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Former WP Chairman Momberg Dies


Jannie Momberg

Jannie Momberg

Jannie (Jan Hendrik) Momberg, one of South Africa’s best-known athletics administrators for almost two decades and former Chairman of Western Province, died on 7 January after suffering a heart attack in Cape Town.

After his career in athletics administration, he went into politics and served as Member of Parliament, first for the Democratic Party (1989-1992) and then the African National Congress (1994-2001), one of the party’s first parliamentary whips, and Ambassador to Greece (2001-2006). When he became involved with athletics he was owner of the well-known wine estate Neethlingshof, which he later sold.

Momberg became Chairman of Stellenbosch Athletics Club, or Maties as it is popularly known, in 1974 and served in this position for more than ten years. Under his tenure (he was ably assisted by the club’s secretary, Nelis Swart), Stellenbosch became what one historian called “the centre of athletics in South Africa”, and performances produced at its famous one-hour meetings in a packed Coetzenburg Stadium, attracted worldwide attention. It was indeed the golden era of Maties athletics.

Momberg served for many years as Chairman of the Western Province AAA (as it was then called) and as Vice-president of the then SA Amateur Athletics Union (SAAAU). He also acted as manager of various Springbok teams. Known as “Jan Bek” for his loquaciousness, he travelled extensively all over the world on behalf of athletics and attended numerous Olympic Games and World Championships.

Often controversial, always passionate, never at a loss for words, Momberg played a pivotal role in the early career of Zola Budd and her acceptance of British citizenship in order to compete overseas. After initially being antagonistic towards road running, he was – in the words of Jonathan Bloomberg, then chairman of the road running section of WPAAA – “the first of the SAAAU hierarchy to understand how much money road running was contributing to the sport”. According to Bloomberg, “we were both quick-tempered but very quick to get over it and carry on”.

Born on 27 July 1938 at Stellenbosch, Momberg left his wife, Trienie, to whom he was married for 46 years, and four sons.

■ This obituary by Riël Hauman was written for the 2011 SA Athletics Annual, which will be published in February.

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