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Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa says cabinet is discussing fans in stadiums

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa.
Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Minister of sport Nathi Mthethwa says high-level government discussions are under way to explore the possibility of increasing the number of spectators allowed at stadiums.

The department of sport also hit back at recent persistent calls by certain figures for government to reopen up stadiums saying they are “uninformed”.

EFF leader Julius Malema has led calls for the government to reopen stadiums for crowds at professional sport events, particularly Premier Soccer League (PSL) matches. The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) said it would push for half-capacity crowds in sports grounds from next month.

Government regulations stipulate that only 2,000 spectators are allowed at stadiums for professional sport events as a precaution against Covid-19.

“Discussions are already under way through cabinet processes to look at possibilities to further increase spectator numbers. And if this is successful, it will be communicated as was done previously,” Mthethwa said.

“Government is strongly committed to economic recovery and reconstruction and appreciates the reopening of spaces such as stadia. Attention therefore remains fixed on how access can be further extended without underrating the real dangers of Covid-19.

“We are comfortable that our partnership-type approach on this matter is a valuable mechanism that will also guide government and all role players’ approach towards the full realisation of an economically active sport and creative sector.

“Ours has been and remains to be responsible in how we push back against the devastating effects and real dangers presented by Covid-19.”

Mthethwa once again appealed to South Africans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and allow the process to run its course as vaccination levels have not yet reached the desired goal.

The department of sport said in a statement: “The minister of sport, arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa has taken note of numerous public announcements advocating for the opening of stadiums.

“Regrettably, such calls are uninformed in light of the ongoing action taken by DSAC [the Department of Sport and Arts and Culture] over the last few months to enable access to stadiums, in a manner that protects both lives and livelihoods. While ensuring compliance with Covid-19 regulations and protocols Minister Mthethwa has consistently applied himself to such measures to enable the opening up of venues under his portfolio.

“With Covid-19 vaccines accessible to all South Africans, DSAC has embarked on a partnership-type approach with sport and creative personalities/bodies. The result of this has been the 'Play Your Part — Let’s Vaccinate (City to City)' campaign, which to date, has been rolled out in seven of our nine provinces.

“This campaign essentially involves the encouragement of [sports] spectators and the broader public to vaccinate in order to ease positive decision-making regarding the reopening of venues.”

“It is in the context of this well-established and continuing collaborative relationship that the return of spectators to stadia was gazetted in the Disaster Management Regulations of October 2021 and further enabled through directions issued by the minister of sport, arts and culture.

“Spectators and the venue of a sport event are consequently permitted to 750 persons or less for indoor venues and 2,000 persons or less for outdoor venues subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

“In other words, from last year in October 2021, it has been already possible for spectators to access stadia. In fact, the minister of sport, arts and culture went a step further to establish a committee of experts called the Return to Play Adjudication Committee to support organisations, clubs and individuals to ensure compliance with Covid-19 prescripts.

“This was done through submission of plans which were analysed, adjudicated, approved and monitored based on guidelines shared with the sector. Success factors recorded following this approach include numerous games last year such as Bafana Bafana against Ethiopia, Bafana Bafana against Zimbabwe and the MTN 8 final.”

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