KZN Sports’ five-star splurge

2013-10-19 00:00

MONTHS after the KwaZulu-Natal Sports Department financially torpedoed local school atheletes in a national competition, it coughed up a fortune for five-star hotels for hundreds of pupils and officials in Durban.

This week, some of the parents whose children were part of the South African National Primary Schools Track and Field Championships in Sasolburg in March reacted with shock at the apparent double standards.

Weekend Witness has confirmed that the department picked up the bill for 1 000 pupils at the Southern Sun Elangeni&Maharani Hotel, and about 200 technical and sports officials at the five-star Hilton Hotel.

The group was part of the about 6 000 pupils in the city last weekend to participate in the provincial Top Schools Tournament.

In March, The Witness reported how young athletes were left in the lurch after the department announced at the eleventh hour that it could not afford to take pupils to the national championships in Sasolburg.

Pupils had already been waiting at the central meeting place when department officials informed them that there were no buses coming, and that there was no money available for their transport and accommodation.

Many children who had been accompanied by their coaches had to return home without even the chance of competing.

In the end, a handful of parents dug into their own pockets, and one mother even borrowed money for transport, in order to give their children the opportunity to compete in Sasolburg.

Of the 90 pupils who had been selected from schools across KZN, only 13 managed to go to Sasolburg.

Sandra Meyer of Louwsburg was one parent who managed to get her daughter to Sasolburg to compete.

“It’s ridiculous that they have money for hotels now. What’s going to happen next, because their championships are starting in February?” she asked.

Mercy Mhlanga of Cato Ridge, who had to borrow money and use taxis to ensure her nine-year-old daughter could compete in the Sasolburg championships, agreed.

“It’s so painful to hear that they now have money,” she said.

Last weekend’s tournament saw more than 6 000 pupils in KZN flock to Durban to take part in the three-day event. Weekend Witness established that the Elangeni&Maharani accommodated 1 000 school children. The rest of the pupils were accommodated at other venues around Durban.

About 200 technical and sport officials slept at the five-star Hilton Hotel in Durban.

The department said all accommodation was at a discounted price, but refused to disclose the amount.

Yesterday, the rate online for a single room at the Hilton Hotel was quoted at R1 360 and R 1 710 for a double room per night, including breakfast.

In reply to a request for a quote at the Hilton Hotel for a group booking, they offered a discount of R360 per room per night on the normal rate.

At the Elangeni&Maharani, the online rate for one room per night starts at R1 450.

KZN Athletics president Sello Mokoena yesterday declined to comment about the Top Schools Tournament because they were not involved in it.

He did, however, say that when they organise their events they consider safety, comfort and cost implications. “We don’t sleep at hotels because we’re using public funds,” Mokoena said.

Sports and Recreation spokesperson Sandile Qwabe insisted all accommodation was discounted.

“Ideally, the department would prefer to arrange accommodation at different tertiary and other educational institutions in and around Durban, but due to the unavailability of space, children had to be booked at different hotels,” Qwabe said. “This was a last resort.”

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