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KZN Athletics digs in heels over Mandela Day Marathon, says municipality can only sponsor it

Former president Nelson Mandela. File picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Former president Nelson Mandela. File picture: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Published Aug 4, 2022

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Durban - Despite facing a possibly crippling athletes’ boycott of their marathon, KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) is digging in its heels, claiming that it is the only mandated body to host marathons in the province, not municipalities.

The president of the athletics body, Steve Mkasi, said even the Mandela Day Marathon, which is now being fought over by them, the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UDM) and the Nelson Mandela family, will only be hosted by athletes.

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He said the rest can come in as sponsors or play other roles, not hosting.

The dispute over the annual marathon which is held in honour of the late Nelson Mandela started last month when it emerged that KZNA wanted to host it. The matter eventually went to the Pietermaritzburg High Court where it was ruled that KZNA cannot host the event as the Nelson Mandela Foundation gave the rights to UDM.

In response, KZNA decided to host a shorter but similar race on a route the same as that of the Mandela Day Marathon, which starts at Manaye Hall in Mbali township in Pietermaritzburg and concludes at the Mandela Capture Site in Howick.

The race was named the Hilton to Capture Marathon, angering Nkosi Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, who lives in Mvezo in the Eastern Cape.

Nkosi Mandela said the renaming of the race which is using the same but a shorter route was opportunistic and asked athletes to boycott it.

“We accordingly call on all athletes to disassociate from this spurious attempt by KZN Athletics to hijack an event which they neither initiated nor have ownership of. This is disingenuous in the extreme and lacks integrity.

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“The deplorable effort by KZN Athletics to sully the decade-long effort to preserve and memorialise an important event in our global icon’s life is in bad taste and unbecoming of any patriotic South African.

“We call on KZN Athletics to desist from their current foolish efforts as it is neither in the interests of the event or the objectives upon which the event was founded,” Nkosi Mandela said on Tuesday.

Furthermore, Nkosi Mandela said KZNA did not consult with them regarding the date of August 7, 2022.

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On Thursday, Mkasi’s KZNA called a press conference in Durban where it dug its heels in, saying only it can host marathons in the province.

“This needed to be clarified as it is perceived that there is a fight between uMgungundlovu District Municipality and KZNA. We needed to clarify that, in this light, UDM is allowed to sponsor such an event, but the organisation behind the event lies in the ambit of KZNA.

“We note the unfortunate statement by Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela that people must boycott athletics events in KwaZulu-Natal. This is a mistake as KZNA is the only legal body that sanctions such athletics events in the province and we believe that such statements by the Nkosi are misplaced,” Mkasi said on Thursday.

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