Monday, June 1, 2020

COVID-19 knocks the wind out of Rakgare’s sails

Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare was this week the face of how much COVID-19 has changed the world of sports.

When the youthful minister sat behind his desk in Gaborone on Thursday for a video conference with his counterparts from their offices throughout the region, it marked a major shift in how sports executives conduct their meetings.

Rakgare could not have a face to face meeting with other members of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Council of Ministers Troika because of the Coronavirus social distancing and travel restrictions. For many years, sports was almost synonymous with contact and practices such as remote work and online meetings came up against strong behavioural inertia. Rakgare’s cushy office at the government enclave was however not exactly a port in the storm. The minister who was hoping to touch the ground running, has seen his plans and diary of events ruined by the pandemic and has had to rush back to the drawing room. Sport is among the hardest hit industries in all affected countries, which have duly cancelled, postponed or suspended all scheduled events and activities to minimise the spread of the virus and blunt the infection spike.

Such events as the first Chefs de Mission meeting for the 2020 Region 5 Games, Desk Officers meeting, Women in Sport Committee meeting, Sport for People with Disabilities meeting, Secretariat meeting and Executive Committee meetings, which had been pencilled in for the period between March 22 and May 7, have had to be put on ice due to the devastating pandemic.The proposed Region 5 Marathon scheduled for May 16 in South Africa was also indefinitely postponed.The Regional Annual Sports Awards scheduled for May 23 in Eswatini have been put on provisional stand-by pending assessment of the prevailing circumstances.    

In what has now become the new norm, Rakgare on Thursday had a virtual meeting with the Troika to discuss the devastating effects of COVID-19 on sport in the region and plan how to ride out the storm. Top of the agenda was the impact of the global pandemic on the Region 5 programmes, particularly the 2020 Region 5 Youth Games scheduled for December 4 to 13, 2020.The Troika is a Management Board of the Council of Ministers of Sport in the region and is currently chaired by the Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Mahali Phamotse.

It includes Rakgare, Malawi Minister of Youth and Sport, Francis Phiso, and Botswana Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.According to Article 15 of the AUSC region 5 Constitution, the Troika takes decisions in-between the meetings of Council of Ministers.The AUSC Region 5 chief executive, Stanley Mutoya, was quoted in the Zimbabwean Herald newspaper saying the Troika will assess the risk exposure of the Region, the impact and channel a response strategy in order to ensure business continuity in the wake of the uncertainty and anxiety caused by this pandemic.”The AUSC Region 5 has an existing risk management policy, and charter which will be used to assess the impact of the inherent impact of the pandemic on business continuity,” Mutoya said.

This assessment will be based on a consequence criterion, likelihood criteria and determine the priority for attention by the Region on the treatment or management of the risk.This is in order to mitigate and minimise impact that relates to financial loss, health and safety of sportsmen and sportswomen including spectators, communities and members of the public, programmes uptake by member countries, brand reputation and legal and compliance impact in view of guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and various governments of the member countries.The AUSC Region 5 is one of the five Regions entrusted with the responsibility to develop sport under the African Union.

This follows the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa on July 26, 2013, under which the Region 5 was known as SCSA Zone VI.The SCSA was established on December 14, 1966 and served as a specialised agency of the then Organisation of African Unity for the coordination of the Africa Sports Movement.It was meant to utilise sport in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid on the continent.Invariably, the SCSA was essentially a political organisation which furthered the aims and objectives of the OAU through sport.Members of the AUSC Region 5 are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.The AUSC Region 5 is the continent’s most functional Region and a trailblazer in implementing sports programmes and activities.

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