21st February Movement athletes in limbo

HARARE – Athletes who took part in the Bob 21st February Movement road race say they have exhausted every measure in their quest to claim their prizes but all their efforts have come to nought.

Their efforts were further dealt a blow after the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) president Tendai Tagara last week confirmed that the road race was never sanctioned by the country’s athletics mother body.

The 21st February Movement 10 km road race was held in Highfield on May 19 as a belated commemoration of the birthday of President Robert Mugabe with close to 400 athletes battling for honours.

Elijah Mabunu was crowned champion of the men’s 10km road race in a time of 29 minutes and 22 seconds while Tapiwa Chikadaya and Jonathan Chinyoka locked out the top three positions.

Mabunu was entitled to ?$5 000.

Olivia Chitate secured victory in the women’s category in 34 minutes and 27 seconds, a result which had a prize purse of $4 000.

Elford Moyo won the men’s wheelchair race which had a pre-tournament prize of $1 500 whilst Margret Bangajena won the women’s wheelchair race category which also carried $1 500.

Each athlete paid a registration fee of $10.

But over a month later winners are yet to receive their cash prizes.

“We went to the police but they said all the athletes need to be present for them to open a docket.

“But there is no way that can happen because most athletes are scared of victimisation,” said one athlete who refused to be named.

Another athlete added: “We tried to see the Naaz president but we have not been able to get hold of him.”

However, Naaz president Tagara was forthcoming yesterday.

“As an association we don’t know that race, it was never sanctioned, we never received any correspondence that the race would take place on the date in which it took place,” Tagara told the Daily News.

Doves Funeral Services came on board as the official sponsors of the race and it’s now unclear where the money they invested in the race went to.

Tagara urged prospective sponsors to first check if races are sanctioned before pouring in money.

“The problem is that when things go wrong that’s when we have complaints but in the first place people (athletes and sponsors) should just have the courtesy to check with the provincial board whether or not a race is sanctioned, it’s very clear,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from the Bob 21st February Movement road race organising secretary, Reuben Bezvo, where fruitless as his phone went unanswered for the better part of yesterday.

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