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Sport minister slams EFF’s march over stadiums as ‘populist theatrics’

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Sport minister Nathi Mthethwa has slammed the EFF’s plan to march to his office.
Sport minister Nathi Mthethwa has slammed the EFF’s plan to march to his office.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Minister of sport Nathi Mthethwa has described the planned picket by the EFF outside his office in Pretoria on Thursday as ill-advised and populist theatrics.

EFF leader Julius Malema announced at the weekend that his party's supporters will march to Mthethwa’s office to demand the immediate reopening of sporting facilities in the country.

Responding in a strongly-worded and long press release on Wednesday morning, Mthethwa said the EFF’s decision to picket at the department of sport is curious and misguided.

“No amount of irrationality, vulgarity or grandstanding will intimidate the minister, his department or government into populist and irresponsible decision-making and actions,” said the statement.

“The country’s Covid-19 response strategy is correctly hailed across the world for seeking a balance between saving both lives and livelihoods. The EFF is ill-advised to assume its theatrics will bear any fruit.

“They are advised to show respect to the basic acumen of South Africans and halt their theatrics.

“The choice to picket at the department of sport, arts and culture and direct attention at the minister on a matter based on the Disaster Management Act is quite curious and misguided.”

Mthethwa said he is surprised by the EFF’s stance because they should know the decision to reopen stadiums to crowds does not lie with his department.

“This is particularly so since the EFF is a political party represented in parliament and legislatures and therefore part of lawmaking. An elementary reading of the Disaster Management Act proves that calling on the minister of sport, arts and culture to open up stadiums is foolhardy and bizarre.

“The minister is not empowered to make any such decisions and the EFF should know this. For a party that claims to be made up of academically acclaimed characters, it boggles the mind what deduction could have brought the EFF to conclude the department of sport, arts and culture is the go-to spot.

“Assuming basic facts about the Disaster Management Act are known to EFF, it begs the question: what truthfully motivates their irrational nitpicking of minister Nathi Mthethwa?"

The statement said government remains committed to opening up venues in a responsible manner.

“Fundamental to this strategy is a phased-in approach that remains relevant and is guiding the approach to open up venues. This strategy is currently under consideration through cabinet-related processes responsible for SA’s response to Covid-19. 

“In other words, the decision on opening up of venues does not lie with the minister of sport, arts and culture nor his department. A fact that either skipped the EFF’s logic or affirms the belief they are up to something more perverse and are using this matter as a launch pad towards such end.

“The Safe Return of Spectators strategy proposes opening to 2,000 spectators as the first phase, which was accomplished in October 2021. It is intended to scale up to phase 2, 3 and the last phase at 50%, 75% and 100%, respectively.

“The initial target was to be at 75% by now.  Unfortunately the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant made this target unachievable in the initial timeframe.

“The department of sport, arts and culture is committed to pursue cabinet on this phased approach to opening up.”

Sports federations, teams, and clubs from the Premier Soccer League in particular, have complained the 2,000 limit is not feasible as allowing in a crowd that small cannot cover the costs of hosting spectators.

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