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Parliament hosts South Africa’s 2012 Paralympians
- Updated: October 16, 2012
By Mark Etheridge
Parliament paid tribute to our 2012 London Paralympians in grand fashion in Cape Town on Tuesday.
A joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces hosted the bulk of the Paralympic team that returned from London with a total of 29 medals recently. Of these eight were gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.
The team were treated to lunch after walking up from the Slave Lodge and meeting members of the public before entering through The Poorthuis.
Speaker Max Sisulu officially welcomed the team. “On behalf of Parliament thank you for making us proud. Many times the nations rose in unison during the two weeks of the Paralympics.”
He also gave special mention to the two “retiring” Paralympians, Natalie du Toit and Ilse Hayes, although Hayes later revealed that she now planned to compete at a fourth Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (2016).
Parliament also presented a special shield to the national sports governing body SASCOC as a token of appreciation for their sterling work.
Later at the joint sitting affairs were opened by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who dedicated his speech to Du Toit. “She is a true daughter of the soil. She’s an example to so many and is what enigma and legends are made up of.”
He also paid tribute to Port Elizabeth’s Michael Louwrens. “At 52 he is the father of the SA Paralympic team.”
Mbalula ended by congratulating the team. “When you left on the 21st of August you promised us you were doing well and I say that you made good on that.”
Thereafter party after party and speaker after speaker took the stand to congratulate the 62-strong team of Paralympians.
Said the Democratic Alliance’s Kobus Marais. “The Ministry will have to step up the support for the Paralympians and I think politicians have been guilty of not truly defending their rights. For so long they have had to be satisfied with the crumbs.
“These are people who have stopped complaining but rather concentrated on the opportunities they have had.”
Du Toit confirmed that she had definitely retired from all forms of competitive swimming. “Sure, I’ve done everything I set out to achieve and since London I’ve only been back in the pool twice and that was both for photoshoots and the like.”
But she hasn’t been idle and later this week she’ll be acting as navigator for top off-road truck racer Archie Rutherford at the Human Auto 400 event in Thaba ‘Nchu.
Hayes, who won gold and silver in London, meanwhile said she would not be retiring as she initially implicated before the Paralympics. “I was thinking about it being my last Paralympics but when I got injured [quad muscle] and couldn’t give of my best in London, I’ve still got unfinished business.
“The leg is getting much better but it’s going to still take some time before I can start training properly.”
Another Paralympian undergoing running repairs will be Charl Bouwer who won gold and silver in the pool. “I’m going into hospital to have pins removed from my left elbow and right knee after two different injuries in the last while, so I thought this would be best time to do it.”
Bouwer will have surgery in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.