Sanele Mthiyane

The rot in Basketball South Africa, why should we care?

Mthiyane: We have to get a sense of what is going on the ground

THE foundation of South African basketball has always been a shaky one and poor governance has been the dominant theme. The blame for the sport bouncing about without direction can be placed right at the doorstep of previous and present leadership of Basketball South Africa (BSA).

Are you a basketball player or a coach? Do you have an interest in basketball administration? Are you a referee or a sports scientist that is interested in basketball? Do you have a child that is interested in basketball? Are you a media practitioner that is interested in covering the sport? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then this should matter to you.

This is an example of how a whole value chain is impacted by the inertia in South African basketball, where many people’s talents could have been unleashed to improve the game. But, this has not been the case, because of poor governance in the sport.

When the lockdown began, the hope was that the leadership at various levels (district, provincial and national) would work together to strategise on how to revive the sport.

There were official meetings to begin the rebuilding process, but along the way a few hurdles were experienced, as official processes allegedly did not favour the agendas of certain individuals (those holding power). Basketball, this time went from bouncing without direction to being completely deflated.

Tsakani Ngobeni celebrates with fans after South Africa qualified for Afrobasket 2017. Pictures: Supplied

The depressing state of affairs led to questions being asked and conversations being had in private and on social media spaces (Let’s talk SA basketball on Facebook) and Twitter (Thabo Sithole’s tweet to the minister), about what was going on.

Instead of making use of a golden opportunity to get things right, those in power retreated to the more familiar path of shooting air balls and not doing anything to move the game forward.

And now, with basketball allowed to resume activities, the sentiment remains that the leadership under current BSA president Sanele Mthiyane is not being transparent. And that the leadership is not taking the necessary steps to bring the basketball community together to solve this crisis.

Further, Mthiyane and his team have been at the helm of BSA for a few years now but basketball remains at a standstill since they took over, and questions regarding legitimacy have arisen. The questioning of Mthiyane’s validity as president emanates from the following issues:

  • The duration of his term of office is in question
  • BSA financials have not been shared with the basketball community and the public  
  • BSA has not had a fully constituted AGM
  • BSA has 5 active members instead of 15 members, which raises questions about meeting quorums
  • There have not been national programs for the last five years

The BSA has set guidelines for the resumption of the sport. However, there has been no clear direction given to provinces on the resumption of basketball activities, including sharing of BSA’s future plans regarding basketball.

And now, BSA has requested a meeting at the last minute (5 October 2020) with the provincial chairpersons scheduled for Saturday, 17 October to outline the way forward. This has been met by an online petition led by a group named the Friends of Basketball Movement against the AGM and pleading for government intervention.

In response to these sentiments, Mthiyane pointed out that it is part of his mandate as president of the federation to call meetings with chairpersons, and highlighted the impact COVID-19 has had on their plans for the year.

Christopher Gabriel playing for South Africa during the BRICS tournament in China.

“The constitution of BSA allows the president to have a meeting with chairpersons and engage them on views they deem to be in the interests of basketball. Of course, we were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which put sport activities on hold. Now that basketball has resumed, we have to engage various people, because we cannot decide unilaterally what needs to happen. We have to get a sense of what is going on the ground, and how we move forward,” said Mthiyane.

A fundamental question regarding this is, who the provincial chairpersons that BSA will be meeting are as this information is not in the public domain.

Mthiyane refutes the notion that during his tenure an AGM is yet to be held. “It’s not true. Last year in November we hand an AGM and members were there. We decided on an action plan that was clear and that by March we should give a report back. We formed various commissions and responsibilities were given. Unfortunately, the lockdown happened. What could we do? Even FIBA put their programs on hold.” said. However, consistent communication with the basketball community by BSA has been an ongoing concern.

The BSA president lambasted those that questioned the legitimacy of the members attending the meeting on Saturday through social media.

It’s unfortunate that when you don’t like a person, you can write whatever you like about them. It’s unfortunate but we are a democratic country. We (BSA) are not driven by what is said on social media. Those who criticise us must be asked whether they participate in the clubs as that is the directive we have given. So, you will find those that have opinions are not part of clubs, institutions and provinces. We are not in any position to certify views posted on social media, but we welcome views and engagements from the clubs.” said Mthiyane, who belongs to a club called Rim Shakers in Shakaville.

On the matter of BSA being dormant, Mthiyane pointed out that since he assumed office in 2015, two years later, the men’s national team competed in Afrobasket in Senegal and participated in an international tournament in China. All this despite the organisation having a tight budget. The basketball community would like to see BSA do more with its national programmes.

Women’s national team during AfroBasket 2015.

“Remember, basketball in South Africa has challenges, but we are still building capacity in terms coaches and referees. Also, USSA and schools with the assistance of the department are continuing with their programs. In the provinces, leagues are continuing even though there are challenges here and there,” said Mthiyane.

“We are going to tell the chairpersons we are ready. Our finances are in order, and we are ready to call an AGM to deal with what we have been commissioned to do. My job is not to address the media about the constitutional matters we are going to talk about. I have a duty to inform the public about what we, as BSA have resolved to do.”

And there you have it! It is clear that for far too long South African basketball has been shooting rather aimlessly. Is there a glimmer of hope? We cannot conclude on that. The basketball community must continue to hold BSA accountable. And the BSA must discharge its responsibility and take the basketball community into its confidence on all matters basketball.

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