Feisty Komphela not afraid to fight sport misdeeds

Love him or hate him, Butana Komphela is not one to shy away from speaking his mind on issues affecting sport in the country.

Love him or hate him, Butana Komphela is not one to shy away from speaking his mind on issues affecting sport in the country.

He is not afraid to take head on any sports administrator he feels - justifiably or not - is not doing things the right way.

For all that matters, the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport does not even feel he should apologise to those who have fallen victim of his barrage of criticism.

Komphela says fear is not part of his make-up and vocabulary and is determined to clean up sport in the country.

In this no-holds-barred and emotionally-charged interview Butana Komphela (BK) tells Sowetan's Mcelwa Nchabeleng (MN) what should be done to correct the wrongs in sport administration and also about his involvement in the political struggle.

MN: Do you think sport is in capable hands in this country because administrators have not been spared from your criticism?

BK: The administration of our sport has deteriorated to the level where one believes it is not in good hands. Some sport officials are only looking to aggrandise their power and wealth in the name of good administration and we are aware of their unscrupulous behaviour. There is anarchy in sport in our country.

MN: Can you identify these unscrupulous administrators?

BK: What I can only tell you is that football and rugby are suffering as a result of the so-called dedicated administrators. I'm disturbed because there are still administrators who do not want changes in sports like rugby.

MN: You have been so vocal about sport issues to the level where some people start to think that you are pushing an agenda of other officials or your buddies. What is your take on this one?

BK: I don't need anybody's permission when I raise issues affecting sport in this country. I'm not in anybody's pocket and therefore no one will influence me on what to say. I share the views of the ANC and not of an individual.

MN: You have been threatening to act as government to solve the problems affecting sport. What is it that your committee is doing to solve the problems you have identified?

BK: We will pass a Bill that will deal holistically in correcting the errors that we have identified in sport administration. We will also deal with issues of foreign administrators and coaches who work here at the expense of our qualified people. We can't allow a situation where our own people will continue to play second fiddle to foreigners. There should be a skills transfer to our people from these foreigners.

MN: Don't you think this could be viewed by international sports governing bodies like Fifa as interference by government in sport affairs?

BK: The government has the responsibility to shape up the sport and give direction where it deems necessary. It is for this reason that we have the ministry of sport and Fifa is well aware of this office.

We are not going to sit back and fold our arms when things are not done in the correct way. It will be interference on our part if, say, we dictate to Safa on who should be in their executive committee. But giving direction and correcting things should not be viewed as interference.

MN: Recreational and sporting facilities seem to be not a priority these days in areas where, say, RDP [reconstruction and development programme] houses are being built. What is your committee doing about the situation?

BK: Look, when we started building RDP houses there was a serious backlog of basic facilities such as electricity, running water, roads and schools and we prioritised these basic needs for the communities.

I don't think it will be fair to people living in the RDP houses to have recreational and sporting facilities while they don't have these basic needs. We are busy building recreational and sporting facilities and our Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu is advocating this plan.

MN: Why government's involvement in sports like netball, basketball and volleyball is not as visible and active like in the past where sports organisers would visit townships on a regular basis to promote these sports?

BK: The current government is still involved in promoting such sports in the townships. We introduced a mass participation programme three years ago to benefit people in the townships and at schools across the country. We have people who are on our payroll going around the province conducting clinics and workshops.

The programme is also aimed at capacity building. We have put the programme on hold because some of the organisers were using our garage cards fraudulently. But the programme will soon be up and running.

MN: Are you bothered that some people refer to you as "Mr Quota System", while some feel you are very useful as some kind of "Dial a slogan" about the plight of blacks as was the case during the struggle against apartheid?

BK: I'm not bothered at all. My system is based on nonracial sport and its transformation. I want blacks to be given a fair chance to be part of our national teams. I will continue to dial a slogan that will pursue equal opportunities for all in sport.

MN: Can you enlighten us on your involvement in the political struggle?

BK: I was arrested for six months when I pledged my solidarity with the Soweto uprisings in 1976. I was arrested with three teachers and we were tortured by the apartheid police.

One of the teachers arrested, Ms Morailane, was tortured to the effect that she became mentally disoriented and she is still the same today. The apartheid regime was gruesome. Harmless people were killed, injured and arrested but that did not dampen our spirits to continue to fight the regime.

I was still a learner at Kananelo Senior Secondary School when I was arrested but I managed to obtain my junior certificate after I was released from prison in that same year.

I could not go to university because police kept on arresting us, applying the controversial Section 50 of the Security Act. We spent some time in jail without trial.

MN: Are you studying at the moment?

BK: I have enrolled for a BA degree in linguistics at the University of Free State part-time.

MN: What happened to your right foot?

BK: It was amputated while I was still young because I was suffering from polio.

Technology was not that advanced then and doctors could not do anything to help me but to amputate my foot. But having one foot did not stop me from throwing stones during the struggle.

MN: What is your nickname(s)?

BK: I only have one, "Computer". It was given to me by my schoolmates and fellow politicians. They likened me to a computer because of my fast-thinking ability and perfection in doing things. We grew up thinking that computers are perfect and think quickly [laughing].

MN: Where will you be in the next five years?

BK: I will be involved in a successful business entity contributing towards building the economy of my country. But my destiny in politics depends on the ANC.

MN: How do you start your day?

BK: I wake up at around 5am, exercise a bit at home and arrive in the office at 8.30pm. The office closes at 4pm but I always remain behind to do some catch-up jobs until around 8pm. On weekends if I'm around Free State I attend Bloemfontein Celtic and The Cheetahs matches.

MN: Who are your favourite local and oversees teams?

BK: Free State Stars and Liverpool (England).

MN: Who are your favourite musicians?

BK: Hugh Masekela, Selaelo Selota and Jabu of Joyous Celebrations.

MN: Which programmes do you watch on television?

BK: I watch news and current affairs programmes.