Durban - Former president Jacob Zuma’s ousting from the Union Buildings is believed to be the reason behind sponsors dumping an international marathon named after him.
The 42km race, which had for the past three years taken place between two small towns in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, was scheduled to take place Sunday between Seven Oaks, outside Greytown, and Umshwathi, outside Pietermaritzburg.
The organiser of the marathon, Celi Makhoba, said they had to cancel it because they could not secure sponsors for this year’s event.
Makhoba said that last year more than 900 runners had participated, and that there were more than 400 people registered to run this year’s race.
He said he had not informed Zuma, who launched the event in Greytown in 2015, about the development.
“We had to cancel it because there were no sponsors. We needed about R800000 for the event.
“Previously we had been sponsored by various groups, including businesses and municipalities,” said Makhoba.
Umzinyathi District municipal mayor Petros Ngubane, who is also a councillor in Umvoti Municipality, which has previously sponsored the event, made allegations on SABC news that the marathon had been cancelled because of the changes in the government.
Ngubane also repeated the allegations when The Mercury called him yesterday.
Umvoti and Umshwathi municipalities had hosted the marathon since it inception.
“The change in government might also have disturbed the sponsors,” said Ngubane, who is the IFP mayor for the district.
He added that the Umvoti Municipality had provided staff, money and refreshments.
He said JG Zuma Marathon officials had approached Umzinyathi for support in January, “but we did not have a budget”.
Ngubane said the district would come up with an alternative race. He said the marathon would have a difference name, and would take place between Nquthu and Dundee, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
“I am still going to discuss this matter in the exco (Umzinyathi executive committee).
“I will introduce the name for the new marathon and lobby for support,” said Ngubane.
Makhoba denied that the changes in the government had anything to do with the shortage of sponsors.
Umvoti mayor Thami Ngubane said he was unsure of the reasons behind the cancellation of the event, but he expected the organisers to explain the reasons.
Umvoti spokesperson Phindile Phungula said the municipality had been informed late last week about the cancellation.
“It was unfortunate that the communication came late. But we don’t have much say or control because we are just hosts,” she said.
Zuma had, through his foundation, been raising funds to help young people from poor families in rural areas study at various higher education institutions.
He is also known for lobbying businesses to sponsor chess games and soccer tournaments in Nkandla and Eshowe respectively.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, acknowledged receiving questions from The Mercury and promised a response, but none was received by the time of publication.