Fikile Mbalula hands out R700 000 bonus to Mamelodi Sundowns

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula welcomed Mamelodi Sundowns football club back to South Africa with a cheque for R700 000 after the team arrived at OR Tambo International Airport following their victory in the CAF Champions League final.

Sundowns are regarded as the wealthiest football club in South Africa with the highest market value in the country at R177-million. South African mining magnate and billionaire Patrice Motsepe is the president of the club. Following Sundowns win at the CAF Champions League, Motsepe gifted the team the $1.5-million (close to R21-million) in prize money the club received from the victory.

Sundowns players and coaches arrived at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg from Alexandria, Egypt. The team was welcomed by thousands of supporters, who celebrated the win. It was at the welcoming ceremony that Mbalula announced that the sport ministry would pay bonuses to the team amounting to R700 000 as a “token of appreciation”.

The R700 000 is to be divided among the players and coach Pitso Mosimane, who has been credited for leading Sundowns to be the top club on the African continent.

The news of the bonus, however, comes amid anticipation of finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s announcement of the mid-term budget. As #FeesMustFall protests continue, supporters of the protests reacted strongly to Mbalula’s announcement, while others said that the team deserves a reward.

The sports minister also came under fire from South African javelin Olympian Sunnette Viljoen after the Rio Olympics in August. Viljoen blasted Mbalula and Sascoc after the sports minister said a bonus of R700 000 would be paid to silver medallists. She suggested that on previous occasions, promises of money had not been delivered.

“Money again promised [to] the medallists. Hope to see it within the next year. The begging is set to begin,” Viljoen said.

The Olympic athlete also said that she was forced to pay for adjustments to her kit for the Games out of her own pocket, with little support from Sascoc. In September, Viljoen’s partner asked Mbalula when the R700 000 would be paid, and the sports minister responded he was unsure, but suggested December 2017.

Mbalula lashed out at Viljoen following her remarks, saying she “complains too much”

Mamelodi Sundowns, meanwhile, are still being hailed for their victory at the CAF Champions League, which saw them beat Egyptian team Zamalek in the final to become champions of the continent.  

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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