FOUL PLAY

MAYOR GIVES CHILD FOOTBALLERS THE RUN-AROUND

By Everson Luhanga

R50,000. 

That’s enough to buy 60 footballs, 60 pairs of boots and plenty of soccer kit.

To the poor kids of Bitou it’s not just a fortune. It is hope. A new life. 

So the big poster sized cheque handed to their local football association by Mayor Peter Lobese – at a glittering awards ceremony – was a moment of joy.

It could have been a fairy story.

Except that this fairy story comes with a curse. 

Not a seven day curse. Not a seven month curse. An unbelievable THREE YEAR curse.

That cheque was handed over in April 2017.

But no real cheque followed. 

Not one cent has been handed over to the kids of the Plettenberg Bay Local Football Association (PBLFA). 

Marius Jafta, Plettenberg Bay Local Football Association (left), Mayor Peter Lobese (middle),
Sinovuyo Hoyo PBLFA development coach (right)

Some say it would have been better never to fire up their dreams in the first place than to live with the constant disappointment. 

Derick Philander, chair of the football association (pictured in headline photo), says they have tried many times since then to get the money, which was supposed to come from the Mayor’s discretionary fund.

He says:

·       “We were promised to have the money into the association’s account two days after the event”

·       The promised day came and there was no money in the account

·       They made follow-up calls and emails to the office of the mayor

·       They met the assistant to the Mayor

·       And then they met both the mayor and his assistant 

Derick says the mayor and his staff told him:

·        “We will receive the money and we should be patient”

·        or the municipality/council will investigate what happened to the money.

Three years later, “we are sitting with a big cheque in our offices with big money figures that we never had”.

While Derick has waited, the Bitou municipality has been attacked for corruption, mismanagement and heavy spending. The latest budget reportedly has R7 million for soccer field upgrades, including R1,9 million on new cloakrooms (see Biting Bitou bit by bit below). 

Derick – who has put together more than 40 teams of kids – says that without the cash, the children make ekasi plans.

•          Some children make shin guards using old cardboards tied with condoms

•          Some wear oversized jerseys that look like gowns

•          Others play barefoot

Child footballers on the streets of Bitou

After the last meeting with Mayor Lobese, Derick says “they started ignoring our calls”.

“For three years, we have waited for that one bank notification to clock to our phones that doesn’t come through. Our hope is gradually fading away. It breaks my heart,” he says.

Asked for comment, Bitou Municipality’s Communications Manager, Andile Namntu, confirmed that Mayor Lobese awarded a R50,000 cheque to the Plettenberg Bay Local Football Association at the award ceremony. Namntu had no comment about the non payment.

Next up: Biting Bitou bit by bit