There is a noose around Thulas Nxesi’s neck and that is Nkandla. Although he wasn’t minister of public works when the money was allocated for the ill-considered “upgrades”, it was Nxesi who was complicit in the cover-up, including marking his own task team report top secret. So it’s laughable when the minister waxes lyrical about the need to weed out corruption, as he did in a missive shortly before the ANC’s 54th conference.
The South African Communist Party deputy national chairperson must have been all too happy to give up the hot seat in May and take on the seemingly less arduous role of sports minister. A marked departure from his razzmatazz predecessor, Nxesi promised to focus on sports development and on this count one cannot fault his department, though it is essentially following through on a budget and plan laid down by former incumbent Fikile Mbalula.
Sports and recreation had a budget of R1-billion and the largest allocation went to sports development, with a specific emphasis on enhancing school sports.
The vast majority of high-performance athletes emerging today come through the former model C schools. The department spent R557-million on developing school sports as part of a continuing programme.
A notable coup for the department was securing a R300-million municipal infrastructure grant, which has been allocated for sporting projects in 34 municipalities.
But several national sports federations had their funding interrupted because of poor administration, including for not filing financial reports and having no transformation plans.
The department managed to spend more than 99% of its budget, no mean feat, and once again enjoyed an unqualified audit.
With a faltering economy, the ministry rightly withdrew its bid to host the Commonwealth Games, fearing the financial implications and citing lessons learnt from writing out a blank cheque for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Speaking of which, it seems the blank cheque included a $10-million bribe to secure the hosting of the football spectacular, something the minister has promised to get to the bottom of. If deeds speak louder than words, then the word “mouse” seems apt.
With sport and recreation having achieved 82% of its targets, on the face of it, Nxesi has led his portfolio fairly well, though the Fifa bribe scandal and the lethargic pace of the FNB stampede inquiry suggests more of the same when it comes to dealing decisively with big-ticket items.