Sports-South Africa

South Africa's sports minister and Olympic medallist feud on Twitter

South Africa's Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula
South Africa's Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula RSA Min of SportCompte certifié @MbalulaFikile

A long-running dispute between South Africa's sports minister and Olympic javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen has gone viral, with both protagonists taking to Twitter to trade insults. Their spat centres around a cash bonus allegedly promised by the minister but never paid.


Viljoen is "the most arrogant and thankless person... I've ever met," South Africa's Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted on Monday.

Fikile and Viljoen exchanged insults on Twitter in an angry spat over cash bonuses.

The minister is accused of breaking a promise to pay 70,000 rand (5,000 euros) to silver medal winners at the Rio Games.

Three months after returning from Brazil, Viljoen revealed that she had still not been paid her bonus.

"(She) declared for all to kno(w) she doesn't want the money... now she needs the money I must jump," the minister said.

Viljoen retweeted his direct messages, in which he wrote: "You said you don't need it. So I stick with your wishes."

The athlete replied she had "never, ever uttered these words. This is how you are treated for winning an Olympic medal. What a disgrace."

The two have a history of disputes, with Viljoen often criticising how the government runs sport in South Africa.

The latest row flared up when Viljoen hit out at the sports ministry in August for treating athletes at the Rio Games badly.

She said that many of them were suffering financially in the build-up to the Olympics.

However, she hit a raw nerve when she insinuated that athletes perhaps would not be paid on time.

In retrospect, she perhaps predicted her own future.

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