Meet Comrades boss

2013-11-19 00:00

THE Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has a new leader in Mac Chitja, who last week replaced Dave Dixon as chairperson. Dixon now occupies a place on the 10-strong board.

In October 2012, Chitja and Steve Mkasi caused a stir by stepping down from their positions as board members amidst concerns over transformation and the lack of female representivity on the board. They also claimed further that the voting and election process that year was unconstitutional. The voting process then allowed any member of the CMA to have a say in who should sit on the board.

After a period of negotiation, it was decided that Dixon would stay on as chairperson with Chitja his deputy for a one-year term in order for the constitution to be amended.

A recent amendment to the constitution decided that the chairperson and vice-chairperson can only be elected by the CMA’s board, and it restricted the term of office of the chairperson to four years at any given time. Chitja was unanimously elected as the chairperson by the board and a previous chairman, Peter Proctor, was unanimously elected as vice-chairperson.

Dixon has served as chairman for eight years. The constitutional amendments precluded him from standing again.

“The transformation issue remains. It is not over now just because Mac is here,” Chitja, an attorney in Pietermaritzburg, told The Witness yesterday. “There is still only one woman on the board [Cheryl Winn], and we still want to address that.”

Chitja joined the Comrades executive committee in 2001, and has served on either that board or the CMA’s board [twice as vice-chairperson] ever since. He has also chaired the transformation committee since its inception in 2002.

In terms of the race itself, which takes place in June each year, Chitja was confident that he was equipped to face the challenges that come with his new post.

“I admit that having a new face in charge can raise concern,” he said. “I want to maintain the high standards of ethics that the race has always boasted and ensure that we have the best ultra-marathon in the world.”

Chitja confirmed that he was expecting the maximum number of 18 000 runners to take part in the 2014 edition of the race — a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

“Entries are going well. If we reach 18 000 before the end of November then we will close entries, but we will extend that period if we still have space open,” he said. “The number of foreign entries has also continued to grow.”

The chairperson added that the CMA would do everything in its power to ensure that the drug testing fiasco of 2012 would be avoided at all costs. Winner Ludwick Mamabolo was controversially tested and accused of using performance enhancing drugs only to later be cleared of all charges.

“We do not actually do the testing, that is the responsibility of the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport [SAIDS],” said Chitja. “Our responsibility is to ensure that the officials are given the right platform to conduct the testing, which we did this year and will do again next year.”

On his board, Chitja embraced the fact that there would be disagreements amongst the members. “I think when you have differing opinions and viewpoints and you can discuss them, then that is the sign of a healthy board,” he said. “We need to work together.”

This was echoed by Dixon, who said that the newly elected board fully supported Chitja’s nomination as chairman.

“Mac and I have worked together on the CMA board for many years and despite the issues that have arisen we have never detracted from our roles in ensuring the sustainability of the race,” he said.

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