By John Tuerijama
THE future of Namibian sport has been plunged into uncertainty, after the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service’s budget was cut by over N$100 million for the 2017/18 financial year.
Confidente sports journalist, John Tuerijama (JT), sat down with deputy minister, Agnes Tjongarero, this week who shared her views on how the slashing of the budget will impact the implementation of the ministry’s programmes.
JT: Did you expect the ministry’s budget to be cut from N$491 million to N$385 million?
AT: No, the ministry did not anticipate this. With the N$491 million we received during the previous financial year, we were already struggling, and I do not know how we will cope with N$100 million less.
JT: How will this impact on the Directorate of Sport, in terms sport code grants and Namibia’s participation internationally?
AT: We are definitely going to feel the pinch in the ministry. As a vast country, we are used to spending a lot on transporting the teams nationally, and as a result of the budget cuts, I guess transport will have to be scaled-down. The Directorate of Sport will have to go back to the drawing board and seriously reprioritise. The sport codes will have to expect a reduction in their grants. International participation, beyond our borders, will have to be limited to those essential competitions, which may result in penalties for non-participation, if such participation is entirely dependent on government funding. Otherwise, sport codes have to solicit funds from the private sector or international development partners.
JT: Looking at the status quo of the Namibia Premier League (NPL) and the general financial woes being experienced by sport codes, will the Directorate of Sport get a bigger chunk of the N$385 million, at the expense of other directorates, such as National Youth Service?
AT: The national budget was already tabled by the Minister of Finance (Calle Schlettwein) in parliament. The Directorate of Sport is definitely not getting the biggest portion. The Directorate of Sport is getting N$74 915 000. It’s seriously not looking good at all.
Of the N$74 915 000, N$26 344 000 will go towards personnel expenditure. This includes salaries and contributions to the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) and the Social Security Commission (SSC). A further N$21 631 000 will go to the Namibia Sports Commission, and hence there remains only N$26 940 000, which will, amongst others, cater for the payment of the monthly allowances for the Cuban expatriates, travelling and subsistence allowances (S&Ts), additional support to sport codes, training courses for staff, symposiums and workshops, and international membership fees. Indeed, we are only left with a minimal amount to operate with.
JT: What is your message to the managers of the various sport codes, who wish to compete internationally, but can’t do so because of a lack of funds?
AT: It’s indeed a sorry state of affairs for sport in the country. Those that want to participate in international games, and have not secured funds from government, may it be the Directorate of Sport or the NSC, the only alternative is to secure funds from the private sector or international development donors.
International participation is important for world rankings. However, as a government we do not have the means. As a former sport administrator myself, I indeed feel for the sport codes.
JT: What are some of the key priority areas (programmes) of the Directorate of Sport, during the c u r rent f i nancial year, which will be requiring urgent implementation?
AT: As a ministry, we urgently need to conclude the amendments of the Sport Act and the Professional Boxing Act. We also have to finish the review of the sport policy and ensure that it is approved by parliament.
We need to conclude the categorisation of sport codes and the sport rewards policy. We need to set a date for the launch of the National Sport Plan, which has been a draft for the past three years. Since the Public-Private Partnership Act has been passed by parliament, we need people and/or institutions to come on board and assist with the construction, renovation and upgrading of the country’s sport facilities.
JT: Do you think there is serious political will to adequately address the sport situation in the country?
AT: We have a feeling that the political will on sport does not transform into actions. Politicians generally support sport, but when it comes to resources or funds they are not cooperative. Time and again, the minister (Jerry Ekandjo) and I have brought up the issue of sport funding in the National Assembly, but there is, generally, just no support coming through. The reduction of our budget allocation is a sign that we are not considered as a serious sector in the country. The sport industry is a billion-dollar sector in the West. With the current high unemployment rate, the country can use sport as a catalyst to bring this down. Soccer alone can assist us with this, but the NPL, which was supposed to have started, has not commenced yet, due to the absence of sponsors.
The state of dilapidated sport stadiums in the country is another sign of the lack of actual political will. These stadiums are not only used for sporting activities, but political rallies also take place there. Politicians can see the state of these stadiums, but still they do not give their support to increase the sport allocation.
JT: How important is the role of the private sector, now that the sport ministry’s budget has been cut by N$100 million?
AT: The private sector needs to come on board, as government alone cannot financially take care of the sporting needs of the nation. There are some private companies that are really assisting in the development of sport in the country, but there are others that are not. There are banks, retailers and insurance companies that are operating both in Namibia and South Africa, but in Namibia some of these companies are not supporting sport or are offering minimal assistance. Some of the banks, retailers and insurance companies that are operating both in Namibia and South Africa, have built world-class sport stadiums in South Africa, but in Namibia they are not interested.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015