Prez Mbeki says no to race quotas for sports

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Johannesburg, Nov 9 (UNI) South Africa President Thabo Mbeki has supported the call for an end to the racial quotas in the selection of national teams.

''Away with quotas, in with non-racial teams,'' Mr Mbeki said.

''As government we fully support the notion of a winning culture in sport and I will rally 100 per cent behind our national teams when competing in the international sporting arena,'' the president said in parliamentary.

''However, to have a real and lasting impact on our nation we cannot compete with the exclusion of certain parts of our population. If we win, it must be a victory for the whole country as was demonstrated now by the Springboks,'' he added.

South Africa has tried various experiments with quotas to try to increase participation of black natives in traditionally white dominated sports.

He said the government would focus on better development programmes by national federations, bolstered by better training facilities in poor black areas.

''we can exploit our wealth of sporting talent with representative teams a natural outcome.'' Once programmes were adequate and there was equality of facilities and access to training, ''by the law of averages the representivity of teams would normalise naturally,''Mr Mbeki observed.

''We must turn things around in the shortest period of time, but not at the expense of any of our athletes,''he said.

''We want all our children to start from the same line. Who finishes first must not be pre-determined by the disparities of where they individually start,'' he added.

The government had to date budgeted 376 million rand to fund its mass participation and school sport programmes in an attempt to boost development.

The total budget up to 2010 would exceed 1 billion rand, the president said.

South African sports minister has earlier ditched the controversial quota system which demanded a certain number of non-white players in teams.

Makhenkesi Stofile, the sports minister, announced that the focus will switch to helping black athletes by investing upwards of 15 million pound a year.

''Quotas are out,'' he said. ''We are not going to decide who must be on the team. All we are saying is expose everybody, give them an opportunity.'' The change in policy appears to have been triggered by South Africa's success in the rugby World Cup last month. There were claims that a strict implementation of quotas would weaken the side in the future and make repeat such success unlikely.

UNI

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