The day a parliamentarian decided to save a sports star

2016-09-04 08:39
Sports portfolio committee chairperson Beauty Dlulane who helped Manyonga win his war on Tik. Picture: Liza van Deventer

Sports portfolio committee chairperson Beauty Dlulane who helped Manyonga win his war on Tik. Picture: Liza van Deventer

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WATCH: Luvo Manyonga - from tik addict to silver medallist

2016-08-16 15:42

The streets of Mbekweni were alive on Monday as locals celebrated the pride of the Paarl community - Luvo Manyonga - carrying posters expressing their joy for Luvo's achievement. News24 spoke to Luvo's mother and coach. Watch. WATCH

Cape Town - When sports portfolio committee chairperson Beauty Dlulane first heard that long jumper Luvo Manyonga was sitting at home doing nothing, she got into her car and drove to Mbekweni outside Paarl.

It was this drive that set the ball in motion for Manyonga’s recovery and his incredible comeback, which earned him a silver medal at the Rio Olympics last month.

The story of how Manyonga beat his drug addiction to stand on an Olympic podium has been told hundreds of times over the past month, but little is known about what happened in the corridors of Parliament.

While MPs are often criticised for being out of touch, Dlulane, who has previously been in the headlines for scandals such as Travelgate, is an unlikely hero. This week, she reluctantly spoke about the role she played in getting Manyonga back on track.

Two years ago, one of the administrators who works with the sports committee showed her a newspaper article about a young athletics star who was involved in drugs.

“When I saw that he is living here in Paarl, I said, let’s take a drive there,” Dlulane said.

“We enquired with the Boland sports people and they gave us his home address. Fortunately, he was at home when we arrived there.”

Parliament staff members who had travelled with her fetched Manyonga’s mother Joyce from her workplace to discuss the situation.

The family told them how Manyonga had started doing drugs, how they worried about him and how helpless they felt.

“They said he had missed so many opportunities. They told us about his coach who died on his way to get Luvo to go back to training, and how Luvo did not even go to his funeral because of the drugs,” Dlulane said.

During the meeting, Manyonga said he wanted to kick his drug habit.

“I said to him, I am a parent and I want to take you as my child.”

Working with the sports committee, Dlulane says they considered their options. This included taking Manyonga to a rehabilitation facility in the Western Cape or Bloemfontein, while others proposed sending him to Cuba for training, but that could not happen before getting him off the drugs.

Dlulane said she began talks with the SA Institute for Drug-free Sport, but they did not have the money to help Manyonga. She also reported the matter to the department of sports and recreation, and to the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

Sascoc intervened and Manyonga was relocated to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, where his accommodation and training needs were paid for. The rest of his incredible comeback story is history.

“Every day, I would ask Sascoc and Athletics SA: What are they doing about Luvo, what are they doing about this star?”

Her colleagues remember her constant follow-ups.

The DA’s Solly Malatsi said Dlulane was instrumental in convincing Sascoc to offer Manyonga a second chance.

“At every meeting subsequent to her discovering Luvo’s plight, she would appeal to us to pressurise Sascoc to help Luvo. It became her weekly mantra,” Malatsi said.

He remembers Dlulane instructing Sascoc president Gideon Sam to visit Manyonga in Paarl to assess his determination to rebuild his career.

“The night Luvo won the silver medal, all I could think of was how the chairperson’s intervention helped Luvo live his dream of winning an Olympic medal. It’s the single biggest instance of the chairperson doing her job right so far.”

Dlulane, however, couldn’t watch her protégé in action because her mother had passed away. She heard of his medal win from Parliament staff and fellow sports MPs who called, texted and thanked her.

“I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it for Luvo,” she said.

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  luvo manyonga  |  parliament

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