Mapaseka Makhanya is delighted that the Soweto Marathon is confirmed to take place this year following earlier doubts, but she is saddened the popular race will not be televised on the public broadcaster.
It was announced on Wednesday that the people’s race will be run on November 5 with African Bank as the headline sponsor and that SuperSport will show the three-in-one event.
Athletics South Africa (ASA) president James Moloi said during the launch that their four-year broadcast deal with the pay channel includes the Soweto Marathon, and as such the race will be televised there. He added that any other broadcaster keen on the race will have to negotiate with SuperSport.
While she understands that contracts have to be honoured, Makhanya - a Soweto native who runs for Dikepkloof Athletics Club and finished as a runner-up in the marathon six years ago, could not hide her disappointment.
“SuperSport is bourgeois. It is a Diamond League channel. And at the end of the day, the reality is that (the majority of) South Africans are more prone to watching SABC. SuperSport is expensive and people are actually cancelling their subscriptions of DSTV. The race would get more mileage and more people watching it if it was on SABC,” Makhanya said on the periphery of the race launch hosted at the renowned Sakhumzi’s restaurant on the world famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.
What saddens Makhanya the most about the broadcast deal is the fact the ordinary people who follow the sport will be robbed of the opportunity to be inspired by watching their heroes and role models in action.
“I know that people generally miss those days when races were shown on SABC, especially at this time when most people are glued to their screens because they don’t want to go out. They want to support athletics.”
She says she hopes that sanity will prevail and that a deal will be reached to ensure that the country’s masses are not robbed of experiencing the people’s race.
“Hopefully they ASA, SuperSport and SABC will come in to an agreement that will give SABC the rights to show our uncles in the rural areas how the Soweto Marathon is going. This race is not about city athletes. There are rural people who are excited to watch the Soweto Marathon. Even the Comrades Marathon, it was unfortunate that there are many people who didn’t get to see who won it because it was not televised (on SABC) because for them the SABC is the only form of media they could access and be excited about South Africans running.”
The TV rights issues aside, Makhanya is excited that the race is going to happen (on November 5 at the FNB Stadium).
“I got goose-bumps today. It was beautiful to walk into the launch and see a room full of people and those sponsorship banners. It was like the Soweto Marathon of old. It brought me so much joy and gave me hope. It made me want to run the race although it was not in my plans to run the race this year. But there is still time to train and maybe race so I am going to talk to my heart and make a decision.”
Makhanya’s feelings on Wednesday were a far cry from what she was going through when it was initially announced the race would not be taking place.
“It was heart-breaking even though I didn’t have plans of running it. My heart broke when I got messages from people saying to me ‘your race has been cancelled’ because they’ve associated me with the Soweto Marathon since I came second (behind Irvette van Zyl in 2017). There was so much negativity around the race that it broke my heart.”