“It’s a prestigious event which we are not apologetic about,” Mbalula said at the launch, which was shown exclusively on SABC 1 on Wednesday night.
“Everyone can have an award … but we must justify ourselves, why must we have the sports awards? “This is the real creme de la creme of this country that we’re rewarding, and at the same time we’re building role models.”
Mbalula has been widely criticised for allocating large funds to the awards ceremony while sports federations and athletes struggle to find sponsors.
Sport and Recreation South Africa has significantly reduced the budget since a reported R46-million was spent on the 2011 function, when the awards were relaunched after a hiatus of several years. The event included a performance by American singer Brandy, with the guest list including actress Vivica A Fox.
Last year’s awards were less extravagant, with local artists entertaining the guests after a plan to bring out American pop sensation Beyonce flopped – which included Williams sisters Venus and Serena, who were in the country to play an exhibition tennis match. Sports Star-of-the-Year Chad le Clos, a double Olympic medallist, walked away with a R1-million cheque and a brand new BMW.
The budget for this year’s awards is around R18-million.