SASCOC president Gideon Sam has paid tribute to Vernie Petersen, Director General of the department of Sport and Recreation South Africa, who passed away on Sunday, at the age of 52.Petersen, who passed away in Pretoria, after a short illness, had served his country in a number of prominent public service positions after studying social sciences at the University of the Western Cape as well as the University of Cape Town where he left his mark as a youth activist.He was also a leader in the United Democratic Front, the African National Congress and his church."Vernie was a dear friend and colleague, said Sam, the head of the country's Olympic governing body. "He was a gentle giant who came into the department and grabbed it by the scruff of its neck. At a time when our Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula needs a well-grounded Director General, he and and indeed all of us in the sporting world, are robbed by the death of such a sound character."Vernie, as we all got to call him, understood the needs of sport and always found a fine balance between those needs and the bureaucracy required in his department. He firmly believed that the department needed to deliver, and deliver fast."
Sam said though that Petersen's legacy and influence would certainly live on in the sporting world. "What was being planned under his direction will culminate in the Sports Indaba that the Minister will convene and I would guess the planning towards the Indaba will now be driven with more vigour in honour of Vernie. It's a cruel blow to the entire sports movement because we had just changed gear to do things better and quicker."To us who must soldier on and complete the task of transforming SA sport, let us take courage from the example that Vernie set for us. He always said we must stop all the big talk and start delivering to all of our people, wherever they found themselves."There are no words to console his wife June and the family but we thank them for supporting Vernie while he was leading us. You have lost a husband, father, grandfather and friend, and we as the sports movement have lost a dear leader. Lala ngoxolo Mhlekazi!"