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Salute to past and future of SA sport

By Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula writes for Sowetan | 2011-11-02 06:53:39.0

YESTERDAY was my first anniversary since taking over the reins of Sport and Recreation SA.

It was a fantastic year filled with challenges to succeed as a collective. My first assignment was to call all presidents of federations to introduce myself and wish them the best as we walk together through the storm.

Sport is a catalyst for nation building and development. When we went to Twickenham in England to give our full support to the Springboks, I said to the leadership of Saru and the Springboks' management, in analysing the game between South Africa and England, that there were two young, magnificent, beautiful and talented players - Patrick Lambie and Elton Jantjies. I said to Professor Peter de Villiers, "there is the future of the Springboks". Indeed, even though Jantjies could not make the final squad to New Zealand, he is sure to make the future team, and Lambie, South Africa witnessed the magic in him. In the same vein, former president Thabo Mbeki once said in one of his speeches: "... I owe my being to the hills, the mountains..." In thinking of this speech, I was reminded of the two gentlemen who represented this country, and owed their being to their forbearers, those who said "motherland or death", John Smit and Victor Matfield. To the two guys, the world knows you, the world respects you, from the bottom of my heart, and for many South Africans, you are the best to ever happen to sport. I salute you. And I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. You are leaving a mark that young people will need to emulate and we pray that they surpass it.

Even though we did not win in New Zealand and Sri Lanka/Bangladesh, or even qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, the task at hand is still huge as we pace the future of South African sport and recreation, through the development of the National Sport and Recreation Plan. This is a plan to make us account in the determination of the future of this country; on development, transformation and high performance. We have a responsibility for the South African national anthem and flag. We owe this to our children, we owe this to sport and recreation.

School sport remains a bedrock for development in this country, that is why this weekend, through the partnership between the departments of sport and recreation and basic education, we will see the launch of the school sport programme.

We want to see a National School Olympics taking place next year, where talent identification will be sharpened and specialist schools identified for those kids who have talent in specific codes. We have a responsibility as a nation to extract talent and nurture it until high performance. It is through this programme where we can safely talk of transformation at an early age and be able to groom it for the future.

It is our task to ensure this happens. In closing, the issue of cricket has not been forgotten. We will within this week be able to announce the judge who will head the investigation and the terms of reference, on the matter of Cricket SA. We are still in the time frame to have the process completed by December 2011. We also would like all to respect that process.

Thanking you

Fikile Mbalula