Residents vow to oppose cash-strapped municipality’s sponsorship of Maritzburg Utd
Durban - Owners of the Pietermaritzburg professional soccer team Maritzburg United have warned that football in the city could disappear if the club fails to find a financial partner this season.
The club has been waiting for the past few months for the cash-strapped Msunduzi Municipality to announce if the city’s multimillion rand sponsorship would continue. The municipality has in previous years provided financial support to the tune of R15 million a season.
This week, ratepayers’ organisations threatened to report the municipality to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) or take legal action if the municipality gives a penny to the club.
Opposition parties have also argued that the embattled municipality should rather pay attention to service delivery while sorting out its financial situation.
Maritzburg United chairperson Farook Kadodia said they had not had any engagements with the municipality, adding that the current situation would determine the future of football in Pietermaritzburg.
“There is no way that the club can survive without partners, by the end of the season we could be in deficit,” he said.
Kadodia said if the situation persisted until the end of the season, they would have to consider other options about the club. “For the past 12 years directors have been putting money into the club, it is not easy. This situation is difficult and quite nerve-racking.”
He said the club brought social benefits to the city, including social cohesion and “smiles to the people of Pietermaritzburg”.
Ratepayers’ organisations said in a letter to the municipality that the city was facing more pressing problems and the money spent on Maritzburg United could be used to meet the needs of the city.
Anthony Waldhausen, chairperson of Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics (MARRC), said they were very concerned.
“At the meeting on December 15, 2020 where MARRC representatives were in attendance, it was proposed that council revisit the awarding of R48 million to Maritzburg United Football Club.”
He described this proposal as extremely reckless. He said the R48m could be used to repair water leaks, electrical substations and potholes, and for upgrading infrastructure and providing relief to families hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown.
“If the executive and council go ahead to approve this funding, then we have no option but to appeal to the MEC of Cogta to rescind the decision and if need be to also take legal action,” he said.
The organisation said it wanted to know where the city would find the money for such sponsorship, the reason why the city was funding this project, the return on investment for the city and what the club has done to obtain the sponsorship.
Cogta refused to speak on the matter, saying it was a council matter and should be handled at that level.
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said the club had not asked for R48m and the municipality would not give that amount. “We want to help them find an anchor sponsor,” he said.