Cape Town – MPs today praised Team South Africa’s Paralympians and thanked them for inspiring South Africans, while paying tribute to swimmer Natalie du Toit.
Team South Africa’s 62 athletes notched up 29 medals, including eight gold medals, in the London Paralympics, which took place in August and September, and finished 18 out of 74 countries on the medals table.
Addressing a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Minister of Sports Fikile Mbalula said the SA Paralympian team – many of whom were seated in the National Assembly’s public gallery – had filled all South Africans with hope.
“They have taught all humankind never to give up,” said Mbalula.
He said a gutsy Du Toit, who notched up five medals in the games, had given everything to South Africa and was an example to others.
Mbalula also praised the 4x100m men’s T42/T46 relay team of Samkelo Radebe, Zivan Smith, Arnu Fourie and Oscar Pistorius, who grabbed gold.
He reminded MPs of his commitment that bonuses awarded to South Africa’s Paralympians that had taken medals at the London Paralympic Games would be increased to equal those of able-bodied athletes, adding that anything less would be discriminatory.
While Cope MP Graham MacKenzie said athletes deserved every cent of the bonuses awarded to them, as they had shown real grit, ANC MP Bonginkosi Nzimande, who is blind, said the team was a true inspiration for many young people.
“We say to our heroes, well done sons and daughters of our country. You have showed without any doubt that as a country and a people, we can always put our trust in you and that you will never fail us,” said Nzimande.
He added that the parents of SA’s Paralympians should also not be forgotten, as they had helped to provide the support necessary for these athletes to lead a normal life.
DA MP Kobus Marais said politicians had been guilty of not helping to provide support for people with disabilities and added that though Mbalula and his ministry had showed good support for the Paralympians, the ministry now had to step up its support for people with disabilities.
He added that teams competing in the Paralympics had become more technically competent and that South Africa needed to step up its performance.
In Beijing, South Africa came in sixth position with 32 medals, while this year at the London Games the US held sixth spot with 98 medals on the medals table.
China topped the London Games medals table with 231 medals.