Gender imbalance allegations in Comrades Marathon Association board

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Zinhle Sokhela is one of the two women on the Comrades Marathon Association board.
Zinhle Sokhela is one of the two women on the Comrades Marathon Association board.
CMA

New Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo has addressed the worrying gender imbalance in the organisation’s newly-elected board.

The Pietermaritzburg-based CMA, which is responsible for staging the famous ultra-marathon publicised its male-dominated board following a successful Annual General Meeting last week.

The nine-person board is made up of seven men and two women, Patricia Freeman and Zinhle Sokhela. Ngcobo replaced chairperson Cheryl Winn.

“It’s always a concern, I’m not going to lie. But we always have systems to address that,” said Ngcobo.

“You don’t want to say ‘I’m not going to co-opt someone because they are a particular gender’, but we always try for gender parity.”
Mqondisi Ngcobo, Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairperson

“Firstly, in terms of our constitution, co-opt two more members following the AGM and obviously, as part of that allowance, we try to balance the gender parity of the board.

“We don’t always get it right, I have to be honest and that’s because of many challenges. One of those, we have to look at the skill set and the fit for the purpose of the board members that you want,” he said.

“You don’t want to say ‘I’m not going to co-opt someone because they are a particular gender’, but we always try for gender parity.”

The rest of the CMA board is made up of Les Burnard, who is the new vice-chairperson, Vukani Dlamini, Celi Makhoba, Isaac Ngwenya, Phumlani Ntuli and Steve Mkasi, who is the KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) president. 

Freeman and Sokhela were also part of the old board, while Dlamini is the new face in the CMA leadership group.

In the previous set-up, Comrades had only three women on their board of 11 people, including two co-opted members.

Former Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Aleck Skhosana sat on the board as ASA representative, while Jay Reddy was the KZNA representative.

The co-opting of the two additional members is expected to take place at the board’s next sitting.

CMA also announced that the launch of the next year’s Comrades will be staged on Tuesday, February 1, with more details to be revealed closer to the time.

The race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban is expected to take place on Sunday, August 28.

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