Cape Town — Sports minister has hit out at suggestions that his department has been blocking fans from returning to stadiums.
According to Mthethwa, fans have been allowed to return to stadiums since October of last year, provided spectators are vaccinated and Covid-19 protocols are adhered to.
With Covid-19 vaccines accessible to all South Africans, Mthethwa’s department has embarked on a partnership-type approach with sport and creative personalities and 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.
In the statement, Mthethwa said: “This campaign essentially involves the encouragement of spectators and the broader public to vaccinate to ease positive decision-making regarding the re-opening of venues.
“The successful rollout 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 [Diski Challenge].”
It is 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.
Spectators and the venue for a sporting event are consequently permitted to 750 persons or less for indoor venues and 2 000 persons or less 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.
Mthethwa 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 the submission of plans which were analysed, adjudicated, approved and monitored based on guidelines shared with the sector.
Success factors recorded following this approach include numerous games last year such as Bafana Bafana v/s Ethiopia; Bafana Bafana v/s 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 underway 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," said Mthethwa.
“We are comfortable that our partnership-type approach on this matter is a valuable mechanism that will also guide Government and all role players’ approach toward the full realisation of an economically active sport and creative sector”, concluded Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
“Ours has been and remains to be responsible in how we push back against the devastating effects and real dangers presented by Covid-19”.