Msunduzi bungles top road race

2011-01-13 00:00

INACTION, poor management and short-sightedness by the Msunduzi municipality are set to destroy athletics in the Pietermaritzburg area at a cost of millions in income to local commerce.

Running club Alex Wasps was forced to cancel this Sunday’s annual 21 km race last week.

This would have been the 34th running of the race, which tours the eas­tern suburbs and Bisley conservation area.

Although the club sent a letter requesting permission and traffic department support for the race in November, they are yet to receive a written response or the standard indemnity form.

“We met with the traffic department who explained they had not been allocated their overtime budget for officers to work on the event,” said race organiser Vic Hydes.

“Their intention was to use 30 officers at a cost of R26 500, for a three-hour race early on Sunday morning. This money either has to be covered by the municipality or paid by the club. We don’t take that in entries.”

The overtime proposal for the first quarter of the year was submitted to municipal management in December.

However, as of last week there had been no response from the manager’s office, which prompted the traffic department to recommend the cancellation of the race.

With 10 days to go, Hydes was left with no option but to agree.

The race typically attracts 500 to 600 runners, of which 25% to 30% are from beyond municipal borders as well as from up country.

Including family and supporters, the event attracts around 1 300 people who spend around 10 times the amount of traffic costs into local commerce in meals, petrol, accommodation and race costs.

Msunduzi is the only municipality attempting to charge for traffic offi­cers in a province that relies on tourism for wealth and employment.

Excluding the Comrades Marathon, which has a contract with the municipality, there are 12 local club races estimated to attract over 15 000 runners per year.

Estimating visiting runners at 25% per race and assuming they come with only one friend or family member, the visitors potentially generate around R14 million for local coffers, against a cost of less than R500 000 to the municipality for traffic control.

“It’s not clear if it’s short-sightedness or just the incompetence of management that we are in this situation,” said John Hall, race director of the Maritzburg Marathon, South Africa’s most popular Comrades qualifier, which attracts 3 500 visiting runners and their families.

“The municipality is either incapable or won’t get their act in order. In December I wrote directly to the mayor, who forwarded the letter of concern to Mr [Thokozani] Maseko [the acting municipal manager] for his urgent attention. A month has passed without response,” continued Hall.

Road running is one of the most culturally diverse sports, open to everyone and requiring minimal costs.

There are around 1 000 registered runners in the city’s 12 clubs. Many top road runners use prize money to help support their extended families.

A further source of frustration for the athletics community surrounds the development of a track facility which was approved in 2002, but has yet to have a location approved by the municipality in spite of the donation of the Forsyth Grounds in Alexandra Park for the project. (see page ?)

No comment has been received from either the mayor or the municipal manager’s office.

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