Mbalula to save Soweto race

Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The sports department will try to save this year's Soweto Marathon from cancellation, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's office said on Friday.

"Having interacted with the stakeholders around the issue of the Soweto Marathon, we are of the view that the problem is not money, but boardroom politics," spokesman Paena Galane said in a statement.

The department would inform the public next week about the progress made in saving the marathon.

"The state we are in is the reflection of the state of athletics in the country. We are disappointed that this has reached this state," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Democratic Alliance sports and recreation spokesman Winston Rabotapi called on Mbalula to secure the required funding so the marathon could take place.

"The cancellation of the 2013 Soweto Marathon is disappointing news to the thousands of would-be participants who spent countless hours training for this race," Rabotapi said.

If Mbalula was able to secure millions of rand for the 2013 Sports Awards, surely he could help with the funding of the marathon, which was cancelled because of a R1 million shortfall.

The Gauteng sport department announced on Thursday that the marathon had been cancelled.

"After two weeks of gruelling deliberations and fund-raising efforts by the newly-formed interim committee, a difficult decision was reached to abort this year's Soweto Marathon," the department said in a statement.

The announcement followed a cancellation announced in September by the Soweto Marathon Trust, which was tasked with organising the race.

It said it had been forced to cancel the event because it could not get money from Athletics SA's (ASA) broadcast deal with the SABC.

At the time, ASA denied that the event had been cancelled and vowed it would make an effort to ensure the iconic race would be held on November 3.

Following conflicting reports, Gauteng sport MEC Lebogang Maile set up a committee consisting of representatives from the City of Johannesburg, Central Gauteng Athletics, the Gauteng Sport Council, and the Soweto Sport Council.

"It is heartbreaking to see the Soweto marathon, the only South African premier race that takes place in the township, facing such serious challenges," Maile said on Thursday.

"As the provincial government, we want to immediately support the organisers in preparing for next year's marathon, so that they are able to present a world-class event at the time when the country is celebrating 20 years of our democracy."

The provincial department said due to time constraints it would not be possible to prepare for a race of such a magnitude in two weeks.
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