Comrades Marathon Association to probe alleged racist comment by board member

Marc Strydom Digital Sports Editor
The start of the 2024 Comrades Marathon in Durban.
The start of the 2024 Comrades Marathon in Durban.
Image: Phakamisa Lensman/BackpagePix

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) says it will investigate allegations of racism in its board after a social media post by one of its members.

A screenshot of a comment allegedly written by a CMA board member in a WhatsApp group, with their identity hidden, has been shared on social media. It appears to refer to CMA general manager Ann Ashworth hiring white employees.

It states: “Guys, you can recruit as many members as possible. Our new GM has recruited as many vanilla people as possible and as it stands we have close to 400 new members (all vanilla) who have joined and want to attend [the] AGM in November to take back the CMA board to be whites-only.”

The CMA board said in a statement it condemns the alleged comment.

“The board of the CMA has been deeply disappointed and shocked to receive a report concerning the posting of overtly racist remarks by one of its members within a WhatsApp chat group formed by members of a board subcommittee. Screenshots of these remarks were subsequently shared on social media platforms,” the CMA said.

“CMA chair Mqondisi Ngcobo has provided an assurance that the basis for, and context of, the remarks will be fully investigated by the CMA board and appropriate action taken in due course.”

The CMA said its board met on Tuesday to discuss the matter, and resolved that:

  • The CMA board condemns any form of racism, the existence and perpetuation of which is expressly contrary to the CMA’s founding principles and constitution;
  • The board member concerned has been asked to reflect on her comments and the motivation therefore, and to provide an explanation and feedback to the chair in due course; and
  • The board member concerned has been asked to recuse herself from all board discussions until such time as she has reflected on the implications of her message personally, professionally, and as a member of the CMA board.


Ngcobo said the “board condemns the conduct of the board member, the content of the WhatsApp message and the motivation therefore, in the strongest possible terms.

“The Comrades Marathon is a race that serves to unite the people of South Africa and serves as an annual reminder of what is possible under our new democracy.

“Having recently celebrated the inclusion of athletes of colour within the race for 50 years, a step that symbolised the race’s commitment to inclusivity and equality long before the election of a democratic and representative government in 1994, it is disappointing to see this kind of conduct creep into the organisation, particularly from a member of the board who was elected to champion the best interests of the race and all its participants regardless of their colour, creed or nationality.

“The CMA remains committed to serving the best interests of all runners and to ensuring that there is no place for racism or any other form of discrimination within the race itself, its organisation or among its members.”

KZN Athletics has also said it will investigate the incident.

“KZN Athletics takes these remarks extremely seriously and is appalled by the content of the message, which is completely unacceptable and contrary to the values of our organisation,” it said.

The 2024 Comrades was run on June 9 with Gerda Steyn winning the women's race and Dutchman Piet Wiersma the men's race.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.