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Sport minister describes EFF’s stadium march as ‘populist theatrics’

Minister of sport Nathi Mthethwa has shut with force EFF’s planned protest outside his office in Pretoria on Thursday morning (11:00) insisting that ‘it will not bear any fruit’.

At the weekend, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commander-in-chief leader Julius Malema stated that the party’s supporters will stage a protest outside Mthethwa’s office to demand the reopening of stadiums in the country.

However, Mthethwa is unshaken as he believes the march is ill-advised and populist theatrics, and the EFF’s decision to visit the department of sport is curious and misguided.

“No amount of irrationality, vulgarity or grandstanding will intimidate the minister, his department or government into populist and irresponsible decision-making and actions,” said Mthethwa in a statement.

“The country’s Covid-19 response strategy is correctly hailed across the world for seeking a balance between saving both lives and livelihoods. The EFF is ill-advised to assume its theatrics will bear any fruit.

“They are advised to show respect to the basic acumen of South Africans and halt their theatrics.

“The choice to picket at the department of sport, arts and culture and direct attention at the minister on a matter based on the Disaster Management Act is quite curious and misguided.”

Mthethwa added that he is shocked by the EFF as the decision to reopen stadiums is not the responsibility of the department of sport. However, the EFF did indicate they will march to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) offices in Parktown and the SA Football Association (Safa) in Nasrec if there is no progress on the issue in Pretoria.

“This is particularly so since the EFF is a political party represented in parliament and legislatures and therefore part of lawmaking. An elementary reading of the Disaster Management Act proves that calling on the minister of sport, arts and culture to open up stadiums is foolhardy and bizarre,” he said.

“The minister is not empowered to make any such decisions, and the EFF should know this. For a party that claims to be made up of academically acclaimed characters, it boggles the mind what deduction could have brought the EFF to conclude the department of sport, arts, and culture is the go-to spot.

“Assuming basic facts about the Disaster Management Act are known to EFF, it begs the question: what truthfully motivates their irrational nitpicking of minister Nathi Mthethwa?”

According to Mthethwa, the government plans to open venues safely and responsibly.

“Fundamental to this strategy is a phased-in approach that remains relevant and is guiding the approach to open up venues. His strategy is currently under consideration through cabinet-related processes responsible for SA’s response to Covid-19. 

“In other words, the decision on opening up of venues does not lie with the minister of sport, arts and culture nor his department. A fact that either skipped the EFF’s logic or affirms the belief they are up to something more perverse and are using this matter as a launchpad towards such end.

“The Safe Return of Spectators strategy proposes opening to 2,000 spectators as the first phase, which was accomplished in October 2021. It is intended to scale up to phase 2, 3 and the last phase at 50%, 75% and 100%, respectively.

“The initial target was to be at 75% by now. fortunately, the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant made this target unachievable in the initial timeframe. The department of sport, arts and culture is committed to pursue cabinet on this phased approach to opening up.”

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