DA calls for independent commission of enquiry into sexual abuse at SA sporting federations

Issued by Veronica van Dyk MP – DA Deputy Shadow Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture
10 Jul 2022 in News

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Veronica van Dyk MP.

The DA is calling on the parliamentary portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture to initiate an independent commission of enquiry into sexual abuse in all of South Africa’s sporting federations. We request that this commission be led by an independent judge with ample experience in the area of sexual abuse, and that recommendations are made on the implementation of safeguarding policies and that appropriate charges should follow.

While the DA has made a concerted effort to address and combat sexual misconduct and violence against minor and adult athletes in South Africa’s sporting federations, government has not seriously joined the fight.

Despite our numerous efforts to interrogate allegations and call the various federations and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to account, we have been thwarted at every turn.

It seems that the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and his Department have taken the decision to simply turn a blind eye to the serious allegations of sexual abuse within South African sports. The DA and organisations such as WMACA Athletes Against Child Abuse, as well as victims have contacted Minister Mthethwa, the Department, the chairperson of the portfolio committee, Beauty Dlulane, as well as SASCOC and federations such as Swim South Africa (SSA) on many occasions to try and hold those in power to account and push them to take the allegations seriously and enforce safeguarding regulations. Safeguarding policies on paper mean nothing – it needs real implementation.

Since the Guardian first reported on the alleged sexual abuse within Swim South Africa in 2020, the DA has been trying to make public the Goldman report of the internal investigation launched by the federation. Whatever the report contains must be explosive because the federation has fought tooth and nail to conceal it. SSA even went so far as to lie in Parliament when questioned about alleged sexual misconduct at the federation and the implementation of safeguarding policies. The DA takes this very seriously and has laid criminal charges against both the president of SSA, Alan Fritz, and SASCOC president, Barry Hendricks.

But SSA is not the only federation with allegations of sexual abuse in its ranks. The DA knows of 10 federations where allegations of abuse were made – many of the incidents involved minors. And whenever we have raised our concerns regarding safeguarding policies and implementation thereof, our pleas to protect the athletes have been ignored.

Unless Minister Mthethwa intervenes and puts bite behind his bark, he is as good as complicit in the abuse of these athletes. By failing to hold the federations to account, by failing to ensure strict implementation of safeguarding policies, by failing to ensure that non-compliance is disciplined, by failing to ensure that a proper reporting system is in place, the Minister and his Department are contributing to an environment that encourages sexual predators to prey upon vulnerable athletes and minors. Victims’ voices need to be heard.

The DA urges the Minister to take his mandate to serve those in his care seriously. The Department of Sports should not just chase medals and championships. They must develop and protect South African athletes and discipline those who do not share that goal.