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Money for Paralympic medallists in dispute

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Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Shanti Aboobaker

and Kevin McCallum

EXTRA funds needed to pay expanded bonuses for SA’s triumphant Paralympic medallists will come from the National Lottery and the SA Olympic Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) the sports ministry said yesterday.

In a surprise announcement at the closing of eKhaya – the London “home away from home” for South Africans participating in or supporting the London Games – Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said the Paralympians would be paid the same financial bonuses as received by their able-bodied counterparts.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam said yesterday the athletes will have the R7.9 million owing to them in medal incentives deposited into their accounts by tomorrow afternoon.

“We have dispatched our chief executive [Tubby Reddy] and Alec Moemi [the director general for sport] to find the money.

“By the time the athletes land, the money will be there.

“If the previous incentives had remained in place, Sascoc would’ve owed the athletes R2.49 million. Now the bill is R7.9 million. That leaves a shortfall of R5.4 million for Mbalula’s account.

But speaking to Independent Newspapers yesterday, chairman of the National Lotteries Board, Ntshengedzeni Nevhutanda said it was “difficult to comment” on the whether the extra funds needed would come from the Lotto.

“I’m aware [of the minister’s comments] but it is difficult to comment when you don’t have [his] statements in front of you.”

The Lotto had given money to Sascoc for the preparation for the Olympic and Paralympic teams, but if additional money was needed, a formal application would need to be made, he said.

“[To get] money from the Lotto you have to apply – and only when the window for applications is open,” he said.

The period for applying was not open at the moment, he said. He had also not received any formal requests from the sports department.

“As soon as an application [from the sports department] comes, it will be dealt with as with any other application,” he said.

According to the incentive scheme set out by Sascoc in July, gold Olympic medallists were to receive R400 000 for each medal, while silver would scoop R200 000 and bronze R80 000.

By contrast, Paralympic medallists were promised R100 000 for gold, R75 000 for silver and R40 000 for a bronze medal.

Coaches of Olympic medallists could also expect to be rewarded R100 000 for a gold medal, R50 000 for silver, and R20 000 for bronze.

Paralympic coaches stood to receive R20 000 for gold, R15 000 for silver and R10 000 for bronze.

At the time, Sascoc explained the disparity as owing to the fact that about 4 200 athletes would take part in the Paralympics with about 500 medals up for grabs, versus about 10 500 athletes competing in the Olympics for about 300 medals.

Ministry spokesman, Justin de Allende, said the decision to increase the incentives for the Paralympic team had been made before the formal announcement on Saturday.

He said Paralympic athletes would receive their money “on Tuesday [tomorrow]” when they were due to arrive back in SA.

Sapa quoted Sascoc president Gideon Sam as saying that the sports confederation had already gotten “the ball rolling”.

It was also reported that Sascoc’s chief executive Tubby Reddy and departmental director-general Alec Moemi had been instructed to “find the money”.

“We are not going to debate the issue of whether or not we should increase the amounts because it would sour this campaign,” Sam was reported as saying.

DA spokesman on sport, Winston Rabotapi, welcomed the increase.

He said the Paralympic team had “out-classed” and performed “far better” than the able-bodied Olympic team.

Rabotapi said he hoped the Lotto would invest more in SA sport in general, but also called for more investment from business.

LeadSA invites fans to the OR Tambo International Airport to welcome back the Paralympians tomorrow at 7.30am.

See Page 24


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