Pay up on promises, Mbaks

2016-10-30 06:00
Rio Paralympic games 2016 arrival at OR Tambo Airport, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Picture: Themba Makofane)

Rio Paralympic games 2016 arrival at OR Tambo Airport, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Picture: Themba Makofane)

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Impulsive Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula was at it again this week – playing Father Christmas to South African sports stars.

Now he has promised Mamelodi Sundowns players R700 000, following their victory in the CAF Champions League.

Sundowns have joined a growing list of athletes who have been waiting, some for months, for Mbalula to pay up on bonuses he had publicly promised, despite his department not actually having any fixed budget for such promises.

City Press learnt this week that Mbalula is yet to deliver on his promised cash payments, not only to Olympic and Paralympic stars who brought home medals, but to winners and runners-up of the Comrades Marathon.

Mbalula had announced a R100 000 bonus to winners of the Comrades Marathon in May, including R40 000 for second-place finishers, and R20 000 for third-place achievers.

Five months down the line, he still has to deliver.

Later, Mbalula announced cash bonuses for the Olympic and Paralympic Games medallists, presumably due on their return from those tournaments.

City Press could not get comment from the athletes themselves, but coaches who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that their athletes were still hoping for the cash.

Mbalula’s spokesperson, Esethu Hasane, meanwhile, blamed prolonged government processes and Treasury regulations for the payment delays.

He also revealed that Mbalula “does not have a set budget” for the promises.

The razzmatazz minister has to get approval from Treasury for the funds, Hasane explained.

“The minister has a programme called the Excellence Recognition Programme; it does not really get budgeted for by the department because we don’t know when and where athletes are going to compete, and how many athletes are going to win and in what [categories],” he said.

“It’s a programme that has been long going,” Hasane emphasised this week.

He said that payouts to athletes were often further hampered because, apart from the sports department and Treasury, the relevant sports federations have to be involved.

For Treasury to approve funds would require certain documents to be submitted from the federations, he said.

“I know that in the case of the Comrades [marathon], Treasury required a document from Athletics South Africa, who in turn took time to submit the document.”

Hasane said that in the case of the Olympic medallists, the National Lottery Commission was requested to help out with footing the bill. But they, too, have to go through their own procedures.

“We usually take three months to pay, but if it’s an extraordinary case, it goes beyond three months,” Hasane said.

Hasane said the athletes would probably get the promised money by the end of the year.

The DA’s spokesperson on sports, Solly Malatsi, said it was all very unfair, inconsiderate and disrespectful to elite athletes to be left hanging this long on when they would get their money.

“The fact that Minister Mbalula hasn’t paid the athletes to date, demonstrates without any shadow of a doubt that once again the announcement was a typical case of a rush of blood to the head without thorough consideration,” said Malatsi.

Malatsi said when it comes to fulfilling his promises on bonuses to the stars, Mbalula should act with the same vigour and eagerness that he resorted to when making the promises.

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Read more on:    mamelodi sundowns  |  fikile mbalula

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