Athletics South Africa: meeting with Interim Administrator and SASCOC

Sports, Arts and Culture

09 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr B Komphela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee had called the interim Administrator and interim Board of Athletics South Africa (ASA) to a meeting to receive an update on issues involving athletics. Members expressed their disquiet that the South African Sports Council and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) was not present at the meeting to answer questions. In the wake of the handling of the Caster Semenya issue, the President, Board members and some employees of Athletics South Africa had all been suspended, and an Interim Board had been appointed by the International Association of Athletics Federations. SASCOC had appointed Mr Ray Mali as administrator. Mr Mali reported that at the time, Athletics South Africa was in a poor state, was deeply in debt, lacked the confidence of sponsors and several records had been destroyed. A forensic audit been commissioned, the results of which would soon be released and the necessary disciplinary or criminal charges would then be laid. A report on the state of the sport was being compiled. This had been delayed and the term of the Interim Board had been extended. However, when asked to give details on the Caster Semenya issue, neither Mr Mali nor any other interim board member was able to comment. Mr Mali noted that school sport should be the basis for development but lack of clubs hindered this. ASA needed to redefine its role, and policy-making bodies were needed. Other Interim Board members described what they had been involved in.

Members were very critical of the quality of the document presented to the Committee, requested what the mandate of the Board was, and several pointed out that portions of the report were already being leaked, although the Committee had not been kept informed. A Member also commented that the series of articles about Mr Chuene, without his comment being recorded, amounted to a trial by media. Members were also critical of the fact that the interim Board could not speak to the Semenya issue and felt that SASCOC should account to Parliament. Members were concerned about the deletion of records, and questioned the governance of ASA, whether the figures for debt were correct, the reasons why three members of the Interim Board had resigned and who would instigate the charges. They also questioned the future sponsorship, asked what was being done to level the playing fields, what the relationship was with the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA) and on whose instructions the forensic audit was launched. The Chairperson noted that nothing had been done about Dr Adams, and asked what his role in the testing of Ms Semenya had been. The Committee resolved that this matter must be discussed with SASCOC, that SASCOC must report on the suspension, and all issues must be cleared.

Meeting report

Athletics South Africa: Meeting with interim Administrator
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks

The Chairperson said that the report prepared by Athletics South Africa (ASA) should only be made available to Members. It might have been better if the meeting had been closed to the public, but it had been too late to apply for this. Members wanted to hear the facts as there were many contentious issues surrounding ASA. He reminded the ASA delegation of the provisions of Section 56 of the Constitution. The Portfolio Committee represented the National Assembly (NA). It had the power to summon anyone and requisition any document in order to gather information. The Committee would receive any petitions from members of the public. He also reminded the delegation of the rules of Parliament, especially rule 138A.

The Chairperson said that the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) had a tendency to act wrongly. SASCOC had persecuted Mr Leonard Chuene on what he had said in Parliament in relation to the Caster Semenya issue. This had exposed Mr Chuene to trial by media, which was unfair.

Mr Komphela said that SASCOC had established the interim board of ASA. He had received a copy of the board's terms of reference. SASCOC had taken a decision that Mr Chuene, President of ASA at the time, should be suspended for bringing the sport into disrepute. The entire Board had also been suspended as well as three ASA staff members. An Administrator had been appointed by SASCOC.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had met around October 2009. The Members agreed that the whole matter surrounding the gender tests of Ms Caster Semenya had been handled badly. The Minister of Sport and Recreation had made a statement that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had to take responsibility. The President of the IAAF had attempted to meet with President Zuma. The leader of a sports federation could not equate himself with a Head of State. The Minister had said that the IAAF President must first apologise before there could be any more dialogue.

Mr Komphela said that the rules of a sports body could not supercede the national Constitution. He agreed that the rules and regulations of the Federation must apply but not at the expense of human dignity. The IAAF President had decided not to come to South Africa. This saga had been running for nine months whereas other problems such as the issue with the Gauteng Cricket Board had been addressed within two months. He asked who had borne the costs of the matter, if any.

Briefing by Athletics South Africa
(ASA)
Mr Ray Mali, Interim Administrator of ASA, asked for more clarity on the protocol. He had attended Committee meetings before, but this was a new experience for him, as a sports adminstrator. He felt that there was more at play than just sport. He acknowledged the powers of the Committee but stressed that they were dealing with a very sensitive issue. He would take an oath if compelled to do so.

Mr Mali said that SASCOC was the owner of the whole process, and he was a member of the SASCOC Board. He may not have all the finer details. He had been tasked to administer ASA after the suspension of the Board. His colleagues on the Interim Board, who were all present, had been nominated by the seventeen ASA provinces and six associate members. The interim structure had been formed on 6 December 2009. Nine members had been elected of which three had since resigned.

The Chairperson felt that the meeting could not proceed under these circumstances. There had been a case where a member of the South African Rugby Union executive, Mr Prinsloo, had been accused of providing misleading evidence to Parliament. Charges were not pressed as the informant had based his version of the report of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) rather than the official minutes of the meeting. The report of PMG could not be used as evidence. However, the Committee would give Mr Mali the benefit of the doubt that he would provide true information.

The Chairperson asked Mr Mali to deal with the Caster Semenya issue. He asked what the legal basis was for the suspension of the ASA officials, pointing out that labour laws took precedence over SASCOC procedures. There was no justification for the suspension in the National Sports and Recreation Act.

Mr Mali confessed that he was not legally trained. The process had been in place since October 2009. He believed that all the necessary steps had been taken. He apologised if Parliament had been overlooked and left in the dark. On the Caster Semenya issue the Interim Board had not been involved at all. Neither SASCOC nor the Ministry were part of the process. The case had been handled by Ms Semenya's legal team, who had negotiated directly with the IAAF. ASA respected the process but had kept itself informed on developments. The lawyers had reported to Mr Mali. There had been some confrontation.

Mr Mali said that there had been an occasion when Ms Semenya's lawyers had wanted her to race at a meeting in Stellenbosch despite advice to the contrary. ASA had wanted to avoid a dispute. The Interim Board, SASCOC and the Minister were being kept informed. The matter had now been cleared. ASA had extended the hand of co-operation to Ms Semenya and her management team. She had been offered a role in the team presenting the Yellow Pages clinics, but had declined. The IAAF had made a statement of four to five lines in which she had been cleared to compete anywhere in the world. ASA was on track. South African athletes were in line for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. An athlete who had met the qualifying standard in recent events would qualify automatically depending on fitness.

Mr L Suka (ANC) said that he would wait for the report. There was an issue that had to be raised.

Mr Mali apologised for the quality of the document presented to the Committee. Due to the shortage of support staff at ASA, he had been forced to prepare it himself.

Mr Mali reviewed the terms of reference for the Interim Board. On his arrival at ASA in November 2009 he had found a number of discrepancies. The records were incomplete and in fact documents had been shredded and computer files deleted. Creditors were clamouring for debts of over R15 million. The Interim Board had been very uncomfortable with the situation as they realised that there were many serious problems. SASCOC and the Interim Board had agreed to call for a forensic audit into ASA's affairs. On 24 September 2009 the Council of ASA had approved of an inquiry into the affairs of ASA.

Mr Mali said that the Yellow Pages sponsorship was due to end at the end of 2009. He had persuaded Yellow Pages to continue, despite the unease of that sponsor, and eventually Yellow Pages had committed themselves to a further R20 million over a three year period. In 2010 eight events had been held all over the country. These had culminated with the Championships in Durban.

Mr Mali said that the selection criteria were in the document. A provisional squad had been announced and final selection had been in June. Those left out had complained but it was normal to reduce the size of a squad. A junior team had gone to Canada under the leadership of Mr Peter Lourens. There were selection guidelines for the Commonwealth Games squad. ASA would make an announcement and hand the team over to SASCOC. That body could say if it was unhappy. The qualifying times were in place.

Mr Mali said that if development of a strong base was not encouraged then there would be no sharp pinnacle. School sport was a priority and was the base for development. School athletics should be part of the system. The missing link, especially in the black community, was the lack of clubs. This could in part be ascribed to the lack of funds. In some places, such as Motherwell in the Eastern Cape, there were magnificent facilities but no clubs to use them. ASA had to find out why this situation was allowed to occur. He knew that people were still keen about athletics. Various committees had been put in place and ASA had a number of commissions.

Mr Mali said that ASA had to redefine its role. Policy making bodies were needed. ASA was under pressure. Sheriffs were regular visitors at the ASA offices, trying to recover debt. Accelerate Sport, formerly a commercial partner of ASA, was a major creditor. There were obligations to other sponsors including the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Nedbank, Yellow Pages, and Southern Sun. There had been disagreement with the previous Board, which had parted ways with Accelerate Sport. This company continued to take a 15% commission until the contracts were complete. ASA would owe them R10 million until the end of 2012. The current liability was R4.6 million. Available funds should go to improve the sport.

Mr Mali said that National Lottery funding was essential. R17.1 million would be paid over in 2010. ASA had sent teams to events in Canada, Kenya and the Seychelles. The Soweto Marathon had traditionally been supported by Nedbank. However, Nedbank and ASA had been unable to agree on a number of issues. Race numbers were a major channel for advertising with over 700 000 registered athletes. ASA felt that the offer of R1.3 million was too small. ASA still had to agree on time on SABC. The Soweto Marathon would have the National Lottery as a title sponsor and would be held in the first week of November 2010. The prize money had been reduced, otherwise everything was in place. Mr Mokoka had run a technical course over the weekend.

Mr James Mokoka, Interim Board Member, ASA, said that he had organised a symposium in Bloemfontein from 7 to 8 August 2010 as part of the development drive. The goal was to develop coaches and technical officials. The attendance was the highest ever with all seventeen provinces and associate members represented. In fact, the only absentee was the delegation from the Eastern Province who turned back after being involved in a road accident. Coaches and technical officials had presented theses for discussion. The theses would be published in ASA's quarterly journal. Adjustments had been made to the calendar. Coaches had some requirements. ASA would rather train its own coaches than rely on imports. Senior coaches were needed to arrange all aspects of coach training.

Ms Blanche Moila, Interim Board member, ASA, was responsible for cross-country running. There was a legacy of a long season in the southern hemisphere. The calendar had been opposite to that of the rest of the world. The South African season had now been aligned to the European season. In the past the local championships had been held seven months before the World Championships. A South African team had attended the Southern Region Championships in the Seychelles. The senior men had been dominant, with two podium finishes. The junior boys and girls had also been successful. It was imperative that this trend should continue. The North West University had assisted by setting up a track which would be similar to the course in Poland. She said that it would be muddy with many corners, but the snow could not be reproduced. There were South African runners ranked in the top 25 in the World. Middle distance athletes could now participate in both track and field and cross-country events. This would result in the development of world class athletes.

Mr Peter Lourens, Interim Board member, ASA, said that he had led a 23 member team to the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Canada. The tournament had got off to a bad start with the team's luggage being delayed by a week. The long jumper Mgwena set a world junior record with a leap of 7.99 metres while the javelin thrower Brits had won the bronze medal. Of the 170 competing countries South Africa had been placed sixteenth, a big improvement.

Mr Lourens had represented ASA at several meeting with the South African School Sports Association (SASSA). ASA was well represented at SASSA Board meetings. Top schools would be identified through elite competition at high school level while mass participation would be the theme at primary school level. Primary school championships would be held in March. There was still duplication with national schools and national junior events. One of these needed to be phased out.

Mr Daan Louw, Interim Board member, ASA, said that for the first time ASA was working hand-in-hand with the schools. Athletes should graduate from schools to clubs. This, however, was a big problem. There was a lack of black clubs. As a result athletes were being lost. Some were retained during their tertiary education years, but many dropped out due to the lack of clubs.

Mr Aleck Skhosana, Interim Board member, ASA, had led the team to the African Senior Championships in Nairobi. All 54 African countries had been represented. The South African team consisted of about fifty athletes. Injuries and other withdrawals had reduced the number to below fifty. South Africa went as the defending champions. South Africa had done well, claiming nineteen medals, including six gold medals, and was placed third. Nigeria, despite earning eighteen medals, finished second - ahead of South Africa as they earned eight gold medals. Kenya finished on top of the medal rankings with 25. The Kenyan team was well prepared and had targeted events in which they were strong. The South African athletes represented their country with distinction. After the successful hosting of the Soccer World Cup, South Africans were welcomed by almost all of the other teams.

Mr James Moloi, Interim Board member, ASA, was in charge of the Soweto Marathon. ASA had agreed to try its level best to help the marathon organisers. The Central Gauteng Federation would run all the logistics. A local organising committee had been formed. Regular meetings would start from the following week. The organisers had to speed up the process. The public would be kept informed. The date of the marathon was 17 November 2010.

Mr Mali said that details of the forensic audit had not been included in the report. The audit should have been completed by the end of April 2010 and a new board should have been elected by 21 May. The audit had taken longer than expected. This had prompted the IAAF to extend the term of the Interim Board. The audit had been partly completed. A draft report had been sent to SASCOC. The final report would be submitted on 13 August. The final chapter would start on 17 August when charge sheets would be handed to the suspended officials so that they could prepare for their disciplinary hearings.

Discussion
Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) asked what the Interim Board's mandate was. He asked what the interim body was doing. ASA needed to prepare for elections. He said that the fact that the report had been leaked to the media in snippets seemed to prove that the report already existed. The goalposts were being shifted. The submission of the report had been delayed from April to August, and could be moved again. He had thought that Members would have been given the report. However, since it seemed that the presenters could not speak to the Semenya issue, then the wrong people were before the Committee.

The Chairperson said that the handling of the Semenya issue had led to the suspension of Mr Chuene, the Board and staff members. SASCOC was the bigger role player and it should account to Parliament.

Mr Dikgacwi said that Members were not being informed fully. He asked if the Interim Board had been called after it had discovered the deletion of records. It would be a serious matter if the allegations were true, since these allegations suggested that there was corruption at ASA.

Ms T Lishivha (ANC) asked if the terms of reference were aligned to the previous Board. The Interim Board was not independent, and Members were still in the dark. It was a crime to delete information. She asked about the governance of ASA. She did not know if the Interim Board was independent or if SASCOC was governing the sport. There were many federations with problems and she asked why SAS had been singled out. It seemed to her that SASCOC was focusing on ASA only. She asked for clarification on the entry standards. Development was a problem because of the lack of clubs. Development was not being taken seriously. She asked what contribution was coming from the National Lottery and government.

Ms S Lebenya-Ntanzi (IFP) was also concerned that the report on the forensic audit was not available to Members. Charges were being prepared, so there must have been findings. She asked why the Committee had not been kept fully apprised of the matters. She asked for clarity on the seventeen provinces, as she was struggling to understand how ASA had arrived at this number.

Mr Mali said that the seventeen “provinces” should rather be seen as regions. ASA was busy with a process to align the regional structure with the political boundaries. Already the athletics boundaries of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo coincided with the political boundaries of the provinces. However, there were still many regions within the province of Gauteng. The Eastern Cape was working towards unifying the regions.

Mr G MacKenzie (COPE) asked when the term of the Interim Board would end. Mr Mali had told members that their term had been extended, but there should be an end date. He asked who was conducting the forensic audit, when the auditors had been appointed and what their full terms of reference were. He too commented that the results would only be known on 13 August, and yet he had a copy of an article published in The Times on 10 August. The article said that Mr Chuene faced criminal and civil charges. He asked how the media had got this information. While there was no comment on Mr Chuene's guilt or innocence, the information was in the public domain before the Committee knew what was happening. Someone needed to be held to account.

Mr Mali replied that the IAAF had set a maximum term of six months for the Interim Board. It was to be in the form of an ad hoc committee. The IAAF was, however, prepared to extend their term. The Interim Board had wanted to produce a report on the status of ASA by 7 August. They were still waiting for this, and it seemed likely that it would only by ready by the end of September. The IAAF had been informed of the target dates. He could not comment on the leaks.

The Chairperson said that Mr Chuene had never had the privilege of commenting on the accusations against him. There had been a series of articles which amounted to trial by media. This was a miscarriage of justice.

Mr MacKenzie asked what arrangements had been made to pay off the R15 million debt. He asked if the figure was correct. He asked why three of the Interim Board members had resigned. He had heard that there was some unhappiness with the way the Interim Board was operating. He asked who would be instigating disciplinary and criminal charges. He asked if ASA's schools initiative would extend to the rural schools. A sponsorship for the Soweto Marathon had been declined. He asked who would now be sponsoring the event and if there would still be prize money.

Mr Mali said that there was a long list of creditors. ASA could provide this to the Committee. There would always be cases where members of an organisation resigned due to unhappiness. Mr James Evans, President of Western Province athletics, had held the view that all employees of the previous regime should have been dismissed or suspended. He was uncomfortable in working with members of Mr Chuene's administration. He had said that the Board could not be concentrating on the day-to-day business of ASA but should concentrate on policy matters. Mr Hendrik Ramaala had resigned due to his unhappiness that athletes were not being paid long overdue fees. Athletes had no funds at their disposal but were kept waiting for what was due to them. Allowances due to top athletes, of between R3 000 and R8 000, were not being paid. This left the athletes unable to buy the supplements they needed and to pay their gymnasium fees. The Interim Board had been sorry to see him go. The third resignation was from Ms Geraldine Pillay, who had disagreed on the selection of the team to attend the event in Canada.

Mr Mali said that the title sponsor for the Soweto Marathon would be the National Lottery. There was a chance of more sponsors coming forward which would lead to better prize money.

Mr J van der Linde (DA) noted that the Committee had written to the Interim Board to request this meeting. He asked why the meeting had not been delayed until the report had been finalised. The media would guess at the findings in the interim. There was a lack of communication. He was happy with what was being done, but a major task was to get people back to the athletics stadiums. Athletes were unhappy. They had to compete but often the prize money was not forthcoming, making the successful athletes wait for what was due.

Mr Mali replied that it would have been possible to have postponed this meeting but the Interim Board had been unable to link up with the Chairperson. They therefore felt that the meeting should go ahead even though insufficient information was available.

Mr Suka said that this was the first meeting between the Committee and the Interim Board. The report presented was too economical. All the documents from the Interim Board were in draft format. He asked what the status of the documents was. Mr Mali should know better, and the Committee was not being taken seriously. Members were there to support ASA but the crafting of the document was sub-standard.

Mr Mali felt that “economical” was a serious word.

Mr Suka said that the Interim Board was levelling the playing fields. This was happening through three categories. He asked what the situation was and what was being done, and where the organisation was going. He asked about the relationship between ASA and the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA). The achievements could not be measured. He was not impressed with the forensic audit. There would be other implications. When the Interim Board had been appointed they had needed to move quickly, yet ASA staff apparently had enough time to destroy evidence. This amounted to defeating the ends of justice. He asked on whose instructions the forensic audit had been launched and what had prompted it.

Mr Suka noted the cooperation between schools and ASA, but the link to clubs was absent. There was a reference to the payment of honoraria. He asked what was meant by this. This should have been part of a more comprehensive document.

Mr Mali replied that there was a strong engagement with schools. The honoraria were paid to the hundreds of people who participated in the successful staging of events.

Mr Dikgacwi said that the South African team at the African Championships in Kenya had slipped from first to third. He was astonished that this could be described as a good performance. This was not something to brag about.

Mr Mali thanked the Members for the points they had made. He had been put in charge of an organisation that did not have a receptionist or a personal assistant due to a lack of financial resources. Staff were used to receiving annual bonuses in December and annual salary increments in January. There was no money available to pay these benefits although the interim Board had been trying to source it. Sponsorship money was paid to athletes and the running of competitions. Sponsorships made a minimal contribution to the administration of ASA.

Mr Mali had not had the resources to compile a professional document and had been forced to compile it himself. He noted the comments. SASCOC should have been present. The Semenya issue and the forensic audit had been handled by different people and he could not give answers on these matters.

The Chairperson said that what had happened to Mr Chuene was a travesty of justice. He respected Mr Mali because of his age and felt that Mr Mali had been pushed into the lion's den with his appointment as administrator. Nothing had changed on the Semenya issue. The media had hounded her continuously. Dr Adams had been a member of ASA and the IAAF. Nothing had been done to him while all the other role players had been suspended. He asked what the role of Dr Adams had been in the testing of Ms Semenya, and noted that he had now been appointed elsewhere, in a blaze of glory.

Mr Suka asked how the Companies Act could be applied.

The Chairperson replied that the copy of the Companies Act attached to the document by Mr Mali was outdated. The Act had since been amended. The Committee was completely uncomfortable with the role played by Dr Adams. It had been a one-sided affair. Members of the IAAF's medical sector had handled the issue. Ms Semenya was no longer an issue for SASCOC. Nothing had been said. Ms Semenya had been on the agenda for this meeting but SASCOC had ignored the invitation.

The Chairperson said that racists at the University of the Free State (UFS) were circulating information to the effect that the sport of athletics should be taken away from black people. The UFS was a source of racism. Athletes were disgruntled due to the lack of payment. ASA was now in a worse situation than when the Interim Board was appointed. He asked which person had dissolved ASA. Mr Chuene had given R100 000 to junior athletics. Ms Pillay was leading one group of athletes. There was another group representing black African athletes. The problems ran deeper than what Mr Mali thought. A group was emerging in the Western Province which was promoting coloured nationalism. This had opposed Mr Chuene. It was all a racial issue. The problem was how to unite these groups. The issues of gender testing and the dissolution of ASA highlighted the issue of stereotyping. He asked how many committees had been formed within ASA.

Mr Mali replied that there were several committees. These dealt with track and field events, road running, constitutional matters, sponsors and other matters. SASCOC was the main body for sport in the country and they should answer most of the questions that had been raised.

The Chairperson said that the Interim Board of ASA could have drafted an appropriate agenda.

Mr Mali replied that the agenda of the Interim Board was to stabilise the sport.

The Chairperson said that he had been called by a journalist that morning. The journalist said that the Interim Board had met with the Minister and had discussed several issues contained in the report.

Mr Mali denied that Mr Gideon Sam, President of SASCOC, had met with the Minister on this matter.

The Chairperson said that Mr Suka had made a proposal that the matter be referred back to SASCOC. The Committee wanted to know which company was conducting the forensic audit and on whose authority, and what the cost would be. There was a need for a discussion with SASCOC. ASA was in more of a shambles that previously. He understood what the difficulties were. When Mr Pieter de Villiers had been appointed national rugby coach SASOL had objected. He asked how a sponsor could prescribe to a national federation on such matters. Nedbank was doing the same. They should take their money and go away. The Committee would call SASCOC.

The Chairperson said that SASCOC had undermined the Committee. The letter inviting them to this meeting was clear. Dr Adams was from the group in the Western Cape that was writing letters. SASCOC needed to report to the Committee on the suspension of the ASA leadership. All other peripheral issues that were being raised were a smokescreen. He felt that the Committee had not got what it wanted from this meeting. The Interim Board was holding the fort at ASA.

The Chairperson said that Ms Semenya was still a woman. The mystery had been settled.

Mr Suka said that the whole board of SASCOC should be invited. Clarity was needed. He expected a more comprehensive report. There should be interaction between the chairpersons.

The Chairperson said that the sooner the issues surrounding Ms Semenya were cleared the better. There must not be a selective discussion on corruption. In basketball and volleyball there had been letters sent to the Committee on the painful experiences of students. Allegations had been made against top administrators. There was talk of irregularities regarding the funding. SASCOC had not dealt with Operation Dribble when corruption by football referees had been alleged. This was despite startling evidence being raised. The Committee needed to preach to the correct people.

The meeting was adjourned.


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