Namibia: Budget Cuts Have Crippled Sports - Uutoni

Budget cuts have crippled sports in Namibia, former minister of sports, youth and national services Erastus Uutoni says.

Uutoni said this while responding to questions by Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Jennifer van den Heever in Parliament recently.

In his speech, Uutoni who is now minister of local and rural development, said sports must get a bigger budget allocation.

"I wish to make it clear that due to budget cuts, the provision and maintenance of sports facilities fall under the shared mandate of government and other entities such as regional authorities and local councils. Given the current economic situation and against the available funds, building and maintaining facilities has become a challenge," he said.

He added that the government has constructed about 11 sports facilities since independence.

"Federations like the Namibia Football Association (NFA), with assistance from Fifa, have assisted the government to build a football field at Omuthiya. Thus, jointly the ministry and NFA will continue to seek funds to build international-standard football pitches across the country," he said.

Uutoni also urged parents and national leaders to participate in sporting events by attending them or pledging support, monetarily or otherwise.

"Before the 2017/16 financial year, government used to give football N$7 million annually as per cabinet directives. Unfortunately, with the budget cuts, the annual grants for sports federations were done away with and the ministry could only budget for the overhead costs of our SOEs (state-owned enterprises) (National Youth Service, National Youth Council and the Namibian Sports Commission)."

He, however, stated that when international tournaments such as the Olympics and Paralympics, world and African championships, African Nations Championship and Africa Cup of Nations take place, money is always made available by the Ministry of Finance for those competitions.

The former sports minister said they are advocating, through the fifth National Development Plan, to have employment through sport stand at 2% by 2022.

"With the current rate of those making a living out of football, we strongly believe that this desired outcome can be achieved. Therefore, the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service requests this august house for continuous assistance to football because it is the number one sport in the country, played by plus-minus 7 000 players across all races, by all tribes and played by boys and girls," Uutoni said.

Since independence, the sports facilities that the government has constructed through the different regions are the Mariental stadium (Hardap Region), Lüderitz stadium (//Kharas), Rundu sports stadium (Kavango East), Katutura youth complex (Khomas), Khorixas sports ground and Opuwo sports stadium (Kunene), Oshakati independence stadium (Oshana) and the Katima sports field (Zambezi).

Two more sports fields are under construction at Eenhana in the Ohangwena region and at Outapi in the Omusati region. - Nampa

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