On Wednesday, 26th February 2020, twelve-year-old Sibusiso Dakuse from the informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, Cape Town went missing. He was last seen walking off from the local sports field, where he had been watching the local basketball club practice, with a man who was later identified as the club's assistant basketball coach. Two days later his lifeless body was found in the reeds by a river following the arrest of the basketball coach who had confessed to police to murdering Sibusiso. It has also been alleged by community members that he had been raped and the police indicated in court that further charges may follow following the conclusion of forensic tests.
Sibusiso was a talented young boy with great promise for the future. He was performing well at his primary school, was attending extra-curricular music lessons at the Hout Bay Music Project and the Kronendal Music Academy. Described as an "incredibly" talented boy. He went missing during the time he was practising for his first solo performance, a wedding and corporate event at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. He was set to perform with the Hout Bay Music Project's senior gig ensemble.
It has since been established that although Sibusiso was attending the basketball practice as a spectator at the sports field he was not a registered club member. He apparently knew the assistant basketball who was a neighbour in the informal settlement. The coach is reported to have approached three boys at the sports field asking them to accompany him to the local pharmacy. Whilst two of the boys declined, Sibusiso agreed and was last seen walking off in the direction of the shops along a riverside path with the basketball coach.
Children from differing backgrounds attend the local sports field, those from more affluent suburbs arriving in cars with parents staying to watch over them, those from the informal settlement walking alone, their parents most probably still at work earning a small income to support their loved ones.
So where were the safeguards at the sports field for Sibusiso and the other children who practice and play sport there, especially those whose parents can not oversee their youngsters and place trust in the volunteers at the various sports club to look out for them.
None of the youth sports clubs operating at the sports field have a safeguarding policy or measures. There is no requirement from the local authority for them to have a child protection or safeguarding policy. This includes the local basketball club at which the accused coached basketball. The South African Basketball Federation has no safeguarding polices and does not yet require clubs to implement safeguarding measures. In fact a quick check of the International Basketball Federation's (FIBA) website would suggest they have not developed safeguarding policies and measures despite this being a requirement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
All sports organisations have an important leadership role in embedding a no-tolerance approach towards all forms of harassment and abuse. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement: Harassment and Abuse in Sport (2016) highlights that ‘‘It is incumbent upon all stakeholders in sport both to adopt general principles for safe sport (…) and to implement and monitor policies and procedures for safe sport (…) which state that: all athletes have a right to be treated with respect, protected from non-accidental violence (…)’’
In addition, the IOC Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance encompass safeguarding and makes it compulsory for organisations that belong to the Olympic movement to adopt these principles, implement relevant measures and monitor compliance.
This tragedy has been awake up call for all the youth sports clubs using the Hout Bay Sports Field who are now collectively acting to implement safeguarding policies, introduce safe recruitment measures and deliver safeguarding training to their coaches. In the case of basketball, the South African Basketball Federation should be leading on safeguarding and ensuring that all basketball clubs adopt safe sport practices, FIBA, the international basketball body, should be implementing the mandate for safeguarding handed down to them by the IOC.
Subisiso was taken from a sports field and murdered. The assistant basketball coach who volunteered at the sports field has confessed to the police and has been charged with murder. The connection between this tragic incident and sport is clear and reminds us that we all have a responsibility to safeguard children. Not enough is being done at community, national and international level to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. Sport needs to do more and it needs to do better.
This article will be updated following the outcome of the legal proceedings.