OPINION

Athletics SA wants to ban wearing of black armbands - Save SA

Campaign says body wants marathon runners banned who do so

14 April 2017

Save South Africa backs 2 Oceans Marathon ‘Black Armband Campaign’ (BAC)

The Save South Africa campaign fully supports runners wearing black armbands in tomorrow’s 2 Oceans Marathon, and calls on more runners – and spectators along the route – to do the same.

We encourage athletes to make their own black armbands and wave flags along the way, in support of the “Black Armband Campaign” (BAC) -- which we see as an excellent way for South Africans to show their support for a government free from corruption and nepotism, and in support of a national leadership that is ethical, respects our constitutions and acts in the interest of the people.

Save South Africa steering committee member Mark Heywood will be among those wearing black armbands, which he says is to "signify that our country is in danger".

The 2 Oceans organising committee has stated that they cannot support the campaign, even though we have emphasised that this is not a political protest. However, we will abide by their rules.

Athletics South Africa has since entered the fray and argued that they will push for the disqualification of runners wearing black armbands, and reserve the right to ban runners who disregard the rule on political protest. They have also threatened to sanction the TOM organisers if they are “found to be complicit” with the BAC.

We need to emphasise that our message is one of unity, not protest, and is aligned to the 2 Oceans Marathon campaign of “Run for more than yourself”. Our tag line is #RUN4SA, and we are advocating that runners run for a better country.

We’re concerned at the attempted intervention of ASA, and question why they would be so concerned about a campaign that is aimed at unifying South Africans.

We also fail to see how the organisers can consider sactioning the more than 1 000 runners who have already committed to wearing black armbands, or how they will distinguish BAC runners from participants who may be wearing black armbands for other reasons – for example, the loss of a loved one.

As Heywood puts it: "We have to signify endurance in an endurance race. We have to get people to wake up about the issues we face.

"This action is as legal as legal can be. We have a constitutional right to freedom of expression. I've done over 150 marathons, including 17 Comrades. I've seen people express themselves on every race they've run. We used to do it for the Treatment Action Campaign with our HIV positive bibs and buses. Tomorrow we wear black to signify that our country is in danger."

As Save South Africa, we urge runners to be aware of the implications of their participation in BAC and to familiarise themselves with the regulations.

But, more than anything, we urge them to do the right thing.

Statement issued by Save South Africa, 14 April 2017