Cape Town: South Africa is a winning nation, the Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula said today during a special joint sitting of Parliament to celebrate South Africa’s six medals at the London 2012 Olympics.
Addressing the National Assembly – including Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures and members from the South African Olympic team and the South African netball team – Mbalula said August and July had marked one of the most successful periods in South African sports since re-admittance into the world sporting event over 20 years ago.
Mbalula congratulated the country’s six Olympic medallists, as well as the Proteas cricket team for their 2-0 victory over England last week which moved them into the number one Test side spot and the South African netball team, who earlier this month defeated Africa’s top netball team, Malawi, at the inaugural Netball Diamond Challenge.
He also wished wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, who suffered an eye injury in England which saw him retiring from cricket, a speedy recovery.
“All our national teams have against all odds made our people proud and our country a winning nation,” he said.
South Africa claimed three gold medals – by Cameron van der Burgh in the men’s 100m breaststroke, Chad le Clos in the men’s 200m butterfly and by the men’s lightweight four; two silver medals – by Le Clos in the men’s 100m butterfly and Caster Semenya women’s 800m – and one bronze medal – by Bridgitte Hartley in the women’s K-1 500m canoeing event.
Mbalula lauded the country’s six medallists and also highlighted 400m sprinter Oscar Pistorius’s performance. Pistorius became the first disabled athlete to compete in the Olympic Games when he qualified for the men’s 400m semi-final.
He said South Africa came out as one of the top African countries and had even outscored top countries such as Argentina, Norway and Finland to come in at number 21 on the medals table.
In all, 10 of the 53 African nations that took part in the London Olympics won medals.
“Not everyone usually gets to be acknowledged by Parliament and I hope that these young people of our country will come to realise that to excel for South Africa is not something that will be delivered on a platter, but that we have to work hard to unite our nation,” he said.
Opposition MPs saluted the country’s top athletes for bringing hope to the country and unifying South Africans, but called for more funding and improved organisation to boost South Africa’s performance in the 2016 games to be held in Rio.
The DA’s Winston Rabotapi called on the government to spend more on sports at schools and the private sector to spend more on developing sports – especially those sporting codes that are less popular.
Cope MP Graham MacKenzie called for South Africa to be regarded as a top 10 country in the Olympic medals table and said the country needed to selectively single out 10 targeted codes in which the country could excel with a 10-year plan which included the setting up of sports development centres.
The ID’s Haniff Hoosen sent MPs into fits of laughter when he remarked that Chad le Clos’s sterling performance at the Olympics had made him sad, because since the swimmer had taken gold and silver medals, his daughter had replaced all the photos of her father in her room, with those of the swimming legend.