Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has hit out at a statement released by the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) - in which they stated the 'Ultimate Human Race' will go ahead as planned on Sunday, 14 June 2020 - pending a final decision on 17 April - calling it "irresponsible".
On Tuesday‚ CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn said in a statement: “With nearly three months to go to Comrades 2020‚ the CMA board has decided that it is premature to postpone this year’s Comrades Marathon.
“We will however continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and will make a decision by 17 April, depending upon how the situation evolves, on whether to postpone the Comrades 2020 to a date later in the year.”
Numerous events across all sporting codes have been cancelled, postponed or suspended after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declared the coronavirus outbreak a national disaster last Sunday. One of the key measures highlighted in his speech to stem the spread of the virus was the prohibition of gatherings of 100 people or more.
The Comrades Marathon has an entry cap of 25 000 runners, at least 1 000 of which are foreign nationals.
According to the TimesLIVE website, Mthethwa was speaking at a meeting on Tuesday with various sports stakeholders - including the SA Football Association (SAFA)‚ the Premier Soccer League (PSL)‚ Cricket South Africa (CSA) and SA Rugby - in response to the coronavirus outbreak which, as of Wednesday morning, 85 confirmed infections in South Africa.
Mthethwa condemned the stance taken by the CMA.
“It was an irresponsible statement that was made earlier today by Comrades Marathon that they will go on like nothing has happened. We want to reiterate that nothing will go on. Comrades Marathon will never go on.
“We are dealing with a problem of the highest proportion here‚” said Mthethwa.
“I don’t know how the event will take place if they still have to come to government and apply.
"It is a very irresponsible statement and I want to say that very strongly. This statement should not be followed through. It is a terrible statement. It just needs to be dealt with decisively so that it doesn’t go through.
“Almost all our sporting codes have been on the ball on this matter and we should continue to move with one voice. We have to come together.”
In addition, Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Aleck Skhosana said the CMA will not be releasing any statements from now on and they will to follow directives from ASA.
“Long before we came here to the meeting, I had a call from the minister, saying Comrades Marathon are saying they are going to have their race come rain or shine‚” said Skhosana.
“ASA issued a statement earlier that we will embark on informing our members after 15 April on the status of whether all competitions are going to carry on or what. We stick by that and Comrades will not issue any other statements from now on.”
Whether the 2020 Comrades Marathon goes ahead or not, remains to be seen. This year's race is due to be the 95th edition and is scheduled to be a 'Down Run' from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
It will be the 47th 'Down Run' in Comrades history.
The race will start at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and cut-off is 12 hours later at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, covering a distance of 90.2km.
— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) March 17, 2020
Please note: By law, no athletics event will go ahead without prior government approval.