The FNBB Kazungula marathon may be headed for a hurdle if the organisers do not intervene timely.
Some athletes are threatening to report organisers to the World Athletics Federation over alleged cheating and failure to pay them as well as gender discrimination.
International athletes have since escalated the matter to their local federations for intervention and while locally, women sport advocacy group, Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO) has also been called to assist.
Athletes accuse the marathon organisers of failing to fulfill their legitimate expectations and sense non commitment from marathon coordinators to pay them. Among those feeling short changed by the organisers is Botswana’s Onneile Dintwe.
Dintwe claims she was made to run for the veterans’ category while her age is under age for that category. “I am 36. I registered to run for senior women category but was told the age 36 is under veterans. For Kazungula marathon, veterans range from 35-49 years,” she narrated.
She observed that the age category was different from that of male runners, something which did not go down well with the veteran runner. She said under the IAAF, the age category is the same for both male and females and wondered why it changed for Kazungula marathon.
Kazungula Bridge Marathon age categories for the 21km and 42.2km races are: Senior Female 20 years to 34 years, Veteran Female 35 years to 44years. For males are, Senior Male 20 years to 39 years and Veteran Male 40 years to 49 years.
“IAAF does not discriminate and age categories are the same for both the male and female,” she charged.
“I sold my car to register with expectations of going there to win and bring home something to support my family. I prepared for the race well on time. I bought equipment, supplements and other necessities to get ready for the marathon. I also paid for accommodation in Kazungula, I feel cheated,” Dintwe said.
“It is sad to be cheated especially after two years of no competitions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We registered with legitimate expectation to win something,” said Dintwe.
The distressed athletes also accused the marathon organisers for failure to follow world set standard of racing categories.
In an interview with this publication, Zimbabwean runner Tsatsa Tabitha said the impression they had was that the marathon is well organised which turned not to be true.
“After the prize ceremony/podium presentations we were not told where to get our money and the organisers were nowhere to be seen. We were not informed as to how and where we are going to get our prize monies,” she explained.
In the absence of organisers, Tabitha revealed they had to leave their banking details with some FNB representatives for them to give them to race organisers. It is now two and half months waiting for their payments.
“We called them and they said they are waiting for doping results. Once the results were out, they started to ask for more and more things to send to them, accounts, addresses, and so on which they could have done while waiting for results. It was promise after promise,” the disappointed Tabitha.
“After the race the results were messed up and most of the winners were not called up for prize presentation. We asked the official to sort things out and nothing was solved that day. We tried to talk to different people but we could not even know who exactly should help us. That’s when we realised that these people are not serious with us,” she says.
Local athletes were also paid about two weeks ago after registering complaints. “All the foreigners were left out. It’s now two and half months having no clear answer. Why was the payment not done at once for both local and foreign athletes?” Tabitha wondered.
“Our Athletics has been invaded by people who have no idea about organising races. They just do what they want forgetting that it’s somebody’s job and it also has rules. They try to eliminate some of the athletes and favour those who they want to give the money to. There must be a rule which should be followed. We are finishing our little money we have to call them, sometimes they don’t even reply,” said Tabitha. Approached for comment FNB Kazungula marathon marketing and public relations director, Obonye Malope said: “The Kazungula Bridge marathon organising committee would like to confirm that all local athletes have been paid as per the prize money matrix that was shared prior to the event. With regards to international athletes, the payment process has been initiated and we expect the funds to reflect on the athletes’ accounts within five days from today,” she explained.