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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Gauteng athletes still waiting for Covid-19 relief funds

The suspension of races by Athletics South Africa (ASA) in the country is not the only thing that frustrates athletes. Athletes have also been disappointed by the Gauteng department of Sports, Arts, culture and Recreation. Last year the department invited them to apply for Covid-19 relief funding on two occasions, but to date the office of MEC Mbali Hlophe has failed to honour its promise to pay.

Gauteng MEC for Sport Mbali Hlophe's office is yet to pay athletes their Covid-19 relief funding. Photo Credit: Gauteng Department of Sport.

Although department spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana confirmed that athletes had not yet received their monies, she did not do enough to ease their concerns because no explanations have been given for the non-payment. All she said was that the department would get back to them, but did not say when.

The likes of Thapelo Phora, Precious Mashele and other Top Runners continue to wait for the money they were told to expect in December and they are still waiting for the bank notification payment sms. And with the national federation having postponed races seemingly indefinitely during an Olympic year, athletes are worried that they will soon be unable to to put food on the table.

Thapelo Phora who represented South Africa at the 2019 World Championships is frustrated with the Gauteng department of Sport's payment delays. Photo Credit: Thapelo Phora.

"We do not know if there will be races due to the Covid-19 second wave that has hit the country. We did not get an update on whether we will get our money or not. I'm frustrated and think that others that also applied feel the same way. It's a frustrating period, and it's hard when you do not know why you are not getting the money," said 400m specialist Phora. Cross country king Mashele said he also did not get paid. "I applied but did not receive the money as promised," said the man of few words.

Mashele who has won the last 5 senior men's national cross country titles is still waiting for his Covid-19 relief funding. Photo Credit: Central Gauteng Athletics.

While the department is dragging its feet, the frustrations and cries of athletes are growing louder. The department of sport in the province appointed auditors to audit its finances last year. For those who depend on running to feed their families, this step will hopefully result in the department honouring its commitment to pay the Covid-19 relief funds.

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