Sports minister Mthethwa: ‘We can’t get people into stadiums and kill them’

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The much hoped-for return of fans to SA stadiums remains a distant possibility because health and safety experts are predicting the Covid-19 third wave will hit the country between May and July.

Fans were hoping to watch the remaining matches of football’s exciting DStv Premiership title race between Mamelodi Sundowns, AmaZulu and Golden Arrows and rugby’s start of the Rainbow Cup SA between the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and the Stormers.

If SA is hit by the third wave, the money-spinning British & Irish Lions Tour in July and August will be hugely impacted as SA Rugby have proposed to government to have least 50% of fans in the stadiums.

“We are guided by the health and safety protocols, epidemiologists and so on,” said sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.

“These are the people who are guiding us and it is not a matter of a minister of sports who would say fans must go back to stadiums.

“We are guided here and in this guidance we have been informed that between May and July we are facing the possibility of a third wave. We can’t in the midst of a third wave get people into the stadium and kill them.

“I must mention the fact that the creative, events and sporting sectors have put together a plan. For instance when it comes to rugby in regards to the British and Irish tour, they are proposing to have at least 50% of spectators back to stadia and that is being looked into.

“But their proposal must answer the question that if FNB Stadium carries 90,000 people and you say you want 50% which is 45,000, how are you going to ensure that opening up is not a super spreader?

“Those questions have to be answered, like they did in the past when it came to football with the concept of the bio-bubble. It was an attractive concept that was implemented and it worked.”

Mthethwa said the decision to allow fans back into stadiums is not dependent on him or his ministry but by the national coronavirus command council.

“We do not decide as individual departments of sport or tourism, we are guided within the command council by the health situation, and the health situation is going to guide us. Taking all of these into cognisance, especially the fact that there are these doctors and experts who are saying we are facing the storm of the third wave. 

“Do we say that regardless of that, people must flock to the stadium and if we do, will we be able to pay when they die? We don’t have those resources as government.

“No individual minister is going to come up with the answer on this matter but the weekly meetings of the national command council looking at this matter will always guide the entire society.

“You’d recall that in March last year when President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the national disaster for the pandemic there was a time where everything came to a standstill including playing itself.

“The sporting fraternity took it upon themselves to understand the situation and they were able to make a case to government for going back to play. It was upon that, that government, particularly from the health perspective, was able to look at the plan and say the plan is good, therefore we can go back to play.”

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