GEORGE NEWS - The impact of the Sasa-II sport crisis on the future of all athletes holding international sport titles achieved during world championships, received much media attention over the last few months. Now it has attracted the attention of the union Solidarity.
Deputy CEO of Solidarity Werner Human said the athletes' desperate situation sparked their interest. "Sport is also a career. In this case, the athletes appear to be the victims of the systemic deterioration of the Sasa-II sport structure."
Human and Solidarity's head of the occupational guilds, Hennie Bierman, flew to George on Monday for a meeting with Hennie Janse van Rensburg, the parent of a local world champion swimmer with Down syndrome, Minke Janse van Rensburg (15), as part of their investigation.
The South African Sports Association for the Intellectually Impaired (Sasa-II) has no funds available for teams to compete in other countries and their executive committee is not in favour of self-funding by the athletes.
Minke and other top South African Down syndrome athletes are being denied the chance to defend their titles at the world championship Trisome Games at the end of March.
The debt incurred is close to R1-million and include affiliation fees to the International Sport Federation for People with Disabilities (formerly known as Inas) and the Sports Union for People with Down Syndrome.
Added to this amount is a penalty fee to the amount of R200 000 for the cancellation of the national soccer team's participation in the Inas Soccer World Championships in 2018.
Sasa-II president Ronnie Mohlabi previously said the sports body decided not to participate in any international events until their financial situation is stable. He blames poor financial management by the previous executive committee.
However, parents of some athletes and other interested parties fear that not enough is being done to ensure that the situation will change in the near future. Human said Solidarity wants to explore all the different angles. "We hope to evoke public conversations on sport. We will always have an ear to any injustice in sport. It is of no help whatsoever to say, 'We are looking ahead.' The question is, what is being done right now?"
Human said it appears that a strong sense of accountability is lacking. "There is no pressure from any sports body. To merely make a noise [about the crisis] will not help the athletes."
Human said the national budget for sport and recreation, arts and culture for the 2020/2021 financial year is in the region of R12-billion. "We need a plan. We need to approach this matter through a legal point of view."