Men Expect Me To Make Them Tea, I Never Will

Published 10 years ago
Men Expect Me To Make Them Tea, I Never Will

It was a caucus about transformation and we were going to appoint a committee, almost like a task-team, to deal with certain issues. I was the only woman at the meeting and when it came to electing the members, the men started appointing each other. Eventually, one of them realized that they did not have any female members, so they said to me, ‘Come and sit on the panel so we can have a woman.’ I said no.’”

Despite repeated requests from her colleagues, Ntambi Ravele declined adamantly. She made it clear that she would stick to her decision.

“I wasn’t going to be part of something just because I was a woman. Especially because I had experience on my side,” she says.


At the time of the convention, Ravele had served as national co-ordinator for Women and Sport South Africa, represented the country at the International Olympic Committee, chaired the Supreme Council for Sport in South Africa’s zone VI Women and Sport Committee, and won the president’s Sport Administrator of the Year title. She had credentials many people in the room could only dream of and she was not going to allow them to be undermined by a politically-correct, gender-based appointment.

“When those types of things happen, you get to a point where you can’t even feel offended. You can only sit back and laugh.”

Ravele had the last laugh as the team that was set up turned out to be nothing more than a talking shop.

“Nothing ever happened after that,” she says.


But much has happened for Ravele. She has served as president of Netball South Africa in the mid-2000s, during which she obtained a television rights deal with the public broadcaster, the SABC, and corporate sponsorship worth R10 million ($913,000). In April 2013, she got into the boxing ring with BSA. It is her most challenging role yet, but she has already packed a serious punch.

When Ravele was appointed, she identified the most pressing issue in boxing to be that of compliance. Mismanagement, be it from administrators or promoters, resulted in embarrassment. Veteran super middleweight boxer Dingaan ‘The Rose of Soweto’ Thobela had his license revoked because he was over the age limit and did not fight actively for the stipulated period. And Noni Tenge, South Africa’s first female world champion, was stripped of her IBF title for not competing often enough.

“We really needed to clean up the industry. We had to change our image by looking at licenses and payments. We had situations where licenses were not issued properly, others where fighters were not paid within a certain time and fights were being canceled.”

To address these issues, Ravele had to reach a consensus with boxing promoters, whom she met at the National Sports Indaba early in her tenure. She extracted commitments from them that would pay greater attention to playing by the rules.


“We put systems in place and now we have to make sure we work within these systems. Money must be paid within a certain time frame and the promoters must have registered companies that operate properly. For example, they must all have a tax clearance. We will be making sure all these things are abided by,” says Ravele.

Her first step towards reviving South African boxing was to find a common ground regarding television rights for fights. Broadcast deals are one of the largest revenue streams for sports, who controls them has major implications for how the game is run.

During Ngconde Balfour’s tenure, Ravele’s predecessor, BSA had no control over which matches were televised on the public broadcaster and which were sold to pay television.

When boxing promoters Golden Gloves reached an exclusive deal with satellite service SuperSport to broadcast its fights, BSA could do nothing. Similarly, BSA was powerless when the SABC decided it would no longer televise matches.


At the recent Boxing Indaba, all promoters agreed that BSA could negotiate dates with broadcasters for fights. While it does not solve the problem it is a step in the right direction.

Now, BSA will hold discussions with SABC, SuperSport and to decide which one will commit to showing live matches. Ravele will also discuss SuperSport’s Golden Gloves deal to see if they are willing to adjust the terms when the contact comes up for renewal. Promoters will then bid to have their fights televised on the dates BSA agrees on. She has also guaranteed smaller promoters, who develop boxing by giving unknown fighters a chance, that they will get their fights on air for a minimum fee.

In this way, Ravele hopes that boxing can reach the masses rather than only be accessible to the elite.

“We want to move away from the monopolies and make sure that we have television channels that give us coverage at prime time, so that we can promote the sport,” says Ravele.


Her reasons for wanting more coverage are two-fold. On the one hand, it will be financially beneficial to BSA and everyone involved in the sport, and on the other, her goal is to restore boxing to the prominence it once enjoyed, in terms of results and among its fans.

“We used to have a lot of world champions and we need to get back to that level. At the moment, we are not there. If you think back to the days when Baby Jake Matlala was in his prime, everybody knew who he was.”

Because of the relative anonymity of IBO super middleweight champions Thomas ‘Tommy Gun’ Oosthuizen and junior lightweight title-holder Kaizer Mabuza, South Africans may see boxing as a sport in decline. That is not the case, of the 122 titles that South African male boxers have won, 32 were earned in the last five years.

What is concerning is that many of these titles are with the smaller federations, Ravele vows to change that. She also hopes that female fighters, who are known almost exclusively as Tenge, can start making headlines. Ravele was part of the committee that paved the way for women to participate in boxing in South Africa. Today, she wants to be the driving force behind making champions of the fairer sex.


“South Africa has not been involved in women’s boxing for that long and because it’s quite new, we need to support female boxers and the set-up they work in. At the moment, there are very few women promoters and trainers and we have to create a system where more of them can come through. I’d like to see more women trainers, especially because they understand the challenges facing women in the sport and they allow women to prepare in way that is comfortable for them,” she says.

But what about the challenges Ravele will face as she aims to lift BSA off the ropes and into the center of the boxing ring?

“I have been in the industry for a long time and the only thing I want is to do my job to the best of my ability.”

While she continues fighting to put boxing back on track, after she ends her tenure with the pugilists, she will concentrate on her business and work as a consultant for various sports federations.

“I think I will enjoy that kind of work because people respect me for who I am. In the early days during meetings, some of the men may have expected me to make tea during the breaks or something like that. I never did that and I never will.”