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SA’s Paralympic athletes will have the R7.9 million owing to them in medal incentives deposited into their accounts by tomorrow afternoon, SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said yesterday.
There is, however, much confusion and bemusement as to where the money is coming from. There was a great deal of scrambling around to source the money after Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula announced out of the blue at a function at the weekend that the Paralympic athletes deserved the same incentive levels as the Olympic athletes.
The announcement came as a shock to the Sascoc board, but yesterday Sam said SA’s ruling sports body would make sure the full amount was paid over.
“We have dispatched our CEO [Tubby Reddy] and Alec Moemi [the director general for sport and recreation] to find the money. By the time the athletes land, the money will be there.”
Mbalula said the Paralympians warranted a special place in everyone’s hearts and embraced the spirit of no surrender, and that to pay them anything less than Olymipic athletes would be discriminatory.
“The issue is how Oscar Pistorius and all these wonderful athletes have performed here – people who gave their all for the campaign,” said Sam.
Sam paid tribute to the icons of Paralympic sport, singling out Pistorius, cyclist Ernst van Dyk and Natalie du Toit, who bowed out of all competitive swimming at these Games.
“Natalie, I’m sure there will be a place for you in the sun – in the sports sun back home – so take from us all our good wishes and we wish you well in your next career,” he said.
A Sascoc official said that the Department of Sport and Recreation would pick up the rest of the tab, and Sascoc were waiting for a contract for the transfer of the amount to be sent through last night.
If the previous incentives had remained in place, Sascoc would have owed the athletes R2.49m. Now that bill is R7.9m. That leaves a shortfall of R5.4m for Mbalula’s account.
Sam was diplomatic in the extreme after he had been backed into the corner by Mbalula, saying the extra money would come from their coffers, as well as a combination of Lotto and the Department of Sport and Recreation.
It was a wise way to end a successful campaign for Team South Africa. They won 29 medals in total, eight of them gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.
“You’ve seen what the Paralympics is like. The standard has lifted to a level that no one would have thought possible four years ago. SA has a proud Paralympic tradition and these athletes have kept it up.
“They show us what is possible and we must celebrate that for all we are worth.”