Johannesburg - Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has described calls made by some politicians and sports personalities as “misguided and opportunistic”.
His spokesperson, Masechaba Khumalo, said Mthethwa had taken note of numerous public announcements advocating the opening of stadiums. Khumalo said, regrettably, such calls were uninformed.
This was in light of the ongoing action being taken by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) over the past few months to enable access to stadiums, in a manner that protects both lives and livelihoods.
“While ensuring compliance with Covid-19 regulations and protocols, Minister Mthethwa has consistently applied himself to such measures to enable the opening of venues under his portfolio. With Covid-19 vaccines accessible to all South Africans, DSAC has embarked on a partnership-type approach with sport and creative personalities/bodies.
“The result of this has been the ’Play Your Part – Let’s Vaccinate (City to City)’ campaign which, to date, has been rolled out in seven of our nine provinces.
“This campaign essentially involves the encouragement of spectators and the broader public to vaccinate in order to ease positive decision-making regarding the re-opening of venues.
“The successful roll-out of this campaign can be attributed to the deputy president, minister and deputy minister of health, premiers, MECs of various portfolios, Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of SA (CCIFSA), the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and its affiliated members, the South African Football Association (Safa) structures, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and its affiliated clubs, the South African Events Council (SAEC), the South African Rugby Union (Saru), as well as the junior league (ie Diski Challenge).”
Khumalo said it was in the context of this well-established and continuing collaborative relationship that the return of spectators to stadia was gazetted in the Disaster Management Regulations of October 2021 and further enabled through directions issued by the minister of sport, arts and culture.
She said spectators and the venue of a sport event were consequently permitted to accommodate 750 persons or fewer for indoor venues; and, 2 000 persons or fewer for outdoor venues, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.
In other words, from last year in October 2021, it has been already possible for spectators to access stadia. In fact, the minister of sport, arts and culture went a step further to establish a committee of experts, called the Return to Play Adjudication Committee, to support organisations, clubs, and individuals to ensure compliance with Covid-19 prescripts. This was done through submission of plans which were analysed, adjudicated, approved, and monitored based on guidelines shared with the sector.
Success factors recorded following this approach include several games last year, such as Bafana Bafana vs Ethiopia; Bafana Bafana vs Zimbabwe; and, the MTN 8 Challenge Final.
“Government is strongly committed to economic recovery and reconstruction and appreciates the re-opening of spaces such as stadia. Attention therefore remains fixed on how access can be further extended without under-rating the real dangers of Covid-19.
“Discussions are already under way through Cabinet processes to look at possibilities to further increase spectator numbers. And if this is successful, it will be communicated as was done previously.
“We are comfortable that our partnership-type approach on this matter is a valuable mechanism that will also guide government and all roleplayers’ approach towards the full realisation of an economically active sport and creative sector”, Mthethwa said.
“Ours has been and remains to be responsible in how we push back against the devastating effects and real dangers presented by Covid-19.”
Mthethwa again appealed to South Africans eligible for vaccination against Covid-19 to vaccinate as a matter of urgency, saying it was crucial “that we allow the process to run its course as vaccination levels have not yet reached the desired goal”.