’ve achieved good times in marathons like your Two Oceans. They also need to be supported and developed, so that one day we can also have a winner of that marathon from this province, or even of the Comrades Marathon,” she said.