'We had a bleak Christmas'

Unpaid athletes cry foul over failed relief fund promises

Thapelo Phora is one of the elite athletes who have not been paid the relief grant the Gauteng sports department had promised.
Thapelo Phora is one of the elite athletes who have not been paid the relief grant the Gauteng sports department had promised.
Image: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

Athletes have been kept in the dark regarding their claims from the Covid-19 relief fund that they submitted to the Gauteng department of sport.

The athletes had a bleak Christmas as the department failed to honour its promise to pay them. The department opened the relief fund application second round in October.

MEC for sport Mbali Hlophe's office had promised to pay them before the end of last year, but athletes are still waiting for their money. The department of sport in Gauteng hired auditors to audit their financial records, and they cited that as the reason for the delay in payment for the second-round applicants.

The department's spokesperson, Nomazwe Ntlokwana, yesterday said they were delaying payments and did not shed light on the matter. "We will release a statement to explain the delay. I do not have further comment," said Ntlokwana.

Cross country champion Precious Mashele said he applied for the funding and was still waiting to receive his payment. "Nothing happened in December," he said.

Another athlete, who did not want to be named, said the department did not update them about the payment. "I applied twice, and when I asked about the money, they said they would pay before the end of December. But nothing has happened," said the fed-up athlete.

Thapelo Phora, 2019 400m world champs semi-finalist,  confirmed that he also did not get paid despite sending in two applications in July and October. "No, I did not receive my money. I kept on calling the office to get answers, but no one responded. I don't know if we will still get paid or not," said a frustrated Phora.

The University of Pretoria-based athlete has no sponsors and did not race last year, and he was hoping that the relief fund money would help him close the gap created by the postponement of the sport by Athletics SA last year. He said he had a bleak Christmas. 

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