ON THE CHARGE: Banele Sindani, former CEO of Athletics South Africa and Sascoc. Picture:FATI MOALUSI
There is a new danger that the iconic Soweto marathon may not be held this year as the battle lines between Athletics South African (ASA) and their opponents head for a standoff over ownership.
Yesterday ASA fended off fresh accusations that it was racist, and plundering the proceeds of the popular event. The saga took a new turn this week after the former CEO of ASA and Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee), Banele Sindani, arrived at The New Age offices and declared: “I’m very angry at the way ASA is treating the defenceless and poor black people of Soweto. What they are doing to the Concerned Soweto Athletics Clubs & Athletes (CSACA) is wrong.”
Sindani said he did not understand how ASA CEO Frik Vermaak could say the race did not belong to anyone, as “it couldn’t have fallen like manna from heaven” and insisted that the race belonged to the “people of Soweto” and must be handed back to them.
“I’m disappointed at Frik. It is clear that he either has selective amnesia or he is a liar, because he knows very well that this race was formed by us at TAACON (Transvaal Amateur Athletics Congress), where he sat as the treasurer. We held the first race in 1991 at Orlando Stadium.
“And by the same token, the ASA president, James Evans, has said in contrast that the race belongs to the people of Soweto.
So, why then do they make pronunciations and assume control over something that clearly does not belong to them? The answer is simple, the Soweto marathon is a cash cow and they are plundering it.
“The people of Soweto have suffered enough under apartheid and ASA is prolonging that. It’s a typical racist mentality to prescribe what is good for Soweto. What Evans and his administration are doing implies that blacks can’t be trusted with money, while their white counterparts at the Two Oceans and Comrade marathons can,” alleged Sindani, who then challenged ASA to a public debate on radio or television and also claimed that the 2010 winners of the race had not been paid.
But ASA fired back and described Sindani’s comments as unfortunate, with Vermaak declining the invitation for a public debate, saying he found no need or relevance. Evans, for his part, vehemently denied being racist, saying: “If Sindani calls me a racist, then I’ve just lost the respect I had for him. We are doing all we can to revive athletics and we cannot achieve everything at the same time. He clearly has no idea of what he is talking about as this race has been a high loss-making event over the past two years.
“If the legal and formal structure is not in place to run the race this year, then I will not commit any ASA staff to be away for a month organising it.
And if we don’t find a collective solution and if there are possible disruptions beyond our control, we are going to call it off this year. This is a new South Africa and Sindani and the other critics must also transform and conform with the agenda of the country. “I don’t know what his motive is, because for many years the race was organised by ASA.”