CMA Board Members should focus on the Race (not on the race)


It would be difficult to top Rowyn James’ infamous “Joggers” comment after Comrades 2023 but it looks like a Comrades Board Member has said, “Hold my glass of chardonnay, I’d like my shot at infamy.”

The above screen shot is from a WhatsApp allegedly (but almost certainly) sent by a current member of the Comrades Board. This Board member has never run Comrades, does not appear to have any direct connection with road running at all and I understand that this person was nominated to the Board by the Board member presiding over the portfolio responsible for cutoff times.

Despite the racial nature of the WhatsApp message and completely baseless claims that there is a drive to for the “CMA Board to be whites only”, I would implore those reading this not to be race baited regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum. Unfortunately, there is still plenty of racism in South Africa. Fortunately, there is very little in the sport of road running and in this case the issue is one of competence, not race.

I have been investigating a story of vote rigging and vote buying by specific Comrades Board members. There appears to be plenty of substance to these claims. Essentially an individual arrives with cash at Comrades House and pays cash for 50 to 80 Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) memberships in bulk at R100 per membership.

Registered CMA members get to vote and decide who will represent them on the Board at the AGM. In 2023 there were fewer than 200 CMA members and a large proportion – it appears to be well over 50% – of these were ‘bought’ memberships. The bought members are then bussed to the AGM (allegedly paid for by 4 members of the Board) and are told who to vote for. One of the beneficiaries of the votes of the ‘bussed in members’ is the Board member named as the sender of the WhatsApp message.

Here’s an eyewitness account from the last AGM, “I was at the last AGM and it was a real eye opener. All the things I was told happen, happened! Yes, they were “bussed” in and were given a list of who to vote for. Free drinks & food. I don’t think most present that evening could walk a 5km parkrun.”

As for the comments in the WhatsApp message, “Our new GM” refers to Ann Ashworth (although her official title Race and Operations Manager). The accusations are so baseless that they do not deserve a response. However, it is worthwhile pointing out that Ashworth has a long history of developing female athletes of all races (the overarching mission of Team Massmart, which Ashworth founded, was to nurture and develop the first black South African female Comrades winner).

It’s important to note that the Comrades Board as well as the salaried staff within the CMA remains unchanged from 2023 with one exception, Ann Ashworth. All the current Board members were on duty before and after the ill-fated 2023 Comrades event.

Strangely this is the first time I have seen a current CMA Board member advocating for new memberships. It serves incumbents well if there are no new members and the overall membership remains low because then the status quo remains and votes are easily manipulated. At the 2023 AGM, 5 people were nominated for 4 Board positions. The unlucky nominee to not get enough votes was Pat Freeman (one of fewer than 10 women with 30 or more Comrades finishes). However, Freeman was later coopted onto the Board as one of two positions available for appointment by the other Board members.

I have only seen three people actively advocating for runners to join the CMA on social media platforms – Norrie Williamson, David Ashworth (the husband of Ann Ashworth) and myself. These have all been done independently and generally are along the lines of, “If you love the Comrades Marathon and want to have a say in its future consider joining the CMA.” Specifically in the case of David Ashworth (as that is where some scrutiny will fall), he has put together a YouTube video ( and social media posts about the benefits of joining the CMA which were all inclusive. There was no mention of race and, as they are shared on social media, there was no targeting on one specific demographic.

I would very much doubt that the new CMA applicants (however many there may be) are all ‘vanilla’. I have seen a list of the new membership applications up to May and, judging by the surnames, there are many flavours of ice-cream in the parlour.

Unfortunately, almost 30 years after democracy, we still have deplorable incidents of racism in South Africa and these should always be condemned. However, those that play the race card in an attempt to cover up their incompetence and protect their own self interest should be met with scorn and derision.

To this deplorable Board member, we should be united as the running community that it should be all about the Race and not about your race.

[I have sent the WhatsApp message to the Comrades Chair for comment and potential disciplinary action. I have also contacted the relevant Board member for comment. Not replied were received at the time of publication].

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3 Replies to “CMA Board Members should focus on the Race (not on the race)”

  1. Surely the meetings were online during covid?

    Please keep posting on this, but my take away is that one actually shouldn’t join now if you live far away. That’s a twisted incentive paradox.

  2. It is difficult to understand that any one would resort to behaviour like that. Are they giving away free T shirts?
    I hope the people behind this are identified and are suitably dealt with.

  3. Yeah, no wonder no one outside SA trusts anything anymore as they read and see what is happening, on social media. I read and saw things and believed if there is smoke there is fire. I believe everything these days is corrupt doesn’t matter who runs or controls it. From a runner’s point they are just there for the money and the power and don’t care about the runner’s past and present. I’m ashamed to have to explain what is happening there. If one has proof that corruption takes place it should be shared with MSM to expose it. My question why is the name blank out?

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