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Government denies pledging support to Algeria-bound athletes

Government has denied pledging to meet travel costs of Malawi’s athletics team to the African Cross Country Championship in Chlef, Algeria, on Saturday.

Seven runners and three officials were due to leave for the North African country yesterday but only three made it, courtesy of Malawi Olympic Committee, which sponsored their air tickets.

The athletes who left for Algeria Tuesday are Cecilia Mhango, Kefas Kasten and John Mwathiwa, who will double as Coach and Team Manager.

This means that runners Happy Mcherenje, Gervasio Mpani, Stafiel Chitedze, Moneyi Chingaipe, Chancy Master, and National Athletics Coach, Francis Munthali, have failed to travel.

The government had, through Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Principal Secretary, Joseph Mwandidya, pledged to finance the trip.

Mwandidya made the promise during this year’s National Cross Country Championship in Mzuzu on February 17.

But when asked what had become of the pledge, Mwandidya denied ever committing himself on the same.

Mwandidya insisted that the matter was in the hands of Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS), saying the ministry does not disburse funds directly to associations.

“I did not make that promise. And for us to give money directly to an association would be against the standard procedure. We give money to Sports Council, who in turn disburse it to associations based on their allocations. So talk to Sports Council,” Mwandidya said.

He declined to state exactly what he had said at the Mzuzu event, saying he was busy with a parliamentary meeting Tuesday.

MNCS Executive Secretary, George Jana, expressed surprise upon being told that he was supposed to provide answers.

“You mean us funding the Algeria trip? No. I am not aware of that. It should be the ministry,” Jana said.

According to Director of Sports in the ministry, Jameson Ndalama, funding the trip was tricky as athletics’ annual allocation had been exhausted.

However, Athletics Association of Malawi General Secretary, Frank Chitembeya, maintained that Mwandidya made the pledge in Mzuzu and everyone in attendance heard him make the commitment.

“This is what affects the performance of our athletes. We do not seem to get the required support. We made our plans based on the government’s pledge but it is sad that nothing has worked out,” Chitembeya said.

He said the association settled for Mhango and Kasten because they came out tops in their categories during the national competition while Mwathiwa made the trip because Munthali had not been released at his workplace.

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