Over 15 000 athletes from different parts of the world thronged the Pietermarizburg City Hall at the crack of dawn on Sunday, 28 August 2022, awaiting the sound of the famous cock-crow to signal the start of the 95th instalment of world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon, the Comrades Marathon. Amongst the runners was a group of gritty and well-conditioned 120 runners from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), who were determined to etch their names in the historic records of the ultimate human race. The 2022 Comrades Marathon was a daunting 90.2 km down run from Pietermarizburg to Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Like the others who participated in the race, DCS runners went through a strict and rigorous training regime to ensure that they arrive in KwaZulu-Natal primed and ready to conquer the race. Acting National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale touched down in Durban on the eve of the race, to congratulate the 120 athletes running under the DCS banner for qualifying for the race, and to encourage and wish them well as they prepared to face the ultimate endurance test. He commended the work that went into this year’s preparations, adding that this a sign that the Department is improving. He said that sports can play an important role in instilling discipline in the Department, and called for more officials to be recruited to participate in various sporting codes. “When we recruit, we need to look at young people who are involved in sports, so that they can also come in, and we must encourage those already in the system, but not yet involved in sports, to make sure that they find homes in different sporting codes,” he said.
Commissioner Thobakgale said sports, not only mould a person mentally and spiritually, but it completes a human being. “If we are to build a Department that is supposed to live up to the dictum of the Constitution and the Correctional Services Act, we need to spend more time developing sports, and we need to encourage those that are coming into the system to join sports,” he added.
As the runners began the race, Commissioner Thobakgale also joined hordes of ardent spectators in cheering on DCS and other runners, and providing them with fluid replacers (water, diluted juices and sports drinks) along the race route. “As part of our health and wellness programme, we are here on the road today to support our runners as they participate in the Comrades Marathon, one of the most testing human races,” said Commissioner Thobakgale.
Blessing Mbusiseni Yaka (38) from Modderbee Management Area, Gauteng Region, who participated in his maiden Comrades Marathon went on to claim the crown as the first DCS official to cross the finishing line in 07:29:56. Despite the taxing demands of the race, he says he never thought of bailing out midway. “The race was tough, but at no point did I contemplate quitting. Throughout the race, I was reminded of the words of one of my colleague and fellow runner, who said that I must always remember that the reason I started the race was to finish it,” said triumphant Yaka. Modest, yet imposing, Yaka said he is confident that, with more training, he will be able to improve on his finishing time in future races. He also thanked the Department for the support offered to the athletes running under the DCS banner. “The Department gave us a lot of support. I was supposed to be at work, but I was granted leave so that I can participate in the race. The Department also provided transport and accommodation to the athletes,” added Yaka.
Ziphindile Dlamini (47) from Witbank Management Area in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) region claimed the accolade for being the first DCS female runner to cross the finishing line in a time of 09:46:52. Dlamini started running the Comrades Marathon in 2010 and has completed six races to date.
Commissioner Thobakgale also acknowledged LMN Regional Commissioner, Tlabo Thokolo; Area Commissioner of Johannesburg Management Area, Luckyboy Mathiba; and Director Human Resource Administration and Utilization, Thabo Mokhele for representing senior management at the ultramarathon.