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Sport and Development Issues in South Africa


Sport and Development Issues in South Africa

The challenge of delivering sports development in South Africa's townships persists.

Creating opportunities for young people in the previously disadvantaged black communities might not be easily resolved whilst poverty and social deprivation continue.

“One of the cruellest legacies of apartheid is its distortion of sport and recreation in our society, the enforced segregation of these activities and the gross neglect in providing facilities for the majority of South Africa’s people. This has denied millions of people and particularly our youth the right to a normal and healthy life.” African National Congress, Reconstruction and Development Programme, 1994.

Transformation and Development have been the declared goals of sport in the new South Africa. Much has been made of “transforming” the composition of national teams so that they better represent the nation’s diverse population. Equally so called “development” has come to mean interventions engaging previously disadvantaged black communities.

Whether transformation and development agendas are impacting on community level participation in a meaningful way is questionable. The fact that physical education and sport has disappeared from the school curriculum has probably reduced the exposure of young people to sport.

There is little or no history of voluntary youth sport in the townships. With poverty rife, priorities lie elsewhere.

So if there are few sports facilities, little sport at school, few community sports clubs, can we really say that South African sport is being transformed and developed?

Sport for Development interventions help, but what is needed is the real transformation of sport in disadvantaged communities, but is that possible whilst other more pressing social challenges exist?

South African President Zuma recently announced the reintroduction of PE into the school curriculum and investment in sports facilities in the poorest communities. The challenge of creating a culture of volunteer community sport may be harder to achieve whilst the townships remain centres of poverty and social deprivation.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]


Article type



Brook Norman


Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - 23:00

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