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From jail to Cabinet: New minister Gayton McKenzie wants to use sport to end gangsterism

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PA leader Gayton McKenzie plans to put an end to gangsterism through sport after being appointed as the new Minster of Sport, Arts and Culture.

New Sports Minister Gayton McKenzie. File picture

PATRIOTIC Alliance (PA) leader Gayton McKenzie plans to put an end to gangsterism through sport after being appointed as the new Minster of Sports, Arts and Culture

McKenzie was announced as the new minister on Sunday night when President Cyril Ramaphosa finally named his new Cabinet. The Cabinet consists of partners from the government of national unity, which includes parties such as the ANC, DA, IFP, FF+, UDM, PAC, Rise Mzansi, UAT, Al-Jama-ah, Good and the NFP.

The former sports minister, Zizi Kodwa, stepped down from the position after he was charged with bribery and corruption just before the May 29 elections. He remains a Member of Parliament, but he did not make it into the new executive.

An excited McKenzie went live on Facebook shortly after the Cabinet announcement on Sunday. He had been vocal about wanting the Police and/or Home Affairs portfolios and had publicly said the PA would leave the GNU if they were not given positions.

However, McKenzie, who is a former gang member and convict, says sport was also on their list of ministries they wanted because “a child in sport, is a child out of court”.

“Thank you to President Cyril Ramaphosa, there were a lot of people who didn’t want me or the PA to be in this coalition. He phoned me and told me ‘I need you in my Cabinet’ and that for me is all I needed to hear,” McKenzie said on Facebook.

“We wanted Home Affairs and Police, but the ones that truly follow us know we also wanted Sport.”

McKenzie used the examples of the path former Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates defender Willem Jackson and former Springbok winger Aswhin Willemse followed to better their lives and stay out of jail.

“When I grew up there was a boy in our street who always walked with a ball under under his arm. While we would rob and steal, he would be playing with the ball and we would make fun of him,” said McKenzie.

“He never stole and never committed crime. He was just a boy who was interested in soccer. Then I ended up in jail and I saw him play for Orlando Pirates and the national team – his name is Willem Jackson.

Willem Jackson of Platinum Stars. File picture: Dumisani Sibeko, Independent Newspapers

“Willem Jackson grew up in the same street I grew up in. What separated Willem Jackson from the life we lived was sport.

“Ashwin Willemse is another example … he was a gangster and the gang boss one day told him get out of this nonsense and go play sports.

“Ashwin Willemse became one of the world’s top rugby players at the time.

“I can tell you so many stories about why a child in sport is a child out of court. We are going to stop gangsterism through sport.”

Former Sprinbok rugby player Ashwin Willemse. File picture: Tracey Adams, Independent Newspapers

McKenzie said he was an avid sports fan, having travelled to watch the Champions League final as well as the Rugby World Cup.

His main priority as the new sports minister is to see that there are functioning sports centres around the country to keep youngsters off the streets.

He also wants to give a lot more recognition to indigenous sporting codes and rope in forgotten sports starts to help.

“I love sports, I went to watch the Champions League final and the Rugby World Cup. I’m passionate about sport and I follow sports,” McKenzie said.

“I also know the discrimination, especially when it comes to poor people and indigenous sport, people in the villages.

“We have got great players who aren’t involved in sport, like Mark Williams, Makhaya Ntini. Those are the people that we need to bring back.

“We’re bringing this department to life, we are brining fire to it. I’m not a guy who is lazy. If you are in sport, today I want you to be happy. We are going to do well together.”

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