• Thathe Msimango

Mbanjwa in limbo awaiting clearance to leave Nedbank & join Maxed Elite

On the 6th of January 2021, ultra marathon starlet Sanelisiwe Mbanjwa announced on social media that she had joined Maxed Elite Running Club ending her tenure with Nedbank Running Club. However the 2019 African 50km Champion might have to wait a bit longer to don the colours of her new club because even though her contract with Nedbank ended in December 2020, she is yet to receive the official documentation required to make the switch.

Where elite athletes are concerned, a clearance letter must be obtained from the old club in order to join a new one. Mthandeni Nene, who serves as Mbanjwa's coach and manager said the athlete would not be talking to the media until this issue is resolved. "I don't want to sound like I'm not willing to give you an athlete for an interview but there are issues we are still sorting out," explains Nene in a telephonic interview. "Look, I don't want to limit your work or such. I respect media and I want a good relationship with them, but there is still confusion regarding Sane joining Maxed as we are still waiting for some papers from the old club," he adds.

Mbanjwa (centre) on a training run with her manager and coach Nene (right). Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

#TheTopRunner has learnt that Mbanjwa was offered a new contract by Nedbank in October 2020 but declined the offer. It is understood that the difficulty arises from the fact that Mbanjwa was contractually bound to inform Nedbank once she began negotiating with a new club. That clause basically gave Nedbank first right of refusal to either match or top an offer made to the 30-year old by another professional club.

When #TheTopRunner contacted Nedbank Running Club national manager Nick Bester about the whole issue, he denied allegations that they refused to issue Mbanjwa with a clearance letter but confirmed that her contract had ended in December. "Her contract with us ended in December," was Bester's response. "I'm yet to hear about that. We just opened up our offices for the new year. No one has contacted me about the whole issue. Please contact Hleziphi (Ncayiyana) since she looks after our athletes in KwaZulu-Natal to give you more clarity. But for an athlete to join new club, he/she needs a clearance letter from the old club and that is ASA's (Athletics South Africa) rule not mine," said Bester.

2019 African 50km Chmapion Mbanjwa during happier times at Nedbank Running Club. Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

Ncayiyana was surprised when #TheTopRunner contacted her for clarity on the impasse revealing that neither Mbanjwa herself nor any of her representatives had asked for the clearance letter. But she further confirmed that they can hand it out anytime if formally requested. "Who said we don't want to release papers?" asked Ncayiyana. "I only saw on Facebook that she has joined a new club as she never told me about that. We are yet to speak after she posted about joining a new club. We are yet to get a request from the manager or new club about clearance but as soon as they request it then we will give it out. It's not a problem on our side to do that. And it's not something new that an athlete makes a switch from one club to another," she added.

Maxed Elite Running Club manager Martin Ngwenya wouldn't be drawn on the Mbanjwa saga saying Nene is the one dealing with the athlete's management issues. "I can't speak about that athlete so, please contact her manager to what you asking about. The best person to answer you is Nene (Mthandeni)."

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