'After high school female athletes are lost to the sport' - Zintle Mokoka runs for AGN elections
Zintle Mokoka grew up in an athletics family and she wants her voice to be heard in the sport that she loves. The daughter of legendary top runner Zithulele Sinqe, is contesting the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) elections and explained why she is standing for the Athletes Commission Chairperson position.
“I want to run for the Athletes Commission Chairperson role because I am the right person for the job, not because I am married to Stephen Mokoka and the daughter of a legend. I grew up in an athletics family and have a background in athletics since I was a five-year-old. I saw athletics development first-hand. I have the experience and passion for the role," Zintle told #TheTopRunner.
The 30-year-old mother of one is a former athlete herself and holds a 9:52 personal best in the 3000m and 4:26 in the 1500m. “I started running at the age of seven for a club in Kagiso. I represented South Africa at a junior level in the 800m, 1500m and cross-country. I worked with my dad and we were close. I was always with him and saw how he unearthed new talent. I also represented my country at the senior level, but I was not one of those famous athletes like my husband Stephen," she joked.
Although she called time on a competitive athletics career back in 2011 after the passing of her father, she still wants to be involved in the sport. Zintle says she has entered the elections because she believes that she is a good candidate not because of her relations with Mokoka or her iconic marathon dad. When asked if she was approached or made the decision on her own to contest the elections, Mokoka said it is time for women to take their place in sports administration.
“It was a personal decision to enter the elections. I thought about this long and hard and decided to enter my name. It is time I started to get involved in administration as I grew up in a family that lives, eats, and breathes athletics," said an optimistic Zintle. She said while other athletes are scared to run for leadership positions, she hopes that her actions would encourage young women especially to stand up and fight for what they believe in. “I am putting my hand up and say that I am available to serve the athletes. I speak for myself and I am ready to serve," she said.
And Mokoka already has some athletics administration experience. Two years ago, she started the Zet Sinqe foundation to keep her father's memory and passion for grassroots development alive. The Foundation hosted the Zet Sinqe series runs in honour of her father in partnership with Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) and the City of Johannesburg, where they gave township youngsters the opportunity to race over short distances.
Zintle said she is not bothered by the fact that she is constantly associated with Stephen Mokoka and her father Zithulele Sinqe. “People have their opinions, whether you like it or not they will always talk. Some see me as the wife of Stephen Mokoka and nothing more, others as the daughter of Zithulele Sinqe. Nevertheless, I am not in their shadow because I do my own-things and try to be myself. My ambitions to run for the AGN office have nothing to do with my husband or father. I am passionate about the sport," explained Zintle.
She also revealed that she is not vying for this position because of money as she has a day job at a financial institution. “I am not motivated by money. I'm driven by the love of athletics and want to be a force of change for the athletes," she said. "I started the foundation to keep the memory of my father alive. I saw him do what he loves and want to follow his example. However, his death affected me badly and I stopped running. The death of my father was painful to take in. But Stephen and athletics helped me to heal again," shared the mother of two-and-a-half-year-old boy Reabetswe.
The lack of female voices in sports administration is what has motivated her to throw her hat into the ring, hoping that it will inspire other women to follow suit. “Me stepping up to run for the AGN elections is a sign that female administrators want to be given a chance. We need more females in the sport. After High School, female athletes are lost to the sport in big numbers." Mokoka said she hopes that the voters would vote for her, as she wants to put the athletes first and that she is the right person for the job. “I am putting my hand up. Please vote for me. I want to be the voice of the athletes. I am my own person and I come as I am," she added.
Zintle will be contesting the Athletes Commission Chairperson position against the current holder of the position Hendrick Mokganyetsi, former Commonwealth 400m hurdles champion LJ Van Zyl, Lukhanyo Mabinza - Eyethu AC, Mariam Mooki - Department of Correctional Services, Mulalo Mammburu - Faranani AC, retired Top Runner Enoch Skhosana of Nedbank Running Club, Peter Nteo - Cultivation AC, Dan Koane - Ford AC, Mooki PM - Correctional Service and current AGN president John Mathane - Mamelodi AC. About 209 AGN members will cast their votes to elect the new board and Zintle hopes to take her spot amongst the 11 places reserved for the newly elected AGN board. The eagerly awaited elections will take place at the Pilditch Stadium in Tshwane on 26 March.