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LAAA disowns athletes

Pascalinah Kabi

MASERU — The dispute over permits between the Lesotho Athletics Amateur Association (LAAA) and a group of local athletes spilled into parliament last week.

The association’s executive committee on Tuesday disowned the athletes during a meeting of the social cluster portfolio committee.

The meeting was called after the athletes sought parliament’s intervention in the dispute a fortnight ago.

The athletes are Mabuthile Lebopo, Lebenya Nkoka, Teboho Sello, Rasta Mohloli, Warinyane Lebopo, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, Moeketsi Mosuhli, Lebohang Monyoebe, Phatlalla Mohloli and Lebohang Mahloane.

The athletes and the LAAA have been on each other’s throats since 2008 over permits, clearances and national performances.

The LAAA has constantly refused to issue permits to the athletes to allow them to compete in South African marathons or clearances to join clubs in that country.

The association argues they cannot give the athletes permits because they perform dismally while on national duties but do well in private competitions in South Africa.

Lesotho’s athletes have been dominating South African marathons over the past several years.

On the other hand, the runners accuse the LAAA of not giving them enough time to prepare for national call-ups and failing to issue clearances and permits when needed.

“The names mentioned here were somehow members of LAAA but right now they are no longer our members,” LAAA president Mokebe Maketela told the parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

“The majority are members of South African clubs and there is no way they can be Lesotho members as well,” he said.

Maketela said it was illegal to consider the athletes as their members when they were registered with South African clubs without proper clearances.

“These people you are talking about are members of Mr Price and Toyota teams in South Africa and have been competing in the colours of South African clubs, not any Lesotho club.”

LAAA public relations officer Sejanamane Maphathe said their endless fights with the athletes were caused by the runners’ refusal to be controlled.

“We’ve always been fighting with commercial clubs in South Africa when it comes to controlling our athletes,” Maphathe said.

“If one wants to join any club outside the country they must first be cleared by their country of origin. These athletes have however refused to follow the rules,” he said.

Maphathe asked the committee to intervene and help solve problems between the two parties.

“If you can help us as parliamentarians, please approach the athletes and ask them to hand over their contracts with their sponsors to you. Read them before passing them over to us.

“That is the only way forward because there is no way we can accept these boys and girls if they do not submit their sponsorship contracts to our office.

“Since they have failed to follow procedures, we’ve on several occasions asked them to disclose their sponsorship contracts so that we can move forward,” Maphathe said.

Social cluster chairman Tahleho Mabetha told the LAAA not to victimise the athletes while negotiations were underway.

“We don’t want to hear that you’ve victimised these athletes, whose names we are disclosing before you today,” Mabetha said.

“We want the problems to come to an end for the sake of sports development in our country,” he said.

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