DA requests an independent investigation into SA Aquatics, water polo

Issued by Veronica van Dyk MP – DA Shadow Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture
22 Feb 2024 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Veronica van Dyk MP

Swimming South Africa’s abrupt withdrawal of the water polo teams, despite being Africa’s top contenders in the World Aquatics Championships this month, and qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, highlights systemic issues within SA Aquatics.

The DA has received complaints emphasizing maladministration and insufficient support from Swimming SA. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has, regrettably, absolved itself of any responsibility for water polo.

The DA intends to formally address the Minister of Sports, Zizi Kodwa, urging an independent investigation into South African Aquatics, especially in light of the recent water polo setback caused by SSA, which denies players the opportunity to compete at the Paris Olympic Games.

The DA proposes that an independent representative from World Aquatics oversee the investigation. SSA’s President, Alan Fritz, CEO Shaun Adriaanse (whose tenure surpasses twenty years), and the SSA Board must provide explanations regarding the support and services they offer to SA’s aquatic disciplines, particularly water polo, encompassing aspects such as training and funding to ensure the development of world-class athletes.

Following the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, a lack of debriefing, plans, or strategy and communication with players and stakeholders raised concerns. Letters expressing concerns since October 2021 to the Director of Coaching, Convener of the Water Polo Technical Committee, and SSA Executive remain unanswered. Communication from the federation is notably deficient.

Additional concerns arise regarding the absence of a structured coach selection process and a performance program with criteria. SSA announces positions, including National Director of Coaching, Head of Selection, Coaches for national teams, and Managers of national teams, without the water polo community’s input or knowledge. Some coaches discovered their appointments through social media, mirroring how players learned about their exclusion from the French Olympics.

The cancellation of the Intercontinental Tour in 2021 due to administrative disorganization resulted in player unavailability. Seven weeks before the FINA World Championships, crucial information such as team selection, coaching and management staff confirmation, budget, itinerary, performance measures, and team preparations were unavailable. Team announcements occurred merely 20 days before the World Championships, offering no team preparation. The lack of structure and planning at senior levels, alongside deficiencies in team and management selection processes, necessitate scrutiny.

Water polo lacks influence in its affairs, and ANC cadre deployment in sports appears to contribute to poor leadership, a lack of accountability, and a disregard for transparency in decision-making. SSA and SASCOC have grossly failed SA’s water polo teams.

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