THE LOGISTICS surrounding prize money for the 2019 Mr Zimbabwe — the country’s premier bodybuilding contest — has ignited a storm with athletes decrying late payment of funds while organisers have maintained their hands are clean.
Athletes who won prizes at the September 28 event say they had expected to recieve their dues on Saturday but were stunned when told to leave their Ecocash numbers “so that funds could be transferred to them at a later stage.”
In their defense, event organisers say the athletes complaints are misplaced and do not take into consideration the prevailing harsh economic conditions.
They insist such “toxic and misguided talk” ultimatelyscares sponsors away.
“There are athletes who won prize money and communications were made to them. The payment is coming straight from our partners Bold Ads because too much money velocity attracts a lot of charges,” National Federation of Zimbabwe Bodybuilding and Fitness spokesperson Quite Shangai said.
“Transfers will obviously take time. If there is anyone who have an idea of where cash can be easily found, we will gladly appreciate the lead because that will make life very easy for us.”
Shangai said they accept blame regarding “prize money mentality”.
“I think next time we will look at the possible cycle time regarding processing of prize money and then put a clause on the contract that athletes signs,” he said.
Athletes who spoke to Zim Morning Post on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals said late payment of money had become the norm at bodybuilding events.
“It’s sad that it has become a trend that after every competition, we have to wait for days if not weeks to get our prize and of which it’s value would have been eroded by rising inflation,” one athlete said.
“It boggles the mind that there will be a lot of sponsors but still there is no money. In the past we used to have prize money being announced before the show but now we don’t know who won how much. They will just give you a figure they think is right,” another bodybuilder added.
“… Imagine all the supplements are now being charged in hard currency but they want to give out peanuts which can’t buy creatine which lasts you a month.”
“We are just taking part into these contests because of the love for the sport. You can’t compare Mr Zim and the lowest ranked competition in South Africa or Botswana. Those guys knows how to administer bodybuilding.”
In response Shangai called on aggrieved athletes “to go to all our sponsors and confirm that we actually got money and converted to personal use.”
“The misrepresentation that we converted money to personal use should not be left unaddressed,” he said.
The federation spokesperson said athletes fail to understand that the association is anot immune to the harsh economic conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe. “We are operating in an economy that has no cash. Thirdly the word “delayed” must be clearly explained before athletes say the payments are delayed,” he said.
“Furthermore, I want to put this on record. Amateur bodybuilding is not professional bodybuilding. In fact amateur sport is not professional sport. The more we make these boys feel as if they are professionals, the more we are gradually destroying this industry.”
He continued: “I have heard an athlete expecting to win a car at ZITF Open when Arnold Classic give away a trophy, a medal and a certificate. Ask Regina Jonga, Masimba Nyamajiwa or Hellen Costa who won Arnolds. I mean it’s ludicrous for an athlete to expect large sums of money at an amateur show. The mindset is very wrong.
“Our yesteryear structures are battered. Districts and Provinces are afraid of doing shows because after the show they will be pressured to give prizes.”
“In my research ‘the impact of athletes and stakeholder education on sports development,’ I noted these areas. The pressure that is being put on event organisers is unbearable. Who is to blame? We are to blame. We have not been honest to athletes. We administer amateur shows. We will obviously love to reward winners but it’s not mandatory. Our economy is what it is.”
Shangai said some respected individuals within the sport are also part of the “wild claims”.“They are clueless regarding the macro economic environment and how amateur sport is administered,” he fumed.
“For seven years we have not hosted Harare because noone is prepared to explain on behalf of every economic player in Zimbabwe. How can you be responsible for the Zimbabwe’s economic quagmire. I advise athletes to research and understand this industry. Otherwise, they will kill this industry,” Shangai added.
“I have heard some misguided elements saying we should stop doing shows until we have enough resources to pay athletes handsomely. What a joke. These misguided elements should simply come foward and take over because we are looking for administrators and not getting them.”
He added: “I know of Farai Verenga who sold a car to host Marondera Classic. That was the last Mashonaland East show because noone is willing to sell another car. Tobias Madzime got into his own pocket to fund Manicaland Open. NFZBBF officials like Ebrahim Moosa, Collin Mushunje, Givemore Marume, Kenny Murugweni, Tafadzwa Motsi, myself and others have to use personal resources to cover some critical areas.”
The federation said it understands that some athletes feel that there was money sponsored by certain sponsors.
“My advice to them is to visit each and every sponsor they saw on the slides on Saturday. They can approach me and I will gladly give them contacts. We are underfunded. I am totally disappointed with stakeholders who are relating Nationals to other events where they didn’t get what they were promised. This kind of pressure will chase away people who have been helping the sport which lacks support,” he said, concluding:
“As we speak provincial structures are dying because people are quitting. I mean, who is prepared to be attacked after contributing a dollar or two to a project.”