“We can’t be duped‚ we can’t be manipulated‚ we can’t be threatened.”
With these words‚ sports minister Fikile Mbalula said the South African government wanted to host the Commonwealth Games‚ but it would be forced to pay over the odds to do so.
At a press conference in Durban on Tuesday‚ Mbalula — a strong supporter of the Durban 2022 games — said that increased demands from the Commonwealth Games Federation meant the event was out of the country’s financial reach.
Speaking after his director-general‚ Alec Moemi‚ had earlier confirmed that the country had spent R118 million on the bid to this point‚ Mbalula said that government had the country’s best interests at heart.
“Any loss of money is regrettable. Don’t take it that R118-million lost means nothing; it means a lot. We went out of our way to secure the games — but not at all costs. We cannot say to government that it must spend money it did not have.
“This is not 2010. This is 2017. We’re much wiser. We can’t be getting into this with our eyes wide open knowing that‚ in the long term‚ it will hurt the country and the economy‚” he said.
Mbalula said the country was “cautious” when it bid for the Games.
“It’s not like when we were going with soccer [2010 World Cup] when we built stadiums we did not plan and there were cost overruns. We can’t be duped‚ we can’t be manipulated‚ we can’t be threatened. We know what we want and it is in our means.
“We want the games. The games will benefit us economically. But not at all costs and ignoring what we can afford. It is regrettable that we cannot find each other. I was definitely not going to sign any agreement on behalf of government that I knew‚ very well‚ we couldn’t afford‚” he said.
Moemi later said that government “can’t be bullied anymore“.
“We aren’t a vacuum cleaner that sucks up everything that comes our way. We choose very carefully‚” he said.
Moemi added that Durban was ready‚ “even if Commonwealth Federation says to us we must continue”.
On Monday‚ CGF bosses confirmed that Durban had lost the games. Citing “significant departures” from the original agreement‚ the CGF said it would begin to find an alternative host nation.
In a statement‚ the federation said: “It is with disappointment that the detailed review has concluded that there is a significant departure from the undertakings provided in Durban’s bid and as a result a number of key obligations and commitments in areas such as governance‚ venues‚ funding and risk management/assurance have not been met under the revised proposition.”
— TMG Digital/The Times