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Date: 03 Jun 2012
Title: Afcon preparations well underway
Mangaung - Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula says preparations for hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) next year are proceeding well and are under control.
"Everything has been cleared to proceed with the speed required to realise the Afcon in January," he said.
Mbalula was speaking in Mangaung, Free State, on Friday as part of the Government Communication and Information System's countrywide public participation programme, which holds seminars to engage the nation on developments emanating from President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in February.
"We continue to be attractive to the world to host mega sporting events," said the minister.
Last month, Cabinet announced the cities that would host the Afcon tournament. The 2013 Afcon will begin on 19 January and end on 10 February, with 16 teams set to participate.
Turning to local sport, Mbalula said plans were on track towards launching the Netball Premier League next year.
"Netball is our number one women's sport in the country. We believe netball cannot be played by sheer chance."
Mbalula said his department was currently working with the Basic Education Department to ensure that learners were exposed to different sporting codes.
"We have identified school sport as the base for development. School sport will offer all children of school going age in South Africa an opportunity to test the talent they possess and we hope it will serve our development path well."
According to Mbalula, more than 11 000 schools out of 27 000 in South Africa have been registered to participate in the School Sport League, which will culminate in the first National Schools Olympics in December.
Tabling his department's Budget Vote in Parliament last month, the minister said the school sport budget had increased from R27.3 million in the previous year to R42.6 million.
At the time, he said his department would continue to support schools in the delivery of sport programmes and empower educators in code specific coaching, technical officiating, team management and sport administration, with the focus being on the 16 priority sporting codes.
With regard to sports facilities in schools, Mbalula said government would do everything in its power to ensure there were facilities.
He called on private sector companies to partner with government to ensure that sports facilities were available in schools.
"Sports development is possible when there are facilities. It is critical that all of us mobilise resources to build and provide our communities with sports facilities."
Mbalula also urged municipalities to allow communities to use sports facilities. This was after concerns were raised by the public that some municipalities were denying people access to facilities.
"It is out of the realisation that communities either do not have facilities at all or facilities are inaccessible because municipalities charge for use of those facilities."
After addressing the seminar, Mbalula proceeded to a local school to officially hand over a sporting facility to Batho Primary School.
The facility, which is located within the school premises, was built by a private company, Pareto, as part of its strategy to plough back into the community.
Handing over the facility, Mbalula told learners and community members to "jealously" guard the facility.
"This is not a place to get drunk; this is a place for sports."
He said the facility would help learners not to have idle minds, saying they would have constructive activities in which to engage.
Mbalula also called on other private companies to partner with government in developing communities.
A Grade 2 learner at the school, Kethabile Mpshe, told BuaNews that the new soccer field would keep them off the streets.
"I'm happy because am going to play here," said an elated Kethabile. - BuaNews