DA: Mbalula, save Soweto race!
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula should intervene and provide funding so that this year's Soweto Marathon can go ahead, the DA said on Friday.
"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," Democatic Alliance sport and recreation spokesman Winston Rabotapi said.
He said if Mbalula was able to secure millions of rands for the 2013 Sports Awards, surely he could assist with the funding of the marathon, cancelled due to a R1 million shortfall.
Mbalula's spokesman, Paena Galane, said he would comment later.
The Gauteng department of sport said on Thursday the marathon was cancelled after efforts to save it failed.
"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.
Rabotapi said the marathon was one of the most unique races in the country and additionally offered all South Africans the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of Soweto.
"It boasts a standard 42.2km marathon, a 10km walk/run, a 10km professional walk, a 10km wheelchair race and a 5km fun run," he said.
"This event caters to the masses -- it has a bit of something for everyone."
The minister had the perfect opportunity to show that his priorities lay in providing sporting platforms that were of real benefit to sports development and not just supporting "razzmatazz" events.
"With Mbalula's intervention, the Soweto Marathon has the potential to be a humdinger of note," said Rabotapi. The Soweto Marathon Trust, that was tasked with organising the race, initially announced in September it had been forced to cancel the event as it could not secure funds from Athletics SA's (ASA) broadcast deal with the SABC.
However, ASA denied that the race 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 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 department said due to time constraints it would not be possible to prepare for a race of this magnitude in two weeks' time.