Johannesburg - Forget how poor Malusi Gigaba – whose most recent claim to fame was an alleged mistress who did not quite grasp the concept of being the other woman – became the minister of finance. What I want to know is, how is the sports minister chosen?
In the 23 years since 1994, the men who have held that position are Steve Tshwete, Ngconde Balfour, Makhenkesi Stofile, Fikile Mbalula and now Thembelani “Thulas” Nxesi – five men who could not be more different from each other.
I have said before in this column that Tshwete came across as a fellow sporting tragic, making him a man with whom we could all identify; Balfour often spoke a lot and loudly without saying anything; Stofile was a dignified presence, but almost always seemed out of place; Mbalula did his best to introduce tweeting as a sporting code and Nxesi is a mystery.
Because of said differences, one cannot help but wonder what goes through the state president’s mind as he prepares to throw the confetti while conferring ministerial positions.
Not to sound like a new age whenwe, I felt Madiba applied the right sensibilities in his decision-making when he named Mr Fixit (Tshwete) as his sports minister. Mindful of sport’s ability to unite South Africans (we may bicker among ourselves, but we love winners), Tshwete was the perfect choice. A hard but fair man with a voice as gravelly as the roads in his native Peelton in the Eastern Cape, Tshwete understood the complexities of South African sport at that time – back then, we were talking about axing the Springbok logo – and knew when to compromise and when not to.
But when the erudite and economy minded Thabo Mbeki and the not-so erudite but personal economy minded Jacob Zuma took over, the reasoning as to why one qualified to the republic’s sports minister has become a little blurry.
Does he have to be conversant with the art of the hospital pass as Gigaba has come to be over the past week or so? Does he have to understand the fine line between a reverse sweep and a switch hit, as Number One seems to?
Does he have to understand the slide rule that leads to being offside and therefore surplus to requirements, as Pravin Gordhan seems to be?
Poring over Nxesi’s qualifications, it is comforting to see that education is his thing because the best coaches in sport have always been teachers.
The Matatiele-born 58-year-old seems to be a man who is able to build things, if the growth of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union in his time as general secretary there (from 30 000 in 1995 to 250 000 in 2009) is anything to go by.
But in his previous guise as minister of public works, he was accused of misleading Parliament about the costs of the upgrades to Nkandla.
So, while he may not have had to explain whether the infamous fire pool was Olympic size or short course, he was part of explaining the inexplicable.
And, as ever when it comes to these appointments, Nxesi has no experience in sport whatsoever, which means such required reading as I Am Zlatan will now have to jostle for room alongside Das Kapital on his bookshelf as he tries to bring himself up to speed.
The failure to grasp that, in a country battling financially and run with one hand in our back pockets, sport becomes the only thing the rest of us can cling on to for hope.
How hard is it to find someone from the governing party with interest and experience in sport to run it? How difficult is it to tap up SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan, who as an ANC member has served as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, for the job?
After all, he organised the first Soccer World Cup in Africa, meaning he understands the structures he would need to implement as minister to improve the pipelines for our codes.
He may currently struggle to organise a Bafana Bafana coach, but his credentials are a damn sight better than these substitute teachers we keep getting lumped with.
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